tlc: year with
a leather club

a documentary by Randy A. Riddle


Interview Transcripts:
Kevin D.

Kevin D. speaking at the NAMES Project -- photo (c) by Michael Cox  
Kevin D. is a Founding Member of the Tarheel Leather Club who edited the club's monthly newsletter, the "Tar and Feathers". He is associated with GMSMA of New York and has been active in Leather politics and community education about Safe/Sane/Consensual sex and the SM/Leather/Fetish lifestyle. Kevin was also involved with a number of Greensboro Lesbian and Gay organizations, including "Out! Greensboro", an "ACT UP"-type organzation that staged political actions in the Triad area. Kevin currently lives in Washington, DC. 

All material © 1995, CCD. All rights reserved. 

RAR - When did TLC come to you or how did you first come to TLC? 

KEVIN - TLC really didn't come to me, because I was one of the Founding Members. The nine of us all sort of came to each other, sort of by accident, really. In March of 1990, there are two events that happened that helped bring TLC together. There was the Mr. and Ms. Southeast Leather contest in Atlanta, and there was the Southeastern Conference for Lesbian and Gay men held in Raleigh. Three of our founding members went to this Southeast Leather contest, and there were four of us others in addition to those who attended the Southeastern Conference. One of the activities of the conference was a "Leather Sex 101" panel--everything you wanted to know about Leather but were afraid to ask. Through the conversation that happened at the panel and afterwards and at another meeting later on that evening sort of hooked up with each other, and a week later the first meeting of TLC, or what would become TLC, was held by the nine founding members. 

RAR - Tell me about the focus and the mission of TLC, why does it exist? 

KEVIN - Well, TLC exists because of a need for support for each member and for potential members in the community who have an interest in a differently sexually satisfying lifestyle. There are so few SM Leather fetish organizations, especially in North Carolina, there was no organization of it's type in Greensboro. There was a need for a people who are curious about the SM/Leather/Fetish lifesyle to have a place, an organization, a support group to be able to discuss their interest, their desires, learn about technique, learn about the political issues that are involved with the Leather/SM/Fetish lifestyle and learn about the history and the culture of the organized SM/Leather/Fetish community. 

RAR - What is Leather/SM/Fetish; how are they similar and how are they different? 

KEVIN - Leather to Kevin Drewery, Sexual Activist, is the basic appreciation and interest and desire to wear and or have sex in dead cow, or dead deer for those other people who get into pig skin or swede or various forms of leather. I'm a dead cow's kind of person, so I'll be real specific. (smiles) The SM part for me comes in two parts, there's the exploration and power exchange issues in a sexual dynamic -- being dominating or being submissive -- or the exploration of different body stimulation to heighten orgasm -- the pain/pleasure principle thing. And fetish is the culmination of all the other different things that can be done to heighten ones sexual activities -- boots, rubber, latex. etc. 

RAR - Do you find these things coming together all at once in people and sometimes one or the other? 

KEVIN - Sometimes never. These things do not always combine for all members of the SM/Leather/Fetish Community. There are quite a few people who are into SM that have no interest what so ever in leather, and it's not even really necessary because you can do most SM activities without leather -- I mean just a thrifty trip to the hardware store or to the kitchen utensil section of the grocery store and you can buy most things you need for a good SM scene. There are a lot of people into leather that are not into SM, the basic thing for them is the look, the feel, the smell of the hide when they are having sex, or when they are wearing it the confidence it builds, the aura that it helps to generate with them. And there are people who are into leather and SM and there are some people that have discovered different fetishes that help to compliment they're primary sexual orientation. Where I would consider my sexual orientation a Gay male, you know there are some fetishes that heighten and help stimulate my pursuit of my orientation. 

RAR - Let's talk a little bit about the work at TLC. We've mentioned education, politics, a lot of different things. Let's start with education. How does the club put its mission statement for education into action? 

