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March 28, 2013 | by Papa Tony
New Blood in an Old Guard World
I’m hearing more and more rumbles of alarm among older gay leathermen in other cities…
“We’re the core group of guys doing everything, and we’re looking REALLY OLD right now. We don’t have any club-members under the age of fifty or so, and when young guys show up, they look around, and the moment that the ten-minute bio-break arrives, they are GONE, and never return.”
Down here in San Diego, we don’t have that problem any more. Not whatsoever, finito. So, I’d like to explain why and how, for the benefit of my older brothers everywhere. It’s not going to be fun for you, because it means that you will very definitely have to change your THINKING.
 
Let’s start with some assumptions about younger gay leather/fetishmen:
  • They don’t care about traditions, or the past.
  • They’re just “kids” – unable (or unwilling) to be serious.
  • Some day, they might be qualified to run things, once they get a few more decades under their belt.
  • They will never be able to understand what our generation has gone through.
  • They dress weird. Why can’t they just get gear like mine, as is correct, proper and obvious to anyone?
  • If they would just learn the only valid and RIGHT way to do things, I could take them more seriously. 
I’ll talk more about each one of these, but first, I want to talk about our hard-wired need to make such assumptions. These are all based upon using ourselves (the Old Guard) as the standard by which all else must be judged.
 
I’ve got bad news, and good news:
 
BAD NEWS
 
The bad news is, Old Guard as we knew it is D-E-A-D. It has been gone for a long, long time. We have been worshipping leftover vapors and spiderwebs from the old days. I say good riddance. I entered the deepest, darkest and hardest of the hardcore leather scene in 1977.  Yes, I miss it, but not as my biggest fetish any more. I have moved on, and I urge you to do the same. Life gets a lot better, I promise.
 
GOOD NEWS
 
The GOOD news is, the new, NEW age has a vibrant, joyful, glorious and life-affirming role for us old codger graybeards. It is time for us to let go of the fucking football, and let someone with new perspectives, new energy, and new passions grab it and run, while we cheer from the sidelines. We can offer wisdom if it is asked for, but trust me – these guys can handle anything that comes at them, as long as they know that they can quietly call up the Wise, Trusted Uncles and get some private coaching.
 
Our job is to hand away everything (and yes, I mean EVERYTHING) to the younger guys, RIGHT NOW.  They aren’t “the leaders of tomorrow”, they are the leaders that we all desperately need this very moment, and the sooner that they are 100% in charge, the better everything will be, particularly for us older kinky males.
 
I’m going to talk about what I call the Four Stages of Leadership:
  • Stage One: No leadership at all. You’ll show up if it feels like you might get laid, or there is cheap beer.
  • Stage Two: You decide to support other people’s dreams. 
  • Stage Three: Quarterback with the ball. 99% of community leaders think that they are obligated to do this until they DIE, or burn out. 
  • Stage Four: Retired coach. Nobody ever talks about it. But, it’s crucial to allow others to replace us. The deep, satisfying wisdom that you have gathered is a huge, wonderful blessing that you can share. So concentrate upon being the sage, treasured asset that you were always destined to be. You’ve got a gray beard and belly, so quit pretending that it’s bad to get older. People of all ages will love you THIS way, too. I promise. I’m more popular now (and eagerly sought-after), like I never have been before. 
In the time that my generation has grieved for days and friends that are long gone, several new generations have been patiently waiting for us to notice them, love them, and help them along their path toward wisdom. IT’S OUR FAULT that they haven’t been getting the nourishment and “extra helpings” that they need in order to start fitting in better.
 
If we step back and make quiet, catty comments about the new, shy man who shows up in a harness, jeans and white tennis shoes, then we are being selfish and short-sighted. I hear the stories, and they are NASTY to listen to.  Talk to the younger recent IML winners and ask them for their horror stories. If they didn’t already have excellent strength of character, they would have been lost to us.
 
Bitchy old men are a plague, so let’s start out right away by making a promise to mend our ways. Use only positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is what bullies use, so let’s forbid ourselves to do that.
 
