Next weekend will the new Mr. Leather Europe be elected in Helsinki. We presnt you a talk with the outgoing Mr. Leather Europe about his year as titleholder and the leather community.
MasterMarc: Hi Thorsten. In a week the leather scene is looking to Finnland. You will hand your leather sash as Mr. Leather Europe 2015 out to your successor. Before we make a review of your year as Mr. Leather Europe let us talk about the upcoming event in Helsinki. What can visitors expect from this Leather Weekend?
Thorsten: Hi MasterMarc! When thinking about Helsinki, the first thing that comes to my mind is of course Tom of Finland. The MSC Finland Tom’s Club, organizer of this year’s annual general meeting of the ECMC (European Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs), offers a walking tour with Tom of Finland. The participants can experience the secret gay life of post war Helsinki on this tour and can hear, where the iconic gay artist had his adventures. Furthermore, the gala leather dinner on Sunday evening will be a perfect opportunity to socialize with leathermen from all over Europe. The highlight of the Leather Weekend will certainly be the Mr. Leather Europe 2016 competition on Saturday night.
MasterMarc: Sounds like an interesting weekend. You can travel relaxed to Finnland this year. But how was it last year as you have been candidate?
Thorsten: As Mr. Leather Austria I was one of the hosts for the AGM, which was held last year in Vienna. So I was pretty busy and with all the activities during the weekend I didn’t have much time to be nervous, except for the few minutes before I stepped on stage. We were nine great contestants to compete for the European title and enjoyed a wonderful time together during that weekend. It is very seldom that so many titleholders from all over Europe get together so we appreciated the time together even more.
MasterMarc: As you have traveled a lot this year I’m sure you know some of the candidats. Can you tell us a little about the current candidates?
Thorsten: I indeed met all except two personally. I was one of the judges of four of the candidates during their national title competition and had the pleasure to spend time with all of them during prides and leather events throughout Europe. All contestants are unique and yet united in their passion for leather. Every one of them is doing great in standing in and acting for his national community and all of them are ready to become the next representative of our European leather community.
MasterMarc: Wow, than you’ve really done a lot of trips. Tell us, how was your year as titleholder?
Thorsten: Amazing. My title year gave me the chance to gain insight into the European leather and fetish community, attending many events and most of the time also see behind the curtain of the various national leather scenes. All of them are different when it comes to details as they are closely combined to the values of their society. It feels so good to see how men all over the continent share their passion for leather and socialize with each other. All of the European clubs make huge efforts to offer their members regular activities and I was very pleased to be invited to join them. Traveling is of course very time consuming and leisure time was rare during the last months. Nevertheless, it was worth every minute to campaign for our community.
MasterMarc: Sounds like a busy time. Now by seing so many different leather communities how would you describe the essential of the community? And what have been differences you have noticed?
Thorsten: The essential of our community is the passion for leather and fetish, the lifestyle involved with it and the solidarity among each other. In our whole life, we are all looking for a group of people sharing our interests and spirit, which is the same for our social fetish contacts. Wherever you go, you will find this formation of groups, which is the basis for our community. Too bad that that there are often differences within countries or even within cities among fetish people, which rather separate than unite the community. Besides the challenge of cross-cultural communication, the main difference I noticed is how people of different nationalities deal with their fetish in public, depending on the openness of each society. The perception of fetishes and dresscodes differs also from country to country.
MasterMarc: Can you give us some expamples?
Thorsten: In East-European countries it is not advisable to walk in the streets in your full fetish gear as the people there are more conservative compared to the West. Therefore, it is not easy to be visible and out and proud in countries like Hungary or Poland due to homophobic attacks in the past. The further South of Europe you go, the less gear you can find. When it comes to hot seasonal temperatures, jockstraps and harnesses replace full leather uniforms or rubber suits.
MasterMarc: I understand the jockstraps and harness as replacement because under the sun of south Spain your rubber suit would melt on your skin. 🙂 Do you think that western leather communities could support the East-European fetish communities fighting for their rights? What can we do?
