An interview with Thorsten Buhl, Mr. Leather Europe, about his IML 2016 experience.

: Hi Thorsten. You’re still in Chicago where you have been one of the contestants at the International Mr. Leather election 2016 representing Europe as Mr. Leather Europe. First of all congratulations to reaching 5th place. I can imagine, that this event was one of your distinguished experiences in the leather world. How was it? Tell us a little about the IML and about the feelings and experiences you’ve shared?


Thorsten Buhl: Thank you very much! IML is indeed one special experience and I am proud to represent our European leather community here in Chicago. After quite a long period of preparation and communication with other contestants the weekend was finally here and definitely outreached my expectations. I was a little nervous coming here but immediately felt welcome and in good hands. You are kept busy with all the activities around the competition and time just flies. Participating in IML certainly is challenging and had me pushed my limits. The team spirit is amazing and the brotherhood unique.


MasterMarc: Sounds like an amazing experience but also like hard work. What have been your highlights of the weekend?


Thorsten Buhl: My personal highlight was Sunday afternoon, when all contestants and handlers met before rehearsal for the finals began. There was so much power and spirit among all of us, a feeling I never had before. Receiving the IML medal from the hands of Mr. Chuck Renslow, who founded IML back in 1979, was very touching for me, too. To sum it up, being part of IML is the highlight itself!


MasterMarc: This medal seems to be a special thing for all contestants. A lot of them are wearing it proudly even many years later. Why is this event so special for leather fetish guys?


Thorsten Buhl: I have seen the medal often before and the guys who are proudly wearing it. Until this weekend I didn’t fully understand its significance. You come here as one of 59. A group of men which could not be more divers; everyone arrived for a different reason. Each of us works hard for his community with various approaches. Here we become one, no matter who you are, where you’re from or what you’re into. Just as leather is our sign of shared identity, the medal is our sign of brotherhood! You can rely on each other. There are so many emotions beyond this medal words cannot describe.


MasterMarc: I think after this weekend you are carrying a heavy backback full of emotions, experiences and ideas back to europe. What will be the impact on your activities in the european and austrian fetish world?


Thorsten Buhl: First of all being here shows me that I am on the right way with my commitment for the European leather and fetish community. As I mentioned in my speach, we are all so much more than our leather surface. My brothers shared their personal life adventures and community experiences and I made a lot of important observations here in Chicago which makes me carry a load of new ideas back to Europe. First and foremost, to give everyone a voice, listen beyond the spoken word and care for your next. There are many who need it!


MasterMarc: From your point of view what stands the leather community for?


Thorsten Buhl: Leather stands for everyone into leather fetish and BDSM in its whole variety. The leather community, however, shall not exclude all the other fetishes. Times are changing and so does our community. We shall be open for puppy play, for rubber fetish, for leather women – just to mention a few – to be welcoming for all and not to reject someone. We have to stand together and support each other!


Thorsten and Chuck Renslow (fouwnder of IML)

MasterMarc: What role and function do you think should the leather community have in the fetish world?


Thorsten Buhl: As being there for a long time, having a lot of traditional, rites and knowledge, the leather community should take care of other fetishists, take them by the hand and show them the way if desired. One can learn from the ups and downs of the leather community, but the leather community can also learn from other fetishists, their new influences and a fresh breeze blowing. Together we are strong and can reach out further than if every shade of our multi-colored rainbow acts on its own.


MasterMarc: What do you think can the leather comunity show to other fetish communities? Which qualities of the leatherworld could have a role model character for other kinky groups?


Thorsten Buhl: One particular topic was the detection of the HI-Virus back in the 1980s. All of a sudden a rarely known disease killed hundreds of men, a high percentage of them from the leather and BDSM scene. What did the leather community do when they faced the closing of countless bars and clubs and were accused for AIDS? It started fundraising, it started awareness campaigns, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence evolved and many fellow leathermen took care of their dying brothers. A tragic time which showed, however, the bonds and power of our community. Another quality of the leatherworld is the spirit for fellowship and common identity. Back in the 1960s the first clubs were founded, then under the disguise of motorcycle clubs. Brotherhood is very strong within the leather community. Outstanding is also how the Leather Archives & Museum here in Chicago is preserving the legacy of the leather community since its very beginning.


MasterMarc: And what do you think could the leather world learn from other fetish communities?


Thorsten Buhl: Most of all I want to say that change is inevitable even in our fetish world. We may learn from the other fetish communities new ways to express ourselves and even different approaches of playing. If we are open enough, we may break some of the chains in which we have been taught to move. Everyone has of course a different personality. Keep in mind that the fetish culture has many voices and much to say. Let’s keep it growing!


MasterMarc: Do you have felt this needed wind of change also at the IML event, which is a little the Holy Grail of the leather community?


Thorsten Buhl: Yes I noticed the change this year both, among the contestants and the participating community. We had Eric Alden presenting himself on stage as contestant on high heels, Emerson Kellogg with his self-made glitter leatherpride flag purse or Adam Pup Vino with his puppy hood. You don’t have to prove any more that you are a real leatherman with a black head-to-toe uniform. Express yourself freely and be proud of it. So did many of the visitors, among them villains and superheroes, drag queens, bootblacks, transgenders and the list goes on. Be the change you want to see in the world!


MasterMarc: Wow, that sounds really like an evolution and it opens the leather community for other fetish guys. If you look back to your leather life and of course also to this IML event, what is the message you will send to the fetish world?


Thorsten Buhl: To answer that question I want to quote the last part of my IML speech: We have come a long way, don’t step back! Only if we honor our past, not hide, make ourselves visible and inspire today, will we still be able to freely shape our common future!


MasterMarc: Hey, thank you Thorsten. It was great to talk to you. I hope you will enjoy the last two days in Chicago. Hope to see you back in good old Europe soon.


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