Monday 21st March 2016

​So I thought I’d enter the blogosphere! Not for any particular reason but to prevent a good mate of mine moaning at me about everything I share on Facebook!  Not that putting your personal thoughts down on here is any better – unlike Facebook, there are no controls over who can see your statuses or Blog Posts.

So let me tell you a little bit more about myself.

I’m 38 and live on my own in Reading with my King Charles Cavalier.  Reading is an odd place. It sits along the M4 corridor and doesn’t quite fit under London and doesn’t quite fit under the South West. It has a pride festival which has become one of largest pride festivals outside of a city and that’s something I’m quite proud of having been one of the founding members back in 2004. But size isn’t everything.

I came onto the leather community rather late in life and only recently took my gear out of the house last June at London Pride where I signed up to join the BLUF parade group. I was nervous about being ‘leathered up’ in public but I had a cunning plan and I racked my brain to think of any icons in leather.  Fast forward to London Pride when a leather man, Indian, builder and cowboy step out of Baker Street station. We decided that the BLUF parade group might not have appreciated the appearance of the Village People and opted to walk with Stonewall (who didn’t appreciate it!) instead. It was a cliché look but it gave me the confidence to go public. To me, it was like coming out all over again and it was a cathartic moment. In fact I refused to take it off when my friends went back to the apartment and changed. My big toes are still recovering from 15 hours in boots!

This outing led me to want to organise a presence in Reading. Through the power of the BLUF website, combined with the publicity from LeatherWest, several guys messaged me to say they’d love to come to and support the leather cause at Reading!

So, fast forward to the actual day of Reading Pride, I left home in full leathers and caught the bus from the South Reading suburbs to meet these “leather troopers” outside Reading Station.

Now I had a bit of a cunning plan. I went with some straight friends and as usually I was to accompany them as the leather man from the village people. Really, I needn’t have used this story as on the bus ride to the station, I was steadfastly informed that they all knew I was a leather man and that they thought the only thing I was missing was a big fat cigar!

I’m sure you’ll all remember the first time you went out in public kitted-up in full leather? Remember that mixture of nerves and excitement and a little bit of horny – call it a ‘twang’! To be honest though, the walk to the parade assembly point thorough Reading’s Saturday morning shoppers was the longest walk imaginable! Hey guys, this isn’t Berlin at Folsom, this is Saturday morning in Reading! This is radical, ‘out-there’, ‘doing it’.

Not only did I get to march as a leather man, I got to speak on stage at Reading Pride as a leather man too. I was asked to speak about hate crime, something sadly I have been a victim of. Then there is the irony: I was stood on that stage in full leather gear that was paid for by the person who committed the crime against me. Thanks mate!

So I came out in leather in front of the 5,000 people assembled.

This led me to start attending the leather socials in London where I started to meet other guys who shared the passion and I also attended the Leather Pride Festival in Bristol. I have also now since attended Leather Pride in Antwerp.

Up until December, I was married.  Sadly my husband passed away around my birthday and this sort of changes a person. This has spurred me to take chances and try to increase my confidence.  Believe it or not, I’m actually a shy guy! Endearing to some – a pain in the ass for me!  Following his death, I created a bucket list of things I wanted to do in 2016 that I could do in his memory and help improve my confidence.  Strangely, one of those things was to enter Mr Leather UK!

In hindsight, it was probably not the wisest things I could do but once I was on the train, I realised it was too late to back out!  Round 1 was being interviewed in your best leather which I could cope with but round 2 was more revealing – you had to deliver a speech in just a leather jock strap!  Here is my speech:

“…If you had told me 6 months ago that I would be stood here now entering this competition I wouldn’t have believed you.

So why did I enter? Back in December, 3 events occurred that changed the course of my leather journey. I nearly died in a car accident on what should have been the first night out in gear unaccompanied. Thankfully I didn’t die but standing on the side of the M4 in full BLUF for an hour waiting for a recovery man surprisingly changes a person. Suddenly I was catching the train in full gear from Reading to London to attend events. A week later a BLUF event was held at the Eagle and as you know, you can get your pic taken in front of the banner. I thought I’d have a go and shockingly they made me hunk of the week! I know it’s a silly thing but it does wonders for the ego and my husband was so proud – he even joked that I’d be entering Mr Leather UK next – the competition that is (yes I’m a top)! Sadly a week after he made that joke I became a widower and since then I have created a bucket list of things that he believed I could do and things that take on his legacy of reaching out forward and making a difference. So here I am, wanting to be an ambassador for the leather community and be a role model for tomorrow’s leathermen.

As Mr Leather UK, I want to share my journey to inspire others to take those first steps in their tall boots. As well as being approachable and stand up for the less confident guys who get the same kick from wearing gear that we do, I want to reach out to the suburbs and take leather to the smaller prides in the UK. After all, leather exists beyond London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. It strikes me that there must be lot more leather men sat in the closet across the UK, keen for their leather boots to step over their front doorstep and that’s why leather on parade and being an ambassador of the leather community is important to me in celebrating the diversity that exists within the gay community. I believe that blatant is better than latent. After all, visibility is the biggest weapon we can use to fight discrimination and to send a positive message to those wanting to be part of our community. After all, we are the shoulders that the next generation needs to stand on.

​We are the shoulders that the next generation needs to stand on and I want to show them what the leather community has taught me: Dare to be different, be happy in the skin you’re in and even though leather maybe on the outside, it’s the leather man that’s inside that counts…”

As many of my mates know, it was the taking part that counted for me but I was pleasantly surprised to be placed second!  Not bad for a shy guy from the suburbs.

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