So the whole Leather Leadership thing has been 'up' since I attended the Leather Leadership Conference in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. You can see my previous post about it here. There has been spirited discourse on the LLC in the Leather Leadership Forum on Fetlife.
Some of the suggestions - that the LLC has such a specific market that it would only ever attract a couple hundred people - that the charter's requirement on the number of classes means that there will always be a domination of presenters - that it wouldn't be feasible to have a national conference compensate presenters without having them pay full boat - got me thinking.
Who is a Leather Leader? and how could a national conference attract enough participants to create enough revenue to compensate presenters?
I have some ideas on the second question, but they are really formed from some of my thoughts on the first, so this post will be about the Who?
The majority of the Who currently is, as I can see it (and I'm not criticizing anybody for this), gay men. One of the takeaways I had from the LLC is that my heritage and orientation mean I'm not Leather, because I don't have a background in 'leather' specifically. I'm a heterosexual woman who is an educator and producer in the realm of BDSM, and I have a propensity of wearing yoga clothing. Nobody has given me 'leathers' in the 25+ years I've been actively exploring kink.
'Leadership', as I understand it to be currently exhibited at LLC also equals gay men (and some of us not-gay people) who are in specific positions of power and authority in our communities. We are the producers of events, sit on Boards of Directors, present at the National Level, form and run activist groups in our own communities, etc. etc.
Equating Leather and Leadership with the above definitions is akin to someone saying to me about teaching yoga: "You can only come to this conference if you've been teaching for a minimum of 10 years, with at least 5000 hours of specific work, have written a book and are currently teaching other teachers." Um hello - if that was the case, this conference, which can be found in several major markets throughout the year, could itself only attract a couple hundred people annually - and wouldn't be making money (oh, right, I'm keeping the financials for a later post).
Why be so narrow in perspective? What's the hesitation to say something like "Are you in a marginalized group of people because of how and who you love? Want to do something about it? We are a place where you can go to learn about the history of our sub-culture, have conversations with people who are in more public positions in communities all over the country, and discourse on the very nature of leadership". Come to our event and learn about things like:
- participating in community activism at many levels
- what kind of leader you are (especially if you don't want to be a big mucky-muck)
- ways to improve yourself as a presenter and educator
- how social networking is changing the face of our community
- what people your age, TNG-ers, are doing in communities
- conflict resolution techniques you can use anywhere
- and more!
Don't think this is for you, well, then come to our website and see how broad we really are!" (The LLC website is currently dominated in people wearing leather, guys, and of a somewhat mature age - I don't see any of myself there).
From the LLC Website : "The Leather Leadership Conference (LLC) is an organization dedicated to strengthening the Leather/BDSM/Kink/Fetish community through the development of the leadership skills of community members and fostering a greater sense of connection between and within community groups."
In my 'Market' of New England, there are myriad groups doing good work for LGBT, Poly and Transfolk with direct and indirect ties to the Kink Community. Some (but not all) include: MOB, NELA, NEDS, BTNG, MPX, MAsT Mass, The Society, Bay State Mauraders, The Western Mass Power Exchange, VASE, The Network La Red, The History Project, Mass Equality, The Bisexual Resource Center, Fenway Health, Transcending Boundaries, and many, many more. Try doing a Google search on LGBT (your city or metropolitan area) and see what you come up with. Try again with BDSM (your city or metropolitan area), etc. Now check out Fetlife and see what you can come up with.
Could increasing the attractiveness of this conference be as simple as following the charter and redesigning the website?