tlc: year with
a leather club

a documentary by Randy A. Riddle



Even though the Gay community includes a wide diversity of people with very different ideas about politics or sexual behavior, Leatherfolk still have to overcome many stereotypes in the general community and, more particularly, among the Gays and Lesbians with whom they associate.  The "biker" image, the Leather, chains, handcuffs, piercings, and tattoos can be a little intimidating..  "I think that's a typical stereotype," Janet said in an interview for the documentary, "that everybody who wears leather is this macho thing who's into whipping and dominating and that's all when it's definitely not that way." 

Stuart Norman - photo (c) by Michael CoxTLC has played a key role in overcoming those misperceptions.  David Wr. is quick to point out that TLC members make an effort to be friendly and outgoing in Gay spaces such as bars because there is not enough of a Leather community to support a true "Leather bar" in Greensboro, TLC members and other Leatherfolk share these spaces with much more mainstream Gays and learn to "live and let live".  David Wh., a female impersonator and entertainer who has worked with the club on many fundraisers and is an honorary member of TLC, said that "I think they've increased awareness that, to not only the community at large, but myself, that Leather people are not to be afraid of. Because, I know when I started at first with this whole thing and some of the guys started coming around, I thought, "Jesus, Leatherpeople. Oh Lord, we'll have beatin's and whippin's and all this." But, David saw that Leather folk were "really nice people" and noted that the group has managed to overcome many of these stereotypes among members of the local Gay and Lesbian community.  The club members are careful about respecting others when they are in a "non-Leather" space. 

TLC also focuses on educating itself about Safe Sex and safe SM play.  Some of the practices associated with SM whipping, flogging, or even simple forms of bondage can be harmful if done improperly.  For many years, Leatherfolk in clubs have been concerned about learning and teaching proper techniques and these ideas eventually coalesced into the creed of  "Safe, Sane, Consensual" that has been used extensively as a slogan within the community.  The more experienced members of the club not only teach the members concepts of safety in an SM scene, but the psychological and moral issues as well through discussions, reading groups, demonstrations, and seminars.  Most of the members of TLC interviewed for the documentary discussed the lifestyle not only in terms of an "image", but also as a set of moral codes that concentrate on mutual respect.