Catching the Spirit of Leather

Catching the Spirit of Leather April 12, 2022

My friend Robert: “We don’t always abuse our community leaders.”

Me: “Yeah. Sometimes it’s a clean kill.”

I’d been asked to appear on the radio to talk about GLUE Weekend, but after the above and other snappy comebacks, I was pretty sure I’d just gotten myself banned from the airways. However, once we’d finished the broadcast, Robert was like, “So that wasn’t an interview; it was an audition. You’re my new co-host.”

Thus was FACETS of Leather spawned.

“In front of KPFT, dead Cthumphu waits cruising.” -H. P. Forgecraft (Photo and crocheted Elder God ski mask courtesy of Robert Helms.)

FACETS was a replacement for the the long-running After Hours: Queer Radio with Attitude, which came to a close in September 2017. As a Pacifica outlet, KPFT is required to air a certain amount of LGBTQ+ content, so Judy Reeves, a local powerhouse activist and one of the After Hours hosts, grabbed the rudder and created her own show.

Judy’s first act as producer was to start recruiting talent, and she brought Robert onboard to cover Things Leather. Robert in turn tapped me, and we went from there. It was originally supposed to be a temporary gig, with Robert announcing a new co-host after six months or so, but to our surprise, ratings spiked once Robert and I teamed up, and we started drawing in new listeners, so we just rolled with it.

Four years later, we’re still grooving along every second Saturday, doing our best to adhere to FCC regulations and sometimes even staying on topic.

FACETS of Leather protecting our secret identities while emceeing the LUEY Leftovers variety show.

Every second Saturday except this past one, that is. We aired a rerun, on account of April 9 was the annual Spirit of Leather Awards, a formal dinner put on by the Houston Chapter of the National Leather Association. Spirit of Leather honors those who have been substantially involved in the Houston leather community, and we wanted to be able to report on the winners.

FACETS of Leather had actually been nominated for the Entertainer of the Year award, but we were up against five very formidable drag queens, so we’d let go of any hope of winning well before the event. Robert and I both had to work late that night, too, so neither of us was able to attend, which was a shame, on account of it’s a lot of fun to eat fancy foods while attired in what is colloquially known as “high cow.” But we figured that on the extreme off-chance our names were called, Judy could stand in for us, no problem. (I mean, she is our producer — if we’d been there and won, we would’ve dragged her onstage with us anyway.)

Plus we both participate heavily enough in the community that we can skip an event or two without raising untoward eyebrows. Like, no one would accuse us of boycotting or not pulling our weight or anything.

Douglas and myself at the 2019 Spirit of Leather Awards, with a scandalized Robert photobombing.

One of my  co-workers dropped by after the dinner to let me know that (shock and dismay) we didn’t win the Entertainer award, and then he was like, “But hey, congratulations!” And I was like, “Congratulations… on not winning?” And he was like, “No, congratulations on the other award. The one they don’t always give out. You won that one.”

Confused, I texted Judy, and she was like, “Whew! I do not keep secrets well.” Turns out, Robert and I had received the The Jimmy Carper Outstanding Service Award for the continued work we do with our show.

Whereas most of the Spirit of Leather awards are voted on by the tribe at large, the Jimmy Carper award is given out at the discretion of the NLA – Houston board of directors, when they feel like someone has gone above and beyond in their contributions to leather culture. I don’t know what all they took into consideration when they decided to give Robert and me the award, but we’ve certainly hung in there in the face of various challenges (the pandemic shutting down our studio being the biggest).

And we also haven’t proactively incited any feuds or divisions, so maybe that was more esteemed than we realized.

My boyfriend Ben guest-starring on the show while lifting up a dance remix of “Laura Dern” by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, which is 100% my new victory anthem.

I’ve written before about how Paganism prepared me for leather, and the difficulties that can arise in subcultures when people up and decide they’re in charge of everyone else, and because of that, I’ve always avoided putting myself in situations where I could be perceived as a “community leader.” I am happy to be perceived as a worker among workers, though, and to me, that’s what the award acknowledges: It’s basically saying, “We appreciate what you do and want you to keep doing it.” And so, y’know, we will.

The complaint most often leveled at any awards ceremony is that it’s a popularity contest, and I’m just like… well, yeah. of course it is. The books and blogs that won Witchie awards were logically the ones that had the most readers; the organizations that won Spirit of Leather awards have the biggest visible presences and do the most to support the local community. Popularity is not a bad thing in and of itself, even if a lot of us within subcultures didn’t have a lot of experience with it prior to figuring out who we are.

But as it stands, I just got an award named after the guy who hosted a radio show I used to secretly listen to in my late teens, when I was a freshman in college and still in the closet and living with my parents, with a small collection of Witchcraft books squirreled away in the back of a desk drawer.

When I think about where I was then compared to where I am now, the award feels a whole lot bigger than it actually is. And I am grateful to take a break and accept it.

Like what you’ve read? You can buy me a coffee about it.

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About Thumper
Thumper Marjorie Splitfoot Forge is a Gardnerian High Priest, an initiate of the Minoan Brotherhood, an Episkopos of the Dorothy Clutterbuck Memorial Cabal of Laverna Discordia, a recovering alcoholic, and a notary public from Houston, TX. You can read more about the author here.

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