At Folsom 2021, Mister B brought together four panelists from across Europe to discuss the increasingly relevant topic of ‘kink at pride’. Over the next several weeks, Wings will catch up with our four guests to discuss WHO they are, WHY they decided to speak out on the topic and WHAT they want for the future of our community. Up first… Jon Stockton.
I became Mr Leather, U.K., on the 13th March 2020. I made a lot of title promises that involved attending pride events and socials, which I would have kept – had the world not changed drastically only eight days later. When everyone went into lockdown, I hit a brick wall. And being the new boy on the block, I didn’t have the following that I could start doing Zoom-‘meets’ and other online stuff with groups from the community. Now I am making it up for it and packing in as much as I can. In the last few months since we came out of lockdown, I have had one weekend free. And from now until November, only one other one where I don’t have something on.
I recently created ‘BLUF Birmingham’; a new social group for those in the Midlands of the U.K. and further afield. I also set up a Facebook group called Leather 101. And this is for all those guys and girls who are new to the leather world and want to get more involved. The idea is that they can use it as a safe space to ask questions that I might be able to answer – either myself or by directing them towards the right people. For example, somebody who might have got a great new set of gear that they’re proud of and want some professional photographs taken. So then, depending on where they are based, I might be able to hook them up. Or somebody wants to know how to bring their boots up to the best possible condition, and then I’d send them to Alistair, who’s European Boot Black and is one of my experts!
Image by Taco Smit »
I know this might sound a bit fake, but whenever I am invited to do anything where I sense my involvement could make a positive difference, I will always say yes. That is why when Tony asked me to speak on the panel, I was all for it. I have got to be honest with you, though. We were all kind of shitting ourselves before we went up on stage because another panel had just been on before, and it was so slick and professional. We were thinking, “How do we second that?!”. But as soon as we got up there, Tyrone was very good at making us relaxed, and we all just got into ‘title mode’. And to answer the question of whether Kink has a place at Pride, I will tell you this…
I feel incredibly passionate about visibility. Because if we are not out and about, then we are underground. And if we are underground, it is difficult for people to get involved. By the fetish community showing up and being visible at Pride events, we perhaps spark something in the onlookers and provide an opportunity for them to see a community to which they could belong. Hardly anyone who feels like an outsider at a full-on fetish event like Folsom will come up to a swarm of leather guys and ask how they can get more involved. But suppose there is even one or two of us at Pride event, for example. In that case, you will get guys and girls (and occasionally even straight people) who muster up that little bit of confidence to approach you. And you smile, and you listen, and you try and answer their questions and direct them. I’ve had people come up to me in the last few years and tell me they met me at such-and-such Pride, and now they’re beaming ear to ear and so proud of their new gear. I can feel the hairs on the back of my arm going up because that is the moment when you know you must have done something right.
When I was running for Mr Leather U.K., the platform I stood on was this: Friendship, Inclusivity, Love and Fun. Or F.I.L.F. (say it out loud – you’ll get the pun!) for short. One of the things that genuinely frustrates me is that we can sell the product to these newbies but then don’t deliver. We can be out on parades, at Pride, at fetish parties and doing our thing by ‘recruiting’ people and telling them to go to whichever event is next up. And then they go to the event, and everyone is there in their little groups, and no one is engaging with the outsiders, even when it is clear they are eager to join. It is age-old bullshit that needs to stop. And some will argue that it’s a two-way thing and that they should make the effort, but I don’t see it like that. Not one bit.
It doesn’t matter if they were old, young, fat, thin, short – because it is not a sex thing, it is an inclusivity thing. We all need to be more friendly. As organisers and titleholders or just as seasoned leathermen, we are responsible for bringing these new guys and girls into the fold. Because they will fuck off otherwise and perhaps carry on with their life thinking, “I wish they could have been my people. I think it might have made me a happier person.” It always comes back to F.I.L.F. because, ultimately, that is what we all want. We want to make friends. We want to feel included. We want to know love, whether sexual or emotional, and the bottom line is that we want to have fun and forget about all our troubles in these shitty times.