New England Leather Alliance (NELA) was first called NLA:New England. It was formed in 1991 in Boston, Massachusetts at a time when the leather community here was in turmoil. The police had just made a raid on a leather dungeon that was operated out of a private home known as the Thunderhead Club or Club Thunderhead. The house was owned by three men who would open their dungeon once a week, charge a $5 admission to cover the cost of buffet food, and allow people to play with each other in the dungeon basement. Undercover police had entered the house, and although no money was exchanged for sex, because money had been paid and entrants engaged in sexual acts with each other, they charged the owners of the house with prostitution. (As far as we know, they were never convicted, but the charges ruined their lives.) It was in this climate of persecution and amid growing feelings that the many fragmented aspects of the leather community (lesbian, gay, heterosexual, etc...) could benefit from working together, that the chapter was founded.
Meetings began on the third Saturday of each month at the Paradise, a gay bar in Cambridge, MA. Early meetings included a presentation on Safe Leather Sex by Alan Chiras (magazine columnist and presenter for the Worcester AIDS Project''s "Leatherforce 2000"), a visit from the Pink Flamingos (a local transgender activist group), and displays of erotic photography. The Paradise became an unviable spot when they began asking for a rental fee of $50 for our meeting space (they wouldn''t let us meet alone downstairs, so had to pay a bartender to work during those hours, and then wanted us to pay the bartender...). The club moved to the Boston Ramrod, one of the oldest gay leather bars in the city, and that has been our home bar ever since, even though our events now take place in some of the largest and most prestigious venues in New England.
Over the years, the New England Leather Alliance has taken part in many activities and put on many programs of benefit to the local leather community. Among the guest speakers we have brought to Boston include Robert and Mary Dante (publishers of Boudoir Noir magazine, and Mary was Ms. NLA:I 1995), Jay Wiseman (author of SM 101), Lady Green (author of The Sexually Dominant Woman), Laura Goodwin (Ms. NLA ''91-''92), Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, and many other experts in various fields of SM play, bondage, politics, and so on.
NELA organized the first "leather contingent" in 1993 and 1994''s Boston Pride parades, allowing smaller groups to march in one larger contingent to save the considerable expense of registering separately and to encourage visibility of leatherfolk in the parade, sponsored and ran the 1994 Community Leather Mart at the Boston Ramrod which raised $1000 for Monserrat AIDS Services, led the local campaign to have the Spanner men (U.K. man jailed for their consensual SM practices) added to Amnesty International''s list of prisoners of conscience, and sponsors the Fetish Fair Fleamarket, a semi-annual vendor fair which has grown into the largest single fetish event in New England.
NELA is an organization dedicated to making a safe place in the world for all leather/fetish/sm people through education, advocacy, and charitable giving. NELA stands for New England Leather Alliance, and we were formerly known as NLA: New England. We are an incorporated non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the support, education, and political organizing of the leather/fetish/sm communities in New England. We are a diverse, pansexual group of adults who share a common interest in leather/fetish/sm and who want to be active in building our community. We are women and men, transgender folk, heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, and gay, married and single, young and old. We are from CT, ME, MA, NH, RI & VT.
We host events such as classes and outings; produce the semi-annual Fetish Fair Fleamarket®, the largest fetish event in New England; host the New England Kink Calendar website; publish this website; and more.
What is the Fetish Fair Fleamarket®?
The Fetish Fair Fleamarket® (also known as the “FFF”), originally began in the Boston area in 1992 and has been held twice yearly in New England since then. The FFF is the largest leather/fetish event in New England usually held at the beginning of and again in middle of the year. We bring together about a hundred top vendors and craftspeople from our local area and from as far away as San Francisco, Arizona, Chicago, and Canada. Over the last decade, tens of thousands of people have attended the FFFs to enjoy the unmatched opportunity to shop, attend workshops, and meet people at the best economical price of any event of this type. An FFF FAQ can be found here.
When Does NELA Meet?
We have monthly open board meetings, and we sponsor different events - demos, workshops, intensives - throughout the year, and of course NELA holds the Fetish Fair Fleamarket™! Be sure to check out our [ event calendar online ]
Where Does NELA Meet?
Our events are held in a number of locations in the New England area - check out our [event calendar online ]. We strive for accessible, safe, community-inclusive venues. We try to be T-accessible as well as easy to get to by car.
What else Does NELA Do?
We sponsor and organize the Boston Pride Leather Contingent, inviting smaller or financially disadvantaged groups of leather folk who might not otherwise be able to register to march with us in the annual Boston Pride parade in one loud, proud section. We can be found at many of the Pride events all over New England including: Southern Maine Pride; Rhode Island Pride; Northampton Pride; and Hartford Pride. We host other special events from time to time, including special parties, demo nights, titleholder evenings, and more.
We have a charitable fund that supports the efforts of groups like The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders), and persecuted individuals in our community fighting for their legal rights to express their sexuality. Over the past several years we have given over $75,000 in charitable donations to organizations and causes including: Somos Latinos; Transcending Boundaries; Bisexual Resource Center; Black Beat Inc.; Boston Buyers Club; CARAS; Dyke March; RI Men of Phoenix; Theater Offensive; Breast Cancer Coalition; AIDS Action Committee; New Orleans Leather Fund; Boston Living Center; Pride Committees of Boston, MA, Providence, RI, and Hartford, CT; the Houghton child-custody case; The San Diego Six; MG Leather of Provincetown after their fire; the S/M Policy Reform Project; Leather Archives and Museum; Fits Like a Glove; Bay State Marauders; Imperial Court of Massachusetts; True Spirit Conference; Dana Farber Cancer Center; The Susan G. Komen Foundation; AIDS Walk Boston; Mr. Connecticut Leather; Mob New England; Paddleboro Defense League; and the Leather Leadership Conference.
We hold classes and demos all over New England on a wide range of topics. We have been lucky to have hosted some great presenters including: Barbara Nitke; British Lucky Paul; Carol Queen; Constance S. of Dressing for Pleasure; Jay Wiseman; Lady Green; Laura Antoniou; Lee Harrington; Lolita Wolf; Master R and Madame Sang; Master Rope Knot (MRK); Midori; Mollena Williams; Patrick Califia; PhoenixB; Princess Kali; Raelyn Gallina; Robert and Mary Dante; Robert Lawrence; Staylace Productions; Tristan Taormino;and many, many more. We take part in efforts to educate the public and to fight for laws that protect our rights to love in the manner that we choose as consenting adults.