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Millennial kinksters

MAL organizers say there’s no shortage of 20-somethings at annual event

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Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, gay news, Washington Blade
Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Denis Largeron)

Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend

Jan. 15-18

 

Host hotel:

Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill

400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.

 

Other events to be held at Glorious Health Club (2120 West Virginia Ave., N.E.), the D.C. Eagle (3701 Benning Rd., N.E.), Green Lantern (1325 Green Ct., N.W.) and the 9:30 Club (815 V St., N.W.).

 

Full details at leatherweekend.com

 

Friday, Jan. 15

 

Registration (3-10 p.m.)

MIR’s Rubber Meet and Greet (7-9 p.m.)

Grunt (10 p.m.-2 a.m.)

Impact (10 p.m.-3 a.m.)

CODE (10 p.m.-4 a.m.)

 

Sat., Jan. 16

 

Puppy Park 8 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Onyx Fetish Gear cocktails and auction (1-6 p.m.)

Leather Cocktails (7-9 p.m.)

Parade of Colors line-up (8:15 p.m.)

MAL Uniform League Party (10 p.m.-2 a.m.)

Primal FxCK (10 p.m.-4 a.m.)

CODE (10 p.m.-4 a.m.)

 

Sun., Jan. 17

 

Brunch (10-11:30 a.m.)

Mr. Leather contest (1-4 p.m.)

BLUF (breeches and leather uniform fan club) (4-9 p.m.)

Dark & Twisted (closing dance) (10 p.m.-4 a.m.)

 

One thing leather lovers and BDSM enthusiasts are sure to find at the 45th annual Mid-Atlantic Leather event this weekend is a mix of all ages. While organizations of all kinds from churches to fraternity groups and more struggle to recruit millennials (those born after 1980), local leather club members say enticing younger members hasn’t been a problem.

“We have a very, very even cross section of all ages,” says Todd White, a member of the local Centaur MC Club, which runs the event. “We still have the 21-year-olds who will come in reeking of the latest Versace cologne and run and buy a harness. That kind of warms my heart because that was me at one time. There’s still a sense that this is where everybody is and this is where I want to be. … We still have them coming in and we all know it because we all started there. Then as you mature and grow, you start figuring out for yourself if you just like the feel of leather or if you’re just really a kinkster at heart.”

White says the event tends to skew slightly older in anniversary years when attendees who used to attend regularly will come out for special occasions but maybe not attend every year.

“And then other times you see a spike in the crowd and the lobby feels a little younger,” White says. “I’m not quite sure what causes that spike. It’s just one of those events where everyone can feel comfortable whether you’re in a suit and tie or you’re in a jock or a harness or anything else. You come through here and you will run into people you could have a cocktail with and feel comfortable.

Kyle Collins is 26 — you have to be 21 to attend MAL — and has been going for the last four years. Collins is the co-chair for D.C. Leather Pride and co-planned a party for Thursday night with the Highwaymen TNT. His group is also planning the BLUF party, back for a second year, on Sunday.

Collins says some MAL events draw older crowds and others tend to skew younger but it’s “overall a good mix.”

“Our community has a bit of an age gap at the moment as a result of losing so many men to HIV/AIDS,” he says. “That age gap can be daunting for younger men and make it harder to find ways to connect.”

He also says technology has been a factor.

“Now leather gear and toys can be bought online without ever leaving your house, so while many millennials are interested in the community, we face no hurdles in finding the best way to engage and interact with men who are interested in our community.”

White says that can be an MAL advantage in some ways, however. The conference will offer thousands who will attend at least some part of the weekend (the 836 rooms at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill are, as usual, sold out though many share rooms) a chance to handle the merchandise before buying.

“MAL’s vendor mart is a wonderful place because you can really see and touch the leather rather than ordering it online,” he says. “That’s the one part of the event where you do tend to see some straight folks too. I’d say less than one percent of the package holders are straight, but they do like to come check out the vendor mart.”

Josh Pennington is 31 and one of the younger members of the Centaur MC club. He lived in the D.C. area for years but moved to Newport News, Va., last year for work. He still comes to Washington regularly and keeps his membership active. He’s been attending MAL for about 10 years. He says more millennials attend than did in his early years.

“It’s been steadily increasing,” he says. “My first one, I felt like more of a minority but as time has progressed, there’s been more equal distribution. I think MAL is an event where people go and word of mouth travels. It’s just a good, well-balanced, welcoming event and that’s what draws people. As far as the community goes, that’s just the natural evolution. You have to get younger people as the older generation moves on.”

Some folks who attend leather events elsewhere report similar experiences.

Neil Maciejewski Johnson, a gay San Francisco resident, has been to the Folsom Street Fair, a well-known San Francisco BDSM event held every September, many times and says there’s no lack of millennials.

“I would say they tend to be more the spectators than the exhibitionists,” he says. “There are some who are showing skill and getting into the scene, but the 40-and-over crowd is the one really driving the entertainment.”

One area that has struggled a bit at MAL is the Mr. Leather contest, which White organizes. Last year only five competed. This year eight have registered so far. White says in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when the contest was held at Tracks, it was not uncommon for there to be 30 contestants. While interest in MAL overall has not shifted — if anything organizers have worked to keep it at about 800 full-package holders despite offers from the Hyatt to offer substantially more — why has the contest proven less popular? White says it’s an overall shift in community thinking.

