While Canada may be famous for stuffy politicians and aging pop-music divas, certain members of the leather community in Canada are making sure to represent Canucks as having a much kinkier side, too.
The International Mr Leather (IML) contest — which took place from May 22-26 in Chicago — had great representation from Canadians. M Cuir Montreal, Bob Firth-Tessier won first runner-up, and Ottawa’s Richard Hubley placed 10th overall.
What is even greater than Mr Leather Ottawa placing so high at the international level is the fact that he did it in a wheelchair.
“Some people have the perception that people in chairs aren’t sexual beings, and that they’re not into kink,” says Hubley.
“But of course, they are loving and nurturing people just like everyone else.”
Hubley decided to compete in the Mr Leather Ottawa (MLO) 2008 contest after winning a trip to IML last year and speaking with an amputee who was a contestant in the 2007 competition.
Inspired, Hubley knew that he too could compete, despite his disability.
“I was tired of sitting in the background,” says Hubley, who worked behind the scenes at leather contests for 12 years before he even considered competing himself.
Currently, Hubley volunteers at many different organizations including the LGBT Liaison Committee, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa as secretary, and the Ottawa Knights as treasurer.
“When I decided that it was time to be in the forefront though, I never thought that I’d win. Then the beau announced my name at MLO, and suddenly I was competing at IML, and it’s all just been a blur.”
In his opening statement at IML, Hubley spoke of both his pride and surprise at the fact that he was the first competitor in the 30-year history of IML to roll onto the stage.
“It’s the 30th anniversary of IML, and they’ve had deaf competitors, and transgendered competitors, but I’m the first person in a wheelchair to get onto that stage,” he says.
Hubley says that he is glad the international competition is becoming more diverse, and notices that the competition’s age range is widening as well.
“This year, competitor’s ages ranged from about 23 to 68, and usually it’s only 28 and above,” says Hubley.
“A new, more diverse generation is starting to compete, and North Americans are becoming higher caliber.”
Although he’s only been out for about eight years now, Bob Firth-Tessier is currently cementing his mark on the queer community to make up for lost time.
After 30 years of living straight (including three kids and one divorce), Firth-Tessier is finally celebrating his coming out in a big way, with his title as M Cuir Montreal 2008, and more recently, his position as first runner-up in the International Mr Leather contest.
“These contests were something that I needed to do for myself,” says Firth-Tessier, who now lives with his male partner.
“They helped come to terms with who I was, and made me grow, and realize that I can push my boundaries even further than I thought.”
Firth-Tessier says that he is not disappointed about placing second at IML, after coming so close to the top prize at IML. In fact, he is perfectly happy with the way things worked out.
“Being called a first runner-up is in some ways a blessing in disguise — this way, I get full recognition without the obligation to travel and appear everywhere like the winner does,” laughs Firth-Tessier.
Firth-Tessier isn’t afraid of responsibility though. He has spent a lot of time working behind the scenes at the Montreal Black & Blue Festival and other local queer events, as well as at Halifax Pride. He is also looking to do some info sessions in Montreal in the near future.
Firth-Tessier says that while things did get stressful and competitive at IML, camaraderie and friendships are the greatest prizes that he got from the competition.
“There’s a lot of hurry-up and wait backstage during the contest, and tension mounts while you’re waiting to go onstage,” says Firth-Tessier
“It’s a total emotional rollercoaster, and everyone’s going through the same thing, so sometimes just the closeness of being together and holding each other really helps.”
Signed on to be a den daddy in the upcoming Central Canada Olympus Contest in Ottawa Aug 23, Firth-Tessier believes that leather contests and leather lifestyles are important, as well as a lot of fun.
“It’s truly a family of people who work and play together, and respect and support one another,” he says.
“Of course there’s the sexual element to it, but because of the level of trust that needs to happen with the types of games we play, it makes for very strong friendships and bonds.”