New Texas Leather titleholders plan a year of raising visibility, mentoring others and giving back to the community
Mera Tucker has been an out, proud leather woman for many years. Eddie Sherbert, although an out, proud gay man many years, has only been in the leather community for the last couple of years. Now the two of them are teaming up to represent the Dallas/Fort Worth leather community and spread their message of love and support.
Tucker and Sherbert won the titles of Ms. Texas Leather and Mr. Texas Leather on Saturday, Jan. 30, at Dallas Eagle. It was the fifth annual contest for the women, and the 20th annual content for the men, and both contests are presented by Texas Leather Productions, owned by Jeffrey Payne, and by Dallas Eagle.
This is not the first leather title for either Tucker or Sherbert. Tucker won the Ms. South Plains Leather regional contest in 2004, just before moving from Oklahoma to D-FW. Sherbert earned his first leather sash last fall when he won the title Mr. Hidden Door, the first leather contest he entered.
The Hidden Door win qualified Sherbert to compete in the International Mr. Leather contest slated for Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago this year. By winning the Texas Leather title, Sherbert is qualified to compete in IML in 2017, too.
The Ms. Texas Leather title qualifies Tucker to compete in the 2017 International Ms. Leather Contest held each spring in San Jose and in the American Leatherwoman contest in Chicago in October.
It’s the timing of the Texas Leather contest that means the 2016 winners are qualified to compete for the 2017 international titles, Tucker explained. By the time the Texas Leather contest is held, the slate of contestants for IML and IMsL are already set for that year.
But the Texas Leather titles for both Tucker and Sherbert are about much more than just getting to wear a studded leather sash and travel to other competitions. Both said they want to use their visibility first and foremost to help their communities — the leather community, the larger LGBT community, and the DFW community in general.
Tucker and her wife, Jimmie, have long been active in the DFW leather community. Mera Tucker, especially, is famous for her homemade cookies that she donates to just about every fundraising effort in town.
“In the last 12 years, I have donated enough cookies to sink a battleship, and we have raised thousands of dollars with those cookies,” she laughed. Tucker said she started the bake sale held each year during Texas Bear Round-Up, and she and Jimmie host a pool party each year at their home, lovingly dubbed
The Tucker Inn, for all the women attending the annual Leather Sir/Boy contest.
She said she and Jimmie “have both been raising money for this community for a long time. That’s my passion. Ok, actually, cookies are my passion. But I can use the cookies to raise money.”
Tucker, who has been involved in organizing the Ms. Texas Leather contest since it started five years ago, thought her days as a leather contestant were long past. But, she said, “the main thing this contest has always needed is contestants.” So as the deadline to register approached and she realized only one woman had signed up to compete, “I knew it was time to put up or shut up. So I signed up to compete.”
A third woman also registered, giving the fifth annual Ms. Texas Leather the most contestants so far.
While she wasn’t looking for the title, Tucker said that now that she has it, she intends to put it to good use.
“I want to work with the other women in this community to make sure we are visible,” she said. “I want the other women out there, especially the young women, who are looking for the leather community to know that we are here. I want them to know they have someone to go to, someone to help show them the way.”
And she doesn’t plan to just be out and visible in the leather community, or even just in the LGBT community. “I have been out at work as a lesbian and as a leather lesbian since day one,” she said, noting that she works for Neiman Marcus as office manager in the facilities department.
“I told my boss that if I won, I’d be at work Monday, but if I lost, I’d probably spend the week laying in bed crying,” she said. “I won. And I wore my [black, white and red leather studded] sash to work on Monday.”
Although he has only gotten involved in the leather community over the past two years or so, Sherbert said he has been fascinated by leather since he was young. But it wasn’t until he went to the International Mr. Leather contest last year in May that he decided he want to compete for a leather title.
“When that curtain went up and I saw those 52 men standing on that stage, waving — goosebumps just washed over my whole body. I knew right then I wanted to do that. I wanted to be on that stage.”
So far, Sherbert is two for two, having won both contests he has entered. He said he wants to use the platform those titles give him to, like Tucker, be a mentor and an example to others in his community, and for those just finding their way into the world of leather.
“I would really like to be able to establish a mentoring program. We have people who are coming out now in their teens, and we still have people in their 30s and 40s and 50s and beyond who are just coming out,” Sherbert said. “Sometimes they need some with some real-life experiences to be there for them, to basically hold their hand and talk them through whatever they are dealing with.
“The mission of the Texas Leather contest is sharing, educating about and honoring the leather community and its history,” he added. “I plan to spend the next year promoting that mission. We need to work to move forward, always, but I want people to remember that we also need to respect where we’ve been.”
Sherbert is a flight attendant for American Airlines, working on international flights. While he isn’t likely to get to wear his Texas Leather sash to work the way Tucker did, his job does give him the chance to travel, around the states and abroad. And as he travels, Sherbert said, he gets the chance to learn about the leather communities in other cities and countries, and to tell them about the DFW community.
He and Tucker agreed that, at the core of things, their job as Texas Leather titleholders is to just “be as visible as possible.”
Tucker added, “We’ll just keep trying whatever works to be visible, to help our community. For both of us, mentoring others and giving back to our community is everything. If you aren’t doing something to give back, then you’re just taking up space.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 5, 2016.