Rawhide Radicals: Meet Five Heroes From The Leather Community

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


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  • Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

    And just who is Hottie-47? Woof…

  • CBRad

    Any guy who is genuinely into leather/kink/and S&M is into truckers and cops, Mad Max and Fassbinder, Jack London and Phil Andros, T.E. Lawrence and Wagner and cage fighting. That International Mr. Leather thing has just become a silly show. That transman in the wheelchair was about as masculine as Mrs. Roper.

  • Fitz

    I’ll still go to the odd Leather event now and again, but I haven’t been interested in IML ever since they gave IML to a FTM. It’s just not the same.

  • David K

    It’s great that these guys are doing great work for the LGBT community, but how exactly does this fit in with a culture of masculine hypersexuality?

    I get leather culture, but I don’t get leather contests. At least, I don’t get who is chosen to win leather contests.

  • the crustybastard


    Ever seen “Miss Firecracker”?

    You remind me of the aging beauty queen who notes the Miss Firecracker Pageant isn’t nearly as good, since it was, y’know…[hushed voice] “integrated.”

  • prince of snides aka divkid

    please help me out somebody who knows: is the leather thing a real thing or is it a postmodern ironic thing?

    because, something that started as an emulation of the idealised macho aesthetic, achieved by radically distancing itself from the “sissified” stereotype then pertaining….yet, today, has become THE very quintessence of gay stereotype.

    not that i don’t get the appeal of the macho, like, say, construction workers, firemen etc — but only when they’re actually those people in reality; not in fact some lisping florist named alphonse (not hating on lispers. or florists… but alphonse is a bit much tbh.)
    am i missing some aspect of the leather scene? i’m genuinely interested, and intend no offence.

  • Mr. Robertson

    @prince of snides aka divkid: No, I totally get where you’re coming from. These leather dudes come off just as “gay” as drag queens. Not that that’s good or bad. It’s just that there’s such an artificiality to them (theatrical “masculinity” for the former, theatrical “femininity” for the latter) that they’re impossible to mistake for the real thing.

  • Sam

    “Any guy who is genuinely into leather/kink/and S&M is into truckers and cops, Mad Max and Fassbinder, Jack London and Phil Andros, T.E. Lawrence and Wagner and cage fighting

    Full story here:

    Bitch, please. As a 21 year old, leather-latex-s&m twinky fetishist, suffice it to say, you DON’T have to be into all those things to “Genuinely” be into kink. Sheesh

  • CBRad

    @Sam: LOL. I know, I was just being general. But, you get what I’m saying.

  • Danny Tyrell

    Great to see an Amazing Group of men featured.
    I’m Partial to my Joe. :)
    Best wishes to all 5 men and thank you for all you have done.

  • adam

    interesting that queerty compares a leather contest to a miss america pageant, with incredibly interesting variations on the swimsuit competition, doncha know.

    i’ve always thought it was rather extreme to devote one’s time, energy, money, and buffed up bod to posing and primping in an actual leather competition. didn’t we get over that once we had competed to be high-school homecoming kings and queens?

    but then, isn’t all the pageantry a prelude for the sex to happen later on at the conventions? aren’t the competitions and contests just ongoing excuses to cruise and be cruised, hoping to hook up with the highest ranked leather man in some dungeon later that night. . . ?

  • prince of snides aka divkid


    young sir, it sounds like you might have some insider knowledge…i’d love to see you spill it, ahem, as it were.

  • CBRad

    @adam: That would make SOME sense to that whole fiasco, but still…..that Mrs. Roper transman in the wheelchair ??! They should have boxing matches to decide, at least that would kinda go with the whole ideal of what the whole thing should be.

  • Storm

    @Ted B — “hottie 47” is Gary Iriza. He won the IML title at IML’s 30th anniversary event. Previously, he was Mr. Palm Springs Leather. He’s a gorgeous guy inside and out. I was present at IML when he won, and I met him at a number of leather events afterward.

    @Prince of Snides. Yes, you’re missing some aspects of the leather scene. Many of us still embrace the hardcore “hyper-masculinity” that black leather represents to many. Yet, at the same time, the community has grown and evolved beyond just those old military/motorcycle images. “Leather community” has become an umbrella term for a very wide variety of kinks, some of which have nothing to do with leather at all – rubber, bondage, sports gear just to name a few. Probably include the Bear movement in there, too. “Leather” is as much about what’s in your heart as what’s on your body.

