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Most of the history that we point to in the GLBT community comes from the gay Leathermen in the era right after WWII. Often these men are referred to as "Old Guard". We have put forth grand myths and folklore about these trailblazers. In reality, we owe them more than we can ever say. But we also will never come to an agreement of what "Old Guard" is and isn't. Since these men were all over the country and didn't travel like we do now, they developed their own takes on protocols and traditions, or had few, if any. They used their military protocols to start and then each group developed its own. Add to this that each generation always changes in some small ways, or sometimes big ways, from the generation before them, and you have a culture with a common start and then some diversification.
What were some of the common things? They had to be very careful to fly under the radar. Being gay back in the days after WWII (and into the 50's and 60's) would get your arrested, fired from your job, evicted, harrassed, and killed. While being a leather person can still get you harrassed and being gay can get you fired from your job in 20+ states, things are better.
Another common thing for many of them, was their love for some of the military traditons. We still see some of these in our leather culture. Some individuals and groups are more formal in their protocols or traditons than others, but we still see enough to trace it back to these men.
The gay, lesbian and hetrosexual communities were separate during this time. Gay women tried to learn from the gay Leathermen. They then used that as a basis for much of their own protocols and practices. For the most part, the Het community was far removed from the Gay/lesbian leather community.
Because of the AIDs crisis in the 80's and 90's, when we lost so many of our gay leather brothers, the gay and lesbian leather communities started coming together. We needed to share and keep our communities going. While it was such a tragedy to lose so many wonderful men, it did seem to bring many in the men's and women's communities together. In many areas the G/L and het communities started interacting more during the early 2000's. It usually varied by locale and by group. In some areas all 3 communities have been interacting for a very long time. In some areas they still only come together for causes that are important to both communities.
This page last updated on: 07/28/2014