Over the last weekend in May, Chicago played host to the 32nd installment of the International Mr Leather competition, one of the largest gatherings of kinksters and leather folk in the world. It also marked a very important moment in the history of the gay men’s leather community.
Tyler McCormick, Mr Rio Grande Leather 2010, became the first transgendered man to take home the title. In addition to being a gay-identified trans man, Tyler is also primarily confined to a wheelchair.
Tyler wowed the crowd with an incredibly moving speech. But there were a number of leatherfolk who took issue with how open Tyler is about being trans. There was even some blatant transphobic name-calling.
Tyler maintains that he went into the competition wanting simply to represent his most authentic self.
“I didn’t run on being disabled or being trans,” he says. “I went up and was Tyler. As long as I stay Tyler, it doesn’t register.”
That nuanced take on things has been a breath of fresh air for many in the leather community. That McCormick is so comfortable with his differences is also refreshing. His nickname for himself is “Leather Gimp,” and when asked how his disability affected his IML experience, he doesn’t miss a beat.
“It meant a lot more luggage,” he replies.
McCormick relays a story about a play party at which he staged a scene with several friends. They chased him with fake bats and called him a faggot, before he launched out of his wheelchair for a beating.
“We spoke to the dungeon monitor, and I got myself out of the chair, so it was all safe,” Tyler quips.
When asked what he wants people to know about him that they might not already know, he responds, “If you run into me, I’m still just Tyler. A namaste approach to the universe!”
Mr Ohio Leather 2010, Jim DeLong, said to McCormick after he won, “You’re the most real person I have ever met.” It is that authenticity that earned McCormick not only a sash, but a place in history.
But to those who know him, he will always be “just Tyler.”
David Ivey is Mr Leather Toronto 2010.