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Conversations with Leather: Joey McDonald

By June 19, 2014

Joey McDonald At CLAW Supplied By Jaco Lourens WebFor those who don’t already know, please tell us about yourself, your Leather titles and how you are connected to the community.

Hey there, my name is Joey McDonald. I’m 57 years old and a native Chicagoan, but have also lived in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia and Key West, Florida. I am a US Navy Veteran who served as an openly gay sailor (long, long before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). I was lucky enough traveled around the world by the time I was honorably discharged, having visited 32 countries. In the mid-80s, I owned a catering and event planning business. I am a trained master weaver, and spent 15 years in the interior design industry designing and weaving luxury/high-end upholstery fabrics.

I worked for LGBT equality in Illinois until April 2013. I currently work as a Community Health Advocate, serving the homeless, recovering/addicted and HIV/AIDS impacted people and am going to school to get certified as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

Although I never won a Leather title, I competed for and was a runner-up for Mr. Windy City 1981. I am a member of the Executive Committee of International Mr. Leather, Inc.  (IML). I have served as the IML Den Daddy for the past eight years, working with the men who compete each year.  I have the distinction of having volunteered at every IML since its beginning in 1979.




In 2009 I received the Pantheon of Leather Lifetime Achievement Award and was also inducted into Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame for my activism with regards to the LGBT, African American, Veteran, HIV/AIDS and disenfranchised youth communities. I volunteer my time, experience and energy as often as I can, and mentor those who have a thirst for knowledge.

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

Joey McDonald With Chuck Renslow And Partner At IML 2013 By Dave RhodesI met my first Leatherman when I was an eight-year old lad. He was my uncle’s husband. I told my uncle that I wanted one just like him. He said that I would have to wait and get my own.  Thirteen years later, I met a German couple in Bremerhaven who took me home and did things to me I had not yet imagined. After learning at the hands and feet (sling, bed, cross, etc.) of these two men over the course of three days, I knew I had found what I was desperately looking for. That was 36 years ago. Since then, I have had the chance to meet and enjoy Leatherfolk from all corners of the world.

Which club or bar are you affiliated with and tell us more about the history?Although not currently affiliated with any club, I was a founding member and the first president of SC3 – a pansexual Leather club for kinky people who are also in 12-Step Recovery, and I continue working to ensure sober people know they have a place in the leather/kink world. Since moving back to Chicago in 1980, I have supported each and every leather bar in Chicago, including The Gold Coast, The Redoubt, The O-Zone, AA Meat Market, Deeks, The Loading Dock, The Men’s Room, and the only remaining two – Touché and Jackhammer.

What is it about International Mr. Leather that keeps you involved?

Being at the first IML was sheer luck on my part. I was home on leave from the Navy, and just happened to go to the Gold Coast bar. I found out that there was a contest that weekend, and thought it would be a great way to meet some people. It was the first time I was ever involved in anything like that, but damn, did I have a great time. The Leather community: the people who work hard to ensure that IML happens each year; those people who come from all across the globe to attend; and especially the men who step up for their individual communities and come to compete.

Sneaky question of course, which IML class is your favorite? (While it may sound trite, there are men from each and every IML class who touched, inspired and amazed me – especially those that I have worked with directly as the Den Daddy. However, if I am going to be completely honest, I have to say that it is the Class of 2005 – IML 27. It was the first year that I served as Den Daddy, and those men helped me understand the true caliber of the type of Leather men who were confident enough of themselves that they would dare to stand on an international stage and be judged. It was through them that I came to understand what true brotherhood was about, and they will always have a special place in my heart. But as I alluded to before, the men of each and every IML class are truly greater men than I!

Tell us about your charity involvement and goals.

