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National Leather Association-Houston Celebrates Community Service

Members preview their April 9 Spirit of Leather Awards.

National Leather Association-Houston organizers Robert Conn (l-r, clockwise), Christopher Daniel, Loyd Powell, and Nina Nicolas (photos by Alex Rosa for OutSmart magazine). 

The National Leather Association–Houston (NLA-H), an advocacy organization founded in 1991, is hosting its tenth annual awards event in Houston this weekend. These awards are given to recognize the people, businesses, and organizations in Houston that personify the values of honor and community service that NLA-H members live by. All are welcome to attend the event on April 9 and learn a bit more about the oft-misunderstood leather community. 

“The tenth anniversary of anything is always considered a milestone. I think this milestone shows that people value the honor of these awards. This tenth year also follows a couple of very difficult years for our world. This year’s award winners should stand out as examples of individuals, organizations, and businesses that found ways to be of service during a very difficult time,” says Loyd Powell, 64, a longtime member of NLA-H.

The Spirit of Leather award categories include Bar of the Year, Business of the Year, Social Organization and Charitable Organization of the Year, Leather Event of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, Fossil of the Year, and the coveted Individual Spirit of Leather Award. Any person, business, or organization in the Houston area can be nominated for these awards.  

According to Powell, this year’s awards will celebrate those who found ways to excel in the face of adversity. “Unfortunately, COVID hit us so quickly that we felt we could not have a successful nomination and voting process last year. The return of the awards this year is a positive sign that life goes on and people get stronger through adversity.” 

Powell is quick to explain why these awards and this organization are so important to its members and the community. “I remember feeling a strange apprehension before my first time in a leather bar. I was certain that the bar would be so dark that I couldn’t see who was there, and that I would be held down and painfully abused. I think that is [a common] misconception. I’m so happy to say that it only took about two minutes to learn otherwise.” 

NLA-H president Robert Conn also wants to dispel misconceptions about the leather community. “Part of our mission statement is to educate not only people who are interested in leather, but the community as a whole,” Conn says. “One of the reasons why we have Spirit of Leather awards is so that we can celebrate who we are and also get that information out to other people.”

Powell agrees. “Let us tell you about our leather family. See how we treat each other and how we show compassion to others. Check our reputation in the community and find out what charitable work we do.” 

NLA-H currently has 19 members and 2 pledges who intend to fully join the group. Many of their events—group dinners, a day at the park or the zoo, or a cookout—are family oriented. This is in addition to the more celebratory events like Spring Iniquity or the Spirit of Leather Awards Dinner. 

There are also community-service fundraising events for the Montrose Center, the Red Ribbon Toy Drive at Christmas, and their partnership with the Thomas Street Clinic that includes serving Thanksgiving meals to clients of the clinic.  

Historically, the leather community was male centric, Powell notes. “As the years have passed, women who identify as lesbians and gay women have slowly been accepted into the community. I think that the recognition and acceptance of pansexual relationships has really helped move the leather community into a time of total acceptance of all genders,” Powell says.

Nina Nicolas, NLA-H’s vice president, says her experience being involved in the organization has been empowering and affirming. “It’s been wonderful because it has given me the opportunity to show the leather community that women can have a role in it. Of all the groups in Houston, I believe NLA-H is the most diverse. There are still some groups who won’t allow women in. NLA-H is open, has been there, and has been great for my development as a leather person.” 

NLA-H members want folks to know that their organization and community is a family focused on supporting each other and the community they live in. 

“I think it is important to share with you that NLA-Houston is a family. We make mistakes and sometimes we fail, but we are always there to lift each other up and make things right,” Powell concludes. “Our leather family is part of a leather community in a great big leather universe. Come on in, the water is warm!” 

What: Tenth Annual Spirit of Leather Awards Dinner
When: April 9 at 6:30 p.m. 
Where: The Montrose Center, 401 Branard St.
Tickets: nlahoustontx.org/events/spring-iniquity-hsol

NLA-H was established in 1991 as an organization dedicated to empowering and defending individuals, organizations, publications, and businesses within the leather, BDSM, and fetish communities against threats to their freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right of free association, and right to equal protection under the law.

OutSmart recently asked members of the local leather group to share their thoughts on what the organization means to them. 

Robert Conn


“This is an environment where you know you’re going to be protected and you know you’re going to be safe. We’re a family. That’s how we treat each other. It’s all-encompassing. We watch out for each other.” 

Nina Nicholas

Vice President 

“NLA-H has given me the chance to show that even though I’m a woman, I can be part of the leather community—a part of the brotherhood. I can advocate for what leather has always stood for, which is to serve the disenfranchised people of our community.”

Christopher Daniel


“Leather is part of our life. It’s our heart and our head. We always think about it, and we always watch each other’s backs.”

Loyd Powell


“For me personally, the leather community is a group of individuals that share common values of honor and a desire to serve their community. The leather community is known for sharing its knowledge and teaching others how to enjoy the familial relationships that are so easily built when you are confident that you can trust the people you share part of your life with.” 


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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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