“I think by the mid-‘90s the community kind of asked the question, ‘Why do we have all these leather title holders?’ In some ways it was easier to be a titleholder then. There wasn’t Facebook, there wasn’t this instant snapshot of what was going on in your life or what you might be up to, so the titleholders tended to be these real muscle gods who looked like they just stepped out of Tom of Finland. … Then it started to shift more to community service but that’s slowly kind of backing out too and there’s a middle ground we’ve finally started to find. … There’s been a bit of a similar thing with some of the drag contests as well. Back in the heyday, contests overall were more heavily participated in.”

Even with overall attendance strong, it’s inevitable that trends will continue to shift over time, regulars say.

“The changes reflect the way the community changes,” Pennington says. “Like lately we’ve had way more puppies. The puppy movement is big right now so we have more events that cater to that group. The organizers do a great job of reading the audience and adjusting things to fit.”

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Baltimore DJ on using music as a bridge to combat discrimination

Deezy brings high-energy show to the Admiral on Jan. 28

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DJ Deezy has hosted multiple events in D.C. and Baltimore. (Photo by Carlos Polk from We Dream Photography and Studios)

A Baltimore DJ will conclude a month of performances in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. clubs this Friday, Jan. 28, according to the artist’s management. DJ Deezy is set to perform at the Admiral in D.C. at 9 p.m. 

Since the year began, Deezy has hosted electric events at clubs such as Hawthorne DC, DuPont and the Baltimore Eagle Bar & Nightclub. 

The Washington Blade sat down with the DJ to discuss the course of her career. 

The beginning of DJ Deezy’s infatuation with music dates back to her childhood spent between her mother’s house in Baltimore City and her father’s house in the suburbs. 

In Baltimore, Deezy was exposed to the local rap and raw hip-hop scene that inspired her to embark on a rap career in high school. 

Concurrently, she was entrenched in Motown and classic rock by virtue of her singer, songwriter, and guitarist father Ron Daughton’s involvement in a classic rock band. He is a member of “The Dalton Gang” and was inducted into the Maryland Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2015.

“Before I embarked on my DJ journey, my father let me record ‘a little 16’ on his tape recorder,” said Deezy. “Eventually, he bought me a wireless microphone that I carried around with me to performances.”

Between her experience as a rapper and watching her father maneuver the classic rock music scene, Deezy acquired varying tastes in music that have influenced how she curates her sets today. 

She “specializes in open format vibes with spins from multiple genres including hip-hop, rap, circuit, and top 40s hits,” according to a summer 2021 press release from her management.

Deezy is also a proud member of the LGBTQ community — she identifies as a lesbian — and this also informs her approach to her work.

“I’m easily able to transition and rock the crowd because I can relate to many different backgrounds,” said Deezy. “I can DJ in places that are predominantly white, Black, or gay [and still do my job effortlessly].”

Centering community

Deezy values representation. Not only because she exists in a field dominated by men, but also because DJs who inhabit other identities aside from being men are less common in the industry. 

The scarcity of Black and lesbian DJs has prompted her to use her career as evidence that people who are different can attract audiences and succeed.

“I want to put us out there especially for Baltimore,” said Deezy. “I know that there’s Black lesbians out there doing the same thing as me, but why aren’t we getting [recognized]?”

In 2018, Deezy rented out a “Lez” lot at the Baltimore Pride block party where she set up a tent and played a set for the crowds tailgating around her. While entertaining them, she distributed her business cards — an act she believes yielded her the contact who eventually got her booked for a residency at the Baltimore Eagle.

While this was a step forward in her career, Deezy acknowledges that it wasn’t without challenges. She likened entering the Baltimore Eagle — traditionally a leather bar frequented predominantly by men —to navigating foreign territory. 

“When I first got there, I got funny looks,” she said. “There’s a lot of these guys who are like, ‘Why are you bringing a lesbian DJ to a gay bar?’”

But Deezy powered through her performance, lifted the crowd from its seats and “rocked the house [so that] no one will ever ask any questions again.” 

She admits that she’s an acquired taste but believes in her ability to play music infectious enough to draw anyone to the dance floor.  

“Feel how you want to feel about a Black lesbian DJ being in the gay bar,” said Deezy. “But music is a bridge that [will] connect us all, and you’ll forget about your original discrimination when you [experience] me.”

While Deezy has mostly performed in the DMV, she has also made appearances in Arizona where she hosted a family event and also in clubs in Atlanta and New York City. 

Her work has also attracted international attention and she was the cover star of  French publication Gmaro Magazine’s October 2021 issue

Looking to the future, Deezy’s goal is to be a tour DJ and play her sets around the world.

“I had a dream that Tamar Braxton approached me backstage at one of her concerts and asked me to be her tour DJ,” she said. “So, I’m manifesting this for myself.” 

In the meantime, Deezy will continue to liven up audiences in bars and clubs around the country while playing sets for musicians like Crystal Waters and RuPaul’s Drag Race celebrity drag queens like Alyssa Edwards, Plastique Tiara, La La Ri, Joey Jay and Eureka O’Hara — all of whom she has entertained alongside in the past. 

Outside the club, Deezy’s music can be heard in Shoe City where she created an eight-hour music mix split evenly between deep house and hip-hop and R&B. 

DJ Deezy (Photo by Carlos Polk from We Dream Photography and Studios)
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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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