photograph by Leland Carina

(A Part of The Black N Leather Series-Artists, Activists and Authors)

Queen Cougar has made big appearances everywhere in the Leather community. From “Bloodsisters”  and other media appearances  to being a wonderful MC at the biggest events, holding two Leather titles, being a tireless activist, a teacher and mentoring across the US, Queen Cougar has been tireless in sharing her skills and a stellar example of grace and class that any person can find. The Queen is a also beautiful singer. Many have been privy to her amazing vocals.

Queen Cougar holds nothing back when it comes to speaking her mind and telling it like it is. She has been a staple of the San Francisco community and beyond for years and the marks she has left within it- will never be forgotten. To help Queen Cougar celebrate her 20th Anniversary as Ms. SF Leather 1993 and all her other contributions to the culture, the community held a roast of her at the Leather Alliance Weekend 2013. The Roast was a blast and enjoyed by many.

Most know the Leather Community is a subculture and minority group within mainstream society. Subcultures can be broken down further whether you are talking about feminine to masculine ratios, young to seasoned and even ethnicity. The percentage of persons of color within the Leather community is of course very small. Persons of color know they are a minority within a minority and have at times past traveled in packs or tribes to social and educations functions. But what is it like living life as a minority within a subculture?

 “In all my responses,” Queen Cougar responds,  “I will simply tell you what It was like being me…Queen Cougar…doing these things.  I am very different from other Black Women as we are certainly all motivated by different things from our lives to be who we are and do the things we choose to do in the Leather Community.  In my opinion I am here to do sadomasochistic things with like minded people… if they are all one color or another matters not to me.  The basic temperament and behavior of a person matters more to me.  There will always be kinksters who have not left the training of their past behind – distrust and hatred of peoples of color – and those people will not have access to me or mines because I make a conscious effort to avoid interactions with them.  There are many who have overcome the training of their parents and grandparents in terms of those same issues and embrace all people regardless of color.  To say it was always fun being the only person of color in a room would not be true – but the primary issue there for me would be determining the motivation someone had to interact with me – was it based on true interest and mutual respect?  Or was it because I was the most “exotic creature” in the room!”

She makes a point. Sometimes being known as “ the token” of the event or function can be at times fun, and other times uncomfortable. You get the feeling every once in a while that you are more of a “racial celebrity” of sorts to some even if that’s not your intention or type of attention that you want. The fact that strangers walk up to you and begin a conversations with “I’ve never done (fill in the blank) with a black person.”, has left even me with uncomfortable feelings. Somehow its different practicing S/M, D/s and sex with persons of color than other majority races? Do many have on their bucket list of sexual thrills to make it with a person of a different race? Are we an achievement or potential trophy?

Then you wonder if everyone else like you has been treated differently within the community?

 “Yes of course, but different is relative. Some are more respectful – bordering on overcompensating for those who may not be so nice to you.  Others treat you like you are a strange new toy or territory to conquer. Then there are others who were resentful that people of color often get different treatment at all (they are the why do we need affirmative action people).  Then there are people who see you simply as a person and based on how you deal with them – they deal with you,” Queen Cougar says.

Looks like a two edged sword to me. Those thrill seekers of interracial relations and those that have negative feelings over apparent immediate elevation of status based solely on skin color. Either way this sometimes creates acceptance issues of which raises another more complex question. One wonders whether POC stick to their own kind to avoid such clashes and experiences. Was it easier for Queen Cougar to be accepted into the community because of being a minority or was she more apart of the Black Leather community?

 “I definitely do not believe there is a Black American Leather Community – other than exists on an event basis – such as at Black Beat.  We are largely individuals existing within the structure of whatever leather community there is in the towns we live in. You get to know some POC individuals over time  – particularly if you travel to events outside of your home state.  I think Caucasian people generally accept those POC who accept themselves as being part of the community of kink. Easy is not a factor in this.”

So then one wonders if there are differences between the communities or if they should be talked as a separate communities in the first place?

 “I think in general it is right to acknowledge that POC have a greater struggle in American society – but they must prove themselves and carry themselves in a respectful way to receive respect in the kink community.  What good is separating the communities?  No special major considerations will be offered for doing this.”

Queen Cougar doesn’t differentiate her heroes and heroines based on color at all either. She goes beyond that by focusing more on their character and actions.

 “Because so many of those people are my peers I would like to say I totally appreciate and respect the accomplishments that many of us have made and continue to make.  Wherever we are we often stand out and the contributions we make as exciting players, skilled educators and trusted mentors is valuable to the history of BDSM and all the kink communities.  The Pro Dommes who have maintained respect in their communities make a valuable contribution as do our Leather titleholders (which are numerous!) from a variety of title contests. Both worlds are different however so singling out individuals really can create an impression that isn’t broad enough in my opinion.”

