Leather lifestyle has its roots in returning soldiers after WW2. Having been through the war, having faced fear, hunger and cold, and having faced it with others in a regulated hierarchical structure, they could not find their way back to normal society easily. Their families, as much as they were happy to see them, could not provide that level of closeness they knew with their fellow soldiers.
These were the reasons for forming groups and spending time together. They talked, laughed, drank and felt understood completely.
All other elements were reminders, treasured possessions. The boots, the leather, the protocols, they were never the aim. Hierarchy was never the aim. They were all part of their realities at WW2 and carried over to the period thereafter. The aim, the only aim, was to connect on a profound level.
Some soldiers were straight, some gay, as in normal society. Gay soldiers, just like other soldiers, treasured the same memories of closeness, of comradery. They too, wanted to belong, to feel understood. They too, formed groups, which were very similar to the hetro groups, with the addition of sex between the members.
This is the history, this is how it was formed.
We can all understand the feelings of isolation people felt returning home from ww2. They could not find their place in the general society, because they were forever changed by the war. They spent time with their peers to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of being normal, which they couldn’t find in general society.
To go back to our groups, after a period of time, the hetro groups fell apart. The members found their way to society, formed families, found jobs etc. The gay groups carried on. They liked spending time together among peers and usually did not integrate into the general society, because being gay was not accepted. At some point they encountered a new situation. There were new people wishing to join the groups. These were younger men, without the experience of war, military or comradery to connect them to the other members. Faced with this challenge, the original members had to come up with a way to integrate these newcomers into the groups. Their challenge was to maintain the exact nature of the groups. The newcomers were interested in that as well. The structure of the groups was what attracted them in the first place. The way to do this was to simulate the forging process which formed the original members. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the war was over. Normal service in the military could not simulate the actual war. So they chose the next best thing.
Every newcomer was to go through the process of initiation, similar to WW2 in length, starting from the lowest rank. The initiation process allowed original members the time to cultivate the same values and protocols in the new members before accepting them as equals. The new members progressed through the ranks according to their progress and contribution to the group. The new members accepted that hierarchy as part of their integration process. They also accepted all the elements and protocols as part of their training. They earned their ranks. They in turn supported the training of newer members in the same way, following the same program. The image of the original group, their values and ethics, to which they trained the newcomers to aspire, was called the Old Guard. It remained the ideal, the people who represented the old traditions, and the new people who kept that image alive and lived accordingly are called the Old Guard.
We, as lifestyle Leather people, feel very much like outsiders too. We don’t belong in a general kink community, which is based on sensation and play. We don’t belong in any religious community. We don’t belong in any spiritual, new age community. And we want to belong. We have a deep need to connect to others who feel the same way. Who live their lives according to the code of honor. This is because we live with our bodies, souls and hearts. We have a strong spiritual drive, but it is unlike any other in the spirituality based individual practices. This is a spiritual need to be part of something bigger, something important; something that benefits others and makes us belong.
When we do form that society, we want to keep according to high values we built it around. We want to keep it the same way we formed it. We feel disappointment and loss when our values, our raison d'être, are being diluted. The newcomers join for the same reason we did, they want to be taught. But at the same time they struggle. They need a reason to understand the need for learning and for following a certain path.
It is the same principle as a relationship with a psychiatrist: you want their help, yet you argue with them. Why? Because something within you has to argue. Because you are an individual who wants to leave their special imprint on the world. Because we all want to matter. Although part of you knows deep down that they know where they are leading you to, your individualistic part rebels.
Yet, there are some among us who want to keep that tradition. We keep it for ourselves and also for the newcomers, who even though they fight it, do realize it is good for them in the end. We are the keepers of tradition, we are the wise people of our tribe, who have the responsibility to carry the torch forward, to lead by example. This is our role, our duty and our honor.
We obviously changed some rules to match our generation. But even with these changes, we do our best to preserve and impart the tradition forward. There are variations on the exact protocols, as they used to be. The variations are minimal. We chose a version and follow it. Everything we do, everywhere we go, everyone we interact with, we uphold these protocols and ethos.
There are no times outside of the protocols. Protocols provide the framework for our lives and relationships. We laugh, cry, play, eat etc. If there is no protocol for an activity we ask our peers, we look for it everywhere or amend an existing one.
We seek advice when we need, and give advice when asked. We are never too busy to teach.
We are part of a community and seek to give at every opportunity we have.
We don't drink much and don't do drugs. We remain in control of our senses.
All our private relationships are pre-negotiated and built using protocols. Emotions develop of course, but protocols are never changed.
We create families, close and extended. Every person lives their life knowing their precise position within family and larger community.
We accept responsibility for every new member to teach and support them in their journey.
Every person belongs, is never alone, or unsure of their position in regards to any of the other fellow community members.
We never arrive at perfection. The ideal image is just that, an image. We strive, we seek, we learn, but ultimately this journey is a continuous learning.
A person becomes a Master when the community acknowledges her or him as such. The main attribute of such person is their value as a leader in this journey. We acknowledge that person as a tradition keeper and someone we want to follow.
This is my take on a Leather journey.