Hi! My name is Alex, and I am supremely excited about having the opportunity to write this column for Baltimore OUTloud. I currently hold the title of Mid-Atlantic Leather Woman 2017, and I wear that sash proudly. What that means is that I am an ambassador for the Mid-Atlantic region’s community of Leather Women. Generally, the region is considered Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City. This is an amazing group of people and we get things done.

We work and play hard. We really like to have a great time. We raise a lot of money for a wide variety of charities and find incredibly creative and sexy ways to do it. We like to spend time together laughing. We love good entertainment. We get in touch with the sides of ourselves, especially sexually, that many may not allow themselves to experience because there are stigmas placed upon those wants and needs.

A couple of questions I am often asked are, “What is leather?” and “What makes me a leather person?” I can understand – I had these questions at one point too. Some days I still think about them and I enjoy discourse with other people who identify as leather. If you ask ten different leather people these questions, you will get 12 different answers.

“What is leather?” Some say it is a clothing fetish. Some say it is all about raw, raunchy, deviant sex. Some tell you it is about being an outlaw and staying on the fringes of society. Some tell you it is about honor, integrity, respect, and truth. For me, it is all of these things. I would also say it is up to each person who experiences it. I consider it a code of conduct, a reminder to do my best in every moment and walk in the world in ways that will honor myself and those I hold dear. I wear a belt and/or boots about 90% of the time as touchstones to remember who I am.

“What makes me a leather person?” If you feel you belong and you feel you are a leather person, you probably are. I felt at home the first time I went to a play party hosted by a women’s leather club, FIST. Never in my life had I felt so comfortable. I did not take on the identification of leather right away – that came about two-and-a-half years later – but deep down I knew that leather was at least a part of me. I just didn’t know how much. To me, it is a feeling. That sometimes infuriates people as an answer, but it is the best I am able to give.

One of my goals for my title year is to highlight the wonderful people of the Mid-Atlantic, especially the women. Every week on Facebook (and soon it will be published on Tumblr), I have been posting a feature called Mid-Atlantic Mondays. I send questions to the different people who make the Mid-Atlantic region’s Leather community the special place it is. Some of these questions are serious, some of these questions are fun, and some may make little sense whatsoever. I like to discover different sides of people. I want people near and far to know these talented individuals.

Leather can seem scary when you’re peeking in from the outside. I know I was so intimidated before heading into a play party for the first time, it took me four months from the time I was talking with kinksters online to the time I entered the old Baltimore Playhouse on North Calvert Street in Baltimore. Hopefully these columns will help you see that we are not much different from you and maybe, just maybe, you’ll want to join us at the bar or the next play party. See you next issue.