Like many leathermen with a local title, I will also go on to compete at the International Mr. Leather Contest in May. In my previous article, “Why did I run for the Mr. SF Eagle Leather 2022 Contest,” I mentioned that “the limelight associated with leather titles held no interest to me.” I am fully aware that the IML title brings even greater popularity for the winner. However, the reasons that started this journey are still the focus. They will continue to anchor my sensibilities and propel my conviction to bring my platform to the conference, and share my message at the contest.
Despite COVID-19 which led to the cancellation of the event for two years, IML continues to attract attendance and attention as it goes into its forty-third year. The event this year will most likely see a greater turn out of contestants and guests. With the anticipated high level of participation, it will be the perfect opportunity for me to draw attention to the issue of prejudice and discrimination within the leather/kink community.
Due to COVID-19, 2021 has been a particularly difficult year for anyone who looks East and South East Asian. Many of these people were attacked and even murdered. We cannot expect others to dispel the model-minority stereotype for us. Instead we must be seen and speak up if we are going to drive hate back into its cage. And to have substantive inclusion and visibility, we need to be represented in positions of high visibility and influence. As a Chinese Singaporean immigrant, the IML contest this year is a pivotal moment for me to make a difference.
IML is well known in the US, Europe and other parts of the world. The “I” in IML stands for International. To me this means a vision of a global leather family. Therefore I believe, the “I,” also stands for inclusion. To reach this ideal, there must be diversity in nationality, race and ethnicity. IML does not have data on these demographics and neither have I been able to find that information through other sources. I could only make assumptions by looking at the photos of past winners on the IML website. Since the inception of the contest in 1979, and despite its international reach, there has never been an Asian Leatherman who won the IML title. The time to break this leather ceiling is now. I look forward to seeing everyone at IML!
Photo Credit: To fit the format, the photo has been cropped from the original which was taken by DOT.