A leather rising
Itís all too easy to forget, while we lament the declining turnout in our leather bars, that things are very different for people in some parts of the world, and indeed to take what we have in our own countries for granted.
In the UK, we often forget that, while we appear to have widespread tolerance and acceptance, itís all too easy for local politicians or police officers to make trouble for our venues, whether directly or, more often obliquely, by suggesting that bars are over crowded, or in breach of fire and other regulations Ė an issue that I know has affected venues around the world. Despite what we perceive as our freedoms, itís still all too easy for them to be taken away, and we must never be complacent.
As we move in the UK towards ideas like directly elected Police Commissioners, we need to remember that sometimes, the results that people get when they vote arenít quite what was anticipated.
That, sometimes, is extremely clear in other countries. Hungaryís last election promised ĎBig Changeí but itís unlikely that many, when they voted, imagined that those changes would include a new constitution that, amongst other things, explicitly excludes gay people from protections against discrimination.
Set against that, Iím delighted that this month will see what appears to be the first ever Full Leather, or Full BŐR, party in Budapest. Itís happening on Saturday 31st of March, at Extrťm Cafť, and entrance is free. Not many of us will be able to attend in person, but Iím sure we can all support them, and wish the best for a flourishing of their leather and gay scenes in a country that appears far less open than many of us would expect for an EU member.
Meanwhile in Poland on 17th March, the Mr Leather Poland competition will be held, for only the second time, in Poznan. Poland too has had some rocky moments in recent years, with politicians being openly anti-gay, and bringing forward legislation that mirrored the UKís notorious Section 28, amongst other things.
Perhaps itís true that itís easier to stand up and be proud when there are clearly attitudes to change, and big fights to be won. Certainly I think we should all be very proud of the leather men who are making the effort to put on events and build communities in countries where attitudes are a long way from the liberal acceptance that so many of us are lucky enough to take for granted.
Laws that support or protect our communities arenít all we need, though. We need attitudes to change. While on a site like BLUF we take the privacy of members very seriously, and it has to be up to each person to decide when to come out, whether as gay, or from their kink closet, itís hard to underestimate the importance of being seen to be a visible community when it comes to changing attitudes.
Ireland has, for quite a few years now, been a more liberal place than the UK when it comes to gay rights, certainly on paper. They equalised the age of consent, and provided protection from discrimination, far sooner than we did.
But attitudes, especially in a country that was in thrall to the Catholic church for so long, take longer to change than laws. At the end of April, BLUF will be holding its first event in Ireland, a Dublin Social on Saturday 28th. Thatís the day before RULE, which is Irelandís only gay fetish event, and the product of many years of hard work by a small group of people dedicated to nurturing the leather/fetish scene in the country.
RULE hasnít had a smooth ride either; though itís not faced the political problems of Hungary and Poland, itís been the victim of idle gossip in the press, resulting in it losing a venue for a few months, because the chance to link a celebrity to a gay fetish club Ė even at several removes Ė was too good an opportunity for a newspaper to pass up. As other recent stories about non-conventional sexuality in the Irish press show, thereís still a streak of prurience to overcome, and club nights like RULE will hopefully help to change attitudes.
We salute you
While we worry about falling attendances in our bars, and the rise of large mega events that seem to be as much about the DJ as they are about the leather and fetish community, I think itís time to say a very loud ďThank youĒ to all those people in countries where the leather scene is still in its infancy. In Hungary, Poland and Ireland Ė and many other places Ė there are people working hard, putting in the effort to build the sort of the leather and fetish communities some of us take for granted.
We salute, and support you.
Nigel Whitfield, BLUF webmaster, LondonSubNigel (3), 13 March 2012