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1. For those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself and what your titles are.

My name is Kj Nichols. It wasn't always Kj. It's the name I chose for myself upon transitioning. It is actually the initials from my birth name as a way to honor my parents and my past while creating my future. After being called Kj since age 19 years old, I sat down with my dad one night at age 29 and we tried figuring out "male" names with the initials Kj. Neither of us liked any. Finally, he looked at me and said, "I like just Kj." It was perfect. I nodded my head and told him that I agreed. My father named me Kj.

I'm proud to represent the Connecticut Leather, Inc. community as Mr. Connecticut Leather 2013, second runner-up at Mid Atlantic 2013 and was blessed as a Top 20 contestant representing the class of 35 at International Mr. Leather 2013.

2. What or who got you started in the Leather community and for how long?

My Leather journey is a very unique one as I began my journey surrounded by Leather dykes and fierce fearless femmes wielding violet wands! The first person to pique my Leather interest was a powerful "born butch" Leatherwoman named Amiee. She wore her gear like a second skin molded to her body. Every step was skillful and deliberate and she oozed this charismatic charm that drew me in like a honey bee. We ended up good friends. You know, like the good good friends you help sand, paint and bolt a St. Andrew's Cross in the spare bedroom when the need arises. Or when living together, the kind of friend whom you can have a "dueling banjo" night as we competed for the loudest play session as we both held separate flogging scenes. I met Amiee when I was 28, I'm 41 now.

When crossing over into the male community, I give credit to my friend Daddy Matt. The kink side of me had been repressed for a while because quite honestly, I had my hands full learning how to respectfully navigate the gay male world as a gay transman. Daddy Matt saw glimpses of the kink and naughtiness when i began to invest myself within the Connecticut community. Over the past four years, his friendship and mentoring made it safe for me to re-explore the kink in me. I keep on telling him that I'm innocent. He's never believed me.

Throughout both realms, my lover of 11-plus years Sean traversed and navigated a very similar path and we have supported each other along the way. He's now on one coast of the US and I'm on the other.

3. Tell us about your Leather family.

For years Sean and Amiee were my Leather family. Amiee was my mentor and Sean was my instigator! Oh the trouble Sean and I would cause (Boston will never be the same for me after an eventful weekend with him!)

As I wrote above, the Connecticut community pulled me out of my shell. The Leather bears who frequented the bear scene that I was hanging with in Connecticut saw me as one of their own. The Leather bears introduced me to the Connecticut Leather scene and this past year, my Leather family has exploded exponentially being in the limelight as a title holder. I now have mentors and friends in so many far off places! The internet and technology are amazing tools to use for staying connected with far reaching family. For example, before running for Ct. Leather, I ended up calling a friend whom I had known for years strictly via social media and talked about his experience as a titleholder. Before IML, I was heading advice from a Daddy in Maryland telling me just to be me. And boy oh boy, AFTER IML? I thank god every day for the technology that allows me to connect daily with my 50 brothers at my fingertips.

The newest branch are two SIRS from Wilton Manors, FL who are becoming important in my life.

I've never had the honor of being collared. I still have hope, and in the meantime I will continue to learn and grow.

4. Who is the most influential person in your life and why?

Most influential, huh? This question is hard for me because the most influential person in my life was also the most damaging person.

My mother taught me about the kind of person that I DO NOT want to be.

I grew up being taught that appearances are what mattered most. If you didn't look, act, talk, walk just like everyone else... If you caused a commotion and drew negative attention towards yourself then you weren't working hard enough. Perfection was the goal. After years of striving for perfection and failing, all I learned was how to effectively fail. It took a while but I finally shifted my focus from perfection to progression. Perfection doesn't even happen in nature and is a myth. PROGRESSION! That was obtainable! One can succeed towards progression. And yes. Sometimes progression is having the courage to pick yourself off of the floor and dusting off your backside and braving it enough to continue forward!

5. In your mind, what’s the biggest misconception of the Trans community?

I think the biggest misconception is also one that a lot of transpersons also share.

There is NO specific roadmap or timeframe on how to "effectively" transition!

Not everyone wants to transition with hormones, or have every medical procedure known to "effectively" transition while others thrive on hormones etc...

Every transperson's life journey is as unique and valid as they are themselves.

Ok, now take out "every transperson's" in the above sentence and replace it with "everyone."

(Everyone's life journey is as unique and valid as they are themselves.)

See? Thinking about it this way makes the trans stuff less exotic.

6. What would you say are the most important strengths to have as a Leather man?

Have honor and earn respect. Be forever ready to learn something new and have heart.

7. What does Leather mean to you?

Once upon a time, Leather was my armor against the world. Being a "freak" of society meant I was more likely to be harassed and bullied. At that time, I wore my gear as protection.

As time progressed, so did my personal definition of Leather. Now, the main meaning of Leather to me is family and community, honor and respect. Of course there is still that element of protection, my Leather family would whoop some buns if someone messed with me. Yet, overall the Leather community's influence on me is focused on encouragement, learning and growth.

Oh and the mind bending good sex. Cannot forget about that!

8. You judged ILSb a little while ago, how was the entire experience and how does the contest differ from IML?

I took on the honor of judging ILSb after some thoughtful consideration.

Last year's controversial issue of ILSb forbidding transmen from competing for International Leather Sir/boy titles, followed by the swift community's disdain and finally the ILSb board's reversal of the decision is still quite fresh in many community member's minds. Some people still feel the sting of the sudden exclusion. Some feel they were forced into inclusion. Ultimately, we are still all reeling from change.

I chose that word purposefully: Change.

Change is learning and people often resist the opportunity to learn because they are ultimately afraid of change. The thing of it is, change will happen whether or not we like it. We ALL have a unique opportunity to learn.

I acknowledged that opportunity and took the honor of judging ILSb to be a part of that opportunity with a very positive intent.

To pass along one of the best piece's of advice I ever received from my father, "It's not the f*** ups that will define you. It's what you do with them!" I am confident that the community will weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side. Not because of any magical powers, but because WE choose to make it so.

