Key Moments in U.S. Leather History

1940s-50s

Gay motorcycle clubs form post-WWII laying the ground for modern leather subculture

1958

First U.S. gay leather bar, Gold Coast, opens in Chicago

1970

Brenda Howard, known as “The Mother of Pride,” plans Gay Pride Week & Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade alongside a committee & sets stage for Pride events worldwide

1971

Gay Reverend & Leatherman Troy Perry leads Oakland to Sacramento march supporting Willie Brown’s Consenting Adults Bill that legalized gay sex in CA

1972

Alan Selby, a.k.a “The Mayor of Folsom Street”, compiles first standardized hanky code with business partners at Leather N’ Things. He later founds Mr. S Leather

1978

Samois, the first U.S. lesbian-feminist BDSM organization, founded by Patrick Califia, Gayle Rubin & 16 others

1979

Lesbian motorcycle club Dykes on Bikes leads San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade & has ever since

1979

David Kloff named first International Mr. Leather

1980

Cynthia Slater & Susan Thoraen rent Catacombs for the first mixed-gender & orientation play party. Continues until Catacombs closes in 1984 with Farewell Catacombs, Fuck You World! party

1984

Folsom Street Fair, now the world’s largest leather event, is founded

1987

Second National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights becomes first national coverage of ACT UP – includes a Leather contingent. Judy Tallwing McCarthey, first International Ms. Leather, gives keynote 

1989

Leather Pride flag is created by Tony DeBlase & appears for the first time at Portland Pride later that year

1991

Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago founded

2015

Leather community honored for groundbreaking work at forefront of AIDS support & safer sex advocacy by the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park

2018

LGBTQ & Leather Cultural District created, includes San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley

2018

James Lee becomes first POC to win International Mr. Leather

2019

Jack Thompson becomes first trans POC to win IML title

Check out these companion articles about leather history and the long-standing debate about kink at Pride:

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Kitty Stryker for ZipperMagazine.com

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