Kink/Leather StoriesCapturing the personal histories

Republished with permission
© Copyright Michael Holt

When I was young “queer” was a slur, slang for homosexual, and that’s the only meaning it had.  Pretty much all of society was very homophobic.  We used “queer” to emphasize the difference between us normal people and those dreadful homosexuals.

Except I wasn’t quite one of the normal people.  I had submissive fantasies before puberty.  These weren’t sex fantasies, they were more gender role fantasies.  I had no idea what to do about them.  But I knew they set me apart, and that didn’t feel safe in 50’s America.  So I kept them hidden.  I didn’t realize that this gave me something in common with the queers.

I had a male lover in college.  I was quite surprised when he came on to me.  I wasn’t one of those queers, and didn’t think I was attractive.  But he insisted I was and I yielded.  The sex worked—I got hard; I came.  But I had the thought, while making out with him the first time, that it would work better if one of us was a woman.  All these decades later, that strikes me as a queer thought.  This relationship was a one-off for me.  I realized that really, my attraction was for women. 

Much later I found the kink community.  And in it I met young people who had claimed the word “queer”.  They rejected traditional gender stereotypes and they used their appearance to signal this.  I had never embraced the stereotypes, but I was comfortable with traditional masculine presentation.  So no hairstyle-as-statement for me.  Heck, I often wore khakis and a button-down shirt on casual day at work.  People no doubt made assumptions based on my appearance, and I didn’t challenge them.  But I did sometimes surprise them.  When I participated in the Hula Hoop contest at the Pride Block Party the MC called me out.  “Look at Mr. Lands’ End go!”  Yep, I stood out in that crowd.  I won the contest, using Hula Hoop skills I’d learned in the 50’s.  For a straight white guy in a button-down, I could move my hips.  I had embraced being kinky, but I didn’t feel at all queer.

That eventually started to change.  Year before last a friend and I presented a workshop on kink at an LGBTQ conference.  When I introduced myself I included that I was submissive.  I saw it as a credential of sorts.  I wasn’t L or G or B or T or Q, but I was different.  My friend brought clarity: “Male submission is a queering of masculinity.”  She identifies as queer and had given this more thought than I had.

Her words rattled around in my brain for months, and eventually I accepted that I was queer, at least on the inside.  And it wasn’t a choice.  I had had those fantasies, I had this nature, and fuck no, I wasn’t ever going to be a macho man.

And eventually I felt comfortable bringing my queer to the surface.  I felt drawn to cross-dressing, and I found a venue to try it out, a step at a time.  I volunteer at Kinky Friday, a monthly fetish night at a large downtown bar.  It’s a very open and welcoming environment.  Last month I came up with a gender-bending costume: a short slip, biker boots, tape on my nipples, and leather thigh cuffs.  I felt entirely comfortable wearing lingerie in public, and this emboldened me.  This month I did without the masculine elements.  A different (cuter?) short slip, strappy heels, tape on my nipples, and I carried a white patent-leather purse.  And I got a pedicure and bright red polish on my toenails.  So they matched my thong, that showed under my slip.  Such an attention whore!  I got lots of compliments at Kinky Friday, especially for my shoes, and I had a great time.

I reprised the outfit the next night at a kink party--an entirely different group of people.  Friends who’ve known me for years were surprised, but I just said I wanted to get my queer on, and that was enough.  And then I went back into gender-bending mode, wearing the heels and carrying the purse while otherwise dressing masculine.  I went queer to lunch with a friend, and to a small fundraiser for a feminist comedy troupe, and to Trader Joe’s.  And I stepped out with bright red toenails barefoot dancing, and at the gym, and getting a massage.  I was thrilled when people noticed and I enjoyed talking about it.  But I also realized that it was fine when no reacted.  That could be a sign that seeing an old queer wasn’t all that remarkable.  And that would be a good thing, too.

I’m so glad I found my queer.

St. Paul, MN
May, 2016


Robert Smith started his leather journey back in 1985 in Salt Lake City, Utah. This interview took place behind the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival.

David Coral tells us how he get involved with Minnesota Leather Pride in 2000, and how it grew from a bar night to a series of events. This interview took place behind the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival.

Karri Plowmna tell us how Minnesota Leather Pride was responsible for introducing him to his friends/business partner/lover, Tynan. This interview took place behind the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival.

Jennifer Allen, Ms Iowa Leather 2014, shares how she first became involved in the kink community over eight years ago when she found herself in a kinky speed-dating event, setup to explore kinks. This interview took place behind the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival.

Nick shares his American Leather Story of how he got involved in the local Minneapolis community through a local leather store, how he is bringing the San Francisco spirit with him as he moves back to Minneapolis, and how leather has been an open and welcoming experience for him. This interview took place behind the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival.

Watch this 4 minute interview with boy Grayson as he shares a bit about his life growing up with a figurative pack of wolves, finding his role in the communities, and how the Minnesota leather/kink community responded to a big change in his life. Grayson's video is the first in several American Leather Story interviews recorded Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival..

In 2008, the Minnesota Leather Pride Planning Committee commissioned a huge new Leather Pride Flag. The Old flag was retired and donated to the Leather Archives & Museum in 2008. We are proud to present a clip from Saluting the Old, Unfurling the New.

Interview with Carl Gscheidmeier and Colin Spriestersbach. Constructed for the 1998 Twin Cities Pride Parade by Carl Gscheidmeier with help from Colin Spriestersbach, the first Minnesota giant leather pride and and rainbow flags marched in every Pride parade from 1998 to 2007.

Share Your Story

Our 2015 Minnesota Leather Pride theme was "American Leather Story," and that inspired us to invite members of the Kink, BDSM, and Leather communities to share your stories with us.

So many of the stories from the lives of our people have been lost to us, so now we want to collect what you have to say about your experience. Maybe it's about how you discovered your favorite kink, maybe it's a great scene you were part of, maybe it's the first piece of leather, gear or toy you experienced.

Our first goal is to collect your story. If you allow, we would like to post some of these stories through, and to share these stores with the Leather Archives & Museum. We are happy to receive your story in text, photos, audio, or video.

If you want to be part of our American Leather Story, contact us at