When somebody shows up “inappropriately dressed”, then for goodness’ sake, TALK to him, welcome him, introduce him to your favorite people and ask them to help him fit in. What if that same guy is under-employed in this crappy economy, lacks knowledge that he dearly desires from stand-up guys like YOU, and is eager to find out more, so that he can some day be a well-loved, respected, wise old man, also like you?
 
If you do reach out and invest in that eager stranger, then that same guy will move heaven and earth to transform his life to be more like his beloved role-models.
 
So, let’s start talking about sexual attraction:
 
KNOCK IT OFF.
 
I mean it.  As gay males, we are encouraged at all times to use leather-male gatherings as “Lobster Tanks”, where we get to pick and choose, based upon sexual attractiveness.
 
FUCK THAT. STOP RIGHT NOW. ALARM. ALARM.
 
No, I don’t want you to personally give up dating, tricking, marrying or whatever works at the moment. I just want you to stop assessing every new face at your events solely as potential fuckmeat, if your goal is to have better days for the entire community. This shallow perspective can lead me to dismiss wonderful guys just because they aren’t my individual “type”.
 
Instead, start thinking of each new face as “Potential Brothers in a Loving Tribe”. I urge you to let go of distinctions based upon:
  • Age
  • Color
  • Attractiveness
  • Gear
  • Body Style, or
  • Experience Level.
If you then change your filtering system to track down the guys who excel in:
  • Authenticity
  • Full Self-Expression, and
  • Kindness…
…then you’re more likely to get more acceptance, brotherhood and satisfaction in your own life, and build a long-lasting community of true brotherhood.
 
In my own case, I am dedicated to gaining a support-structure to replace my dead brothers, lovers, friends and mentors (over 140 of them) who will never come back to me. Not all of them were “hot” to my tastes. However, they fed my soul, and in return, I fed theirs. Every man that shows up to your events has that same birthright.
 
GETTING BACK TO THOSE MOLDY ASSUMPTIONS
 
(Young people) don’t care about traditions, or the past.
 
Oh, they do, they do. If I talk about the Old Ways, I have a ready audience. They also want to share THEIR ideas that make THEIR dicks hard. The Internet has accelerated new and zany kinks into the public’s awareness. We can see it as a threat to old values and traditions, or we can cheer while our lusty youth have a blast showing us what cranks their chains! Plenty of younger men are fiercely dedicated to Old Guard roles, traditions and protocols. Our wisdom will best be retained if we share it lovingly, freely and without any “gun to the head” obligations, or expectations about what they will do with it.
 
They’re just “kids” – unable (or unwilling) to be serious.
 
This one is the worst, by far. In WHAT other human culture can we get away with calling a 27-year-old adult male a “kid”?  It’s demeaning, dismissive and just plain fucking RUDE. Anybody who thinks that it is okay to cut off a younger male at the knees has some serious insecurities. Think twice and measure your words, grandpa. You have an enormous influence, so don’t instantly squander away all of your credibility in such a thoughtless way. Words can hurt.
 
The fact of the matter is, just as with ALL age-groups, some individuals have a bright spark of special intelligence, wit and grace.  If we shut down ALL potential youth, we will never gain the benefits of attracting the very best ones. Let’s identify them, welcome them, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder so that they can stand upon OUR shoulders.
 
Some day, they might be qualified to run things, once they get a few more decades under their belt.
 
Nope. No validity at all. How do I know? Because San Diego’s Tribe has more going on than any other city, by far. The engine that causes us to average something like nine events per week (and no, that’s not a typo) is driven by our idealistic, empowered, well-loved and phenomenally successful younger men. Nothing is going wrong – we’re all thriving and sassy. It just keeps getting better.
 
They will never be able to understand what our generation has gone through.
 
Granted. However, do we want them to?  Really? Yes, the younger guys DO want to hear, learn and gain perspective from our stories, but criminy – Do we HAVE to always, exclusively keep whining about AIDS losses? We have to do the 2013 thing now, NOT the 1968/1978/1988/1998/2008 thing. As long as we keep our heads turned 180 degrees around upon our shoulders, staring toward the past, then we will continue to lose sight of what great stuff is everywhere, all around us RIGHT NOW.
 