KEVIN - Well, the prominent thing that TLC has done for the past three years is producing the largest continual and regular, regularly distributed news letter of any levi/leather club on the east coast. For a club that is as small as it is, we have had in 38 months, 36 issues of our newsletter -- there are major leather publications that can't even boast that. And our news letter is diverse in it's format and in what we will accept into our newsletter. Our editorial policy is real simple, if it doesn't conflict or contradict our club statement of purpose, then we will print it, regardless of whether or not most of the membership disagrees with the particular piece. It's important for things that are different or don't fit the norm as far as theory because it allows people the opportunity to discuss these things and to reevaluate how they feel about certain things. 

RAR - What are some of the issues that the newsletter has tackled? 

KEVIN - I feel that one of the strongest points of the news letter has been the editorial section. I've made no bones about the editorial section tackling very sensitive issues in the community. In the first four issues of the newsletter, we tackled the issue of Old Guard/New Guard. And this is really adventurous for a club that was only three or four months old. Our newsletter was the only newsletter to have a Gay male in the south to come out in favor of Power Surge, and defending the rights of the women who are putting on Power Surge to generate funds. 

RAR - You might want to explain what Power Surge is... 

KEVIN - Power Surge was an event that was held last Labor Day weekend. It was the first International all women's SM/Leather fetish, educational support and social event that's ever been held. And prior to the event they had been trying to solicit help and support from all of the organized community because there had never been an event like this before, there was no network laid down like you have with events like Living in Leather and annual club runs. There was no network there, so the first time they put on this event, they needed to go out into the community. And one of the reasons I came out in support of Power Surge, and did it in print in our newsletter, was that women have been a very vital part of the organized SM/Leather Fetish movement. Some of the best resources about our movement have been written by women. "The Lesbian SM Safety Manual", edited by Pat Califia. "Coming to Power", a very good book with the woman experiences in SM is written by a Lesbian feminist SM organization. We would not be where we are today if it had not been for women's involvement. And I felt it was time to return the favor. 

RAR - Explain what Old Guard/New Guard is. 

KEVIN - Well, the history behind leather itself dates back to right after W.W.II, and bike clubs in the 50's and 60's. Gay men that fought in the trenches for the first time on foreign soil, became used to and attracted to organized very authoritative, masculine imagery. And when they got back to the states, they wanted to keep on with this, and the way they found to do this was through the gay "bike clubs". Gay bike clubs were formed in the 50's. Well, as a part of that they wanted to keep it a very close knit, very exclusive thing; it was very hard to get into the loop shall we say. And once you were into the loop, then you went along with day-to-day activity. But to get to that point you had to go through extensive training by someone who had been in the loop, and if you didn't complete the training, you were then in essence ostracized. This is very old guard way of things; you basically earned your leathers, you went from one to another, bottoms were treated differently than tops. Senior bottoms were treated differently than junior tops, etc. There was a chain of command, so to speak, in Old Guard. Scott Baldwin addressed this best in a recent issue of "Drummer" (magazine) where he talked about Old Guard and New Guard. But what you have now with New Guard is you have so much more information about SM and Leather that you didn't have five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty years ago. Now you see SM issues being addressed daily, and being televised and printed in the media, and there's a ton of books being printed about it now. So you have a whole new influx of people wanting to come into it that are going to come in to it regardless of Old leather validity, so you have the new leather that's come into it, and one of the nice things that have happened is that you have some old guard leather people that are, a) they want play partners, and b) they see that the inflexibility won't necessarily work here, you're getting a nice blend of the two.You have lot's of New Leather people who are going through Old Leather training or who carry their lives out with a lot of old leather beliefs. That's sort of what I am, I'm a New Leather person but how I conduct myself at least in the bedroom is very Old Leather. 

RAR - Why is it important do you feel to teach safety in SM leather sex play? 

