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Turns out, if you want comedian Margaret Cho to host the first online rendition of the kink and leather communities’ largest annual gathering in the world, all you have to do is ask.
At least, that’s what Folsom Street Fair’s interim director Angel Adeyoha did to bag the Bay Area icon for this year’s Sunday proclivities. The world’s largest kink and leather community celebration can’t take over the streets of SoMa as in years past, but they will be doing their darndest to bring that “bounty of amazingness” to your bedroom, bathroom or backyard.
Cho and her co-hosts, burlesque star Alotta Boutté and Mr. San Francisco Leather 2010 Lance Holman, will be green-screened into any and all of the 13 “compelling, titillating, and heartfelt” virtual spaces for leather daddies, bootblacks, puppies, exhibitionists and the fervently curious to explore, interact and show off their truest selves unashamed.
“It’s a sensory overload of an experience,” Adeyoha says. “I won’t say it’s not limiting, to switch to a few senses from all of them. People will miss the smells.”
The virtual aspect has allowed for collaborations unconstrained by land and sea; artists and kinksters from as far as the United Kingdom and Australia will be contributing art, performing music, or just attending. There will be lounges, chat rooms, and panels like “Ask a Kink Educator” by Wicked Grounds Annex and an appearance by the organizers of the Atlanta-based sexuality conference Sex Down South.
Adeyoha took up the mantle of Folsom executive director a mere two weeks before shelter-in-place was declared, after some “soul-searching” about how to best serve a community upheaved by the pandemic. As a “planner” and FSF attendee with no absences since 1996, they knew they had to step in to “keep the candle burning.”
“We’re not creators of the space, we are stewards and if people don’t come, it doesn’t work. I’ve done a lot of online events in the last six months,” Adeyoha reflects. “I’ve been studying the ‘ingredients’ that make it great. And it’s connection, seeing and being seen, representation.”
Molly Millions, founder of Daughters of Medusa leather club and host of the virtual bootblack stand this year, would have to agree. Born in Vallejo but with an adolescence spent in Oakland and Berkeley, Millions “dipped her toes” into the world of leather and kink with a former partner. It is, in her own words, “the thing that makes me feel best about myself intimately.”
Her 20s would show her that this was the world she was meant to live in, when she began attending parties at the SF Citadel, a social club for those looking to explore their kink with other consenting adults.
“A lot of people have that feeling about religion, they feel lost and they have an awakening, a ‘come to Jesus’ moment,” she says. “I really had that with attending events at the Citadel.”
That feeling amplified when she began attending Folsom Street Fair, and she credits the support of the FSF community specifically for empowering her to come out as a trans woman. Her club, Daughters of Medusa, was founded less than a year ago with Teagan, a fellow trans woman and winner of International Ms. Bootblack 2018, to create and hold space for trans women and assigned-male-at-birth nonbinary people to express and explore their affinity for leather, kink and community.
“There’s a lot of leather organizations that are very gendered,” she says. “We felt there was a spot that maybe needed to be addressed, opened up.”
After more than 100 people attended their virtual booth at the Up Your Alley event back in July, Millions saw how much people needed connection and how they could evoke it without having to leave their homes. “For as much as COVID has thrown a wrench in the world operation system, this is providing new methods and things we could never do before, and that is drastically positive,” she says.
Daughters of Medusa will be hosting a bootblack booth, broadcasted live for the Folsom audience 12–6 p.m. Sunday, where leather enthusiasts will have their wares cleaned and preserved properly to ensure a lifetime of wear and titillation.
Millions also highly encourages everyone to register and vote this fall in all upcoming elections, from presidential to local district.
If you’re still hankering for some salacious entertainment by nightfall, Dixie De La Tour has a solution: the Bawdy Storytelling afterparty.
The idea came to her roughly 14 years ago, when De La Tour was producing sex parties. She went to a storytelling open-mic night and loved it, but she knew her brand of stories “were far too racy” for a regular coffee shop or kid-friendly venue. So she started her own. Turns out, people love hearing other people talk about sex.
“We want you to be uncensored, you can tell us who you really are,” she says. As a story coach, she sees her role working with the orators as “helping people get in touch with what the story is really about for them.”
The Verdi Club in San Francisco has been Bawdy’s go-to venue for almost a decade, and De La Tour has taken the show on the road to L.A., Chicago, NYC, Baltimore, Boston and Portland. When shelter-in-place was announced in March, De La Tour began her research; she wasn’t going to bring it online “unless it’s really good.”
Online Bawdy Storytelling performances began again in April, and have revved up to twice a month. While guests may not be able to play dirty Bingo, called “Bang-O,” or order cocktails with names like “the ethical slut,” they will still get a taste of the relatability that may have been missing these last six months.
“It’s like therapy,” De La Tour says, and although she’ll insist she’s not a therapist, it’s clear what she’s doing is cathartic. “Who you are is just great. Don’t change for anyone. It’s about sex and kink, but it’s mostly about being accepted.”
Folsom Street Fair 2020 officially kicks off at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, streaming from their site until 6 p.m.
Folsom Street Fair is a nonprofit that operates on a shoestring budget to prioritize paying performers and donating to local organizations that serve our marginalized communities.
Text FOLSOM2020 to 345345 to donate to their fundraising campaign or click here to ensure that they can continue to bring this one-of-a-kind experience to people in and beyond the Bay Area.