South Bay Leather and Uniform Group

South Bay Leather and Uniform Group (SLUG) had their founders meeting in September of 1988. Don Queen, David Carranza, John Esqueda and his partner Todd, Rafael Montejo and his partner Stan, and Jill and her partner, were the founders. SLUG was started as a social club for the leather community. 

Graylin Thornton was new to the leather community in 1993.  Graylin was about 26 years old when he, along with others, hosted the first Leather Pride Festival in San Jose. Shortly after this, Graylin became the first African American man to win the title of International Mr. Drummer in San Francisco. 

The Drummer contest, now known as International Leather Sir/Boy, spanned a diverse range of fetish communities and included rubber, leather, and cowboys.

Since that early win, Thornton went on to receive the Leather Leadership Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as well as a Pantheon Award from the Leather Journal.

“We don’t do these things for ourselves as leaders, we do them for the community itself,” he said. “And I think that the younger people who are coming up … need to understand that you don’t just go to a beer bust and do one event. You keep going because you’ll always be a part of that community.”

But due to the toll of HIV/AIDS on the leather community over the years, Thornton said, “many younger members aren’t able to look up to as many role models as previous generations have. When I was 25 and 30, I had people there steering me the whole way,” he said. “Unfortunately, they don’t really have that. So those of us who are 50, 55, have to mentor our younger people.”

Mentorship was a key component of Thornton’s entrance to the community, and it still plays an important role.

SLUG disbanded in the mid-1990s, but the group Santa Clara County Leather Association(SCCLA) took its place. SCCLA still hosts leather nights at Renegades.

Read more about Graylin and the Leather Community here:

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