Skin in the game

Posted on 27 Jan 2017 at 6:15am

Rylee Spire is already the first-ever trans Mr. Dallas Eagle. As he aims to become Mr. Texas Leather this weekend, he reflects on his affection for the leather community

Ryee-Spire

OR MR. TEXAS LEATHER | Rylee Spire hopes to become the first-ever trans Mr. Texas Leather on his way to IML later this spring. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

A few weeks ago, when Rylee Janus Spire was announced as the 2017 holder of the Mr. Dallas Eagle title, he was met with a chorus of “attaboys” and “huzzahs,” both in person and on social media. The vast majority of responses was congratulatory and positive.

But there are always some dissenters.

A few haters groused that a “Mr.” title in leather was exclusively for cisgender males, and Spire was female-to-male trans.

It was not something Jeffrey Payne would stand for.

Payne is the co-owner of Dallas Eagle and a superstar in the leather community. He was the 2009 International Mr. Leather (the granddaddy of leather titles) and was on the judging panel in 2010 when IML declared Tyler McCormick the first-ever trans winner. So he wasn’t about to let similar criticism go unchallenged.

Payne quickly took to Facebook to chastise the nattering nabobs of negativity. Spire, he said, won because he was the best — and, as far as he was concerned, as deserving as any of the other contestants.

“The [negative reaction] was verbal, nothing physical. People are just uneducated about [trans issues],” Payne says. “But Rylee was, in every judges’ mind, a man who ran for Mr. Dallas Eagle. He represented himself in the best possible way — the best interview, speech, formalwear. He mastered them all.”

“I haven’t personally heard any backlash directed at me, but I wasn’t surprised it happened,” Spire says. “But I was extremely excited and very shocked that I won.”

Still, it does warrant acknowledgment: Spire is now the first-ever trans Mr. Dallas Eagle. And when he competes this weekend in the Mr. Texas Leather contest, against seven other hopefuls, he will have the chance of becoming the first-ever trans Mr. Texas Leather as well.

“For someone who is trans, it was a big deal to step into that role,” Spire says.

Payne acknowledges that there is a learning curve that has improved understanding of trans issues. “I don’t think this would have happened 15 years ago,” he admits. “There’s been a lot of progress … but it’s often baby-steps.”

“The biggest issue I had is if people knew me before I transitioned. They’re always thinking of me as trans — they can’t get past it,” he says. “And I know trans people [who hesitate to come to a leather bar] because they worry they will be chased out with pitchforks. And that’s not the case.”

Indeed, while Spire relishes the symbolic significance of his title, and the evidence of progress for trans people in recent years, he’s just happy being part of the leather community.

Spire began his entry into leather and kink about 10 years ago, when he was still living in Chicago and still presenting as female, “but as masculine as I could. I was a baby-trans. But I knew that leather was the path I was interested in following.”

There was a gap following his first interest until he moved to Dallas and started working at the Eagle as a bootblack. But it was just last February, while attending the Alamo City Leatherfest in San Antonio, that Spire felt the itch to compete for Mr. Dallas Eagle.

“That pushed me,” he says. “The main reason was, I wanted the experience of IML. I’ve heard about it for years and years, and I really want to be in that class, part of that brotherhood.” It was Payne, in fact, who initially encouraged Spire to throw his harness into the ring. (He also encouraged several other contestants to compete, including one who, like Payne, is hearing-impaired.)

Now that he’s won his first title, there’s more work ahead. Spire hasn’t had too much time to worry about Mr. Texas Leather — only two weeks separate the events — which he calls both good and bad.

“I like being in ‘contest’ mode,” he says. What really wins you the title, he says, is the self-confidence and the personality, and bringing those qualities through to the judges. 

“I’m not worried about the leather part,” Spire smiles.            

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Mr. Texas Leather takes place over Friday and Saturday at the Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave., starting with a meet-and-greet and introduction of judges and contestants Friday (7–10 p.m.), a chili cook-off Saturday (3 p.m.), followed by cocktails (6 p.m.) to contest (7 p.m.) and the victory party (10 p.m.). TexasLeatherProductions.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2017.

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