2012 Leather Hall of Fame Inductee
2012 Leather Hall of Fame Inductee Guy Baldwin
GUY BALDWIN was raised in little Brighton, Colorado, among working-class Italian Catholics. Summers he wrangled horses on his uncle's guest ranch. His older sister became the distinguished clinical psychologist and pioneer in Psychodrama, Dorothy Baldwin Satten, Ph.D., author of Real Is Better Than Perfect. Guy never knew his father. Days after his high-school graduation, his mother discovered he was gay and gave him a week to move out. The year was 1965.
A week later, he rented a room at a boardinghouse in Denver, and went to work as a brakeman/switchman for the Union Pacific Railroad. A few months later, he became a page for State of Colorado's House of Representatives for one session.
By chance, he soon stumbled upon Denver's gay leather underground, and it was there he found the men and relationships he has described as his "surrogate family." "Most of them felt like dads," he wrote. "A few were downright motherly. I remember two who most resembled a couple of really crazy aunts, too."
First-generation, Old Guard leathermen is what they were, about half of them World War II veterans. Some of the same men formed Denver's first gay motorcycle club in 1968, the Rocky Mountaineers. They encouraged Guy ("relentlessly") to get more schooling and rode miles on their bikes to witness his graduation from the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he studied Anthropology and Education.
Soon afterward, his biker family made him an associate member in their new motorcycle club.
That same summer of 1972, he moved to San Francisco, "Sodom by the Bay," which was the West Coast ground zero for young leathermen delving into high-end SM sexuality. He got a job as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) with an ambulance company. A year later found him working as a credit reporter for TRW.
Not long after moving to San Francisco, Guy spotted a tiny classified ad in the back pages of The Berkeley Barb, the infamous underground newspaper, and decided to attend the advertised meeting for "fans of S and M and B and D." The group, as it turned out, gathered in the San Francisco living room of Cynthia Slater, who had begun to host a monthly "rap meeting" which she called the "Society of Janus," after the Roman God of gates and doors.
Cynthia's Society of Janus was only the second all-orientation SM political, educational, and support organization in the United States, and yet, Guy Baldwin was the first gay man to attend a Janus meeting.
Guy and Cynthia became great friends, and soon he was teaching kink related classes for Janus' members. He introduced Cynthia to his gay leather buddies, some of whom were also eager to share their skills and knowledge. It was from Guy's leather social network that the Society of Janus's first cadre of teachers emerged.
When Slater burned out from leadership stress and Janus created its first board of directors, Guy was on it.
Around the same time, in 1974, Guy and two friends created and facilitated the first-known weekly encounter/support/therapy group, specifically and exclusively for kinky gay men.
In the seventies, Guy bounced between San Francisco and Los Angeles, sometimes for love or opportunity or education. Thus, he came to know many of the trailblazing West Coast leatherfolks of the day: Jim Kane, Ike Barnes, Cynthia Slater, Dirk Dehner, Fred Halstead, Jim-Ed Thompson, Gayle Rubin, Pat Califia, Gene Webber, John Pfleiderer, Tony Perles, Jim Ward and Peter Bromilow. In 1979, while working as a night clerk at the South of Market El Dorado Hotel, he met David Stein, later of New York's GMSMA (Gay Male S/M Activists), the start of their long and tortured friendship.
Again in Los Angeles, and bored with a career as a bank executive, Guy chose a very different work path and started graduate school--preparations to become a licensed psychotherapist.
While in graduate school at the American Institute for Family Relations, he met some of the important pioneers in the de-pathologizing of homosexuality. This included Evelyn Hooker, Judd Marmor, and Robert Stoller at UCLA. Guy was invited to attend meetings of The Gender Identity Research Group founded by professor Dr. Robert Stoller at UCLA.
Open since high school as a kinky gay leatherman, while at university, Guy argued that, strictly in themselves, uncommon "kinky" erotic desires and/or sexual behaviors are not automatically proof of "mental illness."
His opinions about Sadism, Masochism and Fetishism were directly opposite from the accepted clinical dogma, treatment protocols and diagnostic policies that were standard practices in Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry at that time.
While his opinions about kink provoked intense debates at UCLA, they also helped several influential figures in the field of Human Sexuality reframe their thinking about the so called "perversions". Of those, perhaps most significantly, Dr. Robert Stoller, who went on to write the groundbreaking book, Pain and Passion, documenting the change in his own understanding of BDSM and "perversion."
In 1981, Guy received a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology and began his professional training and internship. By 1983, Guy had become the first ever publicly out, kinky and gay licensed private practice psychotherapist anywhere.
For many years after its founding in 1975, Drummer Magazine was the only global lifestyle publication serving the gay male BDSM/leather/fetish world. Drummer was our international information highway, our bulletin board and our personal-contact clearinghouse--this was long before personal computers existed.
And Guy Baldwin, now a licensed psychotherapist, was a regular and featured columnist writing about BDSM in relationships and community issues in Drummer 1986-'93.
Because some of Baldwin's kinky clients had begun to relocate, they needed referrals to continue therapy. But Guy had none to offer. So, hoping to build a network of other like-minded professionals, Guy ran a small classified ad in Drummer, asking for contact from other kink-fluent professional mental-health providers.
