Mid Atlantic Leather Weekend (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)
Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend
Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.)
Glorious Health Club (2120 West Virginia Ave., N.E.)
D.C. Eagle (3701 Benning Rd., N.E.)
9:30 Club (815 V St., N.W.)
Full details on all events, cost, package deals and more available at leatherweekend.com.
Friday, Jan. 13
Impact Deux by Highwaymen TNT, 10 p.m.
CODE party, 10 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 14
Puppy Park 9, 11 a.m.
Onyx Cocktail Party & Gear Show, 2 p.m.
Leather Cocktails, 7 p.m.
MAUL Uniform Party, 10 p.m.
FxCK Muscle party, 10 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 15
Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather contest, 1 p.m.
Women’s Tea Social, 5 p.m.
Dark & Twisted closing dance party, 10 p.m.
The inauguration is coming soon, but for this weekend, it’s a much different story in Washington with fun, education and inclusion all wrapped in chaps and jocks set to unfold at the annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. About 3,500 are expected.
“This is an election year,” says Patrick Grady, chairman of Leather Weekend, “so there will be lots of people coming.”
MAL Weekend, the largest club-sponsored leather event in the country, is a kaleidoscope of parties and events. There is an exhibitors hall and several educational seminars and gear shows as well as the Dark & Twisted closing party hosted by DJ Ultra Nate’.
The origin of MAL reads like a Marvel comic, read after midnight, at a black-out party. According the MAL website, in 1976 Glenn Pitcher, a member of the Links Motorcycle Club, threw a party for his West Coast friends at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Somehow during “certain adult” events in the bathroom, a cock ring hit the tile floor which became the resounding tradition going forward, as the event was repeated year after year. When organizers threatened to shutter the event, members of the Centaur MC asked to continue the ritual in 1984. The event blossomed from there.
The key words that bubble out of the leather community are consent and communication. There are a lot of conversations about sexuality and interests and each person has to be willing to have a dialogue to explore what they want.
This may be why the leather community feels more inclusive than other parts of LGBT culture.
“I think the community strives for inclusion,” says Dominion ONYX, a blogger and parliamentarian of the ONYX brotherhood, a leather fraternity for men of color that will host a party and gear show Saturday.
The 45-year-old Washington resident, who declined to give his legal name, can trace his involvement with the leather community back to attending a MAL Weekend event.
“I just remember having a really good time and people welcoming me like family,” he says.
He says the leather community, and MAL and ONYX specifically, tend to have a more welcoming stance not only about race, gender and orientation, but of body sizes.
Dominion ONYX, who weighs about 290 pounds, felt his voice was just as important as leather men of smaller proportions and more defined body types.
“Every man does not fit that (muscular) role,” Dominion says. “It was important that these men had a place where they could see themselves.”
Though unintentional, the leather community has always been inclusive, Grady says.
“It’s a natural progression,” Grady, 55, says. “It’s like a family reunion.”
Grady, a member of the Centaur Motorcycle Club, found his interest piqued after attending a previous MAL.
“I just loved meeting everyone, hanging out with guys and girls in the leather community,” Grady says. “You can go anywhere in the country and be welcomed.”
One of the biggest events will be the Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather Contest on Sunday. Winners receive almost $7,000 in cash and prizes and get to travel the country to educate and preach the gospel that is leather.
The 2016 Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather competition (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
The current International Ms. Leather, Lascivious Jane, will be a judge and says women are also welcome at MAL events.
“I know dozens of women who are going,” says Lascivious Jane, 42. “Last year was my first time going and I remember looking down at a sea of men and being completely overwhelmed in the best way possible.”
For Jane, a Philadelphia resident who also declined to give her legal name, her journey in the leather community was eye opening.
“I considered myself a leather dyke for 20 years, but for a long time had a challenging time finding community,” Jane says. “It was only the last four or five years that I was able to access community.”
Jane journeyed from a small town outside of Montreal and ended up in Philly about 15 years ago. Along the way she often came up short searching for fellow kinksters, a mix of timing, location and fear of going into some leather spaces because she didn’t know if she’d be welcomed.
She has now found a women’s community. And though she says some parts of MAL Weekend and the leather community can be male-centric, the overarching message is that it’s for everyone.
“There are parts of the weekend that are more mens’ spaces,” she says, “like the sexy things that happen behind closed doors.”
She says that kink, though, is universal.
“Everybody has things in their life that turn them on and gets them off, and some things that the leather community would like, the vanilla world wouldn’t,” she says. “But we are all mothers and fathers or kids and that doesn’t change because we like certain things.”