Rob MacMillan. It’s a name you may be hearing a lot in the coming year.
As this year’s Mr Leather Ottawa, he made a stir before even accepting his title — by appearing in the fantasy section of the competition as his drag alter ego, Robin, instead of sporting manly leather gear like most would expect. It ruffled some feathers, to be sure. And after hearing a taste of what he has planned for his time under the MLO sash, it looks like it’s going to be another interesting year for the leather scene in Ottawa.
You may remember the tensions that arose in the community last year surrounding MLO 2010 title-holder Mike Tattersall. Tattersall held three concurrent titles at the time, putting him at the centre of a tug-of-war: Mr Central Canada Olympus Leather, Mr Leather Ottawa and Mr Cellblock — a title from 2008 that still stands because no Mr Cellblock competitions have been held since. The producer of Central Canada Olympus expressed his hearty disapproval about having a titleholder with other titles and responsibilities, citing a conflict of interest and potential scheduling problems. Tattersall said he wasn’t breaking any rules and would honour all of his commitments. Fighting ensued.
This year’s Mr Leather Ottawa, who is a bi, crossdressing leatherman with 25 years of kink under his belt, wants to open some minds and play with people’s expectations — and he felt the need to get started on that right away.
“They were shocked and surprised. That’s sort of the reason I did it,” says MacMillan. “The leather community says [it’s] about accepting people and not forcing anyone into boxes. If [you’re] about alternative lifestyles and supporting that, then you have to support who I am. If you don’t support who I am, and I don’t really show or tell people who I really am, then I’m a fake; I’m a liar.”
MacMillan intended to make a strong statement at MLO this year by competing in drag. He hopes that actions like this will open up space for people to express themselves more authentically in the community. When it comes to MLO, he feels it needs to be better recognized as an event that now welcomes diverse expressions of fetish and kink. While MLO used to be a leather-only competition, it was reborn as a more general fetish event three years ago.
As a bisexual man who crossdresses, and a top who only submits to one person (his dom is Wanda Cotie, owner of Wicked Wanda’s), MacMillan straddles a lot of borders that are commonly presented as either/or identities in the kink world: Are you gay or straight? Are you a top or a bottom? Are you masculine or feminine?
“The leather community is not about being in a box. It’s about being free and being an individual and expressing yourself in your sexuality — that’s why it started in the first place,” says MacMillan. “I believe that people should be allowed to be people. If I’m willing to fight for other people’s freedom of expression and ways to live, I should also fight for my own.
“I’m hoping to promote a more positive, inclusive leather community here in Ottawa. Whether you wear leather or lace doesn’t matter. Your sexuality doesn’t matter. Everybody has a place if they want to be here.”
It would appear that this boundary-pushing is necessary. Feedback from this year’s event, which was compiled into a report on Dec 4, included a variety of critiques about MacMillan’s decision to appear in drag at MLO. One respondent said, “contestants should wear leather — not drag, not a dress, not a wig.” Another said, “I agree we need to be a more inclusive community in many ways, but having the kink involved to that degree was wrong and not helpful at all.” That said, one respondent was quite enthusiastic about the way the fantasy part of the competition went this year, saying, “The fetish armada section was fantastic, we need more kink like that.”
With an intention to challenge all sorts of assumptions over the next year, it’s a good thing that MacMillan has the support and community of the Ottawa Knights — a local queer men’s leather club that produces Mr Leather Ottawa. MacMillan was a pledge of the Knights for eight months before being approved as a full member at the end of November.
When MacMillan was first told about the organization, he wasn’t sure if he would be accepted there.
“At first, I was hesitant [to join] because I don’t identify as a gay male. I identify as bisexual, and I have a female persona [which comes out in his crossdressing fetish]. But they’ve accepted me pretty much whole-heartedly.
“That’s part of my battle in life — people accepting me for who I am. I accept myself.”