Monday, May 25, 2009
boy ron & boy ryan:
San Diego Leatherboys Keep Swinging!
interview by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
The term “boy” is one of the most confusing in the Leather community. Though it denotes either submission or service, “boy” doesn’t mean the total 24/7 surrender of one person’s will to another the way the term “slave” does. A person can be a boy in one relationship and a Daddy — a dominant but, again, not totally controlling partner — in another. A boy doesn’t even have to be biologically male — though females usually change the spelling to “boi” to denote the gender difference.
The San Diego Leatherboys are one of the fastest-growing groups in San Diego’s Leather community. As their president, boy ron, and vice-president, boy ryan, explain below, they grew out of a previous attempt at a boy organization called the San Diego Boys of Leather but got off to a faster and bigger start. The 2009 Mr. San Diego Leather, Bryan Teague, is a boy and was a founding member of San Diego Leatherboys Russ Mortenson, the 2009 Knight of Leather (the Leather community’s liaison to the Imperial Court), is treasurer of San Diego Leatherboys. Many of San Diego’s most influential Leatherpeople either are involved with the Leatherboys or regularly attend their meetings and work with them.
The Leatherboys host a monthly barbecue every third Sunday afternoon, 3 p.m., at the Eagle bar, 3040 North Park Way (one block south of University Avenue, one block east of 30th Street), as a fundraiser for various community causes and events. They also were instrumental in raising money to buy toys for needy children in the Imperial Court’s recent Easter Egg hunt, and host a wide variety of other fundraisers, parties and events. Zenger’s interviewed boy ron and boy ryan shortly before ron’s partner, Mr. Mike, was scheduled to compete for International Mr. Leather (IML) in Chicago in late May.
Zenger’s: What is San Diego Leatherboys?
boy ron: San Diego Leatherboys is a group of self-identified boys.
boy ryan: Anyone who identifies as a boy — not necessarily biologically, because we do have bois [women] as well as boys.
Zenger’s: And for our readers who know absolutely nothing about the mores and folkways of the Leather community, what does “identify as a boy” actually mean?
boy ryan: Well, for everybody it’s different.
boy ron: A boy can be a submissive. A boy can also become a Daddy at some point. In relation to the San Diego Leatherboys, we’re boys of service. And when I say “service,” I mean whatever the community needs, be it the Leather community, the Imperial Court, the Transgender, the cowboys, whatever. When they want something done, we’re there for them.
I’ll give you an example: in the last contest we had, for Mr. San Diego Leather, we, the San Diego Leatherboys, were judges’ boys. We were backstage people. At the event I did for the Baskets ’n’ Bulges [boy ron’s personal production to raise money for the Easter egg hunt], the San Diego Leatherboys sold raffle tickets for me. Wherever there’s a Leather event going on, you’re going to see the San Diego Leatherboys.
Mine and ryan’s goal for the club this year is to break out of that box and reach out to other communities, which we have done so far. As an example, we donated the food from our Naughty Santa back in December to the Imperial Court food drive.
boy ryan: But, as I was saying, the Leather journey is different for everybody. Just because you’re a boy, that doesn’t put stipulations on you. Everybody lives their lives a different way. Everybody has a different perception, and we all coexist. We all come together in our love and our service to the community as boys, but in the bedroom and in private we all have very different relationships, and not necessarily of a subservient nature.
boy ron: This is very true. Some boys go on to become Daddies. Some boys remain boys for the rest of their lives.
Zenger’s: Would you like to tell me about yourselves, your journeys as individuals? You first, ron, and then ryan.
boy ron: My Leather journey started back in the 1980’s. I was not really thinking about being a boy or anything. I started going to Leather bars, mostly Wolf’s, and I just liked the look of leather. I met a gentleman by the name of Ricky Alves, and he introduced me to the Leather scene. I don’t mean that he “introduced” me by taking me home with him; he introduced me to what Leather meant. Then I got involved in a 12-year relationship where leather was not permitted.
