2016 Keynote by Mark Frazier

SDLP2016 Keynote

San Diego Leather Pride welcomed Mark Frazier as the Keynote Speaker in 2016, and his speech inspired, challenged, and motivated us.  Read Mark's bio and the full text of his speech below.  And be sure to check out Keynote speaker for 2017, Patrick Smith.

Full Text of Keynote Address at San Diego Leather Pride
March 20, 2016, by Mark Frazier:

"I never know what to say when asked to relate a keynote address. I think for the most part, and sometimes I’m correct, they are oftentimes boring, …………………….

Good keynote addresses invariably piss people off. And in my opinion they should. A good keynote will challenge your convictions, make you think, take you out of your comfort zone and hopefully create a dialogue about what was said.

So let us begin. Today we’re going to talk about the house leather built. There are few alive today who can recount those golden years of leather. Those who lived in the sixties are almost gone. The vast majority of those who lived in the glory days of the seventies are no longer involved. Few who lived during the trail of tears in the eighties are still active or living in leather. Many who were forced to step up in the nineties and carry our mantle, educate, and pass on the history of the community, have also stepped away.

I guess stepping up, stepping aside, or stepping away is part of everyone’s life in leather. Maybe it’s not a lifetime commitment, like I thought it was.

There’s a line from a movie that I really think sums up the changing of the guard and it goes something like this. The days of our time are numbered. The spirit in the wood constrains the dragon to silence. That’s the way of things. But the time of dragons…their time has passed. I think every person who lives in leather will, at some point, feel they are the dragon, will feel like their time has passed.

The foundation for the house that leather built was built by its people. They built a strong foundation based upon integrity, built by the brotherhood, built with caring hands, built with the generations that followed, and built with mutual respect for each other. The original house, its foundation to its roof, was built with the blood, the sweat, the tears of a generation of gay leather men and few leather women.

Major destruction was done to the house in the eighties and the nineties in the form of what was called “gay related immune deficiency”, or GRIDs, later to become known as AIDS. That epidemic expedited the revolution and the evolution of the existing leather community and quickened the dilapidation; and, was the sunset of the traditional leather community.

When it came time to rebuild the house after the epidemic the remaining leather men and a few leather women didn’t have the manpower or the energy to rebuild the original structure. We relied upon others. We needed you to help. We flung open the doors, lowered the access walls, and allowed anybody with an interest in leather to walk in and be welcomed as a new generation of leather people. We thought inadvertently that an increase in numbers meant an increase in the chance to maintain the original status quo of the leather community. However, inviting others in resulted in lots of unknowns that came in also. The tide in the community of the society of leather in many ways was destroyed, and some of the original planks that were incorporated into the original house of leather no longer existed. With new blood came new ideas and new direction and change. As much as we tried to hold onto the past, the new generation of the tribe had bigger and bolder plans for their community.

The new generation’s bold new ideas and thinking also brought about inclusiveness. The house was rebuilt and not only was it never the same, it was forever changed. We became more than what we were. We became more than what we wore.

It is still hard for some to accept inclusion. They still hold on to the exclusive mentality, a mentality that will eventually go away. Let us reflect and look at a breakdown of the leather community today compared to pre-1990. We find very few gay men. We find few who embrace leather. We find even fewer who identify themselves as a leather man or a leather woman. Today our house of leather as built by the old guard and new people, or new generations, is made up of many communities. It’s made up of puppies, latex, rubber, ponies, bigs, littles, masters, slaves, players, gear, fashion statements, the stand and model group, and so on and so on and so on. Ironically, these different groups coexist under one roof, that roof is called leather, even though many of those groups have nothing to do with the leather, and in some cases they don’t want anything to do with the leather. It makes me wonder, why would someone want to live under the roof when it doesn’t really identify who they are or what they represent? Why would anybody want to misrepresent who they are by allowing themselves to be flung together with the leather folks and co-exist under the past that’s called leather?

Maybe it’s time to totally demolish and rebuild a compound, rename it, and allow the leather community to exist within that compound, surrounded by the many facets that we now have. Quick question by a show of hands - if you add one word to describe yourself, would it be leather? (A fairly good number of hands are raised). Bless your hearts. I did the same thing at a keynote not long ago and two people out of over 100 raised their hands.

We are a changing community. Did the house that leather built lose its rebel image when we became more diverse and inclusive? Did we lose our identity when we became more homogenized? Did leather become more acceptable because we decided to no longer to be invisible and live in the dark recesses of the bars and clubs? I think I’ll answer those questions, absolutely yes. But I do believe that inclusiveness and diversity alone did not change those things. The leather community has morphed and evolved into something unlike in the beginning. As I said, we are much more than what we were and we are much more than what we wear.

As written by a Pulitzer Prize author, he said, “Evolution is obvious, though few can see it. So trapped are they by the human desire to find design and purpose in the world. Evolution simply yet is utterly profound in its root implications. The first of which is living creatures differ from one another. And those variations arrived at random without plan or purpose. Evolution must be without plan or purpose because the core tenant is that natural selection of the fittest produced our random copying errors called mutations. Basically saying that everybody who exists today is a mutation of the greater leather community.

Even though change to our community is a bitter pill to swallow for some, according to evolution, those who cannot or will not accept change will step aside into the sunset. I hope they take solace in knowing that they lived through some of the best of times, and they survived. But others who are fading away are often the aging individuals of our community. Many are respected leaders who decided to retire. They have given all they have to the community hoping to make it a better place for others. Some of those individuals are the last vestiges of the house that leather built. We also have leather folk like Vi Johnson, Annie Romano and others who have changed with the times. They act as conduits of knowledge between the old and the new. I for one am thankful we have elders like that, and we need many more.

It is my hope that people write their own leather journeys down, document them, of yourself, of your extended families, of organizations and businesses. Remember that our future is tomorrow, but the day after is the past. These histories will be captured by our past. Those histories not captured of our past will become undocumented fables, much like those who have created, to boost their own egos, falsehoods about who they are and what they have done. Captured histories are real. They are important for every community. They show the good, the bad, and yes the ugly of the past. They show honest and actual occurrences. They show who and what has helped us to enjoy the lives we live today.

If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to find your local historical societies. Look at your local histories of leather. Visit the Carter Johnson Library. Go to the Leather Archives and Museum and visit it, and learn about your history. And for those of you who’ve lived this history, I encourage you to stop by and take a walk down memory lane. You were, and are, a part of that history.

This is my last keynote that I will give. I’ve been doing this for almost three decades. I think it’s time for a voice to be given to the next generation. We need to hear their stories also. They’re important. They’re our future, and we need to listen, and listen carefully.

One final thought that I’d like to give before leaving. Our communities are like a piece of cake. Looking at that cake is like looking into the future, and until you’ve tasted it, you don’t know what you have. And then once you do taste it, it’s too late, you’re a part of it. So watch what you hunger for."


About Mark Frazier

Mark Frazier picMark Frazier has been active in the kink lifestyle for over three decades.  

He has been an educator, activist, titleholder, contest judge, contest producer, speaker, business owner, event organizer, club founder, board member and supporting member of many local, national and international organizations. 

Mark says he is humbled to have been recognized with many awards and accolades and finds himself asking “why him?” 

He is passionate about involvement and outreach within our communities and believes that each person has the ability to make a difference in another's life. 

Mark says he felt honored to have been asked to deliver the keynote address for San Diego Leather Pride 2016.