by Vincent Astor | photos courtesy of Hoist
(Above photo, left to right: Jim Pickens, Vice President; Ken Briggs, Road Captain; Jake Tanner, Sgt. at Arms; Mark Keidaish, President; Chaz Fowler, Secretary; Aaron Moore, Historian; Brian McCraig, Treasurer.)
What do you think when you see a man in a leather vest or jacket? Does he ride a motorcycle? Is he intimidating? Rebellious? How does he wear his leather—for a reason or for a fashion statement? Do you think of James Dean or Adam Rippon?
Do you think he’s masculine? You don’t need to think—you know.
Hoist is the newest Leather Club in the Memphis area. The purpose of the club is to establish an organization focused on furthering the ideals of brotherhood and friendship, and to promote social and charitable functions among adult men interested in leather and related activities. Hoist is active in gaining new membership to build up the Memphis leather community.
In the 1950s, veterans who were accustomed to a high level of action and excitement during wartime found returning home to be difficult in a lot of ways. Motorcycles had been around for decades but during the two World Wars they became common transport vehicles. Those who had known the allure of them organized clubs at home. Some were enthusiasts, some became outlaws.
Many of the gay vets wanted to retain the most satisfying elements of their military experience and, at the same time, hang out socially and sexually with other masculine gay men. They found that only in the swashbuckling motorcycle culture did such opportunities exist and so the gay bike clubs were born. It was here that they found the combination of easy camaraderie, the stress and thrill of real risk taking (the riding), and the masculine sexuality that they had known during their military days.
Although not all gay men of that time served in the military, those who didn’t were exposed to military attitudes. All these things greatly influenced the shape of masculine gay sexualities whether the men actually rode motorcycles or not. It also contested common stereotypes.
Hoist members in dress uniform at the Conductors Run.
Members on the Hoist float at Mid-South Pride. Photo by Kevin Reed.
Memphis had a larger leather community before the turn of the millennium. Each club had their own colors/emblem, their own practices and events and colorful histories. They were always ready to lend a hand or raise money for causes ranging from Toys for Tots to HIV-related organizations. Clubs were all male, or all female, and some included men and women. Hoist and Tennessee Leather Tribe are the most active clubs that remain. Partly in celebration of its twenty-fourth anniversary, Tennessee Leather Tribe hosted a screening of the recent, critically acclaimed film ‘Tom of Finland,’ a biographical picture about the titular Finnish gay erotic artist at Studio on the Square in April.
Hoist, like the majority of leather clubs, is organized very much like a fraternity. The concepts of loyalty, brotherhood, support of one another and support of the community are common to both. From its founding Hoist has participated in Pride. Members were among the first to support the Metamorphosis Project by helping to move and organize its early donations. They have supported Pegasus, the Tennessee Equality Project and Friends for Life; also helping in fund raisers for the Special Olympics, to fight Domestic Abuse and, yes, Toys for Tots. Members participated in the MS Walk honoring a brother who has MS. Hoist actively strives for a good reputation in the community.
Intense partying is also part of the mix. Hoist scheduled their first big weekend for May 18-20 with events including a bar night at the Pumping Station, a drag gospel brunch at Dru’s and a competition called Midsouth Kink and Leather Sir held at the Abbey, all open to the public. The membership contains a wide range of personalities and gender definitions.
By the way, leathers for bikers have a very practical purpose. If a bike has a spill or an accident, the leathers are protection against injury. They are also protection against cold and rain. They are also very, very sexy.