The response to his ad was slow but grew steadily as colleagues from the U.S. and nine countries responded to his little ad in Drummer.
Months later, the volume of responses from interested mental health professionals became more than Baldwin could handle. Race Bannon, Guy's long-time friend, took over responsibility for the management of Guy's project. Bannon rendered the data digitally and expanded the scope of the referral network by including medical, dental, and legal professionals. Then he published the expanded referral listings online. This important evolution put qualified professional help within the reach of kinky people on a global scale.
Now known as the Kink-Aware Professionals List, this important list that Baldwin birthed is managed today by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom as a free service to all (NGSFreedom.org).
During the 1987 March on Washington, D.C. for Gay and Lesbian Rights, Guy and Race Bannon launched the "DSM Project" to jump start serious review and new thinking among mental-health professionals and academics on the questions of uncommon sexualities--Kink. Similar efforts had helped set the stage for changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the "DSM") in 1973. That's when homosexuality itself was removed from the DSM as a mental illness. The effect of that change was to "cure" millions of previously "sick" homosexuals essentially overnight.
The DSM Project inspired and mobilized kink-aware mental-health professionals to supply supplemental information about BDSM to the relevant review committees of The American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the DSM.
When DSM IV was published in 1994, it included substantially revised diagnostic language and definitions. These changes made it much more difficult for mental-health professionals to automatically burden kinky people with a diagnosis of mental illness based strictly on sexual behaviors.
Guy Baldwin has been in demand since the early 1970s to serve as an educator, speaker, consultant and writer. He has crisscrossed the U.S. and Canada to present lectures, workshops and seminars about the leather and BDSM sexualities to a broad spectrum of audiences. Guy has been featured in countless TV and radio broadcasts, in periodicals and documentaries. YouTube has evidence.
But he may still be best known to readers for his monthly Drummer column on leather relationship issues, "Ties That Bind," which appeared between 1986 and 1992. Those essays and others were collected in his 1993 book, Ties That Bind, edited by Joseph Bean.
In 1993, Guy published a second book, The Leather Contest Guide, now considered the seminal work on the leather contest phenomenon, and routinely consulted by thousands of contestants, judges, titleholders and promoters.
His third book, SlaveCraft appeared in 2002, and is Guy's most controversial and possibly most influential book. It details one man's deeply personal and intimate discoveries on his journey into profound submission. Many printings later, all of Guy's books continue to speak to readers, and are considered by many to be required reading for leatherfolk today.
Arguably, Guy Baldwin's greatest impact has been as a visible public figure in the leather, kink and M/s communities. In 1998 the producers of the International Master/slave Contest in Atlanta asked Guy to design and manage the 1999 landmark first-ever two-day seminar track, comprising thirty-four classes and discussions, all focused solely on the Master/slave dynamic.
A compelling speaker, and never one to shy away from provocative issues, Guy delivered memorable keynote speeches for the Leather Leadership Conference, the International Master/slave Weekend, the National Leather Association's convention "Living in Leather," South Plains Leatherfest, the Austin Bash, L.A. Leather Weekend, Leather Traditions, and the Dominion Gathering, to name only a few. Some speeches with now-notorious titles like "Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburger" and "Rad-sex Rising Tide: Turbo-Pervo Tonic" hint at the creative mind behind his words.
His forty-five years of experience and service in the worlds of leathersex, BDSM, and M/s have made Guy Baldwin possibly the most honored leatherman who ever lived. In 1989, separate judging panels selected him as Mr. National Leather Association and then weeks later chose Baldwin to serve as the 11th International Mr. Leather. He is the only man ever to have held both titles concurrently. Guy takes pride in his long relationship both with IML, the event, and with its late producer, Chuck Renslow. In 2000, the Leather Archives & Museum gave Guy the accolade "Centurion," naming him one of the twenty most important contributors to leather/BDSM in the 20th Century.
In 2002, the Chicago Hellfire Club honored Guy with a special citation and medal for Outstanding Brotherhood and Leadership, in recognition of the emergency professional assistance he gave to so many at Hellfire's annual gathering known as "Inferno" in 2001, during the 2001, 9-11 terrorist attacks and the following "no-fly days," until the men attending the event could return to their homes across the U.S. and abroad. In 2004, on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary celebration, the Society of Janus established its Hall of Fame; Guy was one of the first three inducted.
Guy has received both the Pantheon and Dominion Lifetime Achievement Awards, for service to erotically different people and communities. In 2008, he was honored with the Pantheon Forebear Award and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force's third-ever Leather Leadership Award. And in 2009, the Master/slave Conference held in Washington, D.C. created the Guy Baldwin Master/slave Heritage Award: Guy himself was the first recipient.
What any listing of Guy's achievements will never include--and this summary is far from complete-- is the presidency or chairmanship or directorship of any club, organization or foundation. His stature, his authority, his recognition as a leader and spokesman proceed from no membership in any official group nor from any member-elected position but solely from his personal qualities - his insight, eloquence, and courage.
For Guy Baldwin is that rarest, maybe most important kind of leader: he has changed the world not by telling anyone what to do, but by telling us the truth as he discovers it.