- Main News
By Marc Loveless
The Chicago weather showed out this Memorial Day weekend by having the highest tempters ever, well over 90 degrees it could not have been any hotter than what was happening inside the Hyatt Hotel hosting the 34th annual International Mr. Leather contest and weekend.
The more than 15,000 attendees visited the Leather Market vendor hall, met new friends and reacquainted with others to exercise their fetish and to see who would win the coveted title of International Mr. Leather (IML) 2012.
The conference organizers noted how the event has changed over the years. Chris W. of St. Louis said that over the past 20 years he has been attending the gathering he has seen they event diversified by including people with a sense of the history of the Leather community, some with no reference at all and the inclusion of People of Color as members and participants. Mike from Chicago another long time attendee and volunteer recognize the long standing commitment of people that continue to return consistently. Some for 10, 15, and even 20 years the greying of the attendees you see is example of the dedication to culture and commitment to the liberation and importance freedom and conscience responsibility that the event upholds.
In past years IML has been the vanguard prior to public and governmental funding for People with AIDS. The Leather community raised money for support services for people with AIDS. They collected resources to utilities their networks across the country. The IML is the largest gathering of Men who have Sex with Men in the country. It is also the pebble in the pond of social consciousness and the jumping off point of many initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV and other health awareness. Last year they banned all adult video’s that were claimed to promote what is known as Bare-Backing or male to male sex without using a condom. Two years ago they initiated a major crack-down on the use Meth in the Gay Male community.
While some may take issue with the positions taken by the organization for being too controversial its founder Chuck Renslow now in his 70’s and still going strong does not fletch nor hold his opinions to himself. Not comfortable with resting on past accomplishments on the night of the IML competition with over 2,500 audience members from around the country and throughout the world Renslow urged the re-electing Barack Obama as President of the United States. He said “When your freedom denies me my freedoms then you no longer represent me. Nothing is more important than the re-electing of Barack Obama.”
No greater show of expanding of the diversity of IML then the People of Color workshop and meeting held the day prior the competition coordinated by the African-American national Leather organization Onyx. Onyx not only has hosted the largest dance party during the weekend for the past 16 years. This year proceeds went to Breast Cancer research and care with support of a women Leather group based in San Francisco Mama’s Family. The annual workshop had an overflow crowd which concluded with demonstrations of Bondage preceded with a panel discussion on the topic of Mentoring In The Leather Community.
The panelist included the first runner up of the IML 2011 and the American Leatherwoman 2011 Trinity. All spoke of the coming of age of their fetish in the African-American community and the Leather community as a whole. The panel addressed the redefining of terms like Slave, Master, Boy for an adult man, and others as barriers and gateways to Black people. They also spoke how their families have been incorporated in their Leather lives and how they incorporate family influences of neutering in their Leather journey. RadioGBM will explore these topics interviews with Sandy “Mama” of Mama’s Family, Trinity, and others on our talk show channel.
At the end of the weekend the greatest attributes, in addition to event organizers went the title winners of IML 2012 which included Mr. International Leather Woody Woodruff, 1st Runner Up A.C. Demidont, and the 2nd Runner Up and crowd favorite African-American Kevin Jordan Mr. D.C. Eagle who in his platform speech challenged the organization to make more room for diversity and inclusion of people of color. He will also join us RadioGBM for an exclusive radio interview.
Plans have already begun for the 35th IML 2013 which will also be held in Chicago May 24-27, 2013. See iml.com