My grandmother on my dad’s side of the family often said to me as a child “ I love you”, but five minutes later was back to her penny poker ways. My step-grandfather would take my brother and I out on a log ride on the farm attached to his tractor to shield us from the unbecoming ways of my grandmother and her penny-poker antics. It was a hard-habit, for she was a “flapper” from the early 1900’s and my step-grandfather didn’t feel we needed to see these things. This is probably more than you wanted to know but this leads me to the point about words without meaning.
I often hear the word “brotherhood” used so loosely in our community. Brotherhood is not a loose “kinship”, nor is it loosely defined like what we do with “friends” on Facebook. It isn’t something you discard when it is not convenient to you or your group. It is someone who bonds with you that he becomes family. The bonds of family is not the bonds of friendship. You cannot use the term ‘family’ like my grandmother used the words ‘I love you’. These words must have meaning. After all, you took the time to let him into your family, otherwise it is not a “brotherhood”. But unlike a family, you can choose who is in your group, but don’t take lightly that you can toss out a “brother’ like you can with friends. He is family.
The term “brotherhood” is thought to have its first use in the Middle-English as “brotherhede or brotherhod” during the 13th and 14th century. The suffix “hod” originated as “head of” which became obsolete with modern English. This word used during this period did not have the same religious meaning as used in biblical references meaning as in “brotherly love”; but rather would be a blood oath to each other that would take precedence over marriage or family. It was a term, a bonding — belonging to warriors.
So in terms of modern day use, brotherhood has the context as it always has been used in combat even back to its origins, “to lie down and protect your brother as if your life depended on it”. Unfortunately, since September 11, 2001 we have become a nation of…well shall I just say it, “pussies”. We have been conditioned and made to be afraid to say to our brothers when they need guidance, help or be put in their place; but with love. We work our way around the hard things, finding other issues that cloud the problem, we obfuscate that which needs to be said in order to ensure our acceptance by our community.
The young kinksters are looking at the ones they revere in their community, the mentors, the speakers and the leaders to lead by example. But when leaders fail to say the hard things that need to be said to protect their family, forsaking the protection of the one who is in pain, preserving the family, the brotherhood and kicking the one needing guidance or help to the curb so as not to lose favor in the family order, we all fail as a community.
Recently, a local young man who was accepted into the family of other new leather titleholders, only to be kicked to the curb by his “brothers”, was failed by his community. This young man has many issues that needed to be addressed, but his family was afraid to tell him the truth, give guidance, resources and point him toward professional help. The leaders failed to lead and should have done so in the name of brotherhood, but did not because of unfounded fear. He did not experience any brotherhood in its non-religious meaning. I dare say, none of these young kinksters saw any mentoring of brotherhood. The leaders led with collusion by supporting each other’s belief of the one who needed to be castigated from the community. The leaders did not lead with core values and beliefs. Leadership should never be easy; it usually is very hard, done with courage and conviction.
I am by no means casting myself as the all-knowing or an exhalted leader of the community. I am forever a student in humanity but led with unshakable moral conviction and values. This is my compass that never points to magnetic North but always true North. And with the leather contest season in full swing, ‘brotherhood” cannot be bandied about loosely like “friending” someone on Facebook. It must be lived, it must be exercised and it must be shared among the family.
So ask yourself, would you ever do that to your real family? Would you not offer honest guidance or tell them the truth even if it hurts just to ensure that you protect them? Why do we fight, argue or banish those we disagree, dislike or don’t feel they fit in after we have made them part of our family? Brotherhood is not easy. It is not a Facebook friend, nor a person to hang with or go out to leather night at the movies with. It is not a person that you dine with, have a beer with or always agreeing with.
The benchmark I have always used and continue to use is The Satyrs Motorcycle Club, the oldest continuously running gay men’s motorcycle club still going strong. The Brotherhood bonds formed by these men came from a tradition long established in military values and the warriors before them. They could fight, argue, disagree and passionately dislike each other at any given time. But they always came to help and support each other for life, for they are family now and forever.
I have absolute confidence the Satyrs will outlast any gay organization for decades to come. Because like all families, we should love each other and we will fight again. In the end we protect our own for life, regardless of whether we fought and hated. We tell each other the truth even if it hurts, guide each other when it is too hard to see what we don’t want to see, stand by them regardless of their weaknesses, and come together forever whenever called, even when the end calls upon us.
Being part of a Brotherhood shouldn’t be that easy…it should be hard. It is a high standard by which few can know and understand. In our leather community, it should remain true to its 13th century meaning used by warriors. It must be lived like the true Middle English meaning. It is a brotherhood.