They dress weird. Why can’t they just get gear like mine, as is correct, proper and obvious to anyone?
 
Like I said earlier – They are BROKE. Take a good, close look at this picture:
HarnessParty
Notice how young the demographic is trending here. In the back, there are affectionate, approving graybeards, and the younger guys ADORE us. See them smile.  You can’t Photoshop “happy” into a picture. These guys are not tweaked out on some drug, and they aren’t drunk. They are ecstatically happy because they have a treasured place in a Tribe that loves them.
 
The harnesses that they are wearing are new. They are inexpensively custom-made, ten feet to the left of the photo, by Anthony, who is cranking them out like pasta. Why is this important enough to mention? Because these young men want nothing more than to LIVE leather, not just WEAR leather. The floggers, paddles and bondage-ropes come out, and the younger guys show up with their tails wagging.
 
They VERY STRONGLY want to identify with a supportive, affectionate, life-affirming Tribe that welcomes them with open arms, and that never presents them with flaming hoops to jump through before being accepted. The pressure is from THEIR side, wanting very much to fit in, and be valuable to all of us. The inexpensive harnesses allow them to declare their Tribal affiliation for the whole world to see. The Langlitz gear will show up later, when the money comes in.
 
If they would just learn the only valid and RIGHT way to do things, I could take them more seriously.

Certainly!  If our intention is to cram the generations that follow us into a box that is shaped just like us.
 
Would YOU have liked to be forced to live your grandfather’s life?
 
In summation:
 
As soon as I let go of my own bigotry (and yes, it is bigotry, when we pre-judge people from a distance without knowing them at all), then everything changed in our local community.  I had the same prejudices as many other men of our generation. I had to consciously let go of all of them.
 
This allowed the younger guys to let go of THEIR prejudices about older men:
  • They’re all “Hands and Glands”.
  • They are just “trolls”, and if they aren’t sexually attractive to younger men, then they are of no use whatsoever.
  • They whine about how bad the old days were, and nothing else.
These are terrible assumptions to make, and we have all internalized them to a horrifying degree.
 
Instead, I assert that these younger men want to know that they have loving, approving and wise uncles who care deeply about their well-being and growth.  These younger men have energy, ideals, new perspectives and WISDOM OF THEIR OWN that we can all share without prejudice.
 
If anything that I’ve written gets through, let it be the concept that there is majesty and worth in every one of us. This has nothing to do with external factors. When somebody shows up at your events who is not like you, start with a hug and assume that he could potentially be the future Club President who ushers in the Golden Age.  Don’t leave him to sink or swim on his own.
 
If you do this, then your affinity-group will stay vital, lively, super-active and interesting as hell.
22 Comments
  • Patrick Mulcahey

    “Our job is to hand away everything (and yes, I mean EVERYTHING) to the younger guys, RIGHT NOW. They aren’t ‘the leaders of tomorrow,’ they are the leaders that we all desperately need this very moment” — well put! I hope this will be widely read.

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  • Amen to everything you’ve said! I wish Leatherati had put your name on it so I could thank you personally, but yours is clearly a voice of experience, passion, and wisdom. I hope our fellow graybeards listen and take heed. Just as with gay marriage, change in the leather/rubber/SM/etc. world is happening whether the old farts accept it or not. Being kind and welcoming to the new guys is at least as much for our benefit as for theirs. Either we stand aside and offer our encouragement and, maybe, advice from the sidelines, or we’ll be pushed aside and forgotten. There’s an old saw, “If youth knew; if age could,” to which the poet E. E. Cummings added, “And youth keeps on growing old.” So put away both resentment and envy, and help the young’uns enjoy their time in the sun.

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    • From the picture, it looks like Papa Tony (or Tony Lindsey). Look up Fetish Men San Diego and you should be able to contact him.

