Earning Your Leathers and Being Presented a Cover

There is controversy in the Atlanta leather community.  The divide is between the Pansexual and Gay leather communities. The Pansexual or Het leather community in Atlanta has a tradition of earning your leather by being vested and receiving your boots.  The tradition is that you are not to buy leather for yourself until you have earned your leather from someone else. It also states that you cannot give leather until you have earned your own leather under their rules.  The controversy lies when the people espousing these traditions contribute these traditions and ceremonies to the Gay leather community, specifically Old Gay leather.

In truth, the Gay leather community does not adhere to these traditions and is upset when the Pansexual community attributes it to them as if it is a status symbol. The Gay community does not mind the Het/Pansexual community having their own traditions. In fact, they understand that these ceremonies and traditions have a very deep meaning to those involved. They just want them to understand that these traditions are not old. They started in The Sanctuary of the Dark Angel in Atlanta by a gay man in the 1990s who taught these as if they were from the gay community when in fact they were not. He simply made it up.  Many people traveled to the Sanctuary from the South East so some of these new traditions have spread.

Gay leather has several ways you may have obtained your leather. You purchased it yourself because you are allowed to and you can afford to. This includes purchasing your boots and your vest. You may have been gifted someone else’s leather because they can no longer fit in to it or no longer want it. You may have inherited it from someone close to you that died. Inheriting leather was common during the height of the AIDS crisis and is in fact how I received one of my vests. The other vest I was gifted because my mentor wanted me to have it when he could no longer wear it. Hardy Haberman wrote “We did earn all our leather though, by working hard at our day jobs and keeping the local leather shop that was attached to the bar in business. And occasionally, old leathers were “gifted” to younger guys since they were expensive and usually part of an estate of a departed brother whose family didn’t understand of value his kinky stuff. It was give it away or see it shuffled off to Goodwill.”

So what to do? I believe the Het/Pansexual leather community should invite the gay leather community leaders and elders to teach Leather History classes to set the record straight.  The Het community should keep their traditions as they are approximately 20 years old and serve a purpose and have meaning, but they need to be clear to everyone that these are “New Het” and not Old Gay traditions.

Why am I writing this now? I have been invited into a Pansexual Leather family and I am not sure how my traditions fit with theirs. Our values and ethics align but how do we reconcile our different traditions? I also witnessed two different ceremonies back to back in the same day last Saturday. One ceremony was a woman receiving her boots from her mentor.The other was where one person presented his protegee with a vest and boots. The mentor himself was presented his “Cover” by someone else who has a Cover already. They then invited someone newer to begin his journey by joining their leather family. At which point they told him he can no longer wear his boots and belt he had purchased himself. He was upset by this but is willing to follow the traditions of the leather family he is joining. I will explain to him at a later date that this is not a Gay leather tradition.

On the subject of “Covers”, this is a Het/Pansexual term that started in the same place.  Gay leather does not call Masters caps/hats “Covers”; nor do we have Covering Ceremonies, nor does Het/Pansexual leather in the rest of the country. Hardy Haberman wrote ““covering ceremonies” is baffling to me. Not once in my history through the 1970’s and 1980’s did I ever hear of or attend such a gathering. Not until the late 1990’s had I even heard the term “Master’s Cover”. ” I write this only to make these two points. In my experience and that of dozens of older leathermen I know the “Covering Ceremony” is a new thing. Bravo! It’s nice to create new rituals that serve to commemorate significant milestones in our lives.”

Notable Quotes that might apply:

“Your kink is not my Kink”

“Your Protocol is not my Etiquette.”

and my own

“Your Cover only means something to you and yours”

For more information on this controversy read:

Either this exerts from the book “Heartbeat” by Thomas Smith or read the book.


Read Guy Baldwin’s book “Ties That Bind” is a compilation of articles written in the time of 2nd generation Gay leather or read his blog posts.





Larry Townsends “The Leatherman’s Handbook” written in 1973 is the definitive guide to what Gay Leather really was during the second generation of Gay Leather.

2 thoughts on “Earning Your Leathers and Being Presented a Cover

  1. Someone posted this on a Facebook post. Thanks for writing it! It’s amazing how history and mythology sometimes blur and morph into something that’s not quite reality. You are correct, the concept of earning leathers and being presented with a “cover” are not old gay men’s leather traditions except in perhaps the most casual and ad hoc of ways. The more truth like this we get out there, the better. Thanks again.

  2. Hello! I am involved in both the het and leather communities. I “grew up” in the straight leather world here in Chicago, but I’m closer now to the G/L leather side these days.

    You ask: “how do we reconcile our different traditions?” in context of “joining a family.” It made me think of my experiences with this, which I can sum up with two principles that I use:
    – Honor the traditions of others. Doesn’t mean I have to adopt them as my own, or even agree, but if I’m going to be in someone else’s space (or part of their group), then I learn what is important to them. If it’s compatible with my own, then I can find ways to merge the two. If it’s not, it’s important to them and I give courtesy to them and their traditions.
    – Put my values forward. When I joined the Chicago Leather Club, as I’ve become more involved in MAsT (Masters And slave Together), they all have their traditions and approaches. My goal is that where I can teach and grow according to the values that I hold dear. “Each one, teach one” is a great approach to making sure that the things I learned that are important, that I want to see in the future, I share those. Change can happen suddenly, but it’s usually very difficult and divisive. I find that organic change through growth and setting the example takes root, and sometimes grows in ways I didn’t expect!

    Good luck to you as you walk between the two communities.

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