I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of integrity in Leather. Integrity is defined as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” And yet, I often see behavior that doesn’t seem to hold with this definition. I have experienced it directly, on one recent occasion from someone I’ve known for probably 12 years. On another, from someone I mistakenly placed deep trust in. I see people who are very active in the Leather community, who are upheld as leaders or otherwise regarded as people of honor in the community, but whose behavior, especially in private, doesn’t match the talk. Of course, we do that with predators, too, so I shouldn’t be surprised. We don’t like calling people on their shit. All they have to do is participate, and we’re okay with it.
We seem to like to talk about Leather as if it somehow imbues us with something special. Integrity, honesty, loyalty are things we uphold as somehow special to Leather. But when it comes to everyday actions, there are an awful lot of us whose walk doesn’t always seem to match our talk.
We all make mistakes. We all find ourselves leading with emotion or reacting badly. We get upset, we can’t follow through, we take a wrong turn. That’s all part of being human. In my mind, what separates the Leather person who lives a Leather life from those who just talk about it is how they react to those mistakes. And here is where it all breaks down for me.
In my mind, integrity doesn’t mean you never make mistakes or behave badly. Those things happen because we’re human. But it does mean that when you have behaved badly, made a mistake, mistreated someone, you own it, make amends, apologize. You don’t pretend it never happened and just go on with life as usual.
I’ve started to become cynical about it all. As I look around, as I experience interactions with people who have long held themselves as being on the pedestal of Leather, I wonder if it means anything more than just words on a screen, soundbites we say because they make us sound special. I find myself being much more careful about those I choose to trust. About those I look to for role modeling or advice. About those who get to be inside my inner circle. And it makes me not put so much stock in meeting someone who calls themselves Leather.
And after spending so many years striving to live a Leather life, that makes me a little sad. All I can do is continue to live Leather as I believe and have been taught, and not be so naïve about believing that people who identify as Leather walk their talk. It is a lesson hard won, one I’d have preferred not to learn firsthand, and certainly not this way. Closure hasn’t really been obtained, but I think enough time has passed that it’s time to put it to bed. I keep holding out hope that I’m wrong. That wrongs will be righted. But they won’t. It was stupid to hope they would. And so tonight I actively let it go. Both situations that are loosely tied together. I release them and let them go. And move forward a little lighter, if not also a little less trusting.