For LGBTQIA+ independent businesses, Pride Weekend is basically Black Friday. The store I manage was locked down for three days, and while a handful of customers were… well, handfuls, for the most part it was an extremely hectic but enjoyable few retail days, both financially and financially. emotional.
And I was only dealing with three allowed heterosexual people, so that was a plus.
One in particular stuck in my stomach – this guy who’s been on the scene for a while. I don’t know much about his backstory other than that he was originally active in the large Houston kink community. And I don’t know what inspired him to start hanging out in a leather gay bar, but he eventually got involved in some organizations and worked his way up to leadership positions. I feel like he thinks of himself as an authority figure, even if the rest of us aren’t quite sure what to think of him.
I’ve never had bad interactions with him, although he’s said certain things to me in the past that left a suspicious taste in my mouth. Once he approached me and said, “You know, I really wanted to find more opportunities to serve. Let me know if the Misfits need help fundraising or anything. Which was nice of him, except he was also about to run for a title, so it all sounded more like him looking to fill out his resume than being genuinely helpful.
He won the title, by the way, and he never asked me about volunteer opportunities again. Oh wait. Except for when he was hosting a big pansexual community dinner (meaning open to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation), and he invited the Misfits… to serve the food.
The request was not well received by the rest of the club: “So what you’re saying is straight leather dude wants gay leather dudes to take care of him and his friends.” Hard pass, please. Needless to say we respectfully declined.
Anyway, it was early Saturday afternoon when he walked into the store, which was packed, and walked around for a while before waving at me.
“I didn’t know you were there!” he said.
“I am!” I said. “I started a few months ago.
“No, I mean I didn’t know this shop was here,” he said.
“Oh! Well, we reopened at the end of April and have been hanging around ever since.
“It’s awesome!” he said, before lowering his voice and walking away from the checkout, where my colleagues were busy arguing over the growing line of customers. “But listen. You must announce that you are wearing leather.”
“I mean, it’s in our name…”
He gestured to the shelves of attractively cut underwear near the storefront. “You should have all your leather just up therewhere is he visible.”
I don’t know why he chose this moment to start criticizing me constructively, but I did my best to assure him that our (already considerable) selection of leather would continue to grow and that we would revamp the shop if necessary. . to accommodate it.
“Oh, good,” he said. “Because all this other stuff you have, it might sell to people who are going to come in today…” He glanced disparagingly at the specter of shoppers around him. “But leather is what will hold you back Company.”
“Oh, sure,” he replied. “Damn, I’ll probably come back and buy a shirt!” See? You need to focus on what your customers want to.”
Providentially, another client needed help with something, so I gave a final “I’ll definitely keep that in mind” and backed out of the conversation. But now that I’ve had time to think, I have a few thoughts.
Leather is an investment.
If I get the absolute leather basics – say, a bar vest and a pair of stompy boots – I’ll spend around $300. If I’m going all out for formal attire – shirt, pants, gloves, Sam Browne belt, garrison cap – I’m looking at a minimum cost of $600. Add that together and add bracelets and a harness, and I snuck in well over $1000 in expenses. And once I have all these key pieces, it will be a while before I need to replace one. If I take good care of them, I may never have to.
So yeah, if we were just carrying leather, we’d be hoarding cash for maybe a month or so, until everyone who needed leather had all their leather. At that point, we had to sit and watch the clock until a collection agency locked us out of the building.
All of the brands we carry are adjacent to leather.
There are a number of companies – Breedwell, Cellblock 13, Locker Gear and Nasty Pig, to name a few – that specifically market subcultures within the mainstream. sacred alphabet, and these brands are generally not available outside of specialty stores. But more importantly, the clothes of these brands act as visual expressions of queer identity.
If I’m outside and see someone wearing a Chris Lopez T-shirt, I know immediately that I’m not the only Uranian in the immediate area. There is both relief and confidence to be drawn from this. And there’s a long, long history of gay people using clothing and accessories to subtly advertise each other. Heterosexuals may not need such code or symbology, but that’s not to say how vital it was and still is for those of us whose lives are regularly regulated.
Although once I had a straight line worker fixing wiring along our street, randomly walked around and bought a Slut Monkey baseball cap, because it was, and I quote , “bad-ass”.
Please don’t flirt with this guy, my brothers. He does not know what he is broadcasting.
But since we’re talking about buying stuff…
“I’ll probably come back” don’t pay the rent, my good breeder.
I shouldn’t let this get to me as much as I already did, but there was a plot privilege appearing in his declaration. I know he didn’t mean it maliciously, but honestly it came across as, “Run this place as I expect you to, and maybe I’ll deign to frequent it.”
Whether it’s business, or the right to marry, or the freedom to have sex in the privacy of my own home without the cops opening the door and dragging me away, I’m truly , really tired of patiently waiting for straight guys to decide whether or not I’m allowed to survive, let alone thrive.
For what it’s worth, I’ll say this guy is far from the worst I’ve ever met. Many straight people who come in are either offended when confronted with sex merchandise aimed at men into men, or they demand to know why we are discriminating by not stocking anything just for them. Like the crowd of straight girls who posed for selfies in front of the Progress Pride flag painted on the fence next to the store, then walked in and complained that our inventory made them feel left out.
It’s not a word I ever thought I’d use in a customer service context, but telling them, “There’s an Adam & Eve outlet a few blocks away that’s much more heteronormative,” was oddly stimulating. Especially when they thanked me and left.
It’s the small victories that mean the most to me.
Funny thing about this whole situation, though: The straight leather dude’s initial grievance was that he didn’t know we had opened, because we hadn’t publicized it enough. Except we had: we advertised a lot on social media [side note: he’s not on Facebook], and we also relied heavily on word of mouth. And most movers and shakers from the local Leather klatsch have been shopping here since we established ourselves.
So if he wasn’t aware of our existence, it’s because no one bothered to tell him. And that says a lot.
This means that, at least for now, our community is still ours.
Do you like what you read? You cannot buy me a coffee on this subject.
Oh, no more discord, you say? But of course! Follow the fivefold law of Twitter, instagram, Facebookand Zazzle.