The Leather Flag

Leather Pride Flag

I remember pledging allegiance to the flag, starting in kindergarten. I never really understood at that time some of the words (“and to the Republic for which it stands,” what?), and even why we were looking at a piece of cloth attached to a pole.

When I worked at the public library when I was I high school, one of my jobs was to raise and take down the flag.

I got yelled at by the head librarian because I put the flag on a bench to fold it (technically it did not touch the ground) because no one was available to take the other end in order to fold it in a specific triangular shape.

One of my nightmares was my failure to take the flag down (it was supposed to be down by sundown). The flag was up all night on the pole. Oh no!

The United States has changed, of course, since the 1960s, and e pluribus unum really emphasizes the pluribus. So many subcultures have created their own flags as concrete symbols of their most significant values.

The gay leather BDSM subculture has carried its own flag in the wake of the gay liberation movement that occurred after Stonewall.

The flag was designed by Tony DeBlase, otherwise known as Fledermaus, a major mover and shaker in the gay leather/BDSM world at that time, in many ways shaping many of its values and their public expression in a variety of publications, especially Drummer and Dungeon Master magazines.
 

Tony DeBlase
Tony DeBlase

Tony first presented the design at the International Mister Leather event in Chicago, Illinois, on May 28, 1989.

Initial reaction to the flag was mixed.

According to DeBlase's article A Leather Pride Flag,

"Some, particularly on the east coast, reacted positively to the concept, but were quite concerned, some even offended, that I had not involved the community in helping to create the design."

The original flag is on display at the Leather Archives and Museum.

According to Marcus Schmoger, DeBlase’s wish was that there are diverse interpretations of the symbolism of the flag.

One of the most familiar ones is from Stacey, Ms. National Leather Association International 1996:

The red heart is for love, the white stripe for purity in an open, honest and understanding relationship, the black stripes for leather  and the blue ones for denim, both materials that are frequently worn in the scene.

Another interpretation:

Black, the color of BDSM followers; blue: for the followers with a jeans fetish; white, solidarity with the novices of the BDSM scene; the heart: BDSM has nothing to do with raw violence, but is practiced with mutual respect, consent, and understanding.

My fear of the flag really transmuted into a different emotion, a combination of pride and excitement, when I participated in several gay pride parades with the Chicago Hellfire Club. The front of our cohort carried a large leather flag, but we also carried (on poles) larger versions of hankies that represented different fetishes (so many colors!)

Thus, the main design of our cohort was flags, carried slowly and steadily, while other club members circled about wielding our floggers and paddles and whips.
 

Chicago Leather and King Pride contingent

And let's just say all our flags were up all night, and the next night.

Check out our collection of gay fetish movies, including the uber-leather/BDSM movie, Born to Raise Hell, and the exciting Dungeons of Europe series.

Tony DeBlase himself appears in our bondage flick, Rope that Works, which deftly integrates the erotic and the educational. Tie me up, Tony!
 

Tony DeBlase aka Fledermaus in Rope That Works (1984)
Tony DeBlase aka Fledermaus in Rope That Works (1984)
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