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  • I love this soooo much and thank you for saying it. I’d kill for a community like that. You have such a great view of this; you could do workshops to create similar environments in other cities. As a boy who’s somewhat lost and very hungry for experience, a community, service, etc. this article gives me great joy. I’d even be open to travel to find my place in something like what you have. Does anyone know if there are sites which have postings or ways to connect and find a network? I know there’s Recon…but seriously…something more, substantial…any ideas welcome! Thanks so much Papa!!! You could be my Daddy anytime, haha.

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  • I’m pleased that folks are liking my writing. If you want more, there is a LOT more.

    I’ve posted over 500 articles (mostly events listings, but also many opinion-pieces) here:

    http://fetishmensandiego.blogspot.com

    I’ve started posting audio recordings of various talks, including how to create a group like ours – There are now 33 other cities (that I’m aware of) that are starting to create Level Three affinity-groups like ours:

    http://fetishmensandiego.blogspot.com/2013/03/audio-articles.html

    I’m easy to reach, at papatony @ mac.com

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  • Wise words, and well said! I’m hearing more and more people share your point of view about the next generation. When I came into this community as a yung’un 15 years ago, I was fortunate to find men who shared your attitude and who stepped out of the way and supported my efforts to find and build community.

    Your writing style is really exciting…. a definitive opinion, a clear call to action, and yet you leave room for the reader to insert their own opinions. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

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  • Completely disagree… Old guard is not dead and those of us that still value follow and educate the old guard ways are ridiculed for it…. Leather is only viewed as sex for many while others like myself live the leathermans lifestyle as a sub 24/7…. Old guard is pushed aside because it is a lot of work and a lot to learn… And people get bored and leave it … Old guard has its place in society just as players and new guard does… Do not discount what the old guard has to offer

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    • I agree with your statement, to a point. Like most concepts and ideals, they don’t truly die as long as there are still people around who live by and espouse them. However, while some form of ‘Old Guard’ education/experience used to be, not just standard, but required to be taken as a serious member of the leather community, this is much much less the case today. That is how I interpreted the writing.

      There is also the fact that the ‘fault’ for the lack of Old Guard training in our modern leather community doesn’t just rest with the younger generation. I don’t feel heaping that upon us is fair. I am a person who has a very healthy respect and curiosity regarding Old Guard tradition and would love to find someone willing to slowly walk me through it. However, finding someone willing to give me the time of day, someone who doesn’t start out with behavioral expectations that they’ve never bothered to actual discuss with me but i’m expected to instinctively know, someone who has the time to teach and someone who can do the teaching without a serious financial commitment (as I have a very limited income) is just about impossible!

      There is a very small pool to draw from and most of the elders in that pool don’t want to be bothered! That isn’t something I can change simply by my wanting to learn. The stark decline of Old Guard and the lack of it being passed on is a ‘failing’ of both the older and younger generations and both should took equal responsibility for it. Even if it is only to say that the older generation doesn’t want to bother teaching and the younger doesn’t want to bother learning.

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    • Pup? Old Guard? Interesting …

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  • Thank you for writing and publishing this article. While I feel San Francisco is a very blessed place for so many reasons, including how willing the “elders” are embracing the young community members, I believe other communities might not be so eager. It is our ON-GOING duty to share our history, welcome and engage the young & curious (all newcomers might not be our youth) enthusiastic community members. Honor the Past. Live in the Present. Create the Future. I feel this is especially important as many may now relate to “gear” more than leather. Does it really matter? The important thing is to be true to yourself. Have the courage to live, dress, and play however you want. Empowerment is not something we need to harness. We need to nourish each other in our journeys.

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  • I think this message is so well written, and so poignant. I think it applies to a great many assumptions that we hear in cliches about ‘others’ whether it be the young men, or women, or heteros, or trans or whatevers who want to walk the leather path. The message is so important.

    Thankfully, we are hearing more and more members of the ‘old guard’ say similar things both online and at conventions an contests. There is a palpable feel to a period of change that is on the horizon. And, while I crave to know about the old days, and to hear stories of what went on before, I am pleased to know that the Leather community is becoming more about the journey nd being authentic and less about fitting into someone elses mold.