IML will always have a place in my heart as a contestant. It is BIG! It's Grandiose! The countless number of men who cruise the host hotel lobby and the vendor-mart will make a Leatherman groan! It's where my Leather family exploded internationally. It's where I found "home" in my brothers' embraces and cheers.

ILSb is a much smaller contest but it is also an incredible, wonderfully intimate contest that boasts an equal amount of Leather heart and brotherhood! I got to spend some quality time hanging out with Leather family whom I haven't seen in ages. I also enjoyed the aspect of being on the other side of the interview table amongst a distinguished panel of judges digging into the minds of the proud men competing to represent the ILSb community for the next year.

The major differences in the competitions is that ILSb is considered a "player's" title and the contestants are required to perform their ideal fantasy on stage which can be surprisingly hot! (boy Gizmo's helped me solidify my affinity to flag gray flannel!)

There is no way that I could compare the two contests and give you a definitive "this one is better" referral. The would be just as pointless as comparing strawberries and blackberries. Both are sweet, sustain the community and need to be in my mouth!

9. You were a contestant, now a judge, what's next for Kj?

Honestly, a lot of my time lately has been concentrated around a particular man whom I affectionately call Mr. Blue Eyes.

I actually met him during my title year but am a little clueless and had no idea that he was hitting on me right while I was in full Leather on the Providence Eagle float before the evening Providence Pride parade in 2013. Luckily, he is a persistent bastard and I found myself sitting across from him in a local restaurant about a year later. Yet once again, my cluelessness reigned supreme. I had no idea I was on a first date until he grabbed and stroked my hand on the table during our meal. He's incredibly sexy, intelligent and wonderfully kinky, yet he is not yet into Leather but supports me on my own Leather journey.

(Notice I said YET! The Higher Powers know that I never imagined that Leather would be this important in my life when I first snapped on a Leather cuff.) I've no doubt that he will come to enjoy and embrace my Leather family as much as I do. He will actually be in Germany during Folsom and I introduced him to my IMP brother, Mr.. Germany Leather Tyrone Rontganger via Facebook. I made sure that I was sending him over to meet Tyrone with his modest amount of gear fully clean and conditioned. I couldn't be there physically, but wanted to make sure that my Leather energy would be close to him on his journey.

As for my personal Leather journey, I will continue to be a part of our community by attending events when I can as long as my bank account allows me to do so. I will still be a part of vivid conversations and will strive to listen to all sides and make informed decisions. I will continue to mentor and be mentored. In short, I will continue to learn and grown in our community. This very evening (September 5th) is the Meet and Greet to this year's Mr. Connecticut Leather 2015 contest and I am beside myself with anticipation to see so many wonderful folks of my local Leather community!

I am also honored to be a part of the speakers panel at the 2014 Trans Out Loud event in NYC sponsored by the Callen-Lorded Community Health Center's Transgender Community Advisory Board discussing dating transmen. I plan on attending in full Leather formals to add my own unique flair to the speakers panel and hope to add kink and Leather relationships to the discussions.

10. What do you see for the future of Leather in your community and internationally?

I'm no longer wearing the legacy Mr. Connecticut Leather sash, but I'm far from walking away from helping the Leather community understand and welcome diversity within its ranks. The easiest way for me to do that is simply being out as a Leather transguy. People fear the unknown. I want to help that by putting a face on a particular issue that can sometimes be challenging. Yet, while I'm concerned with helping foster change, I'm also very adamant about learning the community's past and protocols. I know that I personally challenge people, and we may never see eye to eye. Yet, I try to be very respectful of their position and influence within our community. My community elders fostered the birth of many groups and organizations that have been the backbone of our culture. For this, I personally am forever grateful to them


11. What advice can you give young communities that are embracing people from all backgrounds?

Keep up the good work!

It's really a thankless job because the people you will affect the most will likely be the ones who are too shy, too quiet, too fearful of rejection to step out into our community had it not been for your hard work at welcoming them! This doesn't just pertain to gender outlaws, but also to those into "new" kinks. I once had a friend who identifies as a pup rant to me about how someone told him that his kink as a pup was wrong, that it was just an exuberant version of "boy." Exclusion on any level in the community will be our downfall.

12. Tell us what your favorite piece of Leather is and why?

My most treasured piece are my first set of Leather suspenders. Gorgeous Latigo Leather, wide and thick hardware. Most importantly, they were made for me by Master Harley.

When I was younger, I didn't realize how blessed I was to have an established and talented Leatherwork shop in my tiny New England small town. Back then, I didn't have a lot of money, but I'd find myself drawn to his shop week after week. Walking around touching those cuffs, fingers grazing harnesses, blissfully inhaling the intoxicating scent of Leather that clung to the air. When I finally saved up enough, I immediately went down. He treated me just as royally as if I were buying a full set of formals. Sized me up. Custom fitted them for me. I glorified every time I will make his big burly gray mustache curl up in a smile.

Master Harley's shop is no longer open and I haven't had contact with him in years, yet his professional, sexy, enthusiastic, teasing, and trusting energy courses through those suspenders. Every single time I strap them on I think of how blessed I was to have him as a Leather guide when I was so young.

13. Would you please tell us about your tattoo’s especially the one on your belly?

For years I not only felt I was born in the wrong gender, but I was taught to hate my size. As a kid, I was sent off to fat camp, was teased incessantly about my size by family members, at one point I saw a nutritionist who put me on a 900 calorie diet (less than 1,200 and your body thinks it's starving and actually slows down your metabolism!), and in high school I would eat and then force my finger down my throat.

All of this created an adult version of me that saw myself as unworthy of attention and love.

One day, my friend Amiee tells me that she is getting "Joy" tattooed on her belly. Instantly the words, "I want that!" shot out of my mouth. She wanted it because it was her middle name and her dog's name. I wanted it because I was finally beginning to learn to not hate my body. Before my belly rocker "Joy" tattoo, you'd NEVER see me without my shirt. My "Joy" tattoo taught me to celebrate the things that I used to hate. Now, it's a daily reminder to love myself no matter the size.

Years later, my lover Sean got "Joy" tattooed on HIS tiny belly as a celebration of our years together.

