SouthEast LeatherFest to put kink in queer Atlanta’s summer

Hundreds of queer folks will convene in Chamblee in June for four days of celebrating all things leather at the SouthEast LeatherFest.

The 24th annual event will draw over 500 people and feature over 150 demos, parties and educational elements, according to SELF executive producer Catherine Gross. The event takes place June 13-16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Atlanta Perimeter Dunwoody.

Some of the demos on tap include Consent & Safety 101, Sexy & Spooky: The Science of Fear Play, Trans People & Power Exchange and Daddy Pants: The Perks, Quirks & Irks of Being in Charge. 

SELF is a place where individualism is respected, according to Gross.

“Most places say that, but they don’t know how to do it, and people end up feeling judged and different,” she told Project Q Atlanta. “[SELF] belongs to each and every person who walks through the door.”

Highlights of this year’s event include appearances by Gary Wasdin, executive director of the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago, and by four of the five founders of Onyx, the national organization for black gay leather men. The Onyx Southeast chapter recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

There’s also the 3rd Annual Women of Leather Gathering, which will shine a light on those who get overlooked in what can be a male-dominated leather culture. The gathering is expected to draw around 80 people, according to Gross.

“That one is really special to me,” she said.

Mama Gail, the 2018 Women's International Leather Legacy titleholder, will also attend SELF.

The event stands out for its diversity of attendees, educational topics and social events, according to Mama Gail.

“What is special about these gatherings is the interpersonal connections we make, the sharing of our experiences and history, all the many ways that we network our personal resources and talents to benefit our various communities,” she said.

Pup Havok, who will attend SELF for the first time, is “super excited” to share his experiences as International Puppy 2019.  

“I’ve been able to travel, educate and play in a way that shows off some of the best sides of puppy play,” he said. “To represent pups and our handlers on a global scale has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life.”

SELF newbies will be designated with pins to encourage veterans to make them feel welcome, according to Gross.

“So the burden of creating connection is shared,” she said. “It’s important to us to do that.”

“The thing about SELF that is different is you might arrive knowing no one. You will leave knowing a ton of people. We make space for all people and we’re super friendly,” she added.

SouthEast LeatherFest is June 13-16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Atlanta Perimeter Dunwoody Hotel. View the full schedule.

Photo courtesy Catherine Gross