KEVIN - Some types of SM activities can be very dangerous if done by incompetent people, or if certain technical aspects have not been carried through can almost be deadly. These activities can be a wonderful nurturing and very erotic experience for the people who play with them, but it needs to be done responsibly and safely. One of the things that we stress out front and foremost is Safe, Sane and Consensual expression -- Safe being that it's both emotional and, the emotionally and physically safe. Yes you do not want to transmit any diseases or whatever, but you also don't want to mess with the person's mind, because when you want to be with someone you want to be with the complete person, you don't want to be with someone who you know has had bad experiences and is having emotional problems with what you are doing, so you want to take care to nurture them and to make sure that what you're doing is safe on both a physical and emotional level. Sane: you want to be sure that you can always distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality. You know, a lot of fiction is written for our movement involves a lot of activity that, a) aren't physically possible, and b) aren't really that erotic sometimes, and c) if they were done some of them would probably die. You need to be able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Yes, it would be nice to have somebody tied up and you know leave them there and go to work, etc. go about your daily life, and come back and have them waiting there, but there a practical issue of, what if that person has a seizure or what if your apartment catches fire, or something like that, you don't want to put someone in something that you're not there to take them out of in case they have a bad trip. And consensual really breaks down to you know when you're with a person, at the end of your activities between each other, at the end of the scene, you've done something to that person where that person doesn't want to be with you again. If you've had a scene with someone and they don't want to be with you again, then you have broken the consensual issue and something was not consensual for them. So that is the primary focus that we have, and we're dealing with education and dealing with technical things, because we want people to be able to share in the wealth of knowledge that is out there in the SM leather fetish community about the variety of activities, but we only want people to do these activities when they are completely versed on how they can be done Safely, Sanely, and Consensually so that that way the dominant person and the submissive person can enjoy what they are doing. 

RAR - How open are you about your Leather SM involvement with your family and what do they think? 

KEVIN - Well, as far as being open about my involvement in the Leather/SM movement, this past March I went to Orlando, Florida, for the Pantheon of Leather Awards. I was awarded the Business Person of the year Award, basically because of the SM/Leather/Fetish resource list that I compiled for the store that I work at, White Rabbit Books. When I was on stage excepting my award, Tony DeBlase, who was editor emeritus of "Drummer" magazine, took a picture of me accepting my award. Well, my family was down visiting me about month after the awards, and my mother saw the picture that Mr. DeBlase took of me, and it has me in full leather wearing my Mr. Southeast Leather sash, my leather cap, and my accepting my business person of the year award, and my mother asked if she could have a copy of the picture for her pocketbook, and she keeps that with her. And my Grandparents house in Illinois, where all of the other pictures of all the other grandkids are, there is a picture of me in my leather vest, my leather cap and a tuxedo shirt and tie, from one of our fund-raisers, with a smile which is unusual for me, I guess that's the main reason it's on the wall, but there's a picture of me with the other grandkids and I'm there in leather. My immediate family knows about my involvement in Leather/SM lifestyle. They can tell you the definition of Safe/Sane/Consensual and they can tell you why I am involved and as out front as I am about it. Everybody at work knows about it because I am the person who assists most of our SM/Leather/Fetish customers when they come into the store. And I also help talk with people who express an interest in it, but are afraid to ask about it because of a lot of misconceptions come up, and I help guide them to appropriate literature and I help point them in directions of particular organizations depending on what their interests are, and I can do this because I'm very comfortable talking about this myself and I can discuss this issue, as sensitive as it is, with people in a non-threatening manner. 

RAR - Let's talk about the political involvement of the club. Tell me about Beat Jesse. 

KEVIN - Well, within months of the club's first forming we had the 1990 election. Of course that meant the fourth reelection bid of Jesse Helms. Well, anybody who's watched any of the NEA action on the congressional floor, we know that Jesse Helms is definitely anti-homosexual and he's definitely got an anti-SM bent in him. So being members of the SM/Leather/Fetish community, we felt we needed to do something to help raise funds so that we help get Mr. Helms unemployed. We raised quite a bit money for North Carolina Senate Vote '90, and some for the Harvey Gant Campaign. We did this through selling Tee shirts that said "Beat Jesse" on it. And we stirred quite a bit of controversy about it because we addressed both sides of the issue -- both the reason to get rid of Jesse Helms and the possible negative SM imagery we were putting out by having Beat Jesse on a Pro-SM Tee-shirt. The club has also been involved in helping to bring the Quilt to Greensboro. Our president, Janet Blevins, was a featured speaker at the Quilt Display. And the Tarheel Leather Club Chorus and other members of the club which worked out to be 20 people in full leather sang a song called "Proud, Strong, and United" in front of 3,000 Greensboro citizens. This you could say was our coming out to the non-enlightened community of Greensboro. 