"Joy" still remains my favorite tattoo.

14. What are your favorite hanky colors?

Purple and black plaid flannel.

Light blue.

Hunter green.

All on the right.

Red on left (when I'm lucky) or right (when Sean's around).

Is there a hanky for electric play? Maybe I ought to start shoving an extension cord into my left pocket.

15. What’s your favorite drink? And if you could invent a cocktail for the Leather community and what would you call it?

Fave drink? Jameson on the rocks.

A cocktail? I am horrible about mixing cocktails (explains my affinity for Jameson's on the rocks)

16. If you were stranded on an island with only basic needs, which five people would you choose to be stranded with and who would be fed to the hungry sharks first?

First person would be Mr.. Blue Eyes. Obvious reasons. One may not be able to sustain themselves on love alone, but damnit if I am not going to be able to have cable, I definitely want that sexy beast next to me to pass the time away with.

Second person would be Jorge Vieto Jr. That man with his joyous nature and and his talent with ropes would most definitely be a survival plus. (Ok ok, even *I* cannot keep a straight face! Yeah sure... like Jorge's rope skills would be used for "survival")

Third person would be Daddy Matt Kenney assuming that a pallet of Jameson was included as a "basic need." Daddy Matt keeps me balanced. When I am on the verge of freaking out, he pulls me back. When I am too serious, he reminds me to play. He's a great friend and confidant and honestly I see way too little of him as of late. So maybe being stranded on an island with him would give us some needed/overdue quality time!

*Side note* Between daddy Matt and Jorge, I am SURE there would be a sling up in NO time!

Fourth would be Sean Brochin. This man is not only a kinky sexy bugger, but quite honestly he is one of the best cooks I've ever known. He is a proficient gardener and I have literally seen him make a delicious salad out of what I would have identified as weeds. Without him, I would probably eat the wrong mushroom and die within a day.

*Side Note* I would be fighting Sean to be IN previously said sling.

Fifth would be my IML brother Sir Steven Parker. I mean, come on!! who WOULDN'T want to see Sir Steven in just a loincloth?!?

Fed to the Sharks? Probably me. I've a bum ticker already so the electrical impulses of my heart would probably attract them. Unlike Leslie Anderson, sharks scare the ever-lovin-be-jezus outta me!

17. Tell us your favorite song at this moment.

The Blues Brother's version of Sweet Home Chicago.

Every time I listen to it, I cannot help but think of my amazing IML experience.

18. If I had to visit Northampton, Massachusetts for one day, what five places would you show me and why?

Local Burger - best burgers in town and it's all organic.

Michaelson's art gallery - some great art works!

Smith's art gallery -as a comparison in the art collections.

City Hall steps - best people watching/cruising stoop in all the town.

Academy of Music - it's a great old theater, hopefully to watch the Young At Heart Chorus.

19. In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the Leather community of South Africa?

Thank you for your time an interest in projects such as this one. Every Leatherperson I've met from South Africa has been of a high quality. You're definitely doing something right down there!




By Jaco Lourens

Photos by Rich Stadtmiller

1. For those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself and your connection with the Leather world.

i am a slave and a bootblack living in Phoenix, AZ with my Master of 13-plus years. i am the resident bootblack at the Anvil Bar. i am the current International Ms Bootblack, 2015.

2. Please tell us who or what event got you started in the Leather community and for how long?

i came under the protection of my Owner back in 2002.

3. Your Leather family, who are they and how do they fit into your life?

my Leather family is pretty small, it is Master and myself! But i consider my Leather community as part of my “extended family.” They have been a big influence in my life as i was finding my way in the world.

4. Boots… Why did you choose to be a bootblack and who is/are your mentors?

That is an interesting story. Master got me into bootblacking to help my get out of my shell. i am not the same person you see today. i was very shy and unsure of myself. She had me compete for Southwest Bootblack 2009 only three months before the contest. i had never publicly bootblack (let alone being on stage)! i am thankful that She did.

Bootblacking grounded in the Leather community, a place where I could my boots - it helped me find myself as a transgender Leatherwoman. It gave me the confidence to be my authentic self. It helped me grow and expand into who i have become today.

Boi Moe, Southwest Bootblack 2008, actually taught me the basics. i didn’t mentor under anyone, i read online forums, asked questions, and watched other bootblacks. i picked up techniques and developed my own skills. i think bootblacking is about self-discovery. Learn the basics, then go out and explore. Find out what makes bootblacking special for you. Maybe it is the sex, or the skills, or serving the community. Find out what works for you and make it your own.

5. I met you at IMsL in 2014 when I was one of the judges, please tell many people who have never attended IMsL/IMsBB contest about it, and what during the busy contest weekend was your high’s and low’s?

The IMsL/IMsBB contest is pretty special to me, i competed for four times. It helped me grow as a person. The IMsL weekend is the hidden gem of the Leather community. A lot of people see it as just a women’s event, but it isn’t. It caters to the entire community, bringing together everyone for a celebration of hot Leather sex and boots! The contest is fun and exciting; with the best women bootblacks, classes with some of the best teachers out there; along with a huge dungeon. The queer happy hour and Seduction burlesque show on Thursday is not to be missed. The uniform party, The pool party, the list goes on and on.

The contest staff is really great about creating a family and sisterhood. You bond very quickly with your contest sisters. Competing in four contests has given me friends from each year. Competing for a contest of this caliber can be emotionally and physically draining. This year i was pretty well prepared, i knew what was coming and knew i could handle it. What i wasn’t prepared for was Saturday night, when i didn’t win - then won the title later that night. Going from deciding if i was going to run again to finding out that i won was overwhelming. i had never felt more emotion at one time than that night. i won’t go into the details; i will leave that for one-on-one conversations over coffee. But let’s just say my high’s and low's happened all at the same time!

6. Since winning your title in International Ms. Bootblack title, can you tell us how your life has been?

It has been so much fun! i have been blessed that Master and i have been able to travel to every event together. We have loved being able to go to different cities witness and celebrate their local communities. Each one is different, but yet we are all the same. We are so looking forward to traveling to Australia soon and be part of the “Down Under” Leather Community!

