John Payne is the lord (president) of the Leather Knights of Dallas and has been a member of the organization since 1999. A native of Wichita, Kan., Payne moved to Dallas in 1977. He currently works for a national cellular phone company and lives in Oak Cliff with his partner of 18 years, David Henry, co-chair of NLA Dallas, and his dog Genghis. The Leather Knights and the Dallas Eagle are sponsoring Christmas drives benefiting the adult residences of AIDS Services of Dallas.

Donations can be made at the Dallas Eagle through Dec. 21.

What is the Leather Knights of Dallas and what do they do?
The Leather Knights is a group of men and women in the leather community with the mission to serve the needs of AIDS-related charities such as AIDS Services of Dallas, the Resource Center, AIN, and Legacy Founders Cottage. We conduct six charity events a year each benefitting a different organization. Our Web site is  

How did you get the title lord of the Leather Knights?
The Leather Knights like most clubs has a board of officers. We give our officers titles reminiscent of knights of old such as lord for president, chancellor for vice president, and exchequer for treasurer. I was elected by the members of the club to serve as lord for the last two years. I have served in some capacity on the board for the last six years.

Can you tell me about the gift card drive your organization is hosting?
We traditionally do a toy drive for the kids at ASD. This year, one of the church sponsors donated enough gifts for all the kids. So ASD asked the Leather Knights to sponsor a drive to get gift cards for its 130 adult residents, so the adults and their families can have a Christmas, too. The adult residents, due to their illness, cannot work and provide for their own families, so ASD does what it can.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your organization and the leather movement as a whole?
The biggest misconception about our club is that we are a BDSM sex club. I think outside our community as well, the belief is that the leather community is just rough sex groups.

How is your organization working to correct that misconception?
The Leather Knights and other clubs such as NLA-Dallas do what we can to educate and demonstrate through our actions that we are a community with a loving and caring heart, and to promote safe, sane and consensual sex. With our fundraisers, we have a party type atmosphere that promotes inclusiveness and does some good for the LGBT community. Our meetings are every third Wednesday at the Dallas Eagle in the back bar at 7:30 p.m., and everyone is invited to attend.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 19, 2008.