In January, the Centaur Motorcycle Club, a leather and levi club for men, put on the 40th annual Mid Atlantic Leather Conference (MAL). There, leatherfolks gathered for an annual Leather Cocktails event, competed in the Mr Mid Atlantic Leather Contest, hosted met ups, packed out clubs for parties, and yes they had a lot of sex. They were called “deviants” in a publication that will not be linked here. And they raised some $125,000 to give to charity.
MAL has grown to unimagined proportions. The host hotel for the 2020 event sold out in three days after the reservations were made available back in 2019. For 2021, the host hotel sold out in 25 minutes, which is the fastest ever for the hotel. The event has grown into a DC Leather Weekend of sorts with most of the city’s major gay parties scheduling their events for that same weekend. Porn performers and porn stars come in town for appearances, and venues pack out. It’s quite an insane moment in the nation’s capital.
This year, the event had to reckon with that growth in size. The hotel and organizers made a few strategic changes in a bid to preempt possible craziness. For a majority of the weekend access to the elevators — which is a requirement to leave the lobby as there are no stairs from the ground floor — was restricted to those staying at the host hotel. Security also broke up any groups of loiterers they spied in the halls. And though this certainly did change the vibe of the event in ways, all was not lost; the lobby was once again the largest gay bar in Washington D.C., and the market was consistently packed.
The thing about leatherfolk is they mind their business for the most part. Though that unlinked article accuse the community of parading their desires in front of others, it’s actually quite the opposite. Thousands of queer folks, converged on Washington D.C. and squirrelled themselves away in a hotel (well a few hotels as the event has outgrown the host) to … tend to one another. The hotel staff is uniquely aware of the event, having hosted it for years. And besides the surrounding businesses getting an influx of cash and foot traffic, everyone else goes pretty much unbothered.
The reality is that as has been said many times before, leatherfolks have a history of activism — not only a history, but an ongoing dedication. For as much fun as the community indulges in, leatherfolk have a propensity to volunteer at various events, and also to donate. Every year at MAL, ONYX, the largest leather club for men of color, hosts an auction of gear and donates the proceeds to charities that are often forgotten by others. And of course, MAL has the big bucks.
For 2019, the Centaurs donated over $100,000 from Mid Atlantic Leather to various charities. This year, that number hit $125,000. In a Facebook post, the president of the Centaurs Todd White wrote “MAL Weekend shows us that we can come together as a community in an environment of fun, love, friendship and respect we can move mountains.” Organizations like HIV League, LGBTQ Asylum Project, LGBT Fall Heroes Fund and Persad LGBT Counseling Center were recipients of the money. But the Centaurs are not alone.
The BHT Foundation, which was founded by four leather clubs in 1978 recently awarded $71,500 in grants to nonprofits according to MetroWeekly. Last year, Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend distributed $85,000 to community charities according to a release. Of that money, the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland was awarded over $10,000.