7. Tell us about the #AskMe project that you have.

i came out and transitioned in the Leather community. i am lucky to have someone in my life who has supported me as i transition, but a lot of people are not as lucky. It can be scary to come out transgender. #AskMe is a way to help people on a one-on-one level. When you wear the pin it shows that you are ally and willing to: #Listen to someone that may have questions their gender. But, also having the respect ones boundaries when they are not willing or ready to talk about their gender; #Learn something about what it means to be transgender, whether it is reading a books, articles or taking a class; and #Advocate for transgender rights in the Leather community and in our larger society. Be an ally.

8. When judging a bootblack contest, what do you look for and what in your mind makes for a successful winner?

i look for the heart of the bootblack. i will ask questions that will allow them to show their passion. It is not all about who does the best shiny boot, but who can show me the determination that it takes to be a bootblack and Leatherperson. It is job interview; i am looking for the best person that will represent that title.

9. Who is the most influential person in your life and why?

That’s an easy one! my Owner, Master Lady Lacee Jae. She has been the biggest influence in my life. i came to Her during a time in my life when i was questioning myself and who i was as a person. She helps, protects, and pushes me to be the best person i can be. She is the most important person in my life.

10. In your mind, do you think bootblacks are getting the attention and respect they deserve yet?

It is getting there! Bootblacking has a shorter history in the Leather community. While bootblacks have been there since the “Dawn of the Leatherman," we were usually in the shadows and back corners blacking our hearts out. Only in the last few years have bootblacks started to be seen as an equal to the wonderful Leatherman and Leatherwomen on stage. i am blessed to be associated with IMsL/IMsBB. The bootblack title is as equal as the International Ms Leather title in every way. It is an honor to represent the IMSL title.

11. South Africa Leather has recently opened their memberships to both male and female members, also members who are trans, what advice can you offer our young community?

Keep it going! It’s great to see the community embracing different gender identities (trans, fluid, etc.) into their local communities. Old gender biases are falling away and we are creating new traditions that fit our time and our lives. Love it!

12. What do you see for the future of Leather in your community and internationally?

i see it growing! We are heading to Austrailia this year. Where there is a strong contingent of Leather folk and bootblacks! i am so excited to meet them. With the advent of online technology, we are actually able to share and experience each other communities. It is great to see.

13. Is there any advice you can give South Africa who will be sending their first bootblack to compete in the near future?

Remember that is more about just bootblacking. Though your technical skills are important. Being a good public speaker is also important. Bootblacks are evolving into educators, ambassadors, and leaders. We a have a louder voice than we've ever had before. Be sure to use it.

14. Besides your favorite pair of boots or title vest, tell us what your favorite piece of Leather is and why.

My Leather-bound bootblack kit, it is my oldest piece of Leather. i have had the box since 1990. i bought it at a yard sale for $10. It held all of my art supplies during college. When i was looking for a bootblack box it was the only choice.

15. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you while blacking someone’s boots?

Oh that is easy, anything that involves my title husband, Bamm-Bamm (IMBB 2015). He made the mistake to get in my chair a few years ago at Southwest Leather. You see, i am slave to my Master, but when i bootblack, i am a top. He mentioned that he hated paddles. i turned to my Master (who is a sadist) and mentioned that he hated paddles... as i handed Her my LARGE Dauber brush. She proceeded to smack his inner thigh (it was his fault for wearing a kilt). Course he wasn’t allowed to get out of the chair - his boots weren’t done!

16. What was the last meal you cooked just for yourself?

i love breakfast. Eggs over easy, sourdough toast, maple-smoked bacon, orange juice and coffee with French vanilla creamer.

17. Someday I will visit Phoenix AZ, what five non-touristy things would you show me and why?

1. Take you to some of our favorite restaurants – We love a great meal and great conversations.
2. Talesin West – It is Frank Lloyd Wright’s school of architecture (I have never gone myself).
3. The Anvil Leather Bar (my home bar) – Gotta do your boots while you are in town.
4. Mystery Castle – A funky castle built by Boyce Luther Gulley for his “princess” daughter May Lou.
5. Hob Nobs Coffee House – Hang out with my Phoenix boys of Leather.

18. In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the Leather community internationally?

i love my Leather community! Oh, and tip your bootblack!




By Jaco Lourens

1. For those who don’t know you, please tell us about yourself and what your titles are.

First the easy part: As far as titles are concerned, all mine have been given to me as honorary titles.

1999 Man of the Year from National Leather Association International

2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from National Leather Association International

2010 Recipient of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Leather Leadership Award

2012 Presidents Award - Pantheon of Leather

Now the hard part: I am a native Texan and have been active in the LGBT community since the early 1970's. I became fascinated with Leather in the late 1970's and stepped into my first Leather bar sometime around 1978. Since that fateful day I have continued on my Leather journey and am a former member of the Dallas Motorcycle Club, Leather Rose Society, National Leather Association, Discipline Corps and a founding member of Inquisition Dallas.

I have written many articles on Leather/BDSM topics and am the author of four books currently in circulation including Family Jewels, a Guide to Male Genitorture and Torment and Soul of a Second Skin-Memoirs of a Gay Christian Leatherman.

I have also directed a few films on Leather/BDSM subjects including Leather, a short film-poem about the gay male Leather experience and Out of the Darkness, the Reality of SM, a documentary on the critical difference between SM and abuse.

Professionally I am a Marketing Specialist and I live in Dallas with my boy/partner of 18 years Patrick and our feline mistress, Elvira.

2.What or who got you started in the Leather community and for how long?

What drew me to Leather was the hyper-masculinity of it. I never considered myself feminine nor was I attracted to feminine men. Leather just pushed all the right buttons for me and once I got involved I fund that I really liked rough sex and SM.

The community, as such, didn't really exist when I came in, but the subsequent AIDS crisis pulled us together and gave us a real sense of purpose. We, in Dallas, started educating our community to the many ways sex could be hot and kinky and still be safer-sex.