    And if you’re a titleholder or seeking to become a titleholder, it’s also about what you give back to your community – not just the leather community, but to the broader community. Look at the resumes of these five “heroes.” They work in HIV services or youth services, or are fund-raisers or educators. Leather contests are no longer just a bunch of handsome, muscular guys standing around in assless chaps looking pretty. You have to have some substance and a solid message, and a passionate desire to reach out and share that message. Tyler McCormick, the F2M wheelchair-bound “leather gimp, exemplified all those elements. With all that he’s struggled to overcome in his life, and with the good humor he’s exhibited do it, he’s probably more “man” than many of us.

  • Deborah

    Obviously there are no women leather heroes. Epic fail.

  • Tyler McCormick

    Thank you so much for the amazing compliment. I feel honored to be included with such amazing company.

  • Storm

    Not an “epic fail” at all, darlin’. It’s an article about the International MISTER Leather Contest. Rather than blow scorn all over your computer screen, why not ask the Queerty editors for a similar article when the International MS. Leather Contest rolls around. There is one, you know.

    Indeed, there are heroic women in the leather community. I’m rather partial to Karen “Ultradomme” Creselius, myself, who ably emcees leather events all over the country. And a big fan of “Mama” Sandy Reinhardt,who’s done more than heroic work raising funds and awareness for AIDS and breast cancer causes and who organizes the annual Leatherwalk in San Francisco.

  • Mark

    I agree with CBrad about the Transman since she/he is not masculine at all, but then again a lot of IML and leather contestants are leather queens and they open up their mouths and it’s all “MARY!!!” and flowers pop out.

    “Leather” has become such a joke and has been for the past 40 years! It’s been this way ever since they started the corny and pointless leather contests including IML, and made it not about kink or a fetish, or any sort of “community” but about how much you spend on leather to wear on stage to participate in a leather pageant contest.

  • Drew

    I agree with CBrad Trans”men” do not belong in an all male leather contest at all. They may think that they are somehow men but physically and biologically they never will be men at all. The transman Tyler McCormick should just have entered into the female leather contests since she would have done better there and like it or not she is still a woman.

  • Carlos M.

    Having read the comments, it disgusts me to see that some of you are just as bad as the homophobes. Did you forget the ‘T’ in LGBT? If Tyler identifies as male as the rest of the IML contestants, what’s the problem? If you don’t like it, start your own anti-transgender leather contest (which will FAIL)! Besides, he’s probably done more for the community than you idiots AND HE’S IN A WHEELCHAIR! What’s your excuse?

  • Scott

    Yes there’s the T in LGBT but IML is a contest for actual men or men who are born male and who are biologically male, not women who transitioned into what they think is the male gender both physically and biologically.

    You can claim that a Transman is male until you’re blue in the labia but it’s magical thinking and Transmen have no place at all at IML or other leather contests that are for cisgender bisexual and gay men only.

    As someone else said Transmen are free to go join the women’s leather contests where they belong.

  • Mike

    Thanks for posting your opinons – I am a 43 year old leatherman who has come to the conclusion IML is simply a beauty contest and does in NO WAY represent me as a LEATHERMAN why not a MS. LEATHER CONTEST or an EVERYONE ELSE contest or change the name of IML – it certainly is not masculine in anyway, and having an FTM enter and win IML is completely pointless.

  • Tony

    Tyler was not the first trans man to compete at IML, and will definitely not be the last. Billy Lane competed in 1998 and placed in the top 20, and has been involved on the production side of the event for a number of years. Obviously there hasn’t been a dramatic rule change that made it so the trans men can come invade and take over IML.

    Also, for those of you bitching about how IML doesn’t represent ‘real Leather’, there are other title circuits out there; International LeatherSir/boy, American Brotherhood Weekend, Mr & Ms Olympus Leather. Leather is what you make of it, there’s no universal definition.

  • Andrew

    Transmen never should have been allowed in leather contests for men at all.

Comments are closed.