The third annual Atlanta Leather Pride takes center stage at the Eagle this weekend with extra oomph this year: the gay leather/levi bar’s 25th anniversary. Here’s a primer on how the uninitiated and curious can gear up for it.

Leather groups from around the Southeast will descend on gay Atlanta for three days of events. There is Friday’s kickoff party in anticipation of a big weekend. Saturday sees the Leather Barbecue Beer Bust and the main event: the crowning of Mr. and Ms. Atlanta Eagle 2012. Yup, after an 11-year hiatus, the “Ms.” title returns to the competition. Check out photo galleries from the “Mr.” contests (top photo) of 2010 and 2011.

The Sweat Victory Party follows the contest, and the Dutch Treat Leather Brunch takes place on Sunday at Roxx. Donations from the weekend celebration will be given to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom Foundation. Jungle also provides an alternative pitstop for leather weekenders with Saturday night’s Ruff party with DJ Martin Fry, too.

That’s all fine and good for you leather veterans, but for those who’ve always been curious, we thought we’d take a closer look at everything you always wanted to know about gay leather but were afraid to ask.

Is it all about the outfit?

No. Leather is a state of mind. “Leather” can be considered a catch-all phrase for the ways in which leather people approach and incorporate their personal kinks and sexual freedom into their lives and relationships. Wearing leather is not required, but it is pretty common.

What kind of relationships are we talking about, exactly?

Common terms include Top/bottom, or the doer and the done-to; Dominant/submissive (“D/s”), a power exchange interaction; Daddy/boy (&“boi”), a D/s relationship where often the boy has some input; Handler/pup, generally a playful relationship; Master/slave, a control/obedience dynamic in which the slave strives to conform to the Master’s will; and Polyamorous (“poly”), also known as multi-member families. Want more? The Nine Degrees Of Submission can help discern nuances, including that submissives can choose to whom they offer their submission. They do not have to be submissive to all Doms.

Who can play?

“The leather community really branches to a broad spectrum, so it’s always been and continues to be so accepting and tolerant of just about everybody,” says Robby Kelley, co-owner of the Atlanta Eagle. “That’s also how we feel about the Eagle and making it 25 years. When we bought the bar [15 years ago in April], we bought the bar that we loved.”

So what do leather people ‘do’ together?

Like this weekend’s Leather Pride events and Jungle’s Ruff party, it’s not all about sex but community and mutual support. But when it does come to sex and stimulating activity, your imagination – and what you’ve agreed to consensually – are the only limits, from mild to wild. We found San Diego’s Officer Wes, who provides a few suggestions to whet your appetite: animal roles, ball torture, biting, flogging, blindfolds, body worship, bondage, gags, boot worship, uniforms, breath control, incarceration, collars, cowboys, dildos, enemas, haircuts (flat-tops, marine high-n-tights, etc.), gas masks, interrogations and latex… Actually, yes, we could go on.

What’s all this about a hanky code and other ‘flags’?

Flagging – with key chains, armbands and handkerchiefs – let people know what you’re looking for. Wearing gear on the left means “top,” right means “bottom.” In the leather world, the “hanky code” still often applies, too: Black = SM, Gray = bondage, Hunter green = Daddy/boy. And word to the wise: If he’s wearing a collar, he’s probably taken.

Should you worry about the infamous Eagle raid?

No, silly. In fact, with all the heat the city’s taken and money it’s doled out over the Atlanta police debacle, the Eagle may be the safest gay bar in town. “It’s an incredibly nice feeling to know we survived, stayed on our feet and keep paying our bills,” Kelley says. “There’s been times that are tough with the economy and troubles over the raid, but our loyal customers have made it a real joy.”

Where can you find more information?

Check out Caryl’s BDSM Page, Leather Views and Leatherati.