My time at the International Mister Leather (IML) completion Memorial Day weekend was an experience I’ll never forget.  Along with my 63 brothers of the IML Class of 39 I competed over 4 days from May 25th to the 28th.  It was an experienced of brotherhood I have not felt with a group of men since graduating with my US Army basic training platoon at Fort Jackson, South Carolina way back in 1985.  The organizers of IML definitely deserve a lot of credit for creating an environment so conducive to building friendships among men competing against each other for the title of International Mister Leather 2017.   I am very proud to have been one of those men and very proud to have made friendships I know will last with so many of them.

The competition is broken into 3 judging categories; Preliminary Interviews (one on one interviews with the 9 judges), Physique & Stage Presence (Pecs & Personality, in jock straps) and finally, International Mister Leather Contest (formal gear, selection of Top 20 who do jocks again and give speeches about their platform).   I made it as far as the formal wear Sunday evening, but did not make it into the Top 20.  I learned a lot about myself over the course of the contest.

Getting to learn about yourself is always a good experience.  When I decided to run for the IML title back in 2015 I was in a very different place in my life.  I just ended a 9 year relationship and as a result started making many other changes.  I went back to the gym, I decided to forgo traveling to the same European destinations I’d been going to for years to explore new places I had never been to.  I took a serious look at everything I wanted, or thought I wanted, which resulted in downsizing my life in many ways, including my living space, and expanding my life in other ways.  I had gotten sober again.  The man standing on the IML stage Memorial Day Weekend of 2017 was not the man that decided to run for the title in 2015.  He was a man much more comfortable with himself and his life.

I won’t deny that winning would have been fun, but it would not be the life changing dream it had been.  Life had already changed, was already what I hoped the title would bring to it.  As a result I had very mixed feelings when I wasn’t one of the Top 20 called out.  I had invested heavily in winning and despite knowing I wasn’t the best qualified candidate or a candidate that wanted to continue to invest as heavily, particular with regard to time, I still had to manage the disappointment.  So, I allowed myself to feel the disappointment, but not to live in it.  Utilizing tools I had adopted over the last 2 years I moved on.

I have no regrets about having competed at IML 2017.  In fact, it will undoubtedly rank among the best experiences of my life, not one of the greatest disappointments.  I am proud to have stood on that stage with so many wonderful men full of passion and commitment to many important causes. Mostly, I congratulate all the Top 20 and particularly the  winners; 2nd runner up, Joe King, Halifax, Great Britain, 1st runner up Geoff Millard, San Francisco, CA and IML 2017 Ralph Bruneau, Los Angeles, CA.

Finally, I want to thank the many sponsors and individuals that helped get to the stage including 2015 IML Patrick Smith, 2016 IML 2nd runner up Adam “Pup Vino” Henderson, Troy Anicete, Anicete Designs, New York, NY for the amazing gear,  BearMan and Jason Pelky both of LeatherWerks, Fort Lauderdale, FL, for all the encourage and advice, Stompers Boots, Fort Lauderdale, FL for the boots, Mr. Ramrod 2016 producer David Howell, Ramrod Bar, Fort Lauderdale owners Zack and Steve and very importantly mentors, Scot Blumstein, Bill Heoppner and Kirk Ruben.  I enjoyed the ride!