“Toronto needs Leather Pride,” says Jack Pearce in a tone that brooks no argument.
Pearce, a 25-year veteran of Toronto’s leather scene, is president of the newly formed Heart of the Flag Federation (HOTFF), which recently took over the former Mr Leatherman Toronto Competition Inc with an entirely new board — and a lot of new ideas.
The Mr Leatherman Toronto (MLT) competition, traditionally held on the last weekend of November, is moving to the weekend of August 11 to 14 for 2011. The MLT contest, Bootblack Toronto (BBT) contest and related events are now set to coincide with the Church Street Village Fair (formerly known as the Church Street Fetish Fair), to be held on Sunday, August 14.
The weekend will feature a number of community booths and activities, as well as a special section run by HOTFF in the Zipperz parking lot (72 Carlton St) with shows, kink demos, bootblacks and more. According to Pearce, the Mr Rubber Toronto competition, a separate entity, is also aiming to shift its dates to that same weekend, which has been dubbed Toronto Leather Pride.
“Leather Pride day is about us,” says Pearce. “We’re tired of being a dirty little secret. When we say leather pride, we mean leather pride. We won’t be ignored anymore and pushed to the back of the bus for the sake of rights. We’ve got our rights. There’s a time to bring things into the light.”
Pearce adds that while the fair attracted 30,000 people last year, organizers are expecting closer to 50,000 this time around, thanks to an expanded stretch of streets closed off for the event — not to mention the allure of all the weekend’s kinky events.
The new board’s philosophy is expansive.
“The competitions, MLT and BBT, are part of the weekend, but they’re not the major focus anymore. They’re important and they are fun, but they’re the ornament on the Christmas tree,” says Pearce.
“We’re much more about education and play,” he says of the new organization. “That’s what HOTFF will be centred on: education, play, camaraderie and equality in leather, in the sense that everyone is welcome.”
The board has seven members, two of whom are women and four of whom are bootblacks, including Pearce himself. The TLP weekend’s executive producer is Victoria Windsor, a long-time community member and producer of the wildly successful October 2010 Northbound Leather fashion show.
For those who are still keen to make a pilgrimage to Toronto in the colder months, the former MLT weekend in late November will transform into Toronto Bound, a purely fun and educational event with no contest attached — but with plenty of play parties, including one specifically for the women’s and trans leather/BDSM communities.