Thorsten: First of all we can support them by being visible during pride parades. This is the opportunity to be seen in public. The more unknown and different the view, the more avoidance, denial and also fear. Everyone who gets in contact with us fetishists is a step closer to overcome prejudices. While attending Budapest Pride we made quite a splash in our fetish gear. The people were interested and asked many questions. Spreading awareness for fetishism is important, because more enlightened and open people feel much less uneasiness. So we all should support the East-European communities in being present at their events, take them and their events serious and patronise them.
MasterMarc: You have not only visited East-European countries. During this year you have become a real frequent leather traveler. What have been the highlights of the last year?
Thorsten: That question is hard to answer as many of the events I visited are not really comparable. Each one was a highlight thanks to the people I met during my travels and who took care of me. It is because of them one feel welcome and comfortable during the various events. And wherever you go you meet the same persons again, which makes our leather community one strong family. I enjoyed the smaller and relatively unknown events at least as much as the big leather happenings.
MasterMarc: That was a nice answer as embassador of the European leather community but I’m talking to Thorsten. And I am sure that YOU’ve had some personal highlights this year. I’ll just mention IML for example.
Thorsten: I personally enjoyed getting an inside view of the US leather community at IML in Chicago, meeting Jean Paul Gaultier and Conchita personally in Munich and feel the togetherness during Leatherpride in Antwerp. Furthermore, I was very impressed by the gaiety of Canal Pride in Amsterdam and in total contrast the isolation of Budapest Pride.
MasterMarc: Every medal has a flipside. But it is great to see that you have had a lot of nice experiences. After this year and so many different trips in Europe and the US I have to ask you seriously if you still have enough money for food for the next year? You’re comming from Austra, a wealthy country. Do you think that a Mr. Leather Europe from an Easter-European country could afford to be such an active titleholder as you have been?
Thorsten: No need to worry, I will be able to still buy food after my title year. Your question is well justified and this is a matter of support of the future Mr. Leather Europe. I received many invitations and usually didn’t have to pay entrance fees and drinks. Some club members picked me up at the airport, very few clubs paid for my accommodation and my flight was practically never paid for. I once asked for a room when I received an invitation and the answer was that accommodation is only provided for guests from less well-off countries.
With that in mind I trust that clubs will give that crucial support to a possible Mr. Leather Europe from Eastern Europe.
MasterMarc: After having had so many insights to different leather communities all over can you tell us, where the leather world is going? What kind of development is going on and are there also regions and countries which would need move their ass?
Thorsten: I recognized that the leather world is evolving. There are many men joining to have regular meetings and socials and new clubs are founded. One good example is France, where the leather scene currently is growing. One can see many young guys starting to explore leather and the BDSM lifestyle. I also like to see how the community is opening up to new fetish scopes like rubber or puppy play. It is important that our leather community is including instead of refusing other fetishes. There will always be guys who would not move their ass to step up to someone obviously different from their perception, but they cannot be found in any specific country or region. We cannot complain about a lack of new blood in our clubs while we are at the same time too elitist and closed-minded.
MasterMarc: What have been your proposes for your year as titleholder one year ago? Which have you fulfilled, which not and why not?
Thorsten: My intention was to build bridges between clubs and countries, to unite East with West as well as young clubs with well-established clubs. I promoted the various events Europe wide on social media beforehand and showed with photos how it was there. It is not easy to convince others to visit leather and fetish weekends at remote places instead of going to mainstream events. This is a question of appreciating the efforts and work of others organizing parties and events. I hope I was able to arouse interest in what’s going on in Europe’s leather community and motivated many to go to that places in the coming year.
MasterMarc: I’m sure, you’ll travel to Helsinki next weekend. What have you learned during the last year and do you have any advices for your successor?
Thorsten: I learned to cherish the moments due to the fast-moving pace of my title year. The title made me even more self-confident when it comes to my leather fetish and I experienced that you cannot be everybody’s darling. My successor will go his own way with new ideas and visions. My advice is to be true to himself, he cannot and he doesn’t have to please everybody. He should use his common sense to deal with the responsibility of being the face of the European leather community and he can certainly can count on my support.
MasterMarc: Thorsten, it was great to talk with you. Have a lot of fun in Helsinki and we hope, to read about you on sadOsam soon again.