3. Which club or bar are you affiliated with and tell us more about the history?

Currently I am a member of NLA: Dallas and Discipline Corps. NLA: Dallas is a pansexual organization with a mission to educate and network Leather/Fetish/BDSMfolk of all sexual orientations and genders.

Discipline Corps is a men-only social and play group whose primary focus is monthly dungeon parties and having a good time!

When I go to a bar it is the Dallas Eagle, our local Leather bar, though I am not officially affiliated with it, the owners, Mark Frasier and Jeffery Payne are close friends of mine.

4. How did you enjoy being one of the judges at IML XXX5 and what were your favorite moments?

Judging at IML was an amazing experience. I was worn out form the long days, but energized by the great men I met during the experience. I knew most of the judges before the contest, though I did make new friends since a couple of the judges were new faces to me. We all bonded immediately and the contestants were all outstanding. The final choice was very hard, since any of the Top 20 could have easily been a wonderful IML.

My favorite moments were getting to meet so many folks from outside the US, and the South African delegation was a particular joy.

5. Tell us about your charity involvement and goals.

As far as charity work I have several. My contributions to my church, Cathedral of Hope, are an ongoing passion of mine. We even have a full pew of Leather folk wearing their colors every Sunday. I also work with Kiva, a micro loan organization that funds small businesses and individuals across the world.

I serve as Chairman of the Board for the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance in Washington, DC and work raising funds to support it and its many programs.

6. Tell us about your Leather family.

My Leather family is small, just me and my boy/partner. My extended Leather family is larger. About 8-10 close friends who I think of as family. Beyond that I have a large circle of friends who I have met at events and contests all over the continent and they too, are like family. I consider them my Leather cousins.

7.Who is the most influential person in your life and why?

I have to say my father. He taught me a lot as far as values and how to treat other people. He was authentic and honest and I try to emulate that. He loved his work and his family. He was intellectually curious and being a scientist, he never stopped learning, and that is something I think I got from him.

8. In your mind, what’s the biggest misconception of the Leather community?

The biggest misconception I see about the Leather community is that we are some sort of homogenous group with a written code of conduct and values. No such thing. We are as varied as the general population, except for our love of kink and Leather. As a whole I have found our community does communicate more than the average vanilla folk, and I attribute that to the fellowship of our organizations and to the need for communication when we play.

9. What would you say are the most important strengths to have as a Leather man?

Honesty, authenticity and a good bull-shit detector.

10.What does Leather mean to you?

I could prattle on about this topic forever but I would sound like I was doing a canned speech for a title contest. In reality, Leather means as many different things as there are people involved in it. Some simply are drawn to the fetish. Leather clothes and gear are sensual, organic and arousing. Some are drawn to the BDSM aspect of it. That was part of my attraction.

Leatherfolk, the energetic and intense encounters that SM play offers. I went into it thinking I would be a "grey Hankie" guy. Only into bondage and light SM but quickly realized that bondage was really not very interesting to me and more hard-core SM was my thing. Changed my hankie to black and never looked back.

11. What do you see for the future of Leather in your community and internationally?

It is in a state of flux. Leather always changes, as sexual pioneers we are on the edges of what is possible physically and sexually and so there will always be something different and new. I see a disturbing trend to try to turn back the clock and relive the glory days of Leather in the 1970's, but surprisingly the people who are trying to do that are predominately straight. They have adopted the Leatherman look as though it was a codified uniform and remind me of "Renfair" folks, donning period costumes and role playing at Leather.

12. What does sexual freedom mean to you?

As someone who came of age in the late 1960's sexual freedom means being able to define my sexuality on my own terms - eing able to enjoy consensual activities with other adults and not have to conform to any rigid rules. I have begun to think of myself more as "Queer" than gay, not because I do not have an affectional orientation toward men, but because I enjoy playing with anyone so long as we click and our goals are the same. Sexual freedom is a basic human right; it is up to us to define it and express it and celebrate it.

13. Whats your view on the huge anti-gay wave that is happening in certain states in America? What do you think people can do to protect their rights and help others retain it?

What you mentioned as the "anti-gay wave" sweeping parts of the country is not a massive display of anti-gay sentiment in my opinion. It is the last gasp of the hard core bigoted right. Their attitudes are dying out. Public opinion polls show most Americans believe in equality for LGBT citizens. What these anti-gay laws are is an attempt by the right to change the framing of the issue from "equality" to "religious freedom" or as I call it the freedom to hate.

All of these attempt have failed and even in far-right leaning states like Arizona. Even there the Governor recognized it's not a religious freedom issue; it is equal rights. The laws are clumsily crafted and over reaching to begin with and would not withstand judicial scrutiny, so I have to believe its just politics and its not working.

14. We all have so many issues we want to highlight, please tell us what cause is close to your heart right now and how are you involved?

The issue closest to my heart is the cause of sexual freedom. I believe sexual freedom is a fundamental human right and as such it needs to be protected and nourished. To that end, I work with the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance, a human rights group with the focus on sexual freedom. In fact, I am chairperson of the board. That's how involved I am and how important it is.

We work to affect policy concerning sex education, freedom of speech, sex workers and gender and sexual inequality. It's a great organization that has made a real difference for our country. Woodhull holds the gender and sexuality seat on the US Human Rights Network, the group which monitors our country's adherence to the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

15. What advice can you give a future titleholder?

Be authentic, approachable and honest. Bull-shitters stick out like sore thumbs. The titleholders I know and admire are all down-to-earth folks who try to use their titles to benefit the community not themselves.

16. Tell us what your favorite piece of Leather is and why?

Other than my hat, my favorite piece of Leather is my flogger. It was made by Janet Heartwood and designed to fit me perfectly. The falls are longer than most folks like, but they balance perfectly with the handle and the flogger becomes an extension of my body when I play. I have several floggers and all were custom made for me. I believe if you invest in quality your toys will live as long as you do.