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  • In his speech at IML 25….yes, IML 25, Chuck Renslow said the following (apologies for caps):

    “FUNNY THING ABOUT CHANGE…IT’S THE FEW CONSTANTS YOU CAN COUNT ON. AND IT NEVER STOPS. WE’VE ALL HEARD ABOUT THE DAYS OF THE “OLD GUARD” AND THE NEW GUARD. TODAY, THERE IS A NEW GENERATION OF LEATHERFOLK BECOMING MORE AND MORE PROMINENT…POISED TO TAKE THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE IN OUR COMMUNITY. IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, LEATHER “BOYS CLUBS” AND LEATHER “BOYS TROOPS” ARE GROWING IN SIZE…BECOMING MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND GAINING THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE AS THEY DO THEIR GOOD WORK. THESE CLUBS AND THEIR MEMBERS ARE MAKING THE LEATHER COMMUNITY RECOGNIZE THERE IS MORE ABOUT A BOY THAN SEX AND SERVICE TO THEIR TOP. THESE ARE SPECIAL PEOPLE AND VERY LIKELY WILL GIVE THE LEATHER COMMUNITY OUR NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP. DO NOT SHUN THEM BECAUSE OF SOME ILL-CONCEIVED NOTION OF WHAT A BOY IS OR SHOULD BE. THEY HAVE CHOSEN TO COME TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD OF ALL, NOT JUST FOR THEIR OWN. EMBRACE THEM, SUPPORT THEM AND BY ALL MEANS RESPECT THEM.”

    The idea that Tony is saying isn’t really new. It’s been out there for awhile. And although Chuck was talking about the then new “boys movement,’ his bigger message was clear about acceptance and maybe time for the entrenched leadership in our community to let go and let the next generation take their rightful place. Many spoke to me after that speech complaining “who will be their mentors, their role models and provider of history so the old guard traditions are not lost.” As I told them, in my usual warm fuzzy way….”your 15 minutes are up. It’s time for fresh blood and new energy to take all of us forward.”

    Then, again, at IML 30 he said this in his speech:

    “As I look out over the room tonight I can also honestly say that our community is vastly different than it was all those years ago. Thirty years ago, IML was an event for hard core leather men. And while that is certainly still true, it is no longer totally accurate. Today, new generations find their place in this community in much different ways. And, while many still wear striking leather jackets and extra tight leather jeans, others are just as happy with boot laces and a baseball bat.

    Some years ago I thought latex was the new leather but then, once again, our European relatives introduced us to the “skins” culture. Next, we had more tattoos then ever before, and we now pierce more places than we used to know we had. Then there is the “gear” phenomenon. Today’s leather man is as apt to be wearing motorcycle racing gear or sporting equipment as he is chaps and boots. And, he’s liable to be kinky in ways we never even considered thirty years ago. Think about it…Boys became cubs and now we even have puppies!”

    Those were Chuck’s words. And now, here we are 5 and 10 years later, and still having this conversation. To those entrenched out there, and you damn well know who you are, you just can’t seem to pull away from the trough. You don’t get it. From the mid 1980s to mid 1990′s, we lost a huge number of the generation that should have embraced the future and taken their rightful place. Now, the next generation is ready and chomping at the bit and yet, those that remained after the decimation of our community ran its course, still sit in judgement and are guilty of much of what Tony has pointed out. The definition of what makes a leather man…or leather woman are changing…rapidly. And just because someone whipped out their credit card, bought a pair of chaps and read a few books about leather and protocol, it doesn’t make them a leatherman (or woman).

    Yes, change can be scary and unknown. But, time marches forward. And holding on to some ill conceived notion of how things are supposed to be because of some romantic notion of what was, is a grave error. The world is changing. Our community is changing in ways…and at a speed none of us ever imagined even 10 years ago. There are things about the old guard that should be remembered and cherished in the context of the time and place they happened. There are some aspects of the old guard mentality that should be honored I suppose but embraced in a new way which is both respectful and cognizant of that different time.

