January 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Leather scene active despite Eagle limbo
leather, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Leather enthusiasts from the LGBT community in the D.C.-Baltimore area are expected to turn out in force for the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend events this weekend.

Due to delays in its reopening, the D.C. Eagle, the popular gay leather bar that has been in business more than 30 years and has been an active participant in the annual MAL event, is not listed as a venue in any of the official events this year.

But according to postings on the D.C. Eagle’s Twitter page, the club expects to reopen soon at its new location at 3701 Benning Rd., N.E. The Eagle closed last year after being displaced from its home of many years at 639 New York Ave., N.W., due to the planned construction of a new office building.

According to leather scene observers, the Eagle’s Twitter page description of itself most likely defines many of those who participate in that scene: “Bar for D.C.’s rough, gruff, tough, hairy, pierced, tattooed, cigar-smoking, leather-clad, bear-ish, colored handkerchief-wearing men.”

Mark Clark, an official with the Chesapeake Bay Bears, whose members live in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, said the leather scene is often used as an umbrella term to include organizations and individuals associated with the gay male “bear” scene for hairy, heavy-set men and those who like them; as well as the bondage, S&M, kink-fetish scene.

Brother Help Thyself, a D.C.-based charitable organization founded in 1978 by four gay motorcycle clubs associated with the D.C. Eagle, includes representatives of some of the area’s most popular leather scene organizations on its board of directors. Among them are the Atlantic States Rodeo Association; the Centaurs, Defenders and Spartans gay motorcycle clubs; the Chesapeake Bay and D.C. Bear clubs; and SigmaDC, which describes itself as an all-male private membership organization for bondage-S&M-kink enthusiasts.

SigmaDC, which was founded in 1984, recently moved into a second-floor space at 1636 R St., N.W., across the street from the 17th Street gay bar Cobalt. It is hosting at least three events associated with Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, including a demo event at the Hyatt Regency on Saturday afternoon.

Another local organization founded by gay event organizer Jacob Pring called CODE holds monthly parties and events for what the group says are “gear, rubber, skin, uniform and leather” enthusiasts. CODE holds monthly events at the Glorious Health Club and Art Gallery at 2120 West Virginia Ave., N.E.

The group was scheduled to hold events associated with Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend at Glorious Health Club on tonight (Friday) and Saturday.

“All of these different groups started out as leather groups but sort of morphed into a broader thing,” said Clark, who noted that many of them work with Brother Help Thyself to raise money to support LGBT and AIDS organizations.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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