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 <a title=”Fetish Fair Fleamarket” href=””>Fetish Fair Fleamarket</a>, a semi-annual vendor fair which has grown into the largest single fetish event in New England.