A Letter from the Incoming Board Chair

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Folsom Street East was the first pride event I ever attended back in 1999, and it has remained one of the high points of my social calendar ever since.  (That’s me on the left with a friend at the 2005 event —  young, dumb, and full of shaving cream.)  I’ve been involved in the fair in one capacity or another for most of its history, and for most of my own history as an out kinky gay man.  When I was invited to join the board in late 2012, I naturally jumped at the chance. So you can imagine my disappointment in joining the board’s decision to cancel last summer’s street fair.

The cancellation of the 2013 fair urged along some thoughtful conversations already going on among the board members about the community we serve.  We spent our efforts during the 2013 pride season getting to know you better.  Over 400 of you responded to our online community survey, a new thing for Folsom East and a rarity within leather/fetish/kink communities.  The data we gathered about you is helping shape a host of new initiatives (this revamped website among them) to keep you better informed about the work we do and the organizations we support.

The anonymous survey data has also been shared with the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago, so that researchers and community leaders around the globe can benefit from what we’ve learned.  Big thanks to Rick Storer and all at the Archives for their support, and to all of you who participated for contributing your time and your feedback.

Other, less fortunate events last summer were a strong reminder of how essential our beneficiaries are to the health of New York’s community.  At the moment when we were celebrating our fellow New Yorker Edie Windsor’s watershed civil rights victory in Washington, our sense of security here at home was challenged by a string of bias attacks, some culminating in deadly violence. 

Despite full legal recognition of our relationships, we still need resources to protect ourselves, our neighbors, and the ones we love from harm.  The LGBT Community Center, the Anti-Violence Project, Housing Works, and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom are among a host of organizations which help to provide these services, and our support of them is as essential now as it was back when I attended my first Folsom Street East fifteen years ago.  I’m proud to say that, with your help, Folsom Street East has been able to grant these groups over $50,000 in our last three fiscal years.

Just as essential to our well-being are places to gather and celebrate our vital sexual culture.  In 2013, we partnered with a number of local businesses who produced a leather bar crawl, a tea dance, and a play party in support of our beneficiaries.  A huge thanks to the Eagle NYC, Julius’, Stonewall, Ty’s, Rockbar, and Paddles for helping further our cause this past year.  We welcome opportunities to partner with sponsors on other events going forward; send email to info@folsomstreeteast.com and let us know what you have in mind.

Last but certainly not least among our gathering places, the street fair will return to Chelsea in June 2014.  Preparations are already well underway.  I couldn’t be prouder to be supporting the team that’s bringing it back, but I’m proudest of all of you.  Your time, energy and enthusiasm are what makes the fair not only possible but sexy and fun, and what keeps New York the raw, weird, wonderful place we call home.  If you want to have a hand in the 2014 street fair, shoot a message to volunteers@folsomstreeteast.com.

Yours in brotherhood, in service, and in gear,

Matt Johnson, Board Chair, Folsom Street East