I do what I can to support the following charities with money, experience or manpower: Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M), the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), the Center on Halsted (Chicago based LGBT), AIDS Legal Council of Chicago (ALCC), Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), the Equality Federation, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the Alzheimer’s Association, The Trevor Project, The Stand Up Foundation, the You Can Play Project, the Names Project, Vital Bridges Food Pantry, the American Diabetes Association, the Broadway Youth Center, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and the Wounded Warrior Program.  Some of my more immediate goals include maintaining the LA&M as a repository for the history of our community; ensuring that people  who are involved in consensual BDSM are not criminalized; working towards full equality for LGBT people – including marriage equality and government recognition of same-sex couples; the safety of all youth – especially the disenfranchised and those who are LGBTIQA – in schools and on the streets (suicides, homelessness and human trafficking); breaking the color, sexual and gender barriers still rampant in the LGBT and particularly the Leather community; affordable housing, proper nutrition, and equal education for all people; access to affordable healthcare and medicines for those who are impacted with HIV/AIDS as well as the general public; and helping active duty and veterans with their physical, mental and emotional wounds.

Tell us about your Leather family.

My Leather family is vast and extensive, and I have brothers and sisters around the world, some of whom I mentor, and many whom I learn from. Chuck Renslow is my Daddy. He has been my mentor much more than he will ever realize. I’m in a long-distance relationship with a pup, and I am searching for a boy/partner.

You have judged International Mr. Rubber before, how does the judging differ to international Mr. Leather Contest?

With the exception of the “fantasy grab-bag” portion of MIR, both contests are very similar in that the judges are looking for the person that could best represent the respective communities for the next year.

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

There are actually a few:
My siblings – teach me unconditional love;
My parents – taught me to always be myself;
Ensign Vernon Berg – taught me to be honest and honorable as a active duty sailor;
Chuck Renslow – taught me not to wait for someone else to do the job, and that our community is only as strong as its weakest link.

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

I think outsiders see the Leather community as a disconnected, uneducated, uncaring, and unsafe group of miscreants who have replaced intimacy and love with violence.

What would you say are the most important strengths to have as a Leatherman?

There are four strengths that any Leather person should have: (a) respect of self and for others, (b) compassion for those who differ or who are at odds with you, (c) living a life of honor and integrity, and (d) learning and preserving our history for future generations.

What does Leather mean to you?

That is one of those questions that is hard to answer in words. Leather means finding your own personal freedom, and accepting the responsibilities that come with it. It is community and camaraderie; it is being lively, and witty boisterous. a. It is love and lust. It’s letting go of sexual shame. It’s mentoring. It’s being present. It’s about pushing your boundaries and accepting your limits. And yes – it’s about toe-curling and mind-exploding physical, spiritual and mental sex.

Joey McDonald At Mid Atlantic Leather 2013 By Dave Rhodes WebWhat do you see for the future of Leather in your community and internationally?

It is still growing. It may sound corny to say, but the youth are our future – they are fearless about what interests them, and they find new kinky things to be interested in each and every day.

What advice can you give a future title holder?

Respect those who came before you – even if you are at odds with them. They helped pave the way for you to be who you are. Respect those who are around you – even if they don’t understand you, for everyone has their own path to follow. Respect those who will come after you – they are the ones who will keep your legacy alive.

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

That would be my vest with the IML wingman patch. I never feel alone when I have it on or nearby.

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

I went to an aunt’s 70th birthday party wearing chaps. She asked me what kind of pants I had on, and was there no front or back panels. When I explained that they were made for riding motorcycles, she said that since she didn’t hear a cycle when I arrived, they must have been made for some other kind of riding.

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

For me – and I can only speak for myself – Leather is a state of mind and a way of living, and BDSM forms the actions that come out of that mindset.

What are your favorite S&M activities?

I love the spirituality of flogging and the intensity of electrical play.

You say you like to chew on boys, what’s your favorite way of catching your boy?

Using my confidence, cunning and intellect covered in honey. And if that doesn’t work, a cattle prod, a lasso and a bandana soaked with chloroform will do nicely.

Tell us your favorite song at this moment.

To Sir with Love: it speaks about the impossibility of truly thanking someone who has taught you right from wrong and weak from strong.