Beyond Leather Keynote Address by

VI JOHNSON

Greetings everyone.  Though I am probably not the first, let me welcome you to Beyond Leather.

When Top and bonnie asked me to give this keynote, the first question I asked was, “What do you want me to talk about?”  They said, “Welcome everyone, then spend just a few minutes talking about what ever you want.” OK, I’ve done the first part.

There is a lot of work that goes into putting an event like this together.  Workshops,Presenters, hotel contracts, play parties, publicity, a thousand and one little details must all come together smoothly(At least as far as all of you attendees are concerned) in order to make the weekend happen.  But it all starts with an idea, a concept in the mind of the person or people who will produce the event.

So, a great idea is born, kind of like the leather / fetish version of “Let’s put on a show.”

Then you have to think of what this weekend family reunion will be called.  The name has to be catchy, so that people will be curious enough to go to a website for more information.  But it also has to reflect everything that the producers want the weekend to be.  The few words chosen as the title of the event have to reflect everything that the producers want to convey to those who will ultimately attend.  Will it be FEST: a celebration of our kink and the lifestyle we all have chosen?  Will it be a CONFERENCE where kinksters and fetishists will gather to discuss and exchange ideas?  Will it be a CON, similar to a conference but a lot more playful?

We see all of these ideas reflected in the various events that we all attend.  Leatherfest, Master slave Conference, Leather Leadership Conference, Frolicon, Domcon, Shibaricon.  Each name really does embody the event it represents.  This weekend is simply called … BEYOND LEATHER.  Wow! Simple, exotic, eloquent … catchy really.

But what did it mean?

My first instinct was to call Top and ask; inquire about her thought process, vision, and hope for the weekend.  Instead, I opted to dissect the name of this weekend for myself. The leather part was easy.  The hide we wear, the fetish / kink it often represents, the tribe that is tied together because of our choice to be sexual rebels who follow a different path.

The “beyond” part of Beyond Leather … hhuummm.  I started with old Mr. Webster. “Beyond” is an old English word that is both an adverb and a noun.  OK.  One part of The definition says, “Outside of the usual or ordinary experience”.  Webster also adds “…in addition; besides, to see the farther side.”

It could easily and successfully be argued, that the very lifestyle that we have chosen to live is indeed outside of the usual or ordinary experience.  Whether we are d/s’ers, s/m’ers, fetishists, participants in the master/slave lifestyle, or what ever our kind may be, as a group, we definitely don’t fit the , missionary position , for the purpose of procreation only, two point two kids, white picket fence mold.  Every time we exercise our choice to love differently we send our unique energy out into the universe.  And while my collar and my wedding band are both symbols of loving relationships, it’s gonna be a while yet, before the way we love is considered and ordinary experience.

So what are our ordinary experiences?  Maybe that was what I should be thinking about as I analyzed the name Beyond Leather.  What was ordinary for us as a tribe?

Conferences like this weekend are within the realm of the usual for us.  Loving talk about our kink is usual for us.  Sharing techniques, toys, books, magazines, Conversations about our lifestyle: that is all within the realm of our usual experience.  Perhaps so much so that we take it all for granted.  And it was there, right there at the taking it for granted, part that a little light bulb came on.

Since my experience is that what we do is perfectly normal, then beyond, with all that the word entails, really could be taken at least three different ways.  In a good way: we as leather mentors, brothers and leaders can look to the next generations of kink and fantasize about what they will add to the crucible of knowledge of all things leather.  BEYOND leather could easily be referring to them, the TNG’s, the Whippersnappers, and all the new tricks that the next generation will teach us old dogs.  I like that.  That  BEYOND feels good to me. It’s the last possible aspect of BEYOND Leather is where I can see dark clouds rising.

This Beyond leather could easily be referring to a possible future where we as a tribe are not standing proudly enjoying our kink, but hiding in shadows like sewer rats afraid of what might come around the next political or social corner.  BEYOND Leather could easily mean a giant step backward to the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  A time when we could not assemble freely to share ideas, or even put those ideas in writing without fear of prosecution,  The dark scary BEYOND Leather could throw us back into a time when magazines (If you could find them) are hidden or destroyed, when our books are banned, our publishes jailed, the Leather Archives and Museum closed or worse, when  the collar is not celebrated as a symbol of love, but depravity, when the next generation cannot grow up with pride and without fear of their sexuality, when all that we now hold dear is suppressed, and when pundits, politicians, and police are all out to persecute and prosecute…US.  I don’t like that Beyond Leather, and I hope you all don’t either.

Three different scenarios.  Three different views of our tribal tomorrow.  One great, one really good , one sucks.  The choice is really ours, each of us is an active part not just of the present, but of the future of this tribe.  Every life we touch, whether it be as simple as helping someone out of their kinky closet, or as complex as putting on an event like this one makes this tribe stronger.  Every munch we attend, every vendor, charity or institution we support, and yes, every vote we cast, tells those who would legislate us out of existence that we’re here, get use to it because we are NOT going away.

The last part of Webster’s definition of the word BEYOND was … “to see the farther side” I believe, needs a little bit of updating, so here ya go Mr. Webster.  BEYOND: to see, ACT and ACTIVELY WORK TO CREATE the farther positive side, the tomorrow we choose.  Maybe that’s what Top and bonnie had in mind when they named their weekend.  BEYOND LEATHER.  It really is up to each of us to help decide.

The conference has set a high standard for itself just by the name it has chosen.  By Attending this conference, all of you here have accepted that standard as your own.