Approximately six years ago I did get back into the Leather community. I became a collared boy to my current husband and Daddy, Mr. Mike, and my Leather journey has expanded a lot in those years. I’ve held the title of Knight of Leather 2006. I’ve held the position of San Diego Leatherboys president going on two years now. I was a member of the original San Diego Boys of Leather; I was a pledge in that organization in the year 2004 and stayed with it until 2005. The San Diego Leatherboys will be celebrating our fourth anniversary on September 15 of this year.
Zenger’s: And, ryan, your journey?
boy ryan: My journey began in San Antonio, Texas, when I went to my first Leather bar. I found it very intriguing. I had always been interested but had never really got involved in the community or in any group until I moved to San Diego and I was exposed to the Palm Springs Boys of Leather. T. C. and Henry were ultimately my mentors. They basically took me in under their wing. I became a member of Palm Springs Boys of Leather, and after a brief duration there — I was there for about a year — I took a hiatus out of the Leather community for about two years, came back and rejoined the San Diego Leatherboys, because I was living in San Diego even when I was with the Palm Springs groups. San Diego was a more feasible area to join a club, since I already lived here.
Zenger’s: You mentioned the San Diego Boys of Leather. What’s the status of that group, and how does it differ from San Diego Leatherboys?
boy ron: The San Diego Boys of Leather basically disbanded. Some of the boys went on to become Daddies. Some of them went on to other things in their lives, went on to become titleholders. When the San Diego Boys of Leather disbanded, Bryan Teague, another gentleman by the name of Chris, who’s no longer in San Diego, and I got together and decided that we would form the San Diego Leatherboys, because there was a new group of boys out there that were yearning still to have the camaraderie and the brotherhood.
Zenger’s: So the other club disbanded and then you guys started yours.
boy ron: We started ours, but not as a replacement for it. We were a whole different organization. Our ways of doing things were different from the old club.
Zenger’s: How so? What do you do differently, and how do you think that works in terms of attracting members?
boy ron: The way that the old club worked, in my opinion, was not attracting new members. I cannot say what the reason was. When we started our new club, the opening night at the Lumberjack Grille, we had people like slut-bottom chris. We had boy spence, Officer Wes, myself, Michelle Jackson, Keith Roberts, Dan Woodie, Tom Dickerson. We had the whole back area filled. When we were the San Diego Boys of Leather we never filled that room for our meetings.
The community opened up their arms to us, and we showed the community that yes, we can still continue to do what we did as the Boys of Leather, but now as the San Diego Leatherboys. We’ve done nothing but thrive, from conception to current.
Zenger’s: So what do you think you guys are doing right?
boy ron: We’ve got a core group of people that are dedicated to this club, and dedicated to this community. When Bryan was involved in the club, he was the one that started the Naughty Santa night, where we had Santa Claus come in dressed in leather, and we took all these pictures.
One of the things that’s not part of the San Diego Leatherboys, but the San Diego Leatherboys do it, is we alternate doing the clothes check for the Eagle’s wet underwear contests. We are now hosting a monthly beverage bust and barbecue on the third Sunday at the Eagle. This is something that that hasn’t been done in a long time in the club, and it’s getting people out there. We now have our friendship pins, which we didn’t have for a long time. We’ve renewed ourselves.
boy ryan: When I took over as vice-president, I believed that there needed to be a new perception and a new methodology of going about how to recruit people and how to expose ourselves to the Gay community in general. The Leather community in San Diego has always been a quiet thing that the rest of the Gay community has never really accepted or known much about.
