Dive In and Discover Queer Kink and Leather in Portland

By Leland Carina, Special for PQ Monthly

Hey Portland! With huge thanks to Melanie Davis and Gabriela Kandziora, welcome to PQ Monthly’s new monthly Queer Kink and Leather column. Each month my focus will be on a different aspect of the local kink and leather scene. In this introductory column, I’ll give an overview and mention a few places you could get started.

First, I want to take a moment to explain how I personally separate and define the terms “kink” and “leather.”  Both words are sometimes used as umbrella terms to include anything sexual that doesn’t fit the status quo. More specific definitions are highly contested and there are many equally valid interpretations. There is cross-over between the two and I am interested in both.

For the purposes of this column, when I use the work “kink,” I’m referring to sex or play that falls outside of the status quo and often includes the use of toys, roleplay, fetish, specialized clothing, gear, or BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sado-masochism.) Kinkiness has always been part of human culture, it is simply anything considered to be outside of the norm. Although it is also important to note that I will only include actions and relationships that occur between consenting adults.

When I use the term “leather,” I’m referring to a more specific community. This includes the leather title system, leather clubs, leather families, and individuals who are leather-identified but might be lone agents. Leather has a history that reaches back to post-WWII veterans returning from the war, who created leather motorcycle clubs. It often includes aspects of BDSM, especially with power dynamic relationships with a focus on leathersex.

In future columns I will delve more into these definitions. If it helps, I’d say that as a general rule while most leather folks are kinky, many kinky folks are not leather. Please keep in mind that everyone is welcome to self-identify.

As many readers may have noticed, kink awareness is on the rise with ever-increasing references to kinky sex in popular culture and a general positive trend in mainstream culture of rising acceptance of a broad range of sexual politics. However, I don’t believe the majority of people in Portland realize what a rich history of participation we have, or how connected we are to the International scene.

If you are interested in our local ties to leather history, I would highly recommend that you check out Andy Mangels’ Oregon Leather History Project. It is a one-man effort with a tremendous amount of information to archive. I had a chance to catch up with Mangels at Kinkfest in 2012; you can read a bit about his project and Oregon’s ties to leather history in this article.

As for our recent involvement with the International scene, would you be surprised to learn that the current International Ms. Bootblack, Dara, lives and works in Portland, Oregon? The current International Mr. Bootblack, Scout, is from Portland, but currently lives in the Bay Area. We can also boast International Mr. Bootblack Sammy from 2013 and International Mr. Bootblack Nick Elliott who started this trend in 2012. You might, at this point, be asking, “what the hell is bootblacking?” Well, we will have to dedicate a future column to the intricacies, but in the meantime think: shoe shining plus sexy times.

Most of the bootblacks mentioned above first went through our Oregon state title contest, produced by Blackout Leather Productions. That’s right — every year we have a new Mr, Ms, and Bootblack for Oregon with a contest produced right here in Portland. In fact, the contest is the climax of a whole week of leather-related activities called Oregon Leather Pride and takes place the first full week in August.

If you think you might be interested in expanding your knowledge of sex-positive topics, one very accessible and user friendly Portland event that I would recommend is called Talking Kink. It is held monthly at the Q Center and is an educational panel, which features a different topic for each discussion. It is always held the fourth Monday of the month. Upcoming topics are: Kinky Parents in July and Master/slave relationships in August.

If you’re curious about my background, let me introduce myself and give you some of my kinky credentials. I’m Editor-in-Chief of Leatherati.com, a worldwide Leather community news website that I started writing and taking photos for about four years ago. I first came out into my kinkiness and leather life in San Francisco, where I lived until 2012. While there, I was a full-time graphic designer at Kink.com, a very unique BDSM porn company that inhabits the historic Armory building in the Mission District. I am the founder of the current San Francisco girls of Leather and have since helped launch countless similar clubs across the Nation. I served as a club representative on the board of the San Francisco Leather Alliance. I’ve judged leather contests, taught classes at many events, modeled for and produced quite a number of PR campaigns, and generally dedicated much of my life to these communities. As the crowning jewel of my time in the Bay Area, I was honored to be chosen as the female Leather Marshal for the 2012 San Francisco Pride Parade. Since coming to Portland I have covered many local events for Leatherati, contributed photography and graphics work to many local organizations, and I organize three ongoing events.

I’m very excited that PQ Monthly is helping to raise the visibility of Portland’s scene by joining the ranks of just a few mainstream queer publications across the US who have similar columns. My friend Race Bannon writes one for the San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, which originally started with columnist Marcus Hernandez in 1971. Steve Lenius pens Leather Life as part of Minnesota’s Lavender Magazine, which has run since its inception in 1995.

I believe many Portland residents will be amazed to find out how much there is to discover. My hope is to present an open and welcoming starting point for anyone who thinks they just might be a little kinky, while also increasing the visibility of our amazing queer kink and leather culture. Come on out and play!

Wednesday night a local club called the Bad Girls (of which I am a member) is hosting a class entitled Traditional British Discipline & Punishment which will be taught by the current Ms. San Francisco Leather. It is open to all queer-identified people. Event info: June 25th, 6 to 8pm at Catalyst Art & Cultural Space.

Afterward, if you would like to attend a fun social gathering, join us (Wednesday, June 25th) at Crush Bar from 8 to 10pm for an event I host called Queer Leather Dinner Portland. I’ll be there to welcome you and answer any questions you might have. This event repeats every other month, so if you miss tonight I will hope to see you in the future.

For more information about local events, check out PDXKinkEvents.com (PDXKinkEvents.com).