This article is part of my Mentoring for Tops/Sirs/Doms/Masters curriculum.
Older kinky gay males of my generation are both a blessing, and a burden upon everyone else. We never got around to DEALING with the "death, disfigurement and disease" thing that has colored our viewpoint since the 1980's, so the majority of us are unable to move forward with the times, while we pretend that everything is just dandy. Too many of us feel like dinosaurs, surrounded by small furry mammals that we can't relate to.
In the meantime, the younger folks who lack our personal experience of Holocaust have kept moving forward, opening their minds wide to diversity of every type. The world has changed radically within my lifetime. When I came out into the leather scene in 1977, being caught in an act of sadomasochism was still an extremely imprisonable offense. Now, eighteen-year-olds step smartly inside the doors of their local fetishgear emporium, already aware of the virtues of various varieties of floggers, and all due to the wise advice of Mister Google.
This is a huge upgrade for the sake of overall humanity, but in my opinion, it would be great if the older gay leathermen among us were more available for mentoring as well. Folks everywhere are drowning in pure information online, when what they could really use is some wisdom, provided by trusted sources with everybody’s best intentions at heart. You know – what the old farts have been supposed to be doing all along.
Heaven knows that we old-timers are experienced and able to function well in a society that has been manifestly unwelcoming to us for most of our long lives. The younger folks need to see that we are still around, that they have a future to look forward to, and that they can be as successful with long-term relationships as we are, someday. No matter how many times I beg older gay leathermen to be visible, to be proud and to be available for mentoring, it doesn't happen. Poof - The last thing I see of them is their taillights heading over the horizon, metaphorically speaking. This never fails to disappoint me, and it has been the pattern for several decades now. I'm over it.
The problem with guys in my demographic is... we're stuck. We can't move back, and we can't move forward. Yes, that is an over-generalization, but it's largely true. Too many of us are still patiently waiting for the Good Old Days to come back, and frankly, it's not going to happen.
Gay leathermen are never going to be the primary symbol of kink and fetish, ever again. It was a nice fantasy, and it lasted a good long time, but it's over.
Tom of Finland is dead. There. I said it, and I’m not taking it back. His work is in a museum, and that is the best place for it. As a template for behavior, Tom’s artwork is a false god. We patterned ourselves upon a model that doesn’t allow for grieving, being playful and silly, or looking different. Yes, it is sexually hot, and yet… It’s a drag to try and emulate those cartoon characters for the long run.
Let’s be honest here – How many times have you heard “Gay Leather Men don’t dance, or touch their Master’s Caps with only one hand by the brim, or blah blah bzzz snore what?” My attention wanders when I get lectured on the Only Possible Acceptable Behaviors According to Olde Guarde.
In the 1970’s, NOBODY had any delusions of Olde Guarde Grandeur… not in my crowd, and we were as hardcore as it got. Olde Guarde makes for a nice construct to live by if you never actually went through it the first time. I consider it to be a trap, and a philosophical dead-end.
Too many people read the Old Guard comic book, and thought that it was the Bible. I wish that I could remember where I first heard that. I laughed and laughed!
Trust, Honor and Respect? Great! – Normal human values, and I vote for that every time. I’m fond of the Golden Rule, too. Arbitrary, arcane and picayune rules that change from one dominating personality to another? Not so much, thanks.
Oh, lordy - I’ve tried so hard to fit inside that Tom of Finland / Olde Guarde box as an entire lifestyle, but it never lasted long. It’s restrictive, lacks creativity and flexibility, and belongs inside a glass case with a light coating of dust. There's no escape hatch built-in for when things change, as they do every single day.
Why punish others for not even trying to clamber inside that box?
The rest of the varied family of humanity has caught up with us in our absence from the public's eye. We can't keep shunning our wildly diverse youth just because they can't seem to fit into neat categories that made sense decades ago. We can understand cream fillings, and we sure can understand cupcakes, but… YOU SAY THAT YOU’RE A CREAM-FILLED CUPCAKE? Inflexible minds must reject you utterly!
The folks who show up at our leathermen's bars (and upset us by their very existence) ARE OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS. Why be angry at them for wanting to be accepted and welcomed and loved and mentored? They aren't cock-blocking anybody, they aren't there to pee in the punchbowl. They share your experience far more than you know, but if you don't take the time to get to know them, you're cheating yourself of a wonderful experience.
As far as I’m concerned, we’re entering into an amazing new age of glorious openness and energy, and I’d sure like my brothers to climb out of their comfortable little bomb-shelters in suburbia and rejoin the party.
I don't want to hear the following sort of phrase any more:
"I was at the bar, and there were women / transmen / youngsters / Sisters / puppies / newbies / whatever there, so I left." I seriously want to throw things around when I hear this sort of self-centered crapola. It's irresponsible, selfish and cruel. If somebody says this around me, my first thought is "Aha - Peter Pan Syndrome". I'm usually hearing this from men who have more than a few miles on their odometers, who haven't yet taken responsibility for their natural age, and want to pretend that nobody notices. How many more decades must we endure this?
Think about it - Many of us (myself included) are old enough to be grandparents. What do grandparents do? They pamper the young'uns, they share their life-experiences, and they provide helping hands so that the valued, wonderful younger members of the family gain a few extra advantages along the way.
I’m old enough to remember when that happened for ME. Starting in 1977, I got the full benefit of mentoring from dozens of older gay leathermen, and they didn’t skimp. I learned all about sex, long-term relationships, interpersonal politics, how to be a proud, wise and experienced kinkster with no apologies, and on and on.
Those men died. Every damned one of them. Out of my big, extended Leather family, I’m the only survivor. This had a tangible, hideous effect upon me, so I totally GET the concept of withdrawing to lick one’s wounds. I’m a tenth-degree Black Belt in feeling sorry for myself. Fine. Several decades of grieving is enough. Our presence is required outside of the Pity Pool.
The world has moved on, and in my opinion, every single bit of the changes around us are for the good. So much has changed within our lifetimes, and we have all had a hand in it. The level of acceptance for US has gone up, so how about we return the favor?
Here's what I said to a group of young men who were eager to get connected with the larger community, last night in our local leather bar, in exactly these words:
"I came into the leather scene in 1977, which makes me your History. That communication is not complete unless I also say the other half of it, which is that YOU are are our FUTURE, and you're every bit as important as I am. My ideas are great, but my ideas are old. You have a fresh, new, exciting and unpredictable perspective, which we desperately need. I claim you as full members of our community, and I am here to make sure that you succeed. You can count on me for support. I will only introduce you to people that add value to your life. I promise not to treat you like a Twinky piece of ass to use up and throw away, if you promise not to treat me like an old Troll."
Now, it's YOUR turn to say it, and to say it often, and to mean it every time. When you invest in the younger generations, then the level of civilization rises in the world, and you're investing in a future that will be far better than what we endured.
It's your duty as an adult human being. Take ownership of that. It's your turn. The Leather Family Reunions have been reserving a chair for Kinky Gay Grandpa all along, and we've missed you. No matter how much we want our OWN elders to stop being so dead, it's not going to happen, and somebody needs to step up and support the new, vibrant, scary and magnificent thing that is surely coming up. Otherwise we may as well just pull the dirt over our tired old selves and get it all over with.
We all want you back.