17. In your own words, can you tell us the difference between BDSM and Leather?

Hard to say. I used to think of them as the same, but apparently there are folk who see a big distinction. Leather does not imply SM, it can simply be a fetish. It is also a different kind of community and that is what sets it apart nowadays. To some folks Leather can only be gay men and BDSM is pansexual. There is another word that is loaded with nuance. Pansexual was a word coined by the Leather community to describe its inclusion of all sexual orientations, but has been co-opted by the straight community to mean "heterosexual" sexual orientation with some lesbians thrown in for spice. If I sound cynical, that's because I have seen this in practice. Play spaces where two women playing together was acceptable if they were playing in ways that the men enjoyed, but men playing together got stares and snide comments.

Personally I don't have problems playing in the newly-defined "pansexual" spaces, I think a Leather person can define their own Leather-space and create a scene wherever it works.

18. Please tell us exactly what is beyond vanilla and what are your favorite activities you indulge in?

I would think anything that goes beyond plain sex would qualify as beyond vanilla. Spankings, role play, bondage, SM all of it moves beyond vanilla for me. My favorite activities are floggings and clothespins and CBT, but most often these are woven into some kind of erotic experience. I think all SM is better with an element of Eros. It doesn't have to be penetrative sex, but without a sexual aspect it has less appeal for me.

19. What’s the funniest safe word that you have heard?

Then comes the safe word. I have heard lots of strange ones from "aardvark" to "Pontiac." Personally, I like this system. I tell my bottom or sub to call me "Sir" as long as he or she is having fun, and to call me "Hardy" if they need to talk. It keeps the communication going and has never failed me.

20. What’s your favorite drink? And if you could invent a cocktail for the Leather community, what would you call it?

Well I stopped drinking in 1986 so my favorite drink is sparkling mineral water. My drink for the community would be just that, mineral water with a chaser of mouthwash, cause I love kissing and detest bad breath!

21. We would love to have you visit South Africa in the future, what classes do you think we could benefit from?

I do a lot of classes, but my favorites are a workshop I call "Putting Sex Back in SM." The pansexual dungeons in the US are notoriously tepid when it comes to palpable eroticism. Many do not allow sexual activities for legal reasons and some just are uncomfortable with sex. This workshop is intended to put that spark of the erotic back into the play in the dungeon and discusses and demonstrates how scenes can become erotic encounters with no "traditional sex" happening.

My "Family Jewels" workshop is always fun, concentrating on CBT and how it can become part of a scene. I explain the use of toys, safety and exploration of various aspects of genitorture.

I have a complete list of classes I present I can provide you.

22. In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the Leather community of South Africa?

I would add that the leather community in South Africa seems to be vibrant and growing and I encourage you to continue to explore, share what you learn and nurture the next generation of Leatherfolk. To them you will become the "Old Guard" and with that is the heavy responsibility of knowing you are setting an example for future generations. Play hard, play safe, have fun!





By Jaco Lourens

1. For those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself and your connection with the Leather world.

My name is Mark Holmes, aka Hawgs in the biker community and “Uncle Mark” in much of the Leather community. I graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1975,
flew KC-135 tankers and T-38 supersonic training jets while in the service. I left that in 1981, moved to San Diego and have lived here ever since but for a stint in Los Angeles
from 1991 til 1995 where I moved to live with my partner who worked up there. While there I worked for Harley-Davidson and did roles in Movies, Television and Commercials.
I moved back to San Diego in 1995. I was diagnosed with HIV in 1994 and got an AIDS diagnosis in 1995, given three months to live and I give thanks to all the researchers who
came up with Protease Inhibitors and follow on medications that have allowed me to live yet another 31 years healthy and happy.

2. Please tell us who got you started in the Leather community and for how long?

My first connections with the Leather world started as a biker, I’ve had a motorcycle since my second year at the Academy. When I moved to San Diego I was asked to take over
a Leather shop in a bar here and there began my connections with the Leather community. When the owner moved to another location, I moved my leather shop there and began
to make custom Leather gear. At first I had folks that knew how to make gear and sew work for me then taught myself the trade. I opened a retail store, Hard Labor Leather which at
the time with a couple bars became the social center for Leather in San Diego. I opened yet another shop in another bar and ended up selling it to the chain, The Crypt, and moved
to Los Angeles to be with my partner. We had commuted every weekend for five years back and forth to Phoenix to be together until he was promoted and moved to LA. It was
in the shops and bars that my connection deepened with the community and in 1984 I ran for Mr. San Diego Leather and won the contest and headed to Chicago to IML and
was a finalist at that event where I got to see just how huge the community was. I owned the contest in San Diego until I moved to LA in 1991.

3. Which club or bar are you affiliated with and tell us more about the history?

We are down to one Leather bar here, the Eagle. At one time we had several where I owned and ran the Leather shops. I continue to work for friends as a hobby and keep
up my skills in Leather making.

4. What is it about your motorcycle that you enjoy the most?

What I enjoy about my motorcycle the most is probably is the freedom is gives me to travel the country with my Club, HawgsDawgs, and it’s history. My dad had saved Savings
Bonds up since I was five to give me on my 40th birthday and allowed me to buy it when I worked at the Harley dealer in LA. Rather than go the ‘replace-it-when-it-got-old’ route I’ve
kept it like new and made it my own, I’ve had the engine rebuilt several times and will probably keep it for the rest of my life in honor of my Dad and his memory. It feels like a part
of me. I’ve ridden much newer and faster motorcycles but I feel One with this one wherever I travel. Knock on wood, it’s never stranded me anywhere and I can’t imagine life without it.

5. Tell us about your charity involvement and goals.

My charity involvement has become personal. When I owned the Hard Labor I held many charity events, mostly for AIDS when it wasn’t in the national limelight and we were taking
care of one another when the country seemed indifferent and we had to stand up for ourselves. I currently support AIDS charities within the community but my main support over
the recent years has been for the Wounded Warrior Project and donate to them monthly to help out the men and women who’ve lost limbs and worse serving their country.

6. Tell us about your Leather family.

My Leather family is wide and vast. It includes my Club brothers, local brothers and sisters here in San Diego who often call me “Uncle Mark” and have been true family over
the last 30 years. I’m the last living Mr. Leather here and am honored to be one of the senior members of the community; and while I’ve opened up my life to a lot of other events
and projects, I can truly count on all of them and enjoy serving whenever asked.

