A couple months ago, a leather publication reported on actual breaking news at an event. They did everything they were supposed to and reported as accurately as they could. Despite the report stating that there was no reason to think the event itself was the target, they were attacked for basically doing their job. Because they dared report something wasn’t perfect.
This is actually not the first time there has been this reaction to community press coverage. Ask anyone who tries to actually report on the community and they will tell you stories of people demanding approval before publishing, being blocked from events because we reported the wrong thing, or being unable to report news that can affect everyone.
Right now, the leather/kink community does not have a true free press. We don’t report on stories because we risk losing access or the few advertisers we can get. We get told we’re making the community look bad or fanning the drama flames. We get accused of taking sides if we just stick to facts. We get told we’re misquoting someone if we don’t copy and paste every exact word. We have to struggle to even get the most basic information.
People in the leather press are not doing this to get famous or rich. Our names only become known if someone is pissed at us and we make NO money. None of us actually make a living doing this. We do this out of love. We want to support the community. We want it to be strong and grow. We want to educate and inform on the things we find the most important to us. If we wanted to be famous, there are much easier ways to do it. And much more enjoyable.
Ideally, community press should be both a mirror and a voice. We strive to give voice to a community that is often misunderstood and denigrated. And we should give the community a way to see itself, pimples and all. Throughout the past couple hundred years, it has been community press that cover the gay, black, Hispanic and other communities that have been voice of movements. But to do that, we also have to be honest with ourselves.
I won’t say the leather press is non-partisan. We are. I know I’ve taken a very clear stance on the support of transgender rights in both the Den and its sister publication The Illinois Eagle. However, we do work to be balanced. We do try to get both sides of an issue. That also requires cooperation.
You can’t ignore a request, hoping the issue will go away. In an age of social media, that’s a bad decision. Rumors fly at warp speed now. And just because you’ve stated something on Facebook, doesn’t mean it will get to everyone it needs too. Too often, social media is an echo chamber. You won’t reach the people who need to be swayed, just the people who already agree with you.
If we are to grow and be strong as a community, we need to support our institutions. All of them, including our publications. We can be your shield, both against the world that doesn’t understand us and to those from within who would hold us back. Reach out to us. Engage us. Respond when we need you to. Don’t avoid something talking about something because it’s not “good.” Don’t block us out simply because we don’t report that everything is perfect. Openness and transparency with each other is the only way we’re going to survive as a community. We can improve only if we can admit we make mistakes.
We will be here. Many of us run our publications out of our own resources. Like I said before, we do this out of love… and possibly some masochism. But for us to be what the community needs, we need the community to support us.
Ruff Wray is the publisher and founder of Great Lakes Den. He lives in Chicago with his husband Jeff. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.