I thought it was about time that we make ourselves known; not only make ourselves known, but also be proactive and show our faces and our presence in the community, and exactly what we do. I think that, in itself, has been what has made us what we’ve become to this day, and hopefully something better in the future.
boy ron: The one thing we did, just recently in February, is we went to Palm Springs and had a boys’ weekend retreat. I can honestly say that the people who went there on that retreat came back different boys than they were when they left San Diego. We were also given the honor of having their bar name us as their home-away-from-home bar. So if we ever go to Palm Springs, we have a home to go to. Vice versa: when the Palm Springs Boys of Leather come to San Diego, this is their home. We now have a brotherhood between Palm Springs and San Diego, a very tight brotherhood, which never existed before.
boy ryan: Not only that, but there’s never been a trip, an outreach, as we did, to another boy community before. So it was quite a significant thing for the Southern California’s Leather boys’ movement.
Zenger’s: How do you resolve the contradiction of having an organization of boys? The assumption — although you said earlier that this is not necessarily true — is that boys are submissive, boys are serving others, boys don’t assert themselves in the ways that one usually thinks that you have to do in order to lead an organization and keep it going. How does that work in practice?
boy ryan: We tread very carefully! Fortunately for the San Diego Leatherboys, I am one of those who is more verbal and I put my thoughts out there more than most of the boys would. I’m just a little more aggressive, I suppose. Boy ron and I are both very outspoken people. There are some of our members, on the other hand, that are very subservient, very service-oriented, and that’s their goal: to be in service to their Sirs or their Daddies, or whatever their situation may be.
boy ron: We have a boy in the club that’s considered a pup. That’s fine. That’s fine. We have one that’s considered a very dominant slave. That’s fine as well.
Zenger’s: What is a “dominant slave”? You didn’t think I’d let that one go!
boy ryan: You said it! You put this one out!
boy ron: When I say he’s a “dominant slave,” what I mean is he’s a very submissive slave. He had been with a Master for quite some time, and now that he’s trying to come out of that mode and become a boy, but there’s still that little bit of slave in him. But it’s the heart — to me, what makes a boy is the heart and spirit. And we’ve got two new pledges that, to look at these two, you would not consider them your typical Leather boys. But their heart and their soul is that of a boy. Not every boy has to walk around with a white T-shirt on, and a ball cap, and a leather vest.
boy ryan: People in the old guard may say that that’s what they would like, but I’m making this statement very clear and very loud now, that the San Diego Leatherboys are the new guard. We are here to re-create an organization and maybe re-establish a new mind-set.
boy ron: The one thing I can say about the club is that the boys’ club, any boys’ club, is run, is administered, by the boys themselves. We will take guidance from other people, from dominants outside the community, a Sir, a Master, whomever. But they do not direct to us how we operate our club, because when you start allowing that to happen, then you’ve lost the fact of it being a boys’ club. The Los Angeles Boys of Leather, the San Francisco Boys of Leather, the Dallas Boys of Leather, are all run by boys.
boy ryan: The boy values, simply put, are love, respect and trust.
Zenger’s: Those sound like good values for any sort of relationship.
boy ryan: I agree.
boy ron: To give an example of what a boys’ club can do, we had a situation with a boy in another club in D.C. many years ago. The reason the boys’ club was formed was to have a place where a boy can come to feel safe. If somebody’s in the club and they’re being abused by their Sir or their Daddy or whatever, and they come and tell us, as the brotherhood we are, we’re there to protect them.
It hasn’t happened in San Diego, but I know of other places where things like this have happened with other boys, and these boys have gone over and physically moved the boy out of the house, and have protected him. We’re a brotherhood, and we look out for each other.
Zenger’s: How would you know if a relationship had reached that situation? How could someone outside tell when it’s stopped being consensual S/M and started being domestic violence?
boy ron: It would be up to the individual to come and tell the person.
boy ryan: Which in many cases doesn’t happen. But by the same token, what we need is the cry for help. We need the cry for help. We cannot act on something that we simply assume — we may be ending a relationship, or a multitude of things. God only knows.
boy ron: It’s like this weekend. We have a brother that’s going to be moving. We put out a call for volunteers, and we got a landslide of volunteers to come help this boy move.