7. You used to interrogate people in the SERE Program, tell us what that is, and what the interrogation entailed.

When I was in the service, I had to take a course called SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) that would aid me in surviving being shot down over enemy territory.
The following year I took a course to teach it and became an instructor. Among other things, the main focus of the training was to simulate being captured and resist giving the
enemy any information that would harm my fellow flyers and comrades. While teaching the course and being an interrogator, I found I not only excelled at getting information but
gave the students the motivation and training on how to resist themselves - that I was most proud of. I learned the power of controlling others in controlled situations and that led
later to skills that I used in Leather scenes. There are many ways of control that do not need brutality but coercion and I enjoyed and enjoy every minute of it.

8. Who is the most influential person in your life and why?

The most influential person in my life had and has to be my father. His lust for life was amazing. He was a POW in World War II for almost three years, in Stalag Luft III, the
infamous prison camp where the escape from it was the story from the movie “The Great Escape” starring Steve McQueen and Sir Richard Attenborough. While my father assisted
in building the tunnel in that famous escape, he was moved to another compound just before the Escape and spent the rest of the war there and freed by General Patton at War’s end.
He finished a 28-year career as a pilot, then worked another 20 years as a health inspector in Florida and then another 20 years volunteering for Children’s Hospital.
He got a Black Belt in Ti Kwan Do at the age of 82, the oldest man on record to be awarded a black belt, would climb rock climbing walls into his late 80s and lived well until
he was 92 when he passed after living with Pancreatic Cancer for two years; when most succumb to it in six months or less. He loved picking up new skills just to do it and even
became a clown at Barnum/Baily circus to entertain the children at the Childrens' Hospital in St. Petersburg. I could not have had a better role model. He was even responsible in
a way for me finding my passion in life, skydiving, when I had told him about doing a Tandem jump and he challenged me, telling me, "that’s not real skydiving until you do it
yourself," and had the chops to be able to say that; he was the pilot of the bomber that got shot down over Germany on a mission that sent him to POW camp. I even owe my life
to skydiving from his experience, as he was told (propaganda) that the Germans would shoot parachutes out of the sky so he waited until he was merely hundreds of feet up to
pull his ripcord and got one swing after line stretch. It amazes me that my existence is owed to merely a second that a second later I would never have been born. Thanks to both
my Dad and my Mom, who at almost 96, is still living well.

9. Please tell us about your hearing loss and how does it affect your daily life?

I went Deaf from CMV which most people have but those with HIV can and often lose their eyesight, hearing, balance and other things due to immune systems that can’t
fight it. It took the eyesight in one eye, most of the hearing in one ear and much of the hearing in the other, as well as put me on canes and finally a wheelchair until I recovered from
HIV and had to learn to see (in 2-D) hear (with hearing aids) and learn to walk again. I have learned the hard way that life is adapting to whatever it throws at you; you can quit or
you can fight and live the best that you can. I have no depth perception yet learned to watch perspective and the size of things approaching and retreating to get a sense of depth
that allows me to drive and function as well as most. Being Deaf has been difficult, but you deal with it and do what you can. I taught myself sign language over two years then took
a couple courses in ASL at the local deaf center and a college course. I live between a hearing and deaf world; with modern technology I can hear well enough in small groups while
anything larger than three or four becomes difficult and many of my friends have learned ASL to help me along when the crowds get too large. It’s an amazing gift, much like mind reading
when you realize you’ve been having an hour-long conversation with someone, remember it as being a ‘voice’ but you’re never spoken a word. I get by. The worst thing was at one
point it started to take away being social as it was so difficult to keep up with conversations but I push as much as I can and try to get the gist of things through non verbal cues
and I’ve recently rejoined more in new things. I thought it was going to keep me from skydiving as when you’re a student you’re on a radio getting instruction on how to fly the
parachute and land and when I did my first one, I couldn’t understand a thing after free-falling for a minute and opening my parachute; the radio just didn’t have the clarity enough to
hear the instruction. I was on my own and had to figure it out and managed to get down the first time without any help. Landing was difficult as well from having no depth perception
and once near the ground I couldn’t really tell if I was two feet up or 10 just before landing. Again, I had to adapt and found I could look to the side, see when I was level with an eight-foot roof and begin to flare at that point and it worked. While most of my first 40 landings were frankly on my ass, I finally figured it out after watching some videos of landings and
manage now to land on my feet like a seagull, most of the time ;)

10. I believe you have appeared on Television and Movies, please tell us more and which was your favorite?

While living in LA I was riding my bike thru Griffith Park and they were filming a movie there, I stopped to watch and got to know a woman who organized a group of bikers to
work on movies. She asked if I’d like to be in a scene there and I enjoyed it. She hooked me up with her group and began working as an extra in a number of movies and TV shows as
a biker, bouncer, bad guy, etc. on shows as diverse as In Living Color, Blossom, Thirty-Something, and a handful of others. I began to network and try to get more roles and ended up
working in a handful of movies, Alien Intruder, Grand Canyon, and others. While on one shoot I was told there was a new pirate movie being made and I should audition and I signed up
and got a call from Steven Speilberg’s office to audition and got the part in Hook as one of the pirates. I had a small speaking role and while a scene where I played the piano in a musical
number didn’t make the cut, it got me in the musician’s union and I still get residual checks from that movie to this day. I think that was my favorite role as I met nearly every star in Hollywood
coming by to see the set and the ship. I got a chance to have lunch one day with Robin Williams while he gave up his break to help escort the friend of one of my pirate buddies who
was dying of AIDS and would not live to see the movie. That was niney 18-hour days that were as much fun as I’ve ever had. I got lucky and got a few commercials, one of which
was a gang of bikers where we got to do some serious stunt driving and ended up joining the Screen Actors’ Guild.