RAR - What about the different kinds of body modifications. First of all what different kinds of body modifications are there, and what are some of the reasons that people do body modifications? 

KEVIN - There basically four types. There are piercings, there are brandings, there are cuttings and there are tattooings. And different people do body modifications for different reasons. You know, personally mine were done because I had the sense, what you have when you are born, what your physical being, what you look like, that is, what you are given. You have no choice in that. Then as an adult, you allow yourself the opportunity to put your mark on it, to make your human shell, that which is usually similar to somebody else's, even though there might be a different hair color, what separates you from the average person you take it upon yourself to put your own mark. And that can be done either through tattooing, or through piercing. Some people do ornate cuttings, or through branding. 

RAR - Can these body modifications sometimes be a part of a ritualistic cermony? 

KEVIN - A lot of body modifications are done in the ritualistic sense, as a part of an SM scene, or as part of group of friends -- sort of in coming to terms. A lot of people, when they're finally very comfortable with themselves and they've completely excepted their SM/ Leather/Fetish lifestyle will get their first body piercing. That's when I got mine. My first body piercing was, you know this is Kevin coming to terms with his differently sexual appetite. And he wanted a visible indicator to people when he was next to another person. You'd be able to tell, yes, Kevin was definitely into something a little bit different than the person beside him. 

RAR - Let's talk for a second about Leather/SM Fetish and popular media. How do you feel about some of the popular media culture, popular culture taking on some of the trappings of Leather SM Fetish, as for example, Madonna, the punk rockers from the early eighties, Rave people now. How do you feel about that? 

KEVIN - Well, once again, it's like I said, people are only accepting of SM Leather fetish lifestyles and the different facets of that lifestyles and when they are exposed to it. You know part of me considers it to be a very fortunate thing that punkers are making massive trips to the Gauntlet to get parts of their body pierced, because then that allows their friends to see that this body piercing is something different to them, but they're still just fine the way they are. Madonna, by far, has probably been the biggest promoter of acceptance of varied sexual behavior through her video's and most certainly through her book. And I think this has been real beneficial to the SM/Leather Fetish Community and to the broader community as a whole because eventually people will stop being shocked by things that they don't do or they are not accustomed to, and as soon as society stops getting shocked, then they will start being more accepting. Not everybody is going to be into the Leather/SM/Fetish lifestyle or all the trappings which are a part of it. But what's important is that people learn to accept individual's diversities and the choices they make for themselves. And this is happening, or beginning to happen through these massive media coverage's of Madonna's book "Sex", and the punker's pierced noses and all this other sort of thing. This is helping to promote an acceptance of our lifesyle. 

RAR - Do you think it takes away from some of the traditions of the leather clubs? 

KEVIN - Nobody can take away from the traditions of my lifesyle because I have full control over the traditions of what I do and why I've done them. If, you know, an eighteen year old decides, "Well gee, it'll be really rad to like go pierce my tongue", his piercing his tongue isn't going to take away from the symbolism of my Prince Albert or the importance of the bond and the communication that shared in the scene with the play partner the night before where I did a temporary piercing. One of the things that we each have to remember is that we are responsible for keeping what is important to us, because if someone is allowing an action of somebody else to take away something that is important to them, then they don't have full control over their own life. And the importance of the movement, the importance of the SM/Leather/Fetish lifestyle is each individual, each consenting adult becoming accepting, and embracing all facets of their life, being able to share those with people who they love, being able to help talk about them to people who are curious, but being able to be accepting of both the SM/Leather fetish person who is different than them, and the one SM Leather Fetish person who's trying to be tolerant. 

RAR - Could you say something about the role of women in leather clubs and how's that's changed or has been changing? 