Zenger’s: What’s the difference between a boy and a slave?
boy ron: That’s the $64 question a boy just can’t answer! I have no perception of what that is.
boy ryan: Because neither ron nor I are slaves, we have no perception of what that really is. I mean, the thing is, we can expound. We can try to explain what a slave is.
boy ron: There are different values, different ways you can be a slave. Some slaves have a contract with their Master where they turn everything in their life over to this person.
boy ryan: There are situations like that, where slaves turn their whole lives. Their bank accounts and everything are managed by their Daddy, their Sir, their boyfriend, their husband, whatever you want to call him. Boys, on the other hand, are a little more independent. It was a movement that was started by the D. C. Boys of Leather.
boy ron: boy keith.
boy ryan: It was basically this happy medium between a Sir and a slave, I suppose. I guess we’re a mixture of those two.
boy ron: Some of the old guard — not necessarily San Diego, but some of the old guard back East — will consider a boy as a slave that’s not ready to be a slave yet.
boy ryan: Or a Sir in waiting.
boy ron: Or a Sir in waiting, yes. I mean, the perfect example, we had a boy in the old club who was known as boy tipper, who went on to become Daddy Tipper, San Diego Leather Daddy, and then went on to become Sister Mary Drama in the Sisters [of Perpetual Indulgence].
We’ve got one boy that’s very new to Leather. He’s part of the rodeo. He wants to be part of us. Just like we have boys in our club that want to be part of the rodeo. We love the cowboys, and they love us. We have to plug the rodeo!
boy ryan: That turns on Ron!
Zenger’s: You mentioned the word “pledging” a couple of times. What is that process?
boy ryan: The pledging process involves, first, a person filling out an application to become a San Diego Leatherboy. Secondly, there’s a time frame, an undisclosed amount of time, in which the boy, or the aspiring boy, the pledge, is put through a series of tasks. We do not believe in hazing. But, on the other hand, we do believe in earning the San Diego Leatherboy back patch. We have them put on parties, functions, to see how well they will be doing in the Leather community; to see how well they will perform as a full-fledged Leatherboy.
boy ron: Their first order of business is to sell raffle tickets at fundraisers.
boy ryan: There are quite a few steps, and for every pledge there is a different process, depending on their personality. We’re also retrofitting our two new pledges with uniforms, and they’ll be wearing those uniforms until they receive their leather vests with San Diego Leatherboys back patches.
boy ron: And when they earn that vest, it’s a ceremony that is very memorable not only to them, but to anybody that’s watching it.
boy ryan: Just as you asked us where our Leather journeys started, you may be asking them — or someone may be asking them — where their Leather journeys started, and they can say, “San Diego Leatherboys.”
boy ron: We had one pledge that was very, very green. He went out and did his first Leather event. He bought his own jeans, the T-shirt and the boots, just so he could come up to us. We all went, like, “Wow. You’re great.” And the look on his face, and the smile on his face, of just knowing that he was part of something, and coming us and asking us, “When’s the next event?” That’s the enthusiasm that I like.
boy ryan: That’s the enthusiasm that we need.
boy ron: Yes. And it’s not all about service work. We went to Palm Springs, and we’re planning other social outings, pool parties and things like that.
boy ryan: We’re planning a few more trips outside of San Diego as well, to meet up with boys of other various large cities.
boy ron: Our club will go to Palm Springs and L.A. and San Francisco. We’re going to be doing hospitality for the upcoming California Leather/SIR contest in Long Beach in August. This will be the first time that all these clubs have got together to be in charge of hospitality. Which means that if they want to get drunk, they have to come and see us!
Zenger’s: What kinds of groups are you raising money for, and what do you hope to do in terms of fundraising in the future?
boy ron: We did a fundraiser just recently for Sir Magnum; when he became Mr. San Diego Eagle 2009, we donated the proceeds from our first official barbecue to Sir Magnum and the Leather Foundation. At our next barbecue, we donated part of the proceeds to Mr. Mike for IML.
