I hear people talking constantly and in a profile about being "in a Leather family" or Leather community. My question is simple but I know the answer is not. What does "in a leather family" mean? What is Leather? I know where it started, but what does it mean in today's BDSM society?
Thank you for your help
That's a great question and one that has fluctuated and evolved throughout recent history. Since I have not researched leather family history or leather history I can only give you what my thoughts and impressions are as well as what I have picked up from others in my time within the BDSM community. I'll also include links that I've found online that talk about Leather and the Leather community.
First, what does it mean when someone marks on their profile that they are in a leather family? Well, that depends on what people with that in their profile think it means to them. For most, I've seen it used when a group of people who have a D/s or BDSM relationship with all or most of the others in the "family". For others, I've seen it used as a designation for people who have a similar belief system and opinion on BDSM topics and safety mantras.
But what does it really mean? It means that the people in this family have a mutual respect and protocol within this group. They could have a formal handbook or verbal by-laws or nothing of the kind. They've agreed to function as a family. Here's the definition from the BDSM Glossary Group on FetLife:
A grouping of three or more individuals in a relationship; usually (not always) living together. Can be organized around any number of relationship structures, including leather, polyamorous, polygamous, or “traditional” family with a daddy, mommy, and age-playing “children.” The structure can be informal and fluid, or rigid and well-defined. Usually headed by a paternal Dominant, male or female. Can be similar or the same to a Clan, Pack, or House, household
Where it came from, in my understanding, is the gay BDSM community. For this, I'd rather defer to the resources that I've found that talk about Leather History and its origins. As I said I'm not an expert in this so I'll send you to these.