A HISTORY OF VANCOUVER MEN IN LEATHER
In late 2003 a group of seven men envisioned what a gay men’s leather club would look like. Long before Vancouver Men in Leather had its kick off party in 2004, a great deal of thought and planning went into the creation of the club and what it wanted to offer the community.
Peter Beauchamp is the man behind Vancouver Men in Leather. He had the vision and drive to form a new leather club. Peter had an extensive network of friends and contacts. He personally invited six close peers to meet each other and create that club. They met in Peter’s and his partner’s, Steve, apartment in Vancouver’s West End. Prior to the first meeting Peter contacted people belonging to Seattle Men in Leather and other clubs to inquire about their missions, structures and other issues related to running a club.
For most of the men in Peter’s group, the inaugural meeting was the first time they had met each other. Peter thoughtfully decided whom he wanted to invite for those planning meetings. He brought together men who had different experiences, belonged to different clubs and who enjoyed various kink interests. Some were former titleholders, members of the Vancouver Handyman club, and guys with computer experience and graphic arts skills.
Some critical issues were discussed during those early formation meetings. One item to consider was if the club should be a registered provincial society. The group did not want to be obligated to the legalities, rules and regulations associated with being a registered provincial society. The men did not want to submit formal annual reports, a financial statement and board members’ names each year. So the group decided it would follow the general rules of operating a society, but not be registered. That meant the board would have certain responsibilities to the members: such as hosting an annual meeting, submitting a financial statement, and giving reports from various committees.
An important point of discussion was about the mission statement. What was the club offering to Vancouver’s leather and fetish community? How was it different from the other leather clubs which once existed in the city? Those seven men discussed if the club was to be for gay leather men or include a wider scope of potential members. It was clear from the beginning that this was to be only a gay leather men’s club. They felt it would be better to focus on fulfilling the needs of gay men because they were most familiar with that community.
After identifying whom the club was for, the men then needed to determine what the club was offering to the gay leather man community. The group was well aware of the various kinks and fetishes within the leather men’s community. In 2003 Vancouver had far fewer public venues for leather men to meet. Gone were John Barley’s, the Shaggy Horse, the Royal and other clubs that hosted leather events. It was an opportune time to introduce something new for the community. The men then decided to focus the new club’s mission on the need to offer social interaction. In combination with the social aspect of the club, the organizers wanted to include demonstrations and workshops on leather lifestyles. This important part of the mission enabled leather men to share their various kinks and fetishes in a safe, comfortable and trusting environment.
Another item of discussion was if the club should host contests or competitions. There was a general consensus that as a small club Vancouver Men in Leather did not have the resources to conduct large public events.
The men’s next task was to find a location for the members to meet. Vancouver’s bar scene was shutting down and few potential places existed. The guys identified Numbers as the most ideal spot to meet since there were upstairs and downstairs bars on the premises. Peter approached the owner and manager to see if the club would be welcomed, and if members could meet there. Not long after, Vancouver Men in Leather had a home. The upstairs bar was renamed The Leather Loft for all club events, and monthly club meetings were quickly scheduled into the bar calendar.
Community support and interest for the new club developed during the planning months. Cruiseline, Priape and Numbers were the club’s major sponsors. Priape and Mack’s Leathers offered a 10% discount to members. Also supporting the new club were Pumpjack and M2M Playspace. Even one bartender at Numbers eagerly got into the promotional hype surrounding the kick-off party, and printed promotional cards at his own expense.
With a new board in place, a mission statement written, and a logo designed, the plans for a launch party quickly got underway. Vancouver Men in Leather held its inaugural party on February 27, 2004. The community came out in full support and membership immediately grew.
Most fulfilling for many inaugural members is to see the club still in existence after 10 years. Few clubs ever reach such an important occasion. The longevity of the club is a reflection on the dedication, interest and volunteerism of the members. The secret to Vancouver Men in Leather’s successful first decade is the members.
A ‘thank you’ is extended to all the volunteers, members and sponsors who have contributed to the success of the club.