At its annual meeting on April 13th of this year, the board of directors of Butchmanns Inc. resolved by vote to “consciously explore releasing Butchmanns’ major divisions to interested, willing, and capable parties, with a commitment to dissolve Butchmanns Inc. in the next two years or sooner, while protecting the Butchmanns legacy and responsibly disposing of its assets.”
The journey has spanned more than twenty-five years. The man known then as Master Steve commenced organizing informal sex and BDSM weekends for gay men in the 1990s, calling them “Butchmanns” gatherings (which later, in more structured form, became “Advanced Butchmanns” and “Butchmanns Academy”).
Consensual Master/slave dynamics at the time were few, ill-defined, and poorly understood. Masters And slaves Together (MAsT) was in its infancy. The connection between sex, BDSM, and spirituality was just beginning to be articulated in the leather/kink scene, most consistently by Master Steve and those he invited to join him: SlaveMaster in Palm Desert, Master Skip in Palm Springs, and Mistress Catrina of the Arizona Power Exchange (APEX) in Phoenix, whose influence led Butchmanns to develop women’s and pansexual weekends.
By 2003, “Butchmanns Academy,” with its still-evolving curriculum, had become the “APEX Butchmanns Experience,” headquartered in Phoenix, and the Southwest Leather Conference was launched to host the first regional “feeder” for the International Master/slave Contest. Butchmanns Inc. was incorporated in November of 2004, and in April of 2006 the IRS granted it 501(c)3 non-profit status. The following year, Butchmanns Inc. took MAsT-International, struggling at the time, under its 501(c)3 umbrella; by 2015, MAsT had achieved the stability to re-incorporate independently. The Leather Tribe Quilt, first conceived in 2005 in the ever-fertile mind of Master Steve, made its first official appearance in 2007 at SouthEast LeatherFest; it has since become too large (and heavy) to display in one place.
It may surprise some to learn that the mission statement of Butchmanns Inc. says nothing about leather or BDSM. It declares, first and foremost, that Butchmanns is a “non-profit educational organization dedicated to self-actualization and the ending of suffering.” It goes on to assert that Butchmanns “facilitates and fosters spiritual growth and transformation by providing grants and educational opportunities to those often wrongfully stigmatized for their sexual expression, non-traditional relationships and/or unconventional spiritual practices.”
Spirit, then, was written into Butchmanns Inc. from the beginning. Any money it collected in excess of program expenses was donated to such charities as the Leather Heart Foundation, Rainbow Railroad, the Science of BDSM project, Edgewalkers, the Carter-Johnson Library, the LA&M, IMsL, NCSF, Trout Lake Abbey, the McAdory Fund of the Chicago Hellfire Club — over $50,000 in grants and scholarships. And nearly a third of the registrations for Butchmanns Experience weekends have been free, awarded as scholarships.
It is with both some sadness and a sense of pride that the board has decided to close Butchmanns’ history by 2021 and take steps to leave the Experience, the Leather Quilt, the Southwest Leather Conference and Southwest M/s Contest in good hands. The community conversation about sex, spirit, BDSM, and M/s has been much expanded and elaborated since Butchmanns began, and we are pleased to have played a part in advancing it.