The More Things Change: A Look Back
By Ray M.

From NewsLink, Winter 1998-99

Wednesday, November 11: I'm here tonight for the program on "Boots, Boots, Boots." I have arrived a bit early and sit in the back of the room at the "temporary" Center and find time to observe the many GMSMA members filling up the space. Obviously, they have come prepared for the topic of the night—looking forward to another fine presentation by Mark I. Chester—because at least four out of five men (and tonight, women, as this is one of two programs a year open to women) wear glistening boots of all kinds. Appropriate and kinda nice!

I am also struck by the whole atmosphere this night at the Center, here in the fall of 1998, and cannot help but compare it to a meeting in 1981, seventeen years ago, when GMSMA was in its first year and was unknown outside of a handful of gay men in New York City.

Tonight these leathermen stride in so comfortably and seem so at ease not only with their appearance (many in full leather) but also with their common commitment to s/m. The room is noisy and busy: entrance fees are being collected at the large welcoming table (loaded with colorful handouts), and various GMSMA officers and committee chairmen are circulating, conducting last-minute business before the announcements and the presentation begin. There are important and interesting things going on. The room is bright. And most people know each other. If one thing is evident, it's the spirit of camaraderie—it's a friendly place to be. There is nothing intimidating about this gathering. No inhibitions here. After all, it's been a long time since the s/m closet has been ripped off its hinges here in Gotham and around the country, due in large part—thank you!—to our organization.

I wish you were there in the early days. Then, perhaps, you could appreciate the immense leaps we have made not only as a group but also as s/m individuals. Did you know, for instance, that we were first known as "SM/NY (pronounced Samny): The Gay Male S/M Support Group." That name was abandoned rather quickly, and it became "The New York Gay Men's S/M Support Group." Finally, in January 1981, we became "Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA)."

I recall one of my first meetings. It was not fa