And the new Mr. Texas Leather is …

… Gabe Sims! It was a busy few days for the leather community as Texas Leather Weekend got under way, with the naming of Sims as the new Mr. Texas Leather. The Shreveport, La., native, who now resides in Irving, came into the competition with the title Mr. Hidden Door, and bested six other entrants from around the state to take the title. This automatically qualifies Sims to compete in International Mr. Leather in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend this spring.

Sims has some big jackboots to fill. Two of the past three Mr. Texas Leather winners — Jeffrey Payne and Jack Duke (who served as head judge this weekend) — have done well at IML, with Duke coming in third in 2010 and Payne winning the who schmere in 2009.

Check out our slideshow from the event here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lady of leather

Dallas chef Synn Evans took off her chef’s coat and put on a cowhide vest on her way to being crowned Ms. Texas Leather

LEATHER MAMA | Synn Evans is a long-standing member of the leather community, but won the first event she ever entered last week: Ms. Texas Leather. (Photo courtesy Oblivion Images)

JENNY BLOCK  | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

I want this.”

That’s how Synn Evans felt about the Ms. Texas Leather title from the minute she decided to compete. As of Saturday night, that desire became a reality.

She’s in full regalia for our interview, including black leather vest, chaps and her medal. She sports a jet black Mohawk, devilish grin and blue eyes with a gaze as intent as it is kind. Ms. Texas Leather is not a beauty contest, but it’s hard to imagine her looks didn’t help her case.

Evans has been a member of the leather community since 1996, when her best friend introduced her to the scene at a party.

“I was introduced to good people and taken by the hand because of connections. It’s a huge networking system,” she says. “No matter where you travel, you have a place to walk into and fit in, and whatever turns you on is all right. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s like you just know something you just belong with.”

Still, her entry last week marked her first leather competition — surprising, considering how she lights up when she talks about leather:

“I love the way it looks. I love the way it smells. I love the way people dress in it. It’s not for everyone and I get that. But I think that if people were introduced to it in a proper way, it would be hard to walk away from. It’s exciting.”

Her love of leather is in no way hampered by the fact that many see the scene as the domain of gay men. “The leather scene is dominated by men,” she acknowledges. “It was started by men. Women were there, but it was a separate entity. Throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, it started to take off and the feminist movement was really intertwined in it.”

Despite its male roots, Evans says she doesn’t feel any disrespect from her brothers in leather. “I don’t think there’s a problem for women in the community. Men appreciate having their own space just like I appreciate having the women’s space. I’ve never had any trouble. I get along very well with the gay male community. I’ve never had anyone be negative in any way, which is one of the reasons I love the leather community so much. It’s really just a matter of visibility.”

It’s that very issue that helped Evans to win the title. “Visibility is part of my platform, for women in the community to be seen and heard,” she says. Evans also hopes to improve access to the community for those who are hearing impaired, an issue close to her own heart as her last partner was hearing impaired and her current partner, Lillith Grey, is a sign language interpreter and instructor, as well as Gulf Coast Leather Woman of the Year.

“When I announced I was running for this title, [Former IML champ] Jeffrey Payne said to me, ‘It’s going to be a title family now.’ Next I’m going for International Ms. Leather.”

Evans says prepping for the competition was no easy task, between writing a speech, preparing for the interview, researching the judges and preparing a fantasy scene (a four-minute-long performance). Of these, it was the interview, Evans says, that really had her nervous.

“What was so stressful was that they could ask anything — personal, professional, family, anything — like, ‘What does leather mean to you,’ or ‘How do you plan on raising money for the title [for travel]’ or ‘How will your students feel about this?’” She stops and smiles. “They would think it was cool.”

In her vanilla life, Evans is a chef instructor at a community college and a private chef for various events (including for Glory Hole, her partner’s fetish production company; see sidebar). When Evans goes off to her professional gigs, her Mohawk gets collapsed and her jewelry comes off  as her chef’s coat goes on. “In my professional life, I try to be neutral,” she says, although some things, like her tattoos, she keeps on display “because they’re me.”

“Transitioning back and forth between the worlds really isn’t that hard. Like everyone else, you have a time and place for everything in your life. You always find a time and place for things that are important to you and I would never give up the leather community for anything in the world. It’s incredibly liberating to be with people who don’t care if you want to be pierced or don’t want to wear clothes or whatever.”

She laughs. “It’s all about pleasing yourself, realizing what you like and what you want and doing it … as long as it’s safe.”

It’s clear that the win means far more to Evans than just bragging rights.

“This title is a huge opportunity for women in the leather community here in Dallas and across the state. Part of my job as titleholder is to get people to come out. This title has the opportunity to really give the issues and the community the visibility it needs.”

Then she leans back, takes in the moment with a slow breath, and smiles. “It’s pretty cool.”