    But it’s time to move forward and let go of the old guard mythology that has grown too far out of proportion and reality. And…we will ALL be the better for it.

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  • Great article, Papa Tony!

    The truth is that Leathermen (and all Leatherfolk) have a great deal to learn from each other, regardless of age, provided we set aside prejudices and preconceived ideas that no longer have any validity. One of many things that attracted me to the Leather community when i was younger was the fact that there is less ageism in the Gay Male Leather/BDSM community than there is among most Gay men. Sadly, however, there is still some ageism and it shows when younger men feel alienated and unwelcome by older men.

    In the 1980s, i was blessed by meeting and being welcomed by men in The 15 Association in San Francisco. Given how green i was at that time and the large number of faux pas i committed in total ignorance, i suppose they could have told me to fuck off. They did not and the result was great friendships and some very hot play.

    I am a few weeks away from the age of 61 and still a bottom and boy. Occasionally, i get comments that bottoms and boys should be younger. Fortunately, other men accept the fact that while one has to earn the privilege of being a Master, Daddy, slave or boy, these titles are not defined and must not be defined by age. We must follow our inner spirit and encourage others in our community to do likewise.

    Years ago, i learned from older men in the community. Today, i can learn from younger men in the community. Hopefully, we all learn from both younger and older men in our community, overlook the each others faux pas (such as unusual dress or wearing the wrong thing such as a collar when a person has not been given one by a Master, Sir or Daddy) and just make each other welcome. It is more fun that way – and we will grow as a community with many more young men coming into our clubs, meeting places and play spaces.

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  • So I find your article thought provoking, the one thing that gives me pause, is the one part of this conversation that always gives me pause.

    That’s this whole concept that it’s an “either or” choice. “Our job is to hand away everything (and yes, I mean EVERYTHING) to the younger guys” and “Bitchy old men”, these are not phrases of inclusion, they are part of a paradigm that says as we age, we need to “get out of the way”

    I think it may be somewhat presumptuous to universally tell older gay men what their role is in the leather community, just as I think it is a bit arrogant on many folks part to tell younger members what their role is, or should be.

    Inclusion is not about pre-assumptions of how the world has to work, It is respecting people’s gifts and contributions, regardless of age, looks and attitude.

    I do not believe I should say that a 20 year old should not be a “Master” anymore than I should be telling a 60 year old that it’s time for him to hand over the reigns.

    I think a more inclusive view is to say I appreciate both of their gifts and contributions and it’s not my role to set up an artificial paradigm based on my view of the world, but rather to realize that if I respect all their contributions and not categorize them at all, that things will work out organically, as they always do in groups. It is one thing to guide, it is quite another to say this is the way things need to be.

    People surprise you. Sometimes the Earth spin’s on it’s own axis without out finger turning it. :)

    Something to ponder.

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  • I disagree.
    If the younger people (whom I find as of late are the most self entitled individuals till about age 25) want to dress differently and follow a different path, they should go ahead and do it. If they choose not to follow the traditions of Old Guard Leather, then they are more than welcome not too.
    They should start their own group and create their own traditions and leave O/ours alone so that the O/ones that wish to follow it as it was, can do so without it being watered down and preppy-ied up.
    There will always be T/those that appreciate the traditions, the ceremony, the structure and the rigidness of those things.
    If the younger generation wants different, more power too them, CREATE it instead of taking the easy way out, by commandeering what is already there and changing it to suit their own needs.

    With Honour, Integrity and Respect.
    Master Noel
    House Of MNSM

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    • That’s a very metathesiophobic comment. Change is immanent whether you want it or not. Nothing is and never will be as it was in the past. I’m sure had you grown up in my generation (I’m in my 20′s) they would say the same thing about you.

