International Mr Leather
It’s Monday of a long weekend in May, and we are home from Chicago. We went up on Saturday morning early, about 300 miles, and stayed the night, then headed home on Sunday.
We didn’t get to the contest itself, though I had been previously. In 2008, I saw Gary Iriza win, and in 2013, I saw Andy Cross win. This year, Ralph Brunneau won. He’s not someone I know, though I knew about a dozen of the contestants, and I knew about a quarter of the top 20.
Two of the hometown guys went, and one of them did make top 20. It was great to see Daddy Jeff representing Kentucky; I’m only sorry that Jody wasn’t there right by his side.
International Mr Leather had a huge class this year, 63 in total, IML is probably one of the easiest contests to get to, if you are male, simply because so many contests feed into it. Some are bar contests titles, some are state or regional titles, some are city titles, some represent businesses or clubs. Some have been around for years, some are much newer.
International Mr Bootblack, however, was a small class, with only three, and only one coming in with a title. Pawlish, the winner, actually lives in the Cincinnati area, though I’ve not met him yet, but I imagine our paths will cross somewhere along the way.
This class had a lot of firsts – the oldest contestant, a lovely gentleman named John who finished in the top 20. His title is a new one, Mr Classic Leather, and I know the guys who produce it, so they were very happy with that result. The winner is 63, the oldest IML. The first transgender man of color was also in the top 20.
There was also an Iraq war veteran who made the podium, Geoff Millard, the first runner up. One of the top 20, Mr Michigan Leather, Kenn Kennedy is on the autism spectrum.
Before we arrived, there had been an incident with one of the judges, the International Ms Leather from 2014, Patty Patty, when she and her wife were accosted in an elevator by a man who had unpleasant things to say about women in general. The most disheartening part of it, I think, for many of us was that none of the other men spoke up.
I am assuming that it was a group of men who knew each other because it makes me feel better, personally, and also because I’ve always believed that if I were in that kind of situation that the men around me would speak up for me, and I still believe that. Maybe the good thing about it was how many men heard about it, and were outraged on behalf of them.
I’ve had generally good experiences in the Leather community, but I’ve had bad ones, too. I’ve been “bumped” into hard enough to rock a bar stool without an apology, I’ve heard snide comments about tacos and the smell of fish in the bar, I’ve been unable to get a drink despite standing at the bar patiently for 20 minutes with a $20 in between my fingers while others were waited on. I’ve been told I couldn’t come into a bar, or told that my group, which included women, wasn’t welcome for that reason.
Most of those men, though, really weren’t Leather men. They were probably gay, but in the same way that not all women are allies of women, not all gay men are allies of women, either. I do still believe that Leather men would not have stood silent, not the ones I know. If I’m wrong, I hope I don’t find out.
In any case, our reception throughout was 180 degrees different. We were greeted warmly, often with squeals, sometimes even when we didn’t know them.
We had Mr Barracks take his photo with us, because he “loved Leather women;” later on a pair of fairly drunk guys found us and hugged us, told us how happy they were we were here, how much they loved us, and kissed our hands. On the down side, in addition to drunk they were slobbery, so we did have to Curell our hands after, but the thought was sweet.
I think a lot of the men did want to assure us that, in fact, they would NOT just stay silent in a situation like that. I think, maybe, some of them might be a bit more aware of situations like that going forward. It is a sad and funny commentary that men worry their date won’t like them and women worry that their date will cut their head off and keep it in the freezer.
All in all, we had a really good Memorial day weekend. I hope yours was as pleasant.