KEVIN - Well, my exposure to leather women has been very narrowly focused. I've predominantly dealt with women in our club, and there is certainly no one that can argue the contributions they have made to our club, particularly our president, Janet Blevins, who was a regional delegate to the March on Washington this year as an out leather lesbian from the South, who is the president of a mostly male levi/leather club. This is a combination that usually doesn't happen in a traditionally feminist oriented political movement where she was accepted. There have been some very powerful women as far as the national level that have come out of the South. Janet Blevins is one of them, M.P. Breslin from Atlanta, who is founder of Sister's of the Rose, who now lives in Washington, but this a very powerful and influential southern woman. You also have other women in the South - K.C. Lively, who is Ms. Southeast Leather 1992, from Florida. 

RAR - Let's bring it down more to a lower level. Do you find more mixed clubs of men and women? 

KEVIN - Mixed clubs you usually find in the larger cities. Most of the times the mixed clubs there are specific on pansexuality. That is the embracing of many orientations, whether they're straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender. This has worked very well in the larger cities. The reason the Tarheel Leather Club approached pansexuality, we wanted any person who is interested in Leather/Fetish lifestyle to feel welcome in the club because we know there are more than just gay males interested in leather/SM in the Carolina's. And we want to make sure that we were available for all people that are interested. 

RAR - Let me more this back just a little bit, and we'll talk about making your own toys. 

KEVIN - Oh! That's something I know just a little bit about. (smiles) 

RAR - Some of the things there behind you. Have you constructed them yourself and what is the satisfaction you get out of doing that? 

KEVIN - Different people approach how they express their SM different ways. I like to be very involved when I'm working on a scene, you know that is an interaction with another person. I like scenes to be memorable. I want the time, that three to five hour time period that I'm spending with that individual, I want that to stick in their memory, so I usually go to a great deal of effort in working toward that. This particular piece of equipment here, it's called the St. Andrew's cross, I spent ten hours making this cross, and another 45 hours of preparation working toward the four hour scene that this was used for. But the benefit, the gratifying part of this is knowing that I spent all this time to an event that whenever the individual I was with thinks about using the St. Andrew's cross or the physical activity that I was doing to stimulate this individual, they're going to remember that evening and they're going to remember me. And there aren't many events and times that stick in people's memories, so it's nice to know that I'm a part of this person's memory. The thing behind it is a spider web, it's five feet by eight feet, and it's done with 220 feet of rope and it's all tied around middle ring in the center which I have adorned with a little Teddy Bear right now, because I am sort of a loving sort of romantic sort of cuddly kind of person. This I spent 5 hours on, and I've since had several encounters in it. And it's nice to have at the foot of my bed because when I wake up I sort of see the reality of what my life is and what I've worked very hard for to become, and everytime I look at the web, especially when there's nothing on it, then I see the many different possibilities for both the web and my life. 

RAR - Would you care to talk about your own coming out experience, coming into leather? 

KEVIN - My coming out into leather was stunted very early in my gay life. Like I said, when I was a young kid I always had an attraction to many uniforms, and then when the Village People were popular, I was 11 years old and I remember becoming instantly attracted to Glen Hughs, who was a leather person. Then that attraction carried over and that interest in leather carried over when I came out in 1984. Well, in 1985, I moved to Roanoke, Virginia, and I lived there for three or four years before moving to Greensboro, but I made some friends in Roanoke, Virginia. One time we were over at their house on a Sunday afternoon and they had this movie called "Cruising", which is a movie about a serial killer that's supposed to take place in New York City, in the leather sub-culture. Well, me being real interested in leather had to see this movie. But when you watch the movie, it's definitely not the image of the leather community you certainly want to see if you're interested in it, and it frightened me about the leather community for several years, until the Southeastern Conference when I had an opportunity to talk with leather people, and there were a variety of people on the panel and certainly a larger variety of people in the audience, and I had the opportunity to talk with a member of the GMSMA, the Gay Male SM Activists, and through that was able to talk about some of my interests and actually explore them. And in the 3 years since then I've grown very comfortable about my differently pleasured appetites and have worked very hard to be able to communicate these, my comfort level with my own sexual appetite with other people regardless of what their appetites are so that they can see that it is all right to be what they are and be what they're into so long as what they are into is with consensual adults.