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At the heart of the fetish community: The Leather Foundation

Posted: August 24th, 2012 | Featured, Profiles in Advocacy | No Comments

Ian Morton | Profiles in Advocacy

Ian Morton

San Diego is seeing a resurgence in its leather, fetish and kink community, with some bringing up the question of why. Is it just kinky fun, is it all about sex or is there something deeper to this phenomenon?

There are layers spanning from humor and desire to community building but, at the end of the day, it is about interacting with each other and the bonds that form when that interaction takes place. As in so many communities, there is a philanthropic piece to the leather community: The Leather Foundation.

Founded in 2007 by partners Russ Mortenson Boyd and Bob Boyd, the foundation was initially developed to address needs in the leather community. While that remains a priority, they continue to expand the mission to fill basic needs with a focus on the LGBTQ community. With four distinct funds to serve these purposes, the Leather Foundation notes that members of the gay and lesbian community, as well as single adults, are often overlooked when emergencies strike.

Emergency preparedness and relief is one of Russ Mortenson Boyd’s key concerns. The foundation’s Emergency Fund looks to educate individuals about being prepared, in addition to creating a “pantry” for survival supplies and offering financial aid when individuals face calamitous emergency situations, such as earthquakes or fires.

In the wake of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and alarming increases in Hepatitis-C infections, the foundation also coordinates a widespread condom-distribution program, serving bars, community colleges, nonprofits and clinics through the Life Fund. During the month of July, over 16,000 condoms were distributed to 27 locations, with a total of 55,000 to date this year. Understanding that HIV knows no borders, extensive efforts are in place to coordinate with Tijuana’s Alliance Against AIDS to expand the condom program.

Specifically for the leather community are the All Club Fund and the Travel and Education Fund. The All Club Fund is designed to help smaller organizations within the community meet budget shortfalls and to assist with training for events that honor the leather community as a whole. Staging events, such as educational demonstrations, requires a thorough knowledge of the structures, gear, climate and surroundings and should not be attempted by those without experience or mentoring. All this costs money.

The Travel and Education Fund is geared toward titleholders in the leather community. As with any titleholder, there is an expectation to represent their region on a national level, which comes with a set of expenses. I touched base with Anthony Rollar, Mr. San Diego Leather 2010 and a recipient of some of the Leather Foundation’s travel funds.

“Title holders have an obligation to do fundraisers for the community, participate in outreach and represent the community in a responsible and respectful way,” he said. “When you support your local title holders, you are supporting your community.”

For San Diego title holders, Russ Mortenson Boyd said, “The payback to us is that you help the San Diego leather community as a whole.”

With the growth and expansion since the foundation’s 2007 inception, they envision a more active role that the Leather Foundation can play in the San Diego community. A significant next step is to both expand their board and create specialty leaders to represent specific areas such as youth mentorship, aging in the fetish community and emergency preparedness.

As we see a more united San Diego leather community, so must we see a more responsible leather community.

With a record 9,000 plus visits to the 2012 San Diego Pride Leather Realm, a high-volume attendance at the FilmOut San Diego screening of “Kink Crusaders” and the Aug. 24 -26 ROMP San Diego event at Live Oak Springs, it is evident that the leather and fetish community is a lot less fringe than it may have been perceived at one time.

With support, the Leather Foundation can promote an environment where those interested can explore in a safe and responsible way.

For more information about getting involved, visit theleatherfoundation.org or email theleatherfoundation@live.com.

—Ian Morton has worked in the HIV field since 1994 when he began volunteering with AIDS Response Knoxville. He currently serves as outreach liaison for the AIDS Research Institute at UCSD. To nominate a person or organization to be featured in Profiles in Advocacy, please submit name, affiliation and contact information to imorton@ucsd.edu.

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