Indeed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dealing with the ‘A’-word

We appreciate allies, but we also want to preserve LGBT-only space

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

As most of my friends and readers know, I am an active member of the leather community. What you might not know is that there is currently a brouhaha raging in that community about who really belongs or doesn’t belong.

It reminds me of the debates about how many letters to append to LGBT. Right now it’s up to eight with a tongue-twisting “LGBTQQAI” as the latest permutation (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Allies, Intersex).

The letter that has caused so much discussion among leather folk is the “A,” which stands for “allies” in the alphabet soup that is political correctness.

I have a great affinity for allies, and most of them would fall into the category of “straight.”

Straight people, or the “heterosexuals” as some call them, are not a bad group for the most part. Some of my best friends are straight, and to their credit they often march with us in the local Pride parade.

The problem in the leather world with straight people is that not all of them are allies. Many of them fall into the category of what I could call “sexual tourists,” free-thinking (or at least thrill-seeking) heterosexuals who poke about in the world of leather to spice up their love lives.

Now, I am not opposed to people having rich and exciting sex lives. I think that is one of the great gifts our creator endowed us with.

Sex can be fun, if you do it right, and so I have no problem sharing advice and venues with my straight fellows.

Where I do have a problem is when they take over space that was previously the venue of queer leatherfolk or, more often, state their resentment at queer leatherfolk wanting their own spaces.

In the vanilla world this is happening as well. Just look at the gentrification of gayborhoods across the country.

When the San Francisco Eagle Tavern, a landmark of leather history in that city, closed to be remodeled as a straight bar the issue became even clearer.

Right here in Dallas, the Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs gayborhood is in flux as well. New businesses and developments are springing up everywhere.

That in itself is not a bad thing, but when folks move into what is essentially an “entertainment district” they have to expect the kind of lifestyle that goes with the territory.

I have heard complaints about parking on the street — not surprising since parking is at a premium. But for those who are miffed about it, try finding a parking space in Greenwich Village in New York.

Recently, new metrosexual residents of San Francisco’s Castro District have been bemoaning the open display of affection between same-sex couples on the street. Well, when you move into the most famous gay neighborhood in the world, you are going to see that!

Same thing here in Dallas; it comes with the territory.

As in the leather community, there are spaces that have been staked out through years of struggle as “leather-space,” and though we have made our straight friends welcome, they cannot expect us to surrender the space completely.

In our LGBT community as well, we can welcome our allies, but not surrender our identity or our “queer space’ to them.

It is not a matter of hospitality, it is a matter of preserving hard-earned turf.

I understand that many LGBT folks want to fully assimilate into society, and I believe that is not a bad thing when it comes to rights and duties of citizenship in our country.

But I also do not want to blend in so completely that I disappear.

Like many ethnic minorities, I still value the culture I grew up with as a gay man, and I don’t want to see all of it surrendered to make straight allies feel welcome. They are welcome as long as they understand the importance of our space.

It is true in the LGBT community and the leather community, and it is something our allies would be better off understanding.

As a child I used to complain to my mother about Mother’s Day. “When is kids day?” I’d ask her.

And she would smile and answer: “Every day is kids day.”

Now I understand her logic.

In our society, everywhere is “straight space,” so neither we nor our allies should find it unusual at all that we want our own “queer space.”

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

—  John Wright

Mark Frazier confirms he may buy San Francisco Eagle but says he won’t leave Dallas completely

Mark Frazier

On Wednesday we reported that Dallas Eagle co-owner Mark Frazier is in negotiations to buy the San Francisco Eagle Tavern, including that Frazier had told the San Franscio LGBT newspaper, Bay Area Reporter, that if the sale goes through, he will move to San Francisco. We also noted that we had not yet confirmed the report with Frazier himself.

On Wednesday night, we received an email from Frazier who said that yes, “there is some truth” in the B.A.R. report, but that “nothing is final, and I haven’t left Dallas.”

He said there are still “lots of details to work out” before the sale goes through, and he promised that even if the deal does go through, he won’t leave Dallas completely.

“Should this [deal] come to fruition, I would split my time between Dallas and SF,” Frazier said. “Dallas is my home and I will remain an owner in the Dallas Eagle. I love the community here and hope to be part of it for years to come.”

Frazier also said he believes that his experience here with Dallas Eagle puts him in prime shape to turn things around at the SF Eagle, a longtime gathering place for that city’s leather community that had been in danger of closing.

“There are many challenges and hurdles that face the SF Eagle, including refocusing on becoming the community bar it once was,” Frazier wrote. “Many bars and business are closing nationally. I see the problem as two-fold: 1. The owners have lost their passion and their connection with the community; and 2. The community has chosen not to support businesses and have chosen other venues.

