One of the joys of publishing guest posts on this blog is that I get to enjoy a glimpse into aspects of the vast worlds of gender, sexuality, and kink that I don’t have direct experience with. That’s why I am really thrilled with today’s post in which Lisa Kivok (she/her) tells us why she thinks it’s past time for non-binary and polyamorous inclusion in the world of leather titles. It’s a thought-provoking piece that I’m thrilled to share with you all.
It’s Time for Non-binary and Polyamory-Inclusive Leather Titles by Lisa Kivok
It’s 2022. Non-binary and polyamorous people are increasingly visible in mainstream society. Not nearly enough, of course, but still increasingly so. But the leather community, which rightfully prides itself so much on being accepting, often excludes them in its contest titles. Not always, and usually not intentionally, but still far too often.
For example, how often do you see a leather title for Couple of the Year/Region/etc.? Now, how included do you think monogamous people would feel if the title was Polycule of the Year… but hey, we’ll let couples compete and call them “Couple of the Year” if they happen to win? Just about as included as polyamorous people feel when relationships competing for titles are dubbed “couples” by default.
Instead, it’s time for leather contests to stop using Couple of the Year titles and start using titles that are neutral in relationship style and can truly include polyamorous people – for example, Relationship of the Year.
A trickier phenomenon is that of Woman/Man of the Year/Region/etc. leather titles. It wouldn’t be right for those titles to be replaced – for a lot of people, their femininity or masculinity is an important part of their connection to the leather world. That shouldn’t be downplayed by eliminating those titles. But it’s past time that leather contests acknowledged non-binary leather people by adding a non-binary title, too – for example, Non-binary Person of the Year. Just letting non-binary people compete in Woman/Man categories and changing the title if they win isn’t fair. If women and men get their own designated titles, non-binary people should, too. After all, would you expect a woman to feel included in a non-binary person of the year contest? The same is true in reverse.
Why is now the time to make these changes?
Polyamorous and non-binary people have always existed, and any time would have been a great time to acknowledge them by making these changes, as some but not enough leather contests already have. Indeed, it would have been best to start out with such inclusive titles when leather contests first began. But such changes are better done late than never, and now is an especially important time to take a stand on this. That’s because right now there is a huge backlash against diversity, especially sexual diversity.
Yes, non-binary and polyamorous people are increasingly visible in mainstream society, but that often only leads to greater backlash. You can’t turn on the TV or look at Twitter without hearing about people being called groomers for being queer in public, trans youth being denied puberty blockers, and other attempts to shove people back into the imagined Father Knows Best days that never really existed.
If even the leather community pushes polyamorous and non-binary people to the side for not being mainstream enough, where will those people find acceptance?
Lack of acceptance may drive these people away from the leather subculture, which in addition to being unfortunate for them would be unfortunate for leather society itself. Polyamorous and non-binary people have contributed much to leather society, and no doubt can and will contribute more if they were better included.
The leather subculture has never been about the “nice” people who just want to be accepted by the mainstream. Sure, they’re as welcome in leather society as anyone else. But the heart of leather society has always been people maligned and excluded elsewhere. It is hypocritical and illogical to have a subculture based in large part on a fairly rare sexual fetish, long thought of as disgusting and immoral by mainstream society, and to then exclude polyamorous and non-binary people for not being mainstream or common enough. That way lies a ”sanitization” of leather society that goes against the values the culture does, and should, stand for in terms of acceptance of people who do not belong to the sexual and gender mainstream.
Making room for people excluded from mainstream society has always been part of leather culture, and minority groups within leather culture have fought long and proudly and successfully for inclusion, including in leather titles. There are women’s leather titles, Black leather titles, and deaf leather titles, to name just a few. It’s time we gave polyamorous and non-binary people the same sort of chance. It’s time to remind ourselves that when mainstream society says “get out, freaks and perverts”, leatherfolk say, “you’re welcome here with us.”
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