The International Mr. Leather competition, or IML as participants and fans call it, is a hyper-masculine, queer variation of the Miss America pageant. Founded by Chuck Renslow in 1979, the Chicago-based event draws thousands of leather fans from around the world every May. Michael Skiff’s documentary Kink Crusaders, released this week on DVD, illuminates IML’s history, traditions and participants in loving detail.
While many partake in IML—and the leather scene in general—just to have fun, many participants and title holders have used it as a platform for a variety of LGBT-related causes. It’s also a surprising example of queer diversity, with attendees crossing ethnic, sexual and age boundaries. (2010 IML titleholder Tyler McKormick is a wheelchair-bound trans man.)
In honor of Kink Crusaders‘ release, we’re looking at five heroes of the leather community who are more than just pretty faces in harnesses—they’re using the spotlight to draw attention to vital issues.
Click through to meet some heroes of the leather community
Photo via Michael Skiff