This article is part of my Mentoring for Tops/Sirs/Doms/Masters curriculum.
I'm hearing more and more rumbles of alarm among older gay leathermen in other cities...
"We're the core group of guys doing everything, and we're looking REALLY OLD right now. We don't have any club-members under the age of fifty or so, and when young guys show up, they look around, and the moment that the ten-minute bio-break arrives, they are GONE, and never return."Down here in San Diego, we don't have that problem any more. Not whatsoever, finito. So, I'd like to explain why and how, for the benefit of my older brothers everywhere. It's not going to be fun for you, because it means that you will very definitely have to change your THINKING.
Let's start with some assumptions about younger gay leather/fetishmen:
- They don't care about traditions, or the past.
- They're just "kids" - unable (or unwilling) to be serious.
- Some day, they might be qualified to run things, once they get a few more decades under their belt.
- They will never be able to understand what our generation has gone through.
- They dress weird. Why can't they just get gear like mine, as is correct, proper and obvious to anyone?
- If they would just learn the only valid and RIGHT way to do things, I could take them more seriously.
I'll talk more about each one of these, but first, I want to talk about our hard-wired need to make such assumptions. These are all based upon using ourselves (the Old Guard) as the standard by which all else must be judged.
I've got bad news, and good news:
The bad news is, Old Guard as we knew it is D-E-A-D. It has been gone for a long, long time. We have been worshipping leftover vapors and spiderwebs from the old days. I say good riddance. I entered the deepest, darkest and hardest of the hardcore leather scene in 1977. Yes, I miss it, but not as my biggest fetish any more. I have moved on, and I urge you to do the same. Life gets a lot better, I promise.
The GOOD news is, the new, NEW age has a vibrant, joyful, glorious and life-affirming role for us old codger graybeards. It is time for us to let go of the fucking football, and let someone with new perspectives, new energy, and new passions grab it and run, while we cheer from the sidelines. We can offer wisdom if it is asked for, but trust me - these guys can handle anything that comes at them, as long as they know that they can quietly call up the Wise, Trusted Uncles and get some private coaching.
Our job is to hand away everything (and yes, I mean EVERYTHING) to the younger guys, RIGHT NOW. They aren't "the leaders of tomorrow", they are the leaders that we all desperately need this very moment, and the sooner that they are 100% in charge, the better everything will be, particularly for us older kinky males.
I'm going to talk about what I call the Four Stages of Leadership:
- Stage One: No leadership at all. You'll show up if it feels like you might get laid, or there is cheap beer.
- Stage Two: You decide to support other people's dreams.
- Stage Three: Quarterback with the ball. 99% of community leaders think that they are obligated to do this until they DIE, or burn out.
- Stage Four: Retired Coach/Tribal Elder. Nobody ever talks about it. But, it's crucial to allow others to replace us. The deep, satisfying wisdom that you have gathered is a huge, wonderful blessing that you can share. So concentrate upon being the sage, treasured asset that you were always destined to be. You've got a gray beard and a belly, so quit pretending that it's bad to get older. People of all ages will love you THIS way, too. I promise. I'm more popular now (and eagerly sought-after), like I never have been before.
In the time that my generation has grieved for days and friends that are long gone, several new generations have been patiently waiting for us to notice them, love them, and help them along their path toward wisdom. IT'S OUR FAULT that they haven't been getting the nourishment and "extra helpings" that they need in order to start fitting in better.
If we step back and make quiet, catty comments about the new, shy man who shows up in a harness, jeans and white tennis shoes, then we are being selfish and short-sighted. I hear the stories, and they are NASTY to listen to. Talk to the younger recent IML winners and ask them for their horror stories. If they didn't already have excellent strength of character, they would have been lost to us.
Bitchy old men are a plague, so let's start out right away by making a promise to mend our ways. Use only positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is what bullies use, so let's forbid ourselves to do that.
When somebody shows up "inappropriately dressed", then for goodness' sake, TALK to him, welcome him, introduce him to your favorite people and ask them to help him fit in. What if that same guy is under-employed in this crappy economy, lacks knowledge that he dearly desires from stand-up guys like YOU, and is eager to find out more, so that he can some day be a well-loved, respected, wise old man, also like you?
If you do reach out and invest in that eager stranger, then that same guy will move heaven and earth to transform his life to be more like his beloved role-models.
So, let's start talking about sexual attraction:
KNOCK IT OFF.
I mean it. As gay males, we are encouraged at all times to use leather-male gatherings as "Lobster Tanks", where we get to pick and choose, based upon sexual attractiveness.
FUCK THAT. STOP RIGHT NOW. ALARM. ALARM.
No, I don't want you to personally give up dating, tricking, marrying or whatever works at the moment. I just want you to stop assessing every new face at your events solely as potential fuckmeat, IF YOUR GOAL IS TO HAVE BETTER DAYS FOR THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY. This shallow perspective can lead me to dismiss wonderful guys just because they aren't my individual "type".
Instead, start thinking of each new face as "Potential Brothers in a Loving Tribe". I urge you to let go of distinctions based upon:
- Body Style, or
- Experience Level.
