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Women of Drummer: 21st Century Movement

Toni Solenne, Central Canadian DNA, Toronto. April 15 2017

Please take a minute and think about the series of events that brought you here on this day. Where did it all start for you? What was your goal? Yep-me too. To get laid! To satisfy your fantasies! Where did those fantasies come from? For me, I can trace it back to Gulliver’s travels where, like the giant, I would place a naked woman in a cage and keep her safe but took her out from time to time to play with her. As my friend Tom Stice made clearer to me yesterday, most of us are much more comfortable to look back to our personal past than be comfortable looking into our futures.

Many gay men, and some queer women, have told me that their sexual fantasies were created and enhanced through reading Drummer magazine. While the first editors of the Drummer newspaper (one of which was Jeanne Barney, a woman) created a political newspaper in response to abuses from LA police toward gay folks, the newspaper moved to San Francisco and became the Drummer magazine we all know with hot photos, a sex column and feature articles (one of which was about Viola Johnson, a woman). Many of you remember the Drummer contest (for a time produced by Audrey Joesph, a woman) and regional contests (some of which produced by women like Max Steiner in Maryland and Terrie Anderson in Texas). This is not to say women were in a numerical critical mass with Drummer at any time but I am saying that there were women side by side with gay men throughout the Drummer years from the beginning in 1971 until the end in 1999.

Drummer North America was born in 2014. This reincarnation of Drummer, celebrates gay masculinity, all fetishes, SM practices and sexual expressions. I have been privileged to witness the Brotherhood amongst contestants before, during and after contests. In 2014, Mike Zuhl, co-owner of DNA, purchased a replica of the Leather Flag created by the Jersey Amazons at the 2014 Mr Ms New Jersey Leather Contest and recognized the importance of women in gay male lives, specifically mentioning the tough times in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic, from stage that afternoon. Master Mike bought the design to use it with the “Women of Drummer” idea previously discussed with DNA Executive Producer Tina Landi. From that moment on, Fidget and I attended the annual DNA contest and our regional MID-Atlantic Contest. I have been asked to hold women’s round table discussions at DNA each year as part of DNA Contest weekend.

Because most people are much more comfortable looking back to the past rather than being comfortable with our future, I have heard criticisms about DNA, and now WOD as a reincarnation of Drummer. How dare anyone use the sacred name of Drummer as part of any future and now, women too? On Facebook a few months ago, an icon of the gay male leather community called Women of Drummer, “sacrilege”. Moving into the 21st century and accepting change is difficult for some folks.

Here’s a few things that we should remember about the past:

* The 1970’s was a time when gay folks were further developing a culture of their own-including newspapers, music, bookstores, discos in an era of sexual freedom. Every gay person could name 1/2 dozen gay or women’s publications. Drummer newspaper (1971), magazine (1975), contest (1979) was a part of that culture.

* But, we also have to remember this is also the era where women make .59 cents for every dollar men make, assassination of Harvey Milk, religious fervor of Anita Bryant, gay pride marches marched the anniversary of the Stonewall riots and, NOW marched on Washington (1978).

* Some of you might remember this golden era of gay leather male expression, I remember the 7o’s as a young girl prohibited from wearing pants to school, not being permitted to compete in some sports and being told me that I could successfully pursue some careers but not all areas were open to me because of my gender. This was also the message given to those from other marginalized groups.

* I have spoken to a few women who were in gay male leather spaces in the 70s. Their stories are the same as mine 30 years later from the early 21st century-being called names, being purposely bumped into and burned “accidentally”, or not so accidentally, by gay men. We stood our ground in leather spaces and eventually a very small group of women won respect from their male peers and accepted into their community. But some women did not stand their ground and went away.

* During the 80’s and 90’s: Leather women were fighting the feminist sex wars (being told SM is abuse and sex toys condone patriarchal oppression) and gay men were fighting for their lives. Women were organizing and creating a leather culture of their own. We were protesting and taking care of our community, side by side with gay men. An “L” was added to the gay liberation movement. I blew whistles and shouted in the streets of Sacramento with my gay brothers in the early 90s. Leather women, during this time were divided into three groups-(1) those in the “scene” with the pan community, (2) those forming separate women’s leather/SM groups, and (3) those in gay male spaces and clubs. While kinky women had On Our Backs and Bad Attitude to read, their shelf life was short and in Canada, censorship laws made it difficult to find and eventually led to the end of Bad Attitude.

And more importantly, here are some things we should celebrate today:

* Homosexuality is no longer considered a mental illness as it was in the early 1970s

* While we are not finished the fight, Queer folks have many of the same rights as heterosexual folks.

* We have thriving kink, leather and alternative communities.

* We have many choices on any given weekend on where to go and who to hang out with.

* DNA has recognized that there are leather women who have contributed to our past, celebrate gay male masculinity and invite the diversity of all kinky folk to their events. Together, we celebrate the comradeship of men and women coming together, respect each other and give each other the space to do our own thing by ourselves.

And most importantly, here is what is exciting about the future:

* Women of Drummer exists as a leather women’s empowerment movement and has created a regional structure to reach out to many areas of the continent.

* Women of Drummer seeks to bring leather women together from all areas of the communities-those who hang their whips in women’s spaces, gay male spaces and pansexual spaces.

* Women of Drummer creates women’s round tables and fierce, badass, and hot play spaces for women to be with women in multiple regions through the continent.

* Women of Drummer shares blogs, video channel and social media outlets for women to communicate with women all year round.

* Women of Drummer is a movement for all self-identified women.

* Women of Drummer holds a contest in Vegas as part of DNA weekend where we pick our representative. Her working title will be to play at our 2018 regional events and attend IMsL, WILL and ABW. She will be judged on her play, interview, hotness and ability to communicate well. Her sexual orientation is open but must be able to play in all female spaces, for her working title has playing with women central to all she does.

Yes, most of us are much more comfortable to look back to our past than be comfortable with our futures. Women of Drummer is a 21st century Movement and is different than anything happening now. We seek to serve the women’s community in what they will need for tomorrow.

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