For Queen Cougar, her passions change over time for her and though at one point she wanted to experience as many sadomasochistic opportunities as possible that she was interested in she didn’t want to be “type casted”.

 “I had no intention of playing into the “exotic bird ”  role that Black women have often found themselves being in the scene.  Everything I had was not available to everybody…and for some  it was difficult to determine just what type interested me!”

She continues, “Then my passionate desire was to bring an element of class to some of our proceedings.  I felt I could be a deeply sexual outlaw yet still lend an air of dignity to being  part of “raunchy sex positive people”.  Largely this is in relation to contests and events.

As the years have gone by and I’ve worked many different events I’ve wanted to see my people have more backbone about taking stands against unacceptable behavior within the scene by players and partners against each other.    There are those  who masquerade as being sadomasochists but in reality are individuals with unresolved emotional issues and are  acting them out on the SM global stage –  in the guise of being sadists. We also have allowed star worship of titleholders and those with high profiles to blind us to their humanity and  occasionally their faults.

Going forward I plan to focus on the issues of “aging in the BDSM scene”.  We live longer now and the generation that once would have  passed away from AIDS is now dying of natural causes.  Most of us have not prepared to be aging kinksters – and the  very nature of how we spent many years of our lives –  excludes us from mainstream community support  – LGBT or Het.”

Queen Cougar does not expect the LGBT community to reflect diversity better than mainstream society based on their being kinky alone.

 “Diversity is nurtured one to one.  Just two generations ago many grew up in families that had very radical negative opinions of other races.  It takes time to wash that out of a culture and therefore the same is true within our community.  Through encouragement,  support, and a certain amount of bravado on the part of individuals – we will continue to see many young people come into the scene with less hang-ups and issues that are race based.  When racism raises it’s ugly head…and it will from time to time… dialogue should be  encouraged – but opinions are just that… Note who seems to have unresolved issues and withdraw your support and “cosigning” of their statements and deeds across the board.  Unfortunately some people just love to start sh*t!  They are more than happy to rain on everyone’s parade for a few moments of sadistic glory…in a bad way.  I give these people a wide berth.  And “these people” can be  POC or Caucasians…trust me I’ve seen it .”

Queen Cougar is inspired by compassion, bravery and those who still seek fun and excitement in their lives.

 “ There is a twinkle in the eye of a woman who may not fit the standard image of a female submissive with an hour glass figure wearing high heels to cook dinner and clean a house. It shows particularly if she has found a person who values her dedication wit and spunk. I admire fully mature older men who relish in being “boys” and who present themselves and serve in that capacity with a grin , a boyish wickedness and a loving dedication to their Sirs and Daddy’s that brings a smile to my heart as I view their service.  I adore seeing traditional butch women with all their mannish traits and skills  as they navigate through transgender territory and all the pressure to convert. They continue to pursue their walk in life as Butch and despite the pressure to transition they celebrate a gender type that has begun quietly fading from our landscape.  As a traditional femme I find them amazing and gorgeous in a handsome way.”

It seems it doesn’t matter what sexual orientation, age, generation or gender one is to Queen Cougar, every person has an ability to bring a unique characteristic to the table that can be celebrated. This also can ring true even when discussing any subject especially if you are talking about bridging generations. How respect each others perspectives and differences more without misunderstandings and lack of bridge building?

 “I think people need to stop being so sensitive and consider just using common sense when in discussions.  if I consider who I’m talking to, what their experience might be with the subject matter , and their demeanor during the discussion I may be able to figure out what’s the best way to discuss something. Some people are just looking for a fight so a real mature discussion is not possible with them. See someone else’s point of view for the sake of the discussion even if briefly.”

That’s a lesson that everyone can learn. This could lead to moments that change you thoroughly as a person when you are open to learning regardless without assumptions. One defining moment that changed Queen Cougar’s life happened to be her losing IMsL in 1993.

 “ I knew I bad been treated like the “black contestant” by some judges because I polled the other contestants about their experiences.  I knew I had represented well but took 1st runner up. After the weekend was over and my tears had dried I continued doing what I said I would and going beyond as I saw fit. The result of which was that opportunities opened up throughout our world of BDSM for me to share my skills and love for our scene. I became more accomplished despite having lost a major contest.  I got on with life better than perhaps if I had been IMsL that year. I learned my true weaknesses and I learned to be humble…no one is too big to fail!  I’m pleased now with my history and my leather resume which came through struggle and disappointment.”

Queen Cougar is an inspiration and carries herself with grace, dignity and confidence. She has been a strong trailblazer in defining what makes a Leather person unique and respected within our culture.