If you then change your filtering system to track down the guys who excel in:
- Full Self-Expression, and
…then you're more likely to get more acceptance, brotherhood and satisfaction in your own life, and build a long-lasting community of true brotherhood.
In my own case, I am dedicated to gaining a support-structure to replace my dead brothers, lovers, friends and mentors (over 140 of them) who will never come back to me. Not all of them were "hot" to my tastes. However, they fed my soul, and in return, I fed theirs. Every man that shows up to your events has that same birthright.
GETTING BACK TO THOSE MOLDY ASSUMPTIONS
(Young people) don't care about traditions, or the past.
Oh, they do, they do. If I talk about the Old Ways, I have a ready audience. They also want to share THEIR ideas that make THEIR dicks hard. The Internet has accelerated new and zany kinks into the public's awareness. We can see it as a threat to old values and traditions, or we can cheer while our lusty youth have a blast showing us what cranks their chains! Plenty of younger men are fiercely dedicated to Old Guard roles, traditions and protocols. Our wisdom will best be retained if we share it lovingly, freely and without any "gun to the head" obligations, or expectations about what they will do with it.
They're just "kids" - unable (or unwilling) to be serious.
This one is the worst, by far. In WHAT other human culture can we get away with calling a 27-year-old adult male a "kid"? It's demeaning, dismissive and just plain fucking RUDE. Anybody who thinks that it is okay to cut off a younger male at the knees has some serious insecurities. Think twice and measure your words, grandpa. You have an enormous influence, so don't instantly squander away all of your credibility in such a thoughtless way. Words can hurt.
The fact of the matter is, just as with ALL age-groups, some individuals have a bright spark of special intelligence, wit and grace. If we shut down ALL potential youth, we will never gain the benefits of attracting the very best ones. Let's identify them, welcome them, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder so that they can stand upon OUR shoulders.
Some day, they might be qualified to run things, once they get a few more decades under their belt.
Nope. No validity at all. How do I know? Because San Diego's Tribe has more going on than any other city, by far. The engine that causes us to average something between six and nine events per week (and no, that's not a typo) is driven by our idealistic, empowered, well-loved and phenomenally successful younger men. Nothing is going wrong - we're all thriving and sassy. It just keeps getting better.
They will never be able to understand what our generation has gone through.
Granted. However, do we want them to? Really? Yes, the younger guys DO want to hear, learn and gain perspective from our stories, but criminy - Do we HAVE to always, exclusively keep whining about AIDS losses? We have to do the 2013 thing now, NOT the 1968/1978/1988/1998/2008 thing. As long as we keep our heads turned 180 degrees around upon our shoulders, staring toward the past, then we will continue to lose sight of what great stuff is everywhere, all around us RIGHT NOW.
They dress weird. Why can't they just get gear like mine, as is correct, proper and obvious to anyone?
Like I said earlier - They are BROKE. Take a good, close look at this picture:
Notice how young the demographic is trending here. In the back, there are affectionate, approving graybeards, and the younger guys ADORE us. See them smile. You can't Photoshop "happy" into a picture. These guys are not tweaked out on some drug, and they aren't drunk. They are ecstatically happy because they have a treasured place in a Tribe that loves them.
The harnesses that they are wearing are new. They are inexpensively custom-made, ten feet to the left of the photo, by Anthony, who is cranking them out like pasta. Why is this important enough to mention? Because these young men want nothing more than to LIVE leather, not just WEAR leather. The floggers, paddles and bondage-ropes come out, and the younger guys show up with their tails wagging.
They VERY STRONGLY want to identify with a supportive, affectionate, life-affirming Tribe that welcomes them with open arms, and that never presents them with flaming hoops to jump through before being accepted. The pressure is coming from THEIR side, wanting very much to fit in, and be valuable to all of us. The inexpensive harnesses allow them to declare their Tribal affiliation for the whole world to see. The Langlitz gear will show up later, when the money comes in.
If they would just learn the only valid and RIGHT way to do things, I could take them more seriously.
Certainly! If our intention is to cram the generations that follow us into a box that is shaped just like us.
Would YOU have liked to be forced to live your grandfather's life?
As soon as I let go of my own bigotry (and yes, it is bigotry, when we pre-judge people from a distance without knowing them at all), then everything changed in our local community. I had the same prejudices as many other men of our generation. I had to consciously let go of all of them.
This allowed the younger guys to let go of THEIR prejudices about older men:
- They're all "Hands and Glands".
- They are just "trolls", and if they aren't sexually attractive to younger men, then they are of no use whatsoever.
- They whine about how bad the old days were, and nothing else.
These are terrible assumptions to make, and we have all internalized them to a horrifying degree.
Instead, I assert that these younger men want to know that they have loving, approving and wise uncles who care deeply about their well-being and growth. These younger men have energy, ideals, new perspectives and WISDOM OF THEIR OWN that we can all share without prejudice.
If anything that I've written gets through, let it be the concept that there is majesty and worth in every one of us. This has nothing to do with external factors. When somebody shows up at your events who is not like you, start with a hug, and assume that he could potentially be the future Club President who ushers in the Golden Age. Don't leave him to sink or swim on his own.
If you do this, then your affinity-group will stay vital, lively, super-active and interesting as hell.