Girls just want to have fun - Page 4

The SF girls of Leather  cute kink and breaking down stereotypes

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"This group is where I belong." The SF girls of Leather (from left): Addison North, Miss Lola Sunshine, Leland, Mari, and Kate
PHOTO BY JEFFERY CROSS

"I had always identified with the title of 'girl.' I was a girl who liked to serve the community, but I was also a switch," says Mistress Pilar, a longtime leather veteran and member of the original, and now revived, SF girls of Leather. Being a switch — someone who doesn't commit to top or bottom exclusively — meant her definition of girl didn't fit with that of the Leather Girl Network, which stated: girl equals submission. She wasn't alone in her dilemma.

In 2004, San Francisco girls decided to put together their own troop, headed by girl Lori, the 2003 San Francisco Leather Dyke girl (a contest that no longer exists), and girl Hayden, the 2004 title-holder. They intentionally left the definition of girl open to allow for individual interpretation. The leather community shuddered at the loose restraints, confused by the men, boys, and transpeople that joined the girl ranks.

"People in the leather community were not comfortable with this idea at the time. No one even liked talking about it," says Pilar, referring to the notion that a girl didn't need to be a biological woman to be in their group. "The attitude that people should 'get off the fence' really hurt."

The initial group grew to about 30 members and its short three years as a successful alliance was packed with fundraising, volunteer work, and super-girly fun. But eventually the negative attitudes, biased expectations, and confusion over the definition of "girls" wore down on moral.

"People would walk up to me and demand, 'girl, clean my boots' and I would say, 'I don't serve you, I serve the community,'" Pilar says shaking her head.

Even Daddy Vick remembers how the group of strong, independent individuals struggled to prove themselves to the wider leather community. The girls, she says, "took a lot of flak" for contesting tradition. "There was still a belief in place that girls and boys couldn't be leaders. Some thought girls and boys should be seen and not heard."

The girls managed to have good times regardless, but Pilar says by early 2007 the group was down to five members who reluctantly agreed the end had come. It wasn't until the 2010 International Ms. Leather competition — when Pilar decided to donate the leftover SF girls memorabilia and a curious Leland started asking questions — that SFgoL sparked back into life, with a little PR and a lot of ambition.

"Leland is a wonderful leader. She creates a really positive image of a girl," says Pilar, nostalgically looking over an old stack of meeting notes, scribbled calendars, and photos from the original group. The dissolution of her crew hit hard, and it's bittersweet for Pilar to hear about the new group's instant success. But more than anything, she's proud. "I feel like a proud mom. Those are my girls."

Coincidentally, just as the girls sprung out of the woodwork and formed an official group, the San Francisco boys of Leather, a longstanding and once very active organization, hung up their chaps and caps due to a decline in membership. The boys generously donated all their remaining funds to the girls.

Steve Gaynes, the 1994 SF Leather Daddy and Alliance director representing the 15 Association, a longstanding sexual fraternity for men interested in BDSM, has been a leatherman since 1978 and has watched all kinds of groups come and go. He says the ebb and flow is just a reflection of the community's current needs.

"The energy ran of out the boys and ran into the girls. If there's no driving force behind a group, it will die," he says, noting the community's excitement for the new girl group. "They're enthusiastic, inclusive, and have clear ideas for their future. And they're doing [it all] with a lot of respect for tradition."

And the SFgoL's continued dedication to volunteer work and partnerships with other groups have shown the community at large that it values the path paved by the forefathers — and foremothers — of leather.

Comments

I really loved and appreciated this article you wrote on our group. I appreciate any opportunity for girl-identified people who are interested in leather and kink to know about our group. I do have one correction however: Our member Anita who this article mentioned is originally came to San Francisco from NORWAY but then moved ro Sweden to be with her partner.

Posted by Sailor on Jun. 28, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

Thank you Sailor! Calling a Norwegian a Swede is like calling an American a Canadian. Close, but yet --- NO! ;P

Amber; A wonderful and lovely piece of writing. Thank you, from the bottom of my girl-heart! <3

Posted by Anita on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 1:23 am

corrected above :)

Posted by caitlin on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 8:43 am

This was a really great article about the SFgoL!

Slight correction however; In 2002, it was THE EXILES that opened Venus's Playground at Folsom Street Fair.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

From Demetri Moshoyannis' bio...

"Demetri begins his sixth year at Folsom Street Events, working diligently to breathe new creative life into the agency. Under his direction, the organization has created new areas at the infamous Folsom Street Fair like Venus’ Playground (the leatherwomen’s area), the Erotic Artists’ Area, and has attracted top-name entertainment to the Fair."

Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

Only, it wasnt in 2002, it was in 2006. and at the time, the name of the space was Bettie Page's Secret. Alex, the Exiles' Coordinator at the time, was the spearhead and workhorse of the play space.

Here's the info and call for volunteers directly from the September 2006 Exiles' newsletter:

Folsom Street Fair Women's Area
Sponsored by Folsom Street Events and The Exiles
This year, Folsom Street Events and the women's leather community have come together to create a women's space at Folsom. FSE went right to the source and asked us what we wanted. The results include a large comfortable area with shade and seating, vendors, information booths, and play space. The Exiles has stepped up to sponsor and coordinate the outdoor dungeon. There will be room for play & demos. The Women's area will be located on 9th Street, between Folsom and Harrison.
Want to help? We can use volunteers for the following: Security, Setup, take down, Dungeon monitors, Handing out flyers, Staffing our information table.

Posted by DJ Mora on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 4:23 am

It did indeed open as Betty Paige's Secret in 2006. Thanks for whipping us into shape! Corrected above.

Posted by caitlin on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 8:52 am

Thanks, Amber, for another great article exploring non-normative sexualities. I was delighted by the article you wrote on the Sex Worker Film Festival, which you interviewed me for, and I continue to be impressed by each new piece you write. You are such an asset to this paper and this town!!

Also, how hot and badass are the girls of Leather?!!?!? <3 you girls.

Posted by Chloe Camilla on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 10:07 am

I can't express enough gratitude for this article!

Amber-- you are an amazing writer. Thank you for investing the time to research and interview so many people. I'm very impressed with your portrayal of the SFgoL, but even better, I find this article heartening far beyond that, in relation to Leatherwomen and our broader community.

One side-effect that I wasn't expecting was the outpouring of support that I've received. I've gotten long, detailed emails by such a great number of people in our community who were moved by your words.

Thank you, again. I already told you in person, but to repeat: I'd be so happy to welcome you as a member of the SFgoL if you ever had the inclination. *wink*

Best,
Leland Carina
President SFgoL

Posted by Guest Leland Carina on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

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