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.
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!