The “Leather Life” Column: A 500th-issue look back

By Steve Lenius July 24, 2014

Categories: Lifestyles & Communities, Our Lives

Wow. Five hundred issues. Who knew?

On June 9, 1995, Lavender Magazine was born, and so was this Leather Life column. (The magazine’s original name was Lavender Lifestyles; this column’s name for the first ten issues was “LavLife: Leather.”)

Here is how the first installment of this column started:

“Greetings! New magazine, new leather columnist. When the editors of this publication asked me if I was interested in writing a leather column for them, I immediately assured them I was. By the time I hung up the phone, I had recovered my senses, and asked myself, ‘What have I gotten myself into now?’ Well, I guess we’ll see.”

Lavender is now up to Issue #500. That means this is a great time to take a look back and see “what I got myself into.”

This column, of course, has changed and evolved since that first issue. Some of the changes were driven by changes to the magazine. Other changes to the column were driven by the growth and evolution of the leather/BDSM/fetish community.

At its start, Lavender was printed in black ink on newsprint paper (the magazine’s cover used one more color of ink along with the black). This meant that photographs did not print very well. As Lavender added full-color printing to its inside pages, and then upgraded to much better paper, the quality of photographs in the magazine—including photographs in the Leather Life column—increased dramatically. That fact, along with the increasing capabilities of digital cameras, inspired me to take more pictures and include more photos in the column. (Be sure to see the Leather Pride celebration photos, taken by your humble columnist and others, elsewhere in this issue.)

In Lavender’s early issues, the Leather Life column nearly always included a calendar section of upcoming leather events. Increasing digital connectedness (first email lists and websites, then Facebook, Twitter, and other social media) meant that as time went on the column’s event-calendar function lessened, and I could devote more space to other topics.

The frequency of the column’s appearance has changed. After appearing in every issue of the magazine for many years, there was a short period when this column appeared in the magazine on a quarterly basis. Then the frequency of the column’s appearance increased to what it is currently: at least every other issue, and sometimes more often.

The focus of this column started expanding shortly after the column started, and that expansion has continued. The column’s intended audience widened from gay leathermen and leather lesbians to include the pansexual BDSM community and other kinky folks who happened to be bisexual, heterosexual, or trans- or fluid-gendered—of all ages, young to mature. And the column always has been written to be accessible to non-kinky folks as well.

The range of topics covered in this column has expanded from mostly leather to include BDSM and many other alternative sexualities and fetish interests: gear, pony play, puppy play, fire play, blades, tattoos, piercing and other body modifications—to name just a few. (Just when I think I’ve written about every fetish there is, someone comes up with a new one.)

Many kinds of relationships have been discussed in the column, including Master/Slave, Dominant/Submissive, Daddy/Boy, Trainer/Pup, and even, finally—hurrah and hallelujah—marriage.

Some topics that the column dealt with in the early issues are still part of the column today: Pride, both leather and GLBT (and, increasingly, GLBTA, to include our proud allies); leather/BDSM/fetish clubs and organizations; club runs and parties; and leather contests and titleholders, both local and international. Fortunately, there is one topic appearing less often today than in the early days of the column: obituaries.

How has your humble columnist changed? I am 500 issues older, I am grayer, and I am becoming a bit of a curmudgeon (although not as curmudgeonly as my former leather journalism colleague Robert Davolt, blessed be his memory).

So, what did I get myself into? A recurring spot in a really great magazine (both print and online); membership in several really great communities; and a really interesting, amazing—and long-running—ride of a lifetime. Cue the Sondheim music: “I’m Still Here.” And the ride isn’t over yet.

(Now for the inevitable, shameless commercial plug: many of the articles that have been part of this column have been collected in my book, Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness. Published in 2010, the book is available in print and e-book versions.)

Five-hundredth-issue thank-yous go to all the people at Lavender over the years who have kept the magazine going and allowed it to reach this milestone, to everyone who has ever been written about in the column, and to everyone who has been a part of the leather/BDSM/fetish and GLBT communities, the communities that have given me so much to write about.

Finally, to my reading audience, in both print and digital forms: thanks for reading!

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