For Steve Stewart, relinquishing his Mr Rubber title is bittersweet.
Stewart earned the title at last year’s National Capital Leather Pride (NCLP) Mr Rubber competition, following his reign as Mr NCLP.
As Mr Rubber Ottawa, Stewart travelled to Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and Chicago, where he competed for the Mr International Rubber title. He says the connections he’s made in the rubber community are what he’ll cherish most from his reign.
“It’s been refreshing and reaffirmed that I am where I am, doing what I am supposed to be doing,” he says. “Meeting other like-minded people who enjoy the same things as me, it makes you think ‘wow, I’m not alone on this.’”
Stewart is NCLP’s first Mr Rubber, and although the rubber community is distinctly different from the leather scene, he says rubber aficionados and leather lovers are all from the same family.
“It’s definitely a subsection in that the people who really like rubber, really like rubber. Some people like both [leather and rubber] and some people will just kind of like rubber. But I would say for the most part people who are into rubber are heavily into in.”
In a move to strengthen the burgeoning rubber community in the city, Stewart organizes a biweekly rubber social night at Centretown Pub.
“It’s a chance for people to come out and wear their rubber; have somewhere to wear it and not feel like they are in a freak show or the odd one out in a bar being the only person wearing it.”
Daniel Parenteau, who steps down as Mr NCLP this weekend, can relate to feeling like an outsider. He says discovering the leather scene was like a homecoming.
“I’m with all the other weirdoes who totally understand me and everything,” he explains. “I always knew I was weird, I always knew I was kinky, but finding an outlet for it all, starting form there and meeting [NCLP co-producer] Sir Kira — that was the bigger eye-opening experience.”
Asked what rubber Pride means to him, Stewart points simultaneously to a sense of community and the ability to express his individuality within it.
“It’s been life changing,” he says. “So many amazing opportunities have come from this. I’m genuinely excited to see what comes out of it for the next Mr Rubber, and see what we can build together. It’s just the beginning."