Sometimes people will smirk or laugh at me, or sing YMCA when they see me in my leather gear in the street – but I don’t give a shit.
Keeping our culture alive is very important to me, the ways, customs and attitude of our community is something worth preserving and worth fighting for.
You may hear leathermen referring to each other as ‘brothers’ and that’s because our friendships run very deep and over many years we have forged a strong community of which we are all incredibly proud.
For many years before I found the scene, I was a lone leather ranger, not belonging to any specific group and only wearing my gear at home and for sex.
Like others, I’ve had a pretty rough time of it over the years. I was unlucky enough to find myself in an abusive relationship with a malevolent narcissist who made it his life’s work to dismantle me piece by piece. It took a long time to recover from that experience, but I feel lucky to have survived it – I very nearly didn’t.
Finding the confidence to embrace leather, and then to reach out to the community was difficult. I didn’t really know anyone on the leather scene and it seemed a really intimidating world to break into.
But I wanted to have leathery mates to meet up with. So, I took the plunge and joined Manchester Leathermen. I never looked back.
For the first time probably in my life, I fitted in and everything made sense and finally, I’d moved into my own skin.
The leather scene is deeply sexual, and has many conventions for the behavior of the role you play within its structure. From an outsider’s perspective this can be an intimidating barrier. But the reality is that you wouldn’t ever find less-judgmental, more open minded and supportive people as you will within the leather community.
It goes beyond sex: it’s a mindset. You will find your place, and no one will push you (unless that’s your thing of course).
I’d always fantasized about becoming Mr Leather UK but it seemed so far beyond my reach. I mentioned this to one of my leather buddies, who said that I should go for it and that I had a good chance.
I was really unsure – after all what did I have to offer the community? There are so many other men who do more, have better bodies, have better leather and are more able to get around to the packed calendar of international events than me.
But I knew that if I didn’t go for it I would regret it forever, so I decided that this was a time to push myself. So I did. And I won.
It was a blinding life-changing moment, and one that I will never forget, ever.
Now I’m preparing for the Mr Leather Europe contest in Helsinki at the end of August, and this time my perspective has changed, I have nothing to prove to myself anymore: this time I’m doing it for different reasons.
Yes, leathermen have great sex, know how to enjoy ourselves and have fun, but our family has enormous untapped potential. Our fetish is expensive, and that is a barrier to welcoming new people to the scene and we should be finding ways to help people overcome this.
We need to provide ways for people to join us who might not have the confidence to come out on the scene – people who would make our community stronger and more diverse who would otherwise be needlessly isolated.
If I win Mr Leather Europe, I’d harness the power of my leather family to support communities around the world: those precious pockets of our family who aren’t lucky enough to live in relatively enlightened societies and have an enormous uphill battle ahead of them. We have been there individually, and as a community, and we can support them.
I never would have thought when I bought my first leather harness in my 20s that my leather life would unfold this way and that I would be so passionate about a band of people who happen to be into leather.
I feel profoundly lucky, humbled and proud to represent, and have such deep and loyal bonds with, such a brilliant community of sexy, witty, creative and honorable people.
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