Fringe Benefits

This is the final post in my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

A joke: What do you do with knotted hose? You let the kinks out.

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Pageantry in Leather and Lace

Imagine this. You’re sitting in the middle an an auditorium, an amphitheater, felted seat cushions pressing into your bottom and back. Before you, enshrined in a single spot light amid a sea of delicate shadows, the MC takes a bow as he finishes his opening remarks and then takes his place at the podium downstage left.

He brings his lips close to the microphone; he smiles. Video cameras catch the contours of his face, his perfectly coiffed hair, and project his visage onto giant screens.

“Are you ready to meet the contestants?”

The crowd replies with cheering and clapping, at the edge of every seat in anticipation.

One by one the contestants come forth. A few from the US–New Jersey, Philadelphia, three different cities in California–and from Europe in Italy and France, Sweden and the Netherlands; two hail from Latin America, introduced in the MC’s flawless Spanish and Portuguese. One contestant has even come from as far as Israel.

Except instead of women, the contestants are men. And instead of dresses and swimsuits, they’re wearing jock straps and leather harnesses. This isn’t the Miss Universe Pageant. This is the 40th annual International Mr. Leather Competition.

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