Rawhide Radicals: Meet Five Heroes From The Leather Community

Ryan Yoshinaga, 28

San Francisco, CA
Mr. Central CA Leather 2007

Self-professed nerd Yoshinaga entered his first competition, Palm Spring’s West Coast Rubber, at the tender age of 23. Hindered by shyness, he didn’t win—yet when his Santa Barbara leather group dissolved, he was emboldened to enter the Central California Leather competition the following year. And that time he walked away with the sash. “I was always influenced to give back,” he says, “but at a young age, I had little experience and few credentials to provide much. I thought that even making an appearance in competitions would give me some exposure, help me become more visible and allow me more chances to give back in one way or another.”

Yoshinaga went on to co-found  Kink University, a Fetish Fellowship (KUFF), a pansexual, student-organized educational group. Meeting weekly, KUFF members discuss BDSM dynamics, safety and risks—and hold workshops on bondage, electricity play and more.

Ironically Yoshinaga feels that leather itself isn’t that important to the leather community: “It’s that brotherhood we create, where we can go to a bar or event and proudly say, this is my family,” he says. “I have their back and they have mine.” One of the few Asian-American faces seen in Kink Crusaders, he admits that “Asians tend to have strong family traditions, of presenting an image of the perfect child, and leather doesn’t always fit into that, but as I grow, I see families becoming more casual and open to these things. I  always see Asians at events, but [usually] shy and hiding in the dark corners. Maybe it’s a ninja thing?”

Photo: Ryan Yoshinaga