New Jersey Leather Weekend

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New Jersey Leather Weekend at Paradise Nightclub in Asbury Park
New Jersey Leather Weekend at Paradise Nightclub in Asbury Park. Photos by Sherri Rase.

NJ Leather Weekend was dark and stormy in late March with waves crashing on the shore, yet inside Paradise in the historic Empress Hotel, the competition was HOT. Steven Martinez (Pup Yellow) and Beth Bicoastal were crowned Mr. and Ms. NJ Leather 2024. Now, only a month or so into their reign, they are hard at work building community all over New Jersey and representing the Garden State at events up and down the East Coast.

Pup Yellow has been part of the leather community for 8 years, and part of the puppy community for 12 years. Pup play started historically as “pet role play” in the kink community. Martinez started as a furry when he was in college, and then his best friend introduced him to the pup play community and how it dovetailed with role play.

Martinez discovered that the definition of what pup play was turned out to be a neat fit for him and his personality. “I went to my first Sinner Sunday, where I met Daddy Sal and Daddy Dion and was introduced to the leather community. Since then I have participated in community events and competitions.”

Martinez plans to bring leather socials down to southern New Jersey which he considers to be below Exit 78 on the Garden State Parkway. There’s very little for the leather community happening in that area and below. He also wants to host outdoor socials in the open air and get people out under the sun and stars.

Beth Bicoastal also wants to take some events further south. She says being outdoors is part of what contributes to the popularity of the cigar social events at The 244 Spot in South Amboy. She will seek event space venues to host some fun for the community.

Martinez represented the NJ Leather family in Virginia at their leather contest. “The contest itself was spectacular and this was the first time they had ever held a Ms. Leather contest [there]. What a great time to be there,” he said. Martinez made connections with the Night Hawks, who are the predominant club down in Virginia. “The Virginia leather community is very passionate and the women are very big participants in the work there,” he said. Martinez was energized by this, and with his passion for education, especially for medical professionals, he’s getting even more ideas.

Lifelong learning is something he’d like to include in events, bridging the history and the newest practices for all. Including nonbinary and new people will be a key part of the mission as well.

Beth Bicoastal grew up in New Jersey, and later moved to San Francisco. Hanging out at Powerhouse, SF Eagle, and all of the places South of Market (SOMA), she used her experience as a bartender and underground event organizer in New Jersey to get access into queer kink spaces in San Francisco. She was a behind-closed-doors BDSM practitioner, and the scene was predominantly men when she first moved out there. She did a lot of private parties and she’s a keen observer.

She was present, engaging, and friendly and was asked to more and more parties. She believes that why she was successful gaining entry where other women had trouble is because she respected the players and protocol, showed up to help, and educated herself on who the historic figures were in the community.

Post—COVID, Bicoastal believes the challenge is to get people out of their pods, or family groups, that we had during the lockdown. She wants to breathe some air into spaces that may be more welcoming now than four years ago. The other edge of this sword, for Bicoastal, is that money is tight these days. “When people can just show up to an event, that’s great. Bars need to make money and people also need to be part of a community, so let’s work together.”

New Jersey Leather Weekend at Paradise Nightclub in Asbury Park
New Jersey Leather Weekend at Paradise Nightclub in Asbury Park. Photos by Sherri Rase

Bicoastal is predicting an uptick in community engagement with more people gathering and willing to go out, the rise of mocktails, and people wanting to reconnect with the physical world. Bicoastal would also like to see a Pup title included for NJ Leather Weekend and while competition and education is important, finding the space for a play party would be a great way to add spice to the weekend.

Bicoastal is a regular at many of the bars and spaces in Asbury Park and not all of them include the leather events they host in their flyers. “I had a hard time as someone who’s a heavy hitter in the BDSM community in San Francisco even finding the places where kink happens,” she says. “Communication and new spaces are ways to expand. Also, revisiting places where events had been in the past and renewing those relationships could be valuable.”

Bicoastal has been married to her husband since 2017 after being together for two years before that. They have two daughters, Charlie (4 years old) and Frankie (17 months). “It’s fun to be a mother of little ones as people don’t expect it in this community. If anything, I need the scene more now than even before I had kids!” she said. “When we had our first child, I was hosting karaoke nights and events in SOMA up through the last week of my pregnancy, and I would joke on the mic, ‘I bottomed one time…’”

Martinez says to find yourself, you grow up little by little to take your first steps. “The journey that we go on is how we grow into our kinks. Kids are finding kinks too quickly or too early and I wish they would take their time a bit more, to enjoy the journey. You need to branch out or you don’t grow. If you’re in your 20s, your development can get arrested if you don’t have a community to share with and grow.”

Education is key. Bicoastal says, “Ageism definitely exists within the kink community, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve seen predatory behaviors from elders and naïve behaviors from youth. I have mostly seen ageism in the male community from both elders and younger men. There are those who are daddies who only want to play with youth and younger men who want to play with daddies, for example.

Women seem more egalitarian though it does happen there as well.

“It’s wild when I think of where we come from. I thought I knew everything at 18 and now I have a different take, different roles, terminology, etc. The 30s and 40s may be a transitional generation so I’ll let you know how I feel after 50.” And all of this is tied to a collective past, Beth says.

I’m big on people’s stories and I’m starting to work on an Asbury Park Stories project with a great committee to make sure our important history is recorded for future generations. Queer history is dying fast, quite literally, and we need to know where we come from. There was a voice in my head when I entered this contest whether I should be taking this on. And my voice said ‘Yes’.”

Martinez and Bicoastal will be at IML, cigar socials, and more, so make sure you get on their mailing list. April showers may bring May flowers, but where Mr. and Ms. NJ Leather 2024 are concerned: Let. It. Reign.