[Town Council]

During the transit of the Sun through Aquarius this year of 1998 which \also happens to have been Black History Month. I have had the opportunity to serve my community and tribe as best I am able. I am pleased that I could place trust in others to come forth and give their best as well. The thrust of Black History Month this year has been that the emphasis should not be only a Black one. The rest of us are important characters in the making of all history that is America.

This year Black people have come to the fore on national television to openly dialogue about it's own community - the best and the worst. As gay/lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and challenged peoples are assimilating into mainstream culture they must also realize that the price of inclusion is self examination. The LeatherFetish Community must also begin this process towards greater inclusion.. We are on the threshold of not only a new century; but a new generation of LeatherAti as well. That generation must and will include all peoples on the planet who consider themselves kinky and who accept and believe in save, sane and consensual practices of their expressions. A truly Global Leather Village.

An injustice appeared in the guise of cancellation of the People of Color panel at the forthcoming LeatherFest X in San Diego. That panel has now been revived to a broader inclusion of 'Minorities in SM', and then still again to be titled 'Diversity'. This would imply, and include, not only race, but transgender and challenged peoples as well. In fact, two years ago when the first panel of this kind was initiated at LeatherFest, it included a heterosexual female who qualified herself because she was a woman.

As this effort is drawing to a plateau, if not a conclusion, I remain troubled by a lingering unresolved concern. Why is it that these peoples have not yet stepped forth to explore, and indeed exploit, the opportunity that now exists. I involved myself from a passionate sense of injustice - without the need for contemplation. I believe that as an White-American, I bare the responsibility to call other White-Americans to task when they behave in less than an inclusive manner. I do not feel that it is the duty of the oppressed group to do this for us. And so, I was joined by another White-American, Zak Tupor, in an attempt at correcting a narrow- minded decision. We were successful. And we were supported by some of the marginalized people who were closest to the exclusion. People like Elaine McMullen who is the former social director for LeatherFest, the producers of LeatherFest. In fact, as it turns out, just a few days after Elaine left the committee, the Minorities Panel which she previously coordinated, was discontinued. The timing of this decision certainly does not wear will on the image of LeatherFest who in it's recent press release tauts it's support of diversity.It really doesn't take much vision to realize that this picture is somewhat out of focus.

At the present time, even though the panel, in name, is written in, it is still being staffed by a man who is 'other than' a representative of it's theme. At the very best, this is devisive. And at the very worst, it is a primary example of cultural ignorance being manifest as institutionalized prejudice. And in this case, the culture is LeatherFetish/SM. Exclusion of dialogue on any level is wrong. Our community does have an emerging, perhaps one percent, role model appeal to welcome the necessary balance of newcomers. The community speaks over and over again about it's diversity. It is true that for the most part, we are a pan-sexual society - perhaps far ahead of the greater society in which we all live. There is a Deaf Leather Community, and there have been attempts at organizing a Black Leather In Color community. There is the National Leather Association and a Women's Leather Community. Everyone else is expected to fend for themselves - alone. In my opinion, this translates into institutionalized exclusion.

Consider with me for a moment: The Leather Journal is ten years old. As I recall, there has been only one solo person of color on it's cover: Ms. Viola Johnson. That's one in nearly 120 issues, barely one percent even if I forgot someone. Drummer Magazine has had two men of color on it's cover: Graylin Thornton and Kenny Chang if my memory serves me. Once again, in any case, what percentage is that? There has been one Mr. Drummer of color. There have been two Black IML's, Ron Moore and De Cannon. Neither of them appeared on the cover of any publication (not even in the Black press). There is one men's Leather Club of color in all of the world, ONYX. ICON Detroit is the best example of what the entire Leather Community image ought to be in my most humble opinion. It is truly an organization of equality by every measure. International; Ms. Leather has been a woman of color for two years running. Oh yes, we do see diversity in our midst. But it's a pretty mild seasoning.

In so many ways, it's the women who have much to teach us. Especially about relationships. By and in large, our community supports and promotes promiscuity - especially among men. Viola Johnson and Jill Carter are honored independently for example.. But who has honored them as a couple who has been together for twenty- five years? This is far more important than all of their sashes hanging in the Leather Archives. Women run and produce some of our biggest events - like the Folsom Street Fair. They are able to put service ahead of being serviced. And of course, it's the women who are coming out in the mainstream media - kinky or not. Yes, we do 'know'.. Dennis Rodman learned about spanking from Madonna.

The only organization devoted to couples is Masters and slaves Together. The only national couples contest is M.A.s.T. Who is the reigning International Master and slave? Most of us do not know. They are serving regionally. They have no national press exposure - save a picture in the Leather Journal. Why not the cover? Wouldn't you expect that a kinky marriage would be a natural outgrowth of a kinky lifestyle? It's about as easy to establish a social life as a Master/slave couple as it is to establish a kinky lifestyle while married and raising children. Yet and still, we're doing it - but separately. Why no Pantheon of Leather Couples Award? Imagine a Leather couple on the cover of a large circulation magazine shown in a positive light? (Actually IMA.sT. 1995 were on the cover of Metropolitan slave.)

So have I drifted from the point here? Just what is diversity? Is it separate but equal. Is it live and let live? Is it don't ask, don't tell? Or is it inclusive at each and every level? In the fetish groups? In the contests and on the judges panels? On the boards of directors of our clubs and organizations? In management and staff of our media organs? In the production of our festivals and celebrations? In the media plans of our promotional strategies? In the by-laws of our institutions?

We may be giving lip service to diversity; but we're a long long way from togetherness. So long as anyone is omitted from any of the above because they are seen as 'other', then we all have a whole bunch of work to do each and every day on whatever level we are playing. Wake up and act now. We have to be a whole lot more than just aware. We have our sexuality down. But is that what we are, a sexual community? Or are we a human community? To accomplish that we need to balance our Spirit and our Heart with Sexuality. We must begin to care with a pro-active passion.

Thank you,

Phil Ross

Play Safe, Play Hard, Play Real and Play in DIVERSITY!

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