Friday 4 September 2015

Oh (Leather) Boy!

Among the many lgbt pageants and titles are several being decided this week. Dallas is hosting this year’s annual International LeatherSIR, Leather boy, and Community Bootblack titles. Even though the contests are termed “International” they are effectively just North American contests with entrants for the USA and Canada.

Rather than give a history of the competitions I want to write about the Leather Boy flag (pictured below) because it also appears at other leather contests as well.
The Leather Boy flag predates the current International Leather Boy contest. Many leather clubs around North America held their own contests to find regional title-holders who qualified for the Drummer Sir and Drummer Boy contests which predate the current International contests. What makes those contests and the International Leather Sir and Boy contests different from the International Mr Leather title is an emphasis on the erotic and sexual nature of the leather community.

In January 1998 the Mid Atlantic Leather (MAL) contest was held. One of those competing was Keith C. Pollanen, a member of the DC Boys of Leather club (DCBOL) in Washington. The previous year he had got himself a tattoo of the Leather Pride flag. This flag had been designed in 1989 by Tony DeBlase and had become an established symbol of the leather community by 1998.

Keith was approached by a man at the Mid Atlantic Leather contest who noticed Keith’s tattoo. Rather than paraphrase Keith’s own description of how he came up with the Leather Boy flag in response to this encounter, here is his description as published in “Woolf Watch” on 6th June 2007.

“The boy pride flag idea came to me at Mid Atlantic Leather 98 in which I was competing. The year before I had gotten a tattoo of the leather pride flag on my arm. As MAL got underway a gentleman came up to me and asked about the tattoo on my arm. Asking me what it was and why I got it. He also made an odd comment: ‘You know that will never come off’.

I explained to him that it was the Leather Pride flag. I had gotten because that’s what I am, and I am proud to wear it on my sleeve. After his odd comment I replied ‘I hope not’. We went on our separate ways.

Later that evening the contestants were gathered to meet the judges. As I was being introduced we got to the man that approached me earlier. He said ‘We met earlies, hi, I am Tony DeBlase’. After the Meet and Greet Tony and myself chatted for a while. I explained to him I was a boy, and asked him if there was a Boy Pride Flag? He said he wasn’t aware of any. At that moment I had the first idea.

The idea hadn’t been put into motion till about a year later, I emailed Tony my Draft of the proposed flag to get his ok and approval of, being the similarities of the Leather Pride Flag. I still have the email response from him. It simply read: Keith, It looks great! Tony. I never publicly announced the flag but used it as a personal symbol.

When the DCBOL was founded, I bought up the flag and offered to design the club colors. At the second meeting the design was approved by DCBOL for the club colors and the Flag was now sparking interest.

The first flag was produced with a friend of mine. (Robert Dogan) Robert had excellent sewing skills and I called on him to assist me in making the flag so that DCBOL could carry it in the DC Pride Parade. It took us 6 hours and what looked like a 10 year old could have done in 15 minutes. But it is a grand Flag. Roughly 3 feet by 5 feet the first ever physical Leatherboy Pride flag was created January 2000. Later that year it was donated to the Leather Archives and Museum. Where it still is today.

The design was based on the leather pride flag, equal number of stripes, but they are diagonal from left to right, left higher symbolizing the Sir, and the right lower representing the boy. The heart was moved to the right to show where the boys heart is, and the blue changed to green to represent boy.

The flag has become more known and recognized as the boy movement of the 2000’s had grown. I took Tony DeBlase’s concept with the flag: It is for the community and as long as it is not disgraced anyone may use it. Produce it and profit from it. I copyrighted it in June 1999, but consider it public domain.”

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