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Does standing in your garage make you a car?

By November 21, 2013

marc-bellenger-mr-lb-leatherI am a Leatherman, a Leather titleholder, and a biker, which means I am, leathered almost 24/7. As a public figure I am not going to lie. Often times I feel like the leathered freak in the room, invited here for your entertainment. I face Leather discrimination on a daily basis - even with in the gay community. Tonight was a perfect example. I was invited to a non-leather event where there was a wide and diverse crowd. I was the only visible leatherman in the room. I was welcomed by some and shunned by others. A young woman with a child told me she though it was inappropriate for me to be dressed like that in public (Strange for an event designed to promote acceptance). I was wearing my title vest, a leather shirt and leather pants. If I was there bare-assed in chaps and a harness with floggers, whips, handcuffs and 30 feet of rope hanging from my belt I could understand her reaction.  There was really nothing sexual about what I was wearing. I shook her hand,asked her name and introduced my self then explained; one, I am a biker; my leathers are designed to literally save my skin. 2. I was honored to be chosen by my peers as a representative of my community. It is my job to be visible and educate people on the BDSM Lifestyle. I further explained that I had no more a choice about being a Leatherman than she did being a lesbian. Yes, I could hide it, just as she could hide being a lesbian. However, I chose to be honest and live a happy life just as she did. I told her about growing up different. Even different from the other gay kids I grew up with, there were a few of us around in that small town in Kentucky. We all knew we were different, but were too young to know why. Furthermore, I knew I was even more different. I told her it was important for me to be here as me so others like me who were too scared would know it is OK to be different - even among those who are already different.

I told her the story of seeing Lenny Broberg on the Joan Rivers show, long before “Will and Grace” made it possible for gays to be the norm on TV. Watching him was a profound positive experience. I was seeing an openly gay intelligent Leatherman, comfortable in his own skins, not a bad 1970’s Village People stereotype. I recall watching the interview and knowing I was not alone. I remember the way he handled him self like a true gentleman while they tried to turn it into a freak show I thought to my self, "That is what I want to be, a gentleman not a freak." I think I changed her mind and made a new friend.

I think honestly in Parades all that many people see is as a group of freaks. Not the doctors, lawyers, psychologists, film executives, interior designers, rocket scientists, or human beings we are. There is an old saying about Harley Davidson, which I think applies here “If you have to ask you don’t understand.

Does our participation in parades make a difference in the larger LGBT Community? Does standing in your garage make you a car? No. Participating in the larger LGTB community as a Leatherman or Leatherwoman makes a difference in the LGBT community.

I feel the best way to change a stereotype is on a one-on-one basis, one person at a time. In most cases it is a lot harder not to like someone once you get to know them.


This editorial was printed with permission by Marc Bellenger, Mr. Long Beach Leather 2013