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      • I do not think that anywhere in what I wrote, was there any mention of being afraid of change. Several pups and boys in O/our House are in their 20′s, and they are hardworking, courteous, and receive the same respect as they show others, which is as it should be.
        Another of our boys wanted to start a group for those whom associate themselves with being a “boy”. It is a non gender specific group that he CREATED. This is not an Old Guard or New Guard, just a group of like minded individuals getting together and working to better the community.
        I stand by My comment of
        “If the younger generation wants different, more power too them, CREATE it instead of taking the easy way out, by commandeering what is already there and changing it to suit their own needs.”
        Explain to Me why the younger generations preferences are more important than My preferences. I am not saying follow any way, just find yours , or create yours and leave the ones that are not for you to those that feel it is for them.

        With Honour, Integrity and Respect. Master Noel House Of MNSM

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  • I just put the link to this article on a Master`s wall in a BDSM forum from Buenos Aires, and the repplies to it are AMAZING… the only thing I can say is from Tolstoi: Paint your town and you will paint the world. Thank you very much for this and other articles I read before but never commented.

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  • This is a phenomenal article. Much kudos.

    As long as I’ve been in the scene, there has been a very strong divide between the older generation and the young bucks. This isn’t limited to the gay leather scene, however. This is truly a pansexual problem, in the most literal sense of the word. This affects everyone in every subset of our umbrella term “community,” whether it’s Olde Guarde/ New Guard/ Avante Garde/ what have you in Leather, or in M/s, Fetish, D/s, Furry, etc. etc. ad nauseum. There is a constant, almost patronizing attitude, of the older generation towards the newly initiated, and it needs to stop. Having said that, this is not to say that young people are completely blameless in this. There is always an ounce of truth in any stereotype. Stereotypes don’t come from nowhere. There are many young and new faces who don’t “get it” yet. The optimal word in that sentence, though, is YET. These things take time. Allow me to elaborate…

    I look back on when I first entered the scene in the late 90′s, I, like many kids of my age, had a problem with authority, thought I was invincible and that I knew everything there was to know. Maintaining that sort of attitude isn’t a good way to win friends and influence people. And here’s the wondrous thing. Eventually, I grew up. There were many young kids (and I say kids as I found the scene in my late teens) who had that same attitude. Most of them didn’t last. And I think that this is/ was the root of the problem of where this divide began. I’m reminded of the saying that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” While this isn’t a perfect analogy, the sentiment is dead on. The older generation heard the whining and disrespectfulness of those with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. It’s not a pleasant sound, and I feel it’s what put a bad taste in the mouths of many whom have been around the block once or twice before. “Who are these young kids coming in and bitching about X, Y and Z? They don’t know what it was like back in the day. When I was there age…” I think you see where this is going. But here’s the thing. What wasn’t as obvious, were the many other, less squeaky wheels who stuck around, and then had to bear the burden of being young in a community that already had a bad taste in their mouths from having to listen to the loud and obnoxious ones who came, bitched, and left. Truly this is a case of a few bad apples ruining the bunch. To an extent, it also didn’t help that things like TNG were started that solidified this divide. Now, not only does the older generation hear the bitching of the loud minority, but now they’re not even invited to the party to meet the rest of the people at the kiddie table. This isn’t meant to speak negatively about TNG, mind you. I’ve been a TNG member for many years and feel strongly that it is extremely beneficial to newbies, but that’s another story.

    So this puts us where we are today. The older generation isn’t getting any younger, and the younger generation IS maturing nicely. So I suppose the crux of my argument here, is to say this to the older generation at large. It’s ok. We’ve got it covered. Sit back and relax. You’ve earned it a thousand fold over. Let us drive. You might not like the music we blast on the radio, but everything is going to be ok.

