Guest writer, James, a leather man in Reading, inspired by ‘Leather On Parade’ at Prides across the LeatherWest region this Summer, makes a call for leather men to gather for a first ever organised leather presence in Reading.
Having seen the growing leather presence at other pride festivals across the West this year in Birmingham, Bristol, Bournemouth and Cardiff, I was determined to see if I can encourage other leather men to join me on parade at this year’s Reading Pride Festival on Saturday 5th September.
Reading is an odd place. It sits along the M4 corridor and doesn’t quite fit under London and doesn’t quite fit under the South West. It’s pride festival has become one of largest pride festivals outside of a city and that’s something I’m quite proud of having been one of the founding members back in 2004. But size isn’t everything.
Sit in the midst of the M4 ‘Tech Corridor’ home to many global IT firms, and a short drive from the national magnet of Heathrow Airport, the town and surrounding county of Berkshire, has more leather men than you would first think.
It seems strange me calling my leather brothers for support. After all my first time in public wearing leather was only this June at London Pride. It was something I always wanted to do: take the leather out of the bedroom.
So I signed up to join the BLUF parade group whilst a friend signed up to the Stonewall group. I was nervous about being ‘leathered up’ in public but I had a cunning plan and I racked my brain to think of any icons in leather.
Fast forward to London Pride when a leather man, Indian, builder and cowboy step out of Baker Street station. We decided that the BLUF parade group might not have appreciated the appearance of the Village People and opted to walk with Stonewall (who didn’t appreciate it!) instead. It was a cliche look but it gave me the confidence to go public. To me, it was like coming out all over again and it was a cathartic moment. In fact I refused to take it off when my friends went back to the apartment and changed. My big toes are still recovering from 15 hours in boots!
It strikes me that there must be lot more leather men sat in the closet across the UK, keen for their leather boots to step over their front door threshold and that’s why leather on parade is important to me in celebrating the diversity that exists within the LGBT community.
There has never been any visible leather presence at Reading Pride and I want to change that. I’m proud to be a man that wears leather and I believe that visibility is our biggest weapon against prejudice and to encourage fellow leather men out of the closet – for there are leather men out there close by for sure!
As well as commercialism or trying to appeal more to the straight/family friendly market, I think that one of the dangers that all pride parades and festivals face is the loss of their roots. I smiled when I read Mr Leatherwest’s blog piece on Building a leather community in Wales as he echoed something I remind the younger LGBT community all the time – that drag queens took a stand at the Stonewall riots.
There seems to be a lot of drag hate coming from the younger generations and we need to educate them on the impact that drag queens, leather men and all sections of the LGBT Community has had in gaining acceptance to pave the way so that the younger generations don’t face the problems coming out that some of us did.
So if you’re not prided out (and I know LeatherWest leather men have had a very busy year with Prides!) do consider joining me at this years Reading Pride Parade and festival on 5th September. You can find more details about Reading Pride at www.readingpride.co.uk and you can email me or catch me on Recon or BLUF as #2689.
I hope to be at UK Leather Pride in Bristol this November and I am really looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible.
Since going to press, the call for leather men to support Reading has been posted on BLUF.com and has already attracted a few members to go and support James and Berkshire leather men. So, if you are not ‘prided out’, do go along and support if you can.
- The parade assembles outside the railway station from 1100 and departs at 1130, ending at Kings Meadow Park where the Pride festival takes place.
- Book a ticket for the VIP enclosure – there’s seating, a bar and toilets with no queues.
- If you are looking for overnight accommodation, try Novotel Reading and receive 15% OFF! Quote ‘RPRIDE’ when booking to receive the discount.
- Since Reading has now lost the last of its Gay Bars (there is still the gay friendly Blagrave) the Club 20 nightclub is hosting the official price party – tickets available online.