Hosts Leo Herrera’s Emmy-Winning ‘The Fathers Project’

SAN FRANCISCO—Can anyone imagine what today’s world—or at least the gay community—would be like if HIV had never existed? Well, director Leo Herrera’s Emmy-winning docuseries, The Fathers Project, imagines just that scenario. The fictional documentary imagines a world preparing for the 2020 election of gay activist Vito Russo, a politically potent leather community and—in the series’ latest installment—Robert Mapplethorpe surpassing the Kardashians on Instagram!

However, having been faced with increased censorship on social media, Herrera realized that he could no longer reach an audience—so the director turned to fetish entertainment giant

“Since Fathers began, it’s gotten very difficult to express yourself as a queer artist in the town square we call social media,” writes Herrera in an op-ed on Slate. “Every step in producing Fathers has been a battle with ‘community guidelines’ on all of these platforms.”

Herrera says, no matter how SFW he made an episode, he was unable to please platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Herrera filmed the fourth installment at actual leather events across the United States, and was given unprecedented access to communities that rarely allow documentation.

“In an episode that opens with Robert Mapplethorpe’s Instagram, shooting there was a no-brainer,” explained Herrera. “Faced with the choice of releasing only a heavily censored clip, I decided to do what Daddy Robert would have done and say, ‘Fuck it.’ The adult site stepped in to distribute the uncensored episode for free, giving the project full artistic freedom.”

The full series is available at A KQED “Behind The Lens” feature on Herrera and The Fathers Project recently won a Northern California Emmy.

“Queer spaces online are disappearing, and even the online spaces we have are becoming more restrictive, more closeted,” assessed Vice President Matt Slusarenko. “Gay acceptance may have gone mainstream, but gay sexuality remains as difficult and controversial a topic for corporate America as it ever was. And on social media, topics like sex work, BDSM and fetish are relentlessly censored, which means that activism, fundraising, awareness, health and education related to those topics are censored as well. That’s why it was so important for Kink to find a way to support this episode of The Fathers’ Project, and make sure it could be seen by the community.”

Herrera’s edited version is available on Vimeo. To view the full uncensored episode, visit