“I feel that I am qualified to help the bar reach its potential,” Fraizer said.

—  admin

Bellying up to the bar: Leatherman Payne and partner dive into club ownership with Eagle

MEN OF DENIM | Ostmeyer, Payne, Johnson, Frazier and Roy now all own the Dallas Eagle.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Until about a month ago, everything Jeffrey Payne knew about a bar was how to order a Sprite in one (Payne doesn’t drink). Maybe how to cruise a guy during happy hour. That was it.

That’s changing. Fast.

At the end of January, Payne and his partner David Roy became shareholders in the Dallas Eagle.

“David and I have been speaking about it for a few years. We toyed with starting our own bar, had looked at other bars that had come up for sale in the meantime but never found what we were looking for,” Payne says.

Then last year Mark Frazier, one of the owners of the Eagle, approached them. “He heard we were looking,” Payne says, and asked if they would be interested in investing. Things progressed fairly quickly from there.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Payne says. ”Working with Mark and Cully Johnson and Jerry Ostmeyer, who are the other owners, we all bring something different to the table. We’re all active. There’s no silent partner, no one standing on the sidelines. Lot of changes have either happened or are about to happen. The DJ booth is now against the side; new countertops are being put in; and we have an updated draft [beer] system.”

Payne’s history with the Eagle is notable. He was named Mr. Dallas Eagle in 2008 — the first step on his way to Mr. Texas Leather and finally International Mr. Leather, a title he held from May 2009 to 2010 and for which he received widespread acclaim throughout the community for his leadership.

“Having been around the world like I have been, getting to know the hugely supportive gay community — not just the leather community — I wanted to be more involved,” he says. “The Eagle was just the right thing we were looking for. It’s a Levi/leather bar, but it doesn’t stop there: The bears, the court, the drag queens, softball teams, the bowling league — it’s not limited to just one sector of the community. It’s a wide array of people. Even straight people who are involved in the gay community hold activities there.”

“Bar owner” joins Payne’s other job titles of late, which also include running a court reporting service and serving on his non-profit Sharon St. Cyr Foundation, which raises money for hearing aids and sign interpretation for the deaf community. Payne is going deaf, although it has not progressed as fast as his doctors had predicted.

“It has gradually gotten worse but I’ll hang on to every day I can,” he says. ”Understanding is escaping more and more. David said something to me this morning and what I heard and what he said were on two different planes. Mine was much funnier.”

His hearing impairment also figures into his work at the Eagle — in some not-to-predictable ways.

“Sunday was the first time I worked behind the bar,” he says. “When I’m at the Eagle I don’t wear my hearing aids so people were placing orders and I didn’t hear them.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Dallas’ leather community goes A.W.O.L. this weekend

As a Leather Knight, Rick Gilles was tuned in to the local leather community, but now he’s busy with moving trucks and packing tape, he can’t partake in A.W.O.L.: A Weekend of Leather. But these guys will step in to fill his shoes — or, rather, boots.

Discipline Corps — Dallas’ BDSM play group is comprised of “biologically born males who wish to experience safe, sane and consensual play with other men from the novice level to the experienced.” DisciplineCorps.com.

Cowtown Leathermen — Formed in 1983, this organization provides services to the Tarrant County LGBT community and beyond. CowtownLeathermen.com.

United Court of the Lone Star Empire (UCLSE) — Ruled by an emperor and empress, this is part of the Imperial Court System that stretches across North America. UCLSE is one of six sovereign courts in Texas. Some serious stuff. DallasCourt.org.

DFW Leatherboys — This “bio-boy social group” focuses on BDSM and a leather lifestyle. The group encourages leather education, community service and, of course, being a leatherboy. DFWLeatherboys.com.

These groups will host their own cocktail parties on Saturday at the Crowne Plaza host hotel.

— R.L.

A.W.O.L. 2, Aug. 6­–8. For a complete schedule, visit AWOLDallas.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Let the Gay Games begin! Dallas sends 40 athletes

Dallas will field more than 40 athletes at the Gay Games in Cologne later this month. Here are some of those hoping to bring home gold

Athlete: Mark LeDoux (right)
Age: 31
Day job: Anesthesiologist and interventional pain management specialist
Sport: Track and Field
Events: 4×100 meter relay, 4×200 meter relay, 200 meters, 110 meter hurdles, 200 meters, 400 meter hurdles and 800 meters.
Gay Games experience: First Gay Games
Interesting fact: Father of twin 9-year-old girls
In his own words: “Ever since I came out, I’ve wanted to do this. Things ache a lot differently than they did 10 to 11 years ago, but I draw inspiration from previous attendees and other participants.”

