Leather clubs help make community happen.
Leather clubs are among the oldest institutions in today’s leather community. Some have been in existence for more than fifty years. Leather clubs originally were formed as a family of choice, providing camaraderie and brotherhood for gay men who might have been alienated from their family of origin.
Leather clubs still provide camaraderie and a sense of chosen family, but today they also have a strong ethic of building, maintaining, and serving their community. Building community takes time, work, and commitment. Leather clubs and their members are among the leather community’s leaders because they commit the time and do the work necessary to make community happen.
For decades the Atons of Minneapolis, the Upper Midwest’s longest-running leather club (over 40 years and counting), has presented leather-community events throughout the year. The club has a combined social and business meeting every month, and the public is welcome to attend the open portion of these meetings. Come along with your humble columnist as we visit the club’s recent meeting on Sunday, October 12. (This particular meeting turned out to be noteworthy—and unusual—because during the meeting the club gained three new full members.)
A meeting of the Atons is similar in some ways to the meetings of many other community groups. It is conducted according to Robert’s Rules of Order and includes an agenda with old and new business, officer and committee reports, motions, seconds, discussion, and voting. Yet, despite these similarities, the Atons, like every community group, puts the unique stamp of the club’s and its members’ personalities in its meetings.
The meeting was held in the home of one of the club’s members. An afternoon social time preceded the evening meeting. Two kinds of lasagna were served, along with fried chicken, and there was General Jackson pie for dessert.
The open portion of the meeting was called to order at the appointed time. In attendance at the start of the meeting were two full members (both of them club officers), three honorary full members, two associate members, two guests, and one pledge (provisional club member). Another full member, who is also an officer, was out of town but used Skype to virtually attend the meeting. Two more club officers arrived shortly after the meeting began.
The agenda was lengthy, yet the meeting moved along briskly and finished ahead of schedule. The meeting started with reports from the president, the vice-president, the secretary, the treasurer, and various committees.
The membership committee chair reported that two of the club’s honorary full members wished to become voting members. (Honorary full members can be present during the closed portion of the meeting but cannot vote.) After a brief discussion the club approved these changes in membership status and thus welcomed two new full members.
The pledge committee chair reported that the pledge had completed requirements for full membership and that his application for membership would be voted on during the closed portion of the meeting.
Next was discussion of several upcoming events the club will be presenting: the annual holiday fundraiser; the officer installation banquet next January; another fundraising event next spring; next summer’s informal campout; and the club’s next run (camping weekend) in the summer of 2016. In an attempt to avoid scheduling conflicts, events being planned by other local and regional leather clubs also were reviewed.
Another six or seven miscellaneous agenda items, including proposed bylaw and club uniform updates and items for a leather history display, were discussed. Then the associate members, visitors, and the pledge were excused, and the closed portion of the meeting began.
I am breaking no confidences when I report that during the closed portion of the meeting a motion to accept the pledge’s application for full membership was voted on. The motion passed, and the club welcomed another new full member.
The closed portion of the meeting was followed by another open portion. Discussion concerned upcoming club and community events: the just-concluded Mr. Iowa Leather weekend and upcoming events including a charity fundraiser called Leather Families Feuding, the Kansas City Pioneers 40th-anniversary run, the Knights of Leather 30th anniversary banquet, and a banquet hosted by the Black Guard of Minneapolis. (This illustrates the importance many leather clubs place on cooperating with and supporting other clubs and their events.)
At least at this meeting, there was discussion but very little disagreement. Club members seemed to be in harmony on both the things they wanted to accomplish and the best ways to accomplish them. I also found it notable that Robert’s Rules of Order didn’t seem to get in the way, as they sometimes do, of getting things accomplished.
I left the meeting impressed both by the sheer number of items on the agenda and by the club’s efficient and capable manner of addressing each item. The members of the Atons obviously enjoy the brotherhood they create as they work together on projects, and they enjoy seeing the way these projects build and strengthen their community.