Here’s a story worth remembering the next time you hear the national media declaring in earnest tones that the Democrats will shrink the "God gap" by talking fluently of their own faith and making a serious play for conservative and traditional religious voters. They still have to play to their own libertine-left base – and it can be a rather exotic base.
The D.C.-based gay publication Metro Weekly reports in its January 24 cover story that Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has taken Democratic outreach into territory where the churchgoers would not dare to tread, something called the Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, representing 85 leather and fetish clubs. Doug Rule reported from the January 19 Leather Cocktails event:
Men parading around only in jockstraps, others in obedience gear, from dog wear to gas masks, most in some get-up made of leather, from harnesses to butt-exposing chaps -- all celebrating the sense of community that's developed, however improbably it may seem at first, around a leather lifestyle....
This year Mayor Adrian Fenty even issued a mayoral proclamation recognizing the weekend, the first in a decade. (Jim Graham has officially recognized the event in his capacity as a City Council member in previous years.)
''To me, it's like a family reunion,'' says Mike Kramer, a former Centaur who goes to the event every year. ''I get to see friends who I don't see all year. I can't stress enough how much it's like a family reunion.''
Chris Grasso, who won this year's Mr. M.A.L. Leather Contest, agrees. ''Leather is more than just about sex,'' he says. ''To me, it is like family, a lifestyle.''
And it's a lifestyle open to everyone, far less intimidating than a novice might fear. ''I was shocked at how nice people were,'' says M.A.L. co-chair Larry Barat of his first M.A.L. many years ago. ''And I've heard that story countless times.'' Now a sixth-year Centaur, Barat says the weekend is about ''creating an environment where people can come and be themselves.''
You can even attend Saturday night's Leather Cocktails event at the Shriners' Almas Temple downtown in standard gay attire -- T-shirt and jeans -- and not feel unwelcome or out-of-place, even though it is essentially a ''leather forM.A.L.'' event. Most of the 1,000 or so cocktailers dressed the part, though not Chris Dyer. At Leather Cocktails, Fenty's liaison to the gay community read the mayor's proclamation dressed in a suit. He did, however, sport a discreet leather tie.
''This is my first leather weekend. Sorry I wasn't prepared,'' Dyer said to the crowd after being introduced as ''the only man here wearing underwear'' by emcee Frank Nowicki, who then told the GLBT leader, ''There's a jockstrap waiting for you backstage.''
I don't recall seeing this story in the Washington Post. But then again, I can't find the proclamation on the Mayor's home page, either.