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A short story about the queer leather community. Written by a queer Zillennial.
From the perspective of a queer Boomer. For a Gen Z audience. Confused
enough? Me too, just read and enjoy, bye.

There hasn’t been a place in which I felt more at ease.
It was a hidden brick cubicle, located near the city’s port. No neon sign or wooden board on its front, just a solid sliding door covered
with rust stains. Not the most appealing entrance, and yet, every evening, a long sweaty line stood there, waiting to get in. Dark beards
and strips of hairy skin were chained to the doorknob, silently longing for the opening time. And when the clock struck midnight, the gate
unveiled the deepest soul of San Francisco.
Hundreds of bodies were rubbing each other to the rhythm of electric guitars, oil, friction, and dangling harnesses. Moaning and
whipping were the lyrics in this orgy of sounds. As a holy mass, men were kneeling to their desires, praying for their pleasures. Standing
amidst this unholy crowd, I was safe.

In my haven.

I still remember the first time I entered the erotic shop. Hidden in a small alley near the Golden Gate Park, it was smaller than my college
room, illuminated by red neon strips hanging all over the walls. Most of them were covered by pornographic posters and DVDs. Some
sketchy plastic toys hung from the shells like flowers on a balcony. Nevertheless, those weren’t the reasons I came to that side of the city.
I turned to the counter and asked the owner. He was bald, most likely in his sixties, with thick tortoiseshell glasses and a heavy accent.
Italian. Maybe Spanish. How could I know? Barely looking at me, he pointed to the left side of the shop. I rolled my head and there it
was, hanging on a rack.
Supple black leather, grained to perfection, cinched by sturdy silver hardware and a thick belt. Ever since I saw Brando in “Wild Ones”,
I’d spent years dreaming of that jacket. Roaring like thousands of Harleys, it looked like straight from a motorcycle calendar. I walked
towards it, so fast it felt l was running a marathon. I removed my blue polo shirt and put it on, almost shaking.The moment the cowhide
touched my skin there were butterflies in my stomach fighting to escape. For a second, I felt like I was fifteen again, waiting for my date
to show up in a dark and dirty street in the middle of nowhere.
It was cold and almost rigid, tickling my bare body with the zipper and the buttons. The smell was inebriating, tangy, and almost too
pungent for my nostrils. I never realised how heavy it was until I started spinning around the store, thrilled like a child in a candy shop.
The second I got to see myself in the mirror, it struck me. I almost couldn’t recognise my reflection. Strong, powerful, manly. Like a
knight in his silver armour, I stood straight in my pose, fiercely ready to fight. Nothing could stop me. Nothing could make me feel weak
again. The shopkeeper came back from the stockroom, matching harness and a cap in his hands.
Without even blinking an eye, I said: <<I’ll take it>>.

Messily wrapped in a brown paper bag and disguised by some anonymous case, I quickly left the shop, anxiously looking right and left,
in hopes of not coming across any familiar faces. I was a grown man, but I was still sneaking out of my apartment in the middle of the
night like a teenager. I felt burdened by this secret I had been dragging all along since the moment I was born.
To be a homosexual in 1972 meant two things.
You could be an eccentric, theatre-loving, rich queer. A femme marionette loved by the arts and bashed in public.
Or a lone wolf blending in the shadow, living a double life, ashamed of your true nature.
You youngsters would not be able to understand. Nowadays, boys use Grindr, Tinder, Bumble or whatever weirdly named app to meet
and fuck. You have parades, tv shows, celebrities. Some of you aren’t even aware of the luck you have.

For years I laughed at boob jokes. Spoke about my fake sexual life with my fake girlfriend. I pretended to not be irritated when someone
made a snarky comment about some faggots holding hands on the street. I couldn’t recount how many times I cried myself to sleep,
hoping I wasn’t born this way (no, not a Lady Gaga quote).. I tried everything. Conversion therapy. Dated multiple women. Repressed
my needs.
Nothing worked. I went to Broadway during my New York work trips. Secretly hung out with groups of gay queens. The talks, the
clothes. It felt wrong. And unnatural. That wasn’t what I wanted. That wasn’t the real me.

One day a friend introduced me to the club. A new world opened up in front of me. What started as an occasional outing became my daily
routine. The club was my haven. And the leather jacket was my shiny shield. The friction it made by touching my skin gave me more
pleasure than sex itself. Like a virile Greek god, you could see me strutting down the dance floor, dozens of eyes staring at my hairy chest
and tight leather pants. It was more than sexual intercourse. It was the feeling of the sturdy hide that gave me the confidence I never had.

I was invincible. Desired. I was manly. A man of the men.

In the club, I didn’t have to hide. I was embraced by a community wrapped in the same leather jacket, a little army of men secretly
fighting for our masculinity and desires. Our black armour was a uniform, a disguise from the norm, a middle finger to society’s
expectations. In the office, I used to count every minute before the weekend, every minute before the wooden pub doors opened to the
public. It was a moment of freedom. A moment where I could be authentic. Raw. Animal. Human. A moment where I could be myself.

There hasn’t been a place in which I felt more at ease than the club.

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