In the past we did the Naughty Santa, for which the proceeds went to San Diego Hospice. That was in the name of one of our boys whom we lost this past year, Javier Spence. Spence was a former San Diego Boy of Leather that came over to our side and passed away. We made a donation in his honor. And then I’d like us to get together and do something to help out Leather Realm, the Leather Realm at Pride.
boy ryan: Which actually we were just part of the pie-in-the-face contest for. We were pie-ees in the pie-in-the-face contest.
boy ron: Ryan and I were pie-ees for the Reddi-Whipped and Pied, or something to that effect. We got up there and both got pies thrown in our faces.
boy ryan: And what about the slave auction at Urban Mo’s?
boy ron: Oh, yeah. Boy ryan was in a slave auction at Urban Mo’s. He had on a pair of chaps and actually got out and had a pair of white underwear with our boy logo on the right side, which we thought was really cute. He actually had those on Saturday at the pie-toss thing.
boy ryan: When I was being hosed down.
Zenger’s: Overall, where do you see the future of the Leatherboys?
boy ryan: I would like to work closely with Mama’s Kitchen. I would definitely like to help them. I would like to branch out a little bit more into the community and do a bit more work for them, either through volunteer service or financial backing and fundraisers.
boy ron: I’d like to see us try to do something with Being Alive.
boy ryan: Oh, Being Alive would be a great one.
boy ron: There’s an event that I would like to plan, coming up in August, that would involve helping schoolkids, which I can’t go into details about yet but that would be another arc in itself. This was the first year that the San Diego Leatherboys got involved with the Easter Egg Hunt, and we had a great time doing that, In fact, two of our pledges cried during the whole time. I’ve got a picture of Sean wiping tears from his face!
Being a member of the Imperial Court and on the board of directors, it did my heart good to see the boys reach out and do that work with the Imperial Court. And this past weekend we spent the evening with the rodeo.
boy ryan: I’d also say we wouldn’t be where we are without the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as well. They have been an incredible help.
boy ron: They want to give us a blessing, but they have to get us all together at one time!
boy ryan: That’s harder than it seems!
boy ron: We’re also going to have our own truck in the Pride parade, right behind the Leather Pride float, that will be decorated in boys’ colors, and it will have the boys’ clubs of Palm Springs, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
boy ryan: Yes, any boy group is invited to join in our float.
boy ron: And this will be a first for San Diego.
boy ryan: As a matter of fact, for this publication we’re making this an official announcement to all the boys’ groups in the United States and Canada — and Mexico, if there are any —
boy ron: — to come ride in our float, our truck.
boy ryan: We’d be more than happy to have you.
boy ron: There is another person that is not a boy, but we consider him our Daddy. This year, the San Diego Leatherboys did something that they’ve never, ever done: they sponsored a contestant for Mr. San Diego Leather. They sponsored Sir V, and that gentleman has been nothing but a great inspiration for us.
boy ryan: He’s been another wonderful asset to the San Diego Leatherboys.
Zenger’s: How do people get in touch with you?
boy ron: They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
boy ryan: They can reach me, boy ryan, at email@example.com
boy ron: And if they’d like to have more information, they can e-mail us and we can send them information. We also have a Yahoo group that they can sign up for. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a Web site, too: it’s www.sdleatherboys.com, and on that you’ll see pictures of events that we’ve had. It hasn’t been updated in a while because our Web boy’s up in L.A. now, but it’s got the bylaws of the club on it, pictures of past events. It’s got pictures of our very first meeting, the Veterans’ Day event we did in the very beginning. And then we’ll have to get some more pictures up on that thing.
boy ryan: Next year we also may be having a large party, inviting all of California’s Leather entities, to a camp-out. We haven’t decided where quite yet, but California, get ready!