Athlete: Sean Faulkner (right)
Age: 40
Day job: Emergency nurse
Sport: Soccer (plays center midfield)
Gay Games experience: Faulkner will be competing in his fourth Gay Games, following Amsterdam in 1998, Sydney in 2002 and Chicago in 2006.
Interesting fact: His diving header won a match during Team Dallas’ silver medal run at the 1998 Games in Amsterdam.
In his own words: “When we meet people on the street in Europe, they’re so accepting of us that they don’t understand why we have a separate games just for gay people. They don’t view being gay as anything wrong or different; being who you are is just way more accepted in Europe.”

……………………………………..

Looking for an excuse to take advantage of a weak Euro this summer? There’s always a trip to Amsterdam’s Red Light District or jumping aboard one of those floating bathhouses known as gay cruises.

And then there’s the quadrennial Gay Games.

Starting July 31, Cologne, Germany, will host the largest LGBT sports and cultural gathering in the world. Conceived by 1968 U.S. Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell, the Gay Games were first held in San Francisco in 1982 with 1,350 participants. Organizers this year had hoped to surpass the 11,500 registrations total from the 2006 Games in Chicago, but the lingering global economic recession has tempered their expectations. But with late registration still coming in, organizers are predicting 10,000 participants.

Unlike the Olympics, athletes in the Gay Games represent their cities rather than their countries. Jere Becker, organizer of Team Dallas, says 43 local athletes will march into the historic Rhein Energie Stadion for the opening ceremonies, joining others competing in 33 team and individual sports (among them basketball, cycling, diving, figure skating, track and field and volleyball). Some non-athletic competitions (better described as disciplines than sporting events, like chess and bridge) are also included.

Most events and disciplines are classified by age or ability, so both beginners and veterans will compete against their athletic equals. Holding true to the principle of inclusion, anyone can participate, regardless of ability, age, sexual orientation, race, gender, nationality or ethnicity, religion or HIV status.

But even those who just like to watch can enjoy the cultural events that are open to the public, including a cheerleading contest, band and choral festivals, visual and performing arts performances and social events for everyone from women to bears to the leather community.

Let the games begin!

— Ricky Bradley

Gay Games VIII, from Cologne, Germany. July 31-Aug. 7. GayGamesCologne.com.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Jeffrey Payne announces on his Facebook that Mr. IML 2010 is coming to Dallas gay Pride

Jeffrey Payne passed his Mr. IML title on to recent winner Tyler McCormick last month in Chicago. That doesn’t stop Payne from still working his ambassador-ship in the community. He just posted this status update on Facebook:

I am very pleased to announce that IML 2010, Tyler McCormick, has accepted our invitation to visit Dallas and ride in our Pride Parade in September! We have many plans to make for his visit and the Dallas Community is very excited about his participation!

I haven’t noticed a status update mentioning this on McCormick’s page, but that’s mostly because he “only shares some of his profile information with everyone.” What can I say? McCormick is seen here winning the title with our very own Jack Duke taking second runner-up.

—  Rich Lopez

Mr. Texas Leather holds last IML fundraiser

Jack DukeIn the upcoming print edition of the Voice, we’ll have a story on Jack Duke, the reigning Mr. Dallas Eagle and Mr. Texas Leather, who hopes to become — next weekend! — the International Mr. Leather (a position currently held by fellow Dallasite Jeffrey Payne). In the run-up  to the contest in Chicago next week, Duke is holding his final local fundraiser on Thursday (before we hit the streets), so I figured we’d give a shout-out on his behalf.

For a $20 donation to the travel fund, you can join Duke and others in the leather community at a private residence in Oak Cliff for cocktails and appetizers, starting at 8 p.m. If you wonder whether it will be worth it … well, let’s put it this way: I’ve met Jack and photographed him. He’s not only nice, he’s hot, with a sexy, make-ya-melt Italian accent.

To RSVP and for directions, call 214-394-4640.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jeffrey Payne profiled in HIV Plus magazine

In the Ask and Tell feature of HIV Plus’ May/June issue, they talk with 2009′s International Mr. Leather Jeffrey Payne, who also happens to be based in Dallas. Payne gives props to the Dallas leather community as well as talks about his role as the 2009 IML in speaking about HIV to the masses.

Here’s a snippet from the q&a:

So what’s been the crowd reaction in general to your candidness about your life with HIV?
It’s been terrific! In fact, at one conference where I gave a speech about being HIV-positive, one of the MCs also came out of the “HIV closet” and said he’d been positive for eight years but never felt comfortable telling anyone before. I know that if I continue to share my journey, others like him may draw strength and be able to free themselves of those invisible chains that HIV has wrapped around them.

Payne will surrender the title May 30 at this year’s IML in Chicago. All of our eyes are, of course, on Jack Duke, the current Mr. Texas Leather. We’re hoping he can pull off a clean sweep of leather titles just like Payne did in 2009.

—  Rich Lopez