11. In your mind, what does Leather mean to you, and what is the glue that keeps us together?

What does Leather mean to me? More an attitude than the Leather itself. My first foray into Leather was as a biker, then I learned about a whole other Leather world that didn’t involve
motorcycles but BDSM, and took right to it. What I think makes a Leather man has much more to do with the way you carry yourself, your integrity and the way you treat others than what
you wear. I love my boots; but I’m often seen in Converse Chucks which are almost a trademark, they’re the only sport shoes I can wear comfortably due to nerve damage in my feet and I’ll
occasionally break all the ‘rules’ and wear them in my Leather on my bike and get some askance looks from some of the folks that are rigid in their uniforms. That’s fine for them, I frankly don’t
care. I do what I want and when I want, and if I was worried about what others thought of me due to their own rules, I wouldn’t be my own man. That being said, I love to get in full gear and
play too.

12. If you can be anyone dead or alive (not yourself) who would you be and why?

If I could be anyone dead or alive? Probably Carl Sagan. He was a personal hero to me. He saw the world as it is, not what we wished it could be and explained the world in simple
ways that anyone could understand, didn’t put up with bullshit of pseudoscience or religion but knew more about theirs than they did. I have always been a fan of science, and while I was
a history/political science major in College, my interest in science and astronomy keeps me looking toward a bright future.

13. What do you see for the future of Leather in your community and internationally?

The Leather community will always be with us, and while it changes all the time it too will adapt to new things while keeping an eye on it’s history. What was "Old Guard" to the new kids was
new stuff to the post WWII soldiers who gathered, became bikers and became what started our Leather community as we know it today. Watch "The Wild One" sometime then look at both our
Leather community and the biker community and you’ll see where our roots are. The future looks good. Every generation learns from the last and then puts their own touches on theirs, and that
will continue for years to come. Within the gay community, I can say arguably that age makes much less difference in the Leather community, and while agism exists, I remember when I was
25, I  learned much or most of my Leather S/M and admired the most the men in their 50s and even older that knew how to live well while so much of the greater gay community thought
you were dead at 30. AIDS made that true for a generation, in reality and not just metaphorically, and we still recovered from that, but I think we’re well on our way to a healthy Leather future.

14. Tell us what your favorite piece of Leather is and why?

My favorite piece of Leather? Probably the Leather breeches I made for myself. I rarely got the time away from making Leather for other people to make stuff for myself and bought used stuff. This pair was
made from the Leather left over from a big hide which I made some chaps from for someone else, and they said to spare no expense. It’s thick, buttery and smooth and served me well for almost 20
years of riding and going to Leather events. Second place would go to a Langlitz jacket a friend has let me "borrow" now for many years without asking for it back as long as I wear it and ride in it
and the two together, with a high pair of Chippewa boots gets me hard. That speaks for itself :)

15. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you in Leather?

Funniest thing that happened to me in Leather? Probably walking down the street at Folsom with the Rainbow Motorcycle Club (I’m a member of that club too, due to that day) and on a whim sat down
on their portable fire hydrant and had them all turn around and take a piss there on the street. I was laughing my ass off until some fundamentalist decided to ruin the fun and shove a video
camera between their legs to get it to show them back home how depraved we all are. I tossed his camera away and told him to get a life. Trying to show us as we are every day at Folsom is like
straight folks being judged for Mardi Gras. Get a life.

16. What’s the funniest safe word you ever heard?

Without getting too much grief from folks reading this, I rarely use safe words. I know that safe sane and consensual is the rule of the day, but for me personally , if I can’t read enough of someone
I’m playing with well enough to know when to slow or stop, I shouldn’t be doing it all all. That’s just me. I also believe, again, for me, that safe words have little meaning when playing with strangers,
I like playing with people I know and trust that can role-play well enough to make me think that it’s going to go too far without really doing it. That’s what a good mind-fuck is all about and my favorite Leather play. You can have safe words all day and when you’re playing with someone you don’t know they won’t save your life.  Be careful out there.

17. What was the last meal you cooked just for yourself?

Last meal I cooked for myself…. Sorry to say it was microwaved fish sticks and a salad. I usually do better. The Avocado dip was great though.

18. They say ski diving is like sex, how was it for you and what five possessions would you trade for another ski diving jump?

They say skydiving is like sex? Well, I did. I think the quote I made was "skydiving is better than sex." We’re comparing apples and oranges but I’ll definitely say when they’re done well, they’re both intense, fulfilling and an amazing dance and adventure. The surge of adrenaline you get from leaping out of a plane and flying doesn’t go away after a few minutes like an orgasm but carries with you
for most of the day into the evening, maybe that’s just me. Every time I fly I seem to relive it for hours, remembering every instant with incredible clarity even though it only lasts for 60 seconds.
What five possessions would I trade for the next jump? Probably most anything I own but for my motorcycle. I’m much more into adventures than things and while possessions can be be replaced nothing beats 60 seconds in the sky flying like birds or supermen with a few friends doing what humans have dreamed of since humanity began and have only done in groups for a few decades. Try it sometime and let me know, I’d love to jump with you.

19. I would love to visit San Diego, what five non-touristy places would you show me and why?

Non touristy places in San Diego. First of all I would love for you to visit San Diego, Jaco. We’ve known each other online for some 20 years! As for places here that aren’t touristy, I’d say a waterfall  on the way to Julian that most folks never see driving by (when we have rain, which we haven’t had much of lately, but are due a good soaking this winter). Come by the Dropzone and see some of the most fun and happy folks you’ve ever seen who really know how to live hard and well. A little oasis east of San Diego no bigger than a house in the middle of the 115-degree desert where it’s 80, if that.
A winding back road to the little town of Ramona. Twisting through scrub oak and climbing up with an amazing view of the distant ocean, on a clear day. And my front yard, which I’ve made into a private place with an outdoor shaded room, hot tub and fire pit. Great for a cigar, pipe and beer and meeting new friends.

20. In conclusion, anything you would like to add to this interview for the Leather community?

What would I like to add to this interview for the Leather community? Grab life with all your heart. Do amazing things. Regret nothing, even the mistakes. You learn the most from them. And be good to each other. That’s all we have, when you really think of it, is each other. Sort of not charity but giving back. You can add this somewhere in the charity part, was thinking about what a guinea pig I’ve been for AIDS research.



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