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  • Papa Tony,

    Nicely stated and direct to the point. It’s good to see/hear about communities getting lifted from moribund states because men like you care about it and take the time to nurture the up and coming!

    tim

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  • Great read, and you make a good case. I disagree with some of the content and thoughts you present, and from my perspective (26 years in leather and counting) you’re a little starry-eyed about our community in its present state – but all in all, a beautiful piece of work. Overall, you’re spot-on about the feelings of malaise, of being left behind, of somehow losing sight of what’s important and our “senior cadre” needing to step up and see the bright young stars in their 30s who need guidance, advice and most of all, genuine friendship with a genuine goodwill behind it. I have given up on the “Reagan Generation” in their 40s who are anti-communitarian to the point of trying to eliminate the words “leather” and “leathermen” because they’re afraid the new folks will find us “repellent”. And this is in San Francisco! – The ones to watch are those in their mid-30s -Brent Gannetta is a prime example of this in SFO, as is Jorge Vieto (who shared this link).

    I agree with you *strongly* that some of us geriatric types need to get out of the way so that the generations behind mine can shine. For years, I got to participate in a public way, and I’m so grateful and blessed, but even a big ham like me has to know when to get off the stage! :)

    Would be interesting to meet you and share war stories. Thanks again for a great read.
    Woofs,
    Animal Joe Smith
    San Francisco, CA

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  • Hmmmm….A thought provoking article indeed. But I have to agree with Mike Reese and Master Noel, the presumption that the Old Guard are no longer valid and must crawl into a dark corner to die, is unhelpful (at best) and arrogant to the extreme.

    It’s the same clap trap we heard from Joe Hollister, ( leather columnist for the SF Sentinel ) in the 90′s when “New Leather” was supposed to completely sweep Old Guard aside. Didn’t happen of course.

    Young guys come into the Old Guard community all of the time. Yes, they are viewed with suspicion from some of the older men (and with good reason). However, I agree that it is in our best interests to reach out to the new guys and gently guide them into proper attire and demeanor.

    I’ve recently been approached several times, by young guys at bars who wanted to complement me on my “Tom of Finland” look. (I’m usually in leather when I go out). It’s at that point that I look at their white sneakers and tell them ( with a wink and a smile ) how good they would look in a pair of boots.I know that they’re already attracted to leather or they wouldn’t have approached me in the first place. They just need someone to give them a nudge to start viewing themselves as someone who could be wearing leather too.

    There is always a learning curve for anyone coming into this community and we, in the Old Guard, do know this and must take it into account. Each one of us was a newby, at some point, and if we were lucky, an elder of the tribe would take us under his wing and “show us the ropes”.

    Mentoring is an essential part of Old Guard leather, especially for the young tops. I agree that us older guys haven’t been doing nearly enough of it of late. But what these young guys don’t know, is that when we were young, if we wanted to learn something from an older top, we had to apprentice ourselves and submit to him in his dungeon before he would be willing to show us his techniques. Our knowledge and expertise was gained by our willingness to do what was needed in order to learn it.

    Today, it’s a lot easier than it was back then. Classes and workshops are available in the larger cities. Some of the old guys aren’t happy about this and still think it can only be done the old way. They have a valid point about this. The one on one training, without a whole group watching, is more personal, intense and carries with it the sense of it being a rite of passage and gaining the blessing and patronage of an elder of the tribe.

    It’s at this point, however, that I must make a distinction between leather and BDSM. You DON’T have to be into BDSM or role play to be into leather. Similarly, you DON’T have to be into leather to be into BDSM and role play.

    Too many people are trying to say that the new non-leather wearing kinksters are the future of the leather community. THEY ARE NOT!!!!! They are their own thing altogether. Kink has always existed apart from leather in it’s own right, whether it’s sports gear or silk stockings and business suits.

    ONLY WEARING LEATHER MAKES YOU A LEATHERMAN! You can combine wearing leather with kink or not. It makes no difference. Some men wear it solely for the look, smell, feel and masculine affiliation without role playing or kink. BOTH are valid.

    With this, I’m trying to say, the Old Guard way of leather will survive and thrive. It has something that the new kinksters don’t have…..structure. A framework to hang your proclivities within. A system of protocols that are flexible enough to grow with the times. (Remember when it was only proper for bottoms to wear chaps and tops had to wear full leather pants?) Yes, Old Guard can change when needed. But it will always be the standard that all others are measured by.

    Mr. Mike Talley

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