MasterMarc: Hi Kevin. The weekend 10 days ago has had to be a disappointment for you. Ireland didn’t reach the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. All jokes aside, you have to feel like Johnny Logan: You’ve won twice. First: You are first Runner-up at the International Leather Contest in Chicago, which is an extraordinary result for Europeans. We really want to congratulate you. And second: The Irish, known as catholic and conservative people, voted with another extraordinary result for the gay marriage. How do you feel right now after this amazing weekend?
Kevin: Hi Marc. Right now I feel exhilerated and honoured. Many know that the weekend was tough for me as I couldn’t be at home celebrating the referendum victory with my friends and family there, but I did have the love of my life here in Chicago with me. I also developed a close bond with the 51 other contestants in my class.
To come 1st runner up is unreal, particularly coming from an area where the leather/fetish scene is in a state of growth, we now have stimulation to keep that momentum going.
What the Irish have achieved in gay marriage is illustrating it can be done, it can be achieved. For a country stereotyped around the world as one which is very catholic-governed, we have demonstrated to the world that religion and law can be separated. You are entitled to hold your own beliefs, but that doesn’t entitle you to make that discriminate. Everyone is equal.
Also, he said yes. It would’ve been a tad awkward if he’d said no lol.
MasterMarc: Several people have told me, that your proposal of marriage on stage has been one of the highlights of the evening. I see, you’ve timed the votation perfectly. The impact of the Irish leather community on politics seems to be powerful. 🙂 What is the importance of fetish for you personally?
Kevin: It’s a way of expression. I’ve been known to say before, it’s the man that makes the leather, not the leather that makes the man. I can wear leather to express how I feel and want to be perceived in that moment. All fetish is subjective, what one person enjoys is not necessarily what another does. When we manage to personalise it in a way that best represents ourselves, it can add vibrancy to our overall sense of self.
MasterMarc: So if fetish is a subjective sensual experience, what is the International Mr. Leather competition?
Kevin: It’s a bit of a simplification to look at fetish like that solely, though it is one aspect of it. Fetish is also something shared between many, it can be anything from the person who wears leather because it makes them feel good about themselves, to the person who likes being put into predicament bondage, and everything in between.
For me, the International Mr Leather conpetition is a statement about community; a celebration of who I am, who we’ve become, and of who we want to become as a leather community. Events like IML are a reason for the leather & fetish community to come together. The process is often more important that the product, the whole is often greater than the sum of it’s parts. IML allows us to gather together, build relationships with likeminded people, build bridges, and overcome barriers.
MasterMarc: So how was this community experience for you in Chicago? What was different to events of the Irish community?
Kevin: At the core of it, it’s exhilarating to see people shed their insecurities and be who they are. This is something I’ve experienced in common between IML and the Irish community. However, the shear scale of IML is incomparable. To give an idea, at the Three Kings titleholder event in Dublin last January we had 160-200 guys in attendance. At IML, I heard there are 16-18,000 people there over the course of the weekend, with the Sunday event venue having a capacity of 1525. The Irish community is small, but growing, and hopefully I can take back some ideas to help us keep that momentum going.
We have 35 years to catch up lol (this was IML’s 37th year, and Geared Ireland just had its second birthday). In Ireland, our events are monthly, so I know I’m going to see the guys in the community there regularly. It was difficult to leave Chicago, knowing it will be a while before seeing many of the people I connected with again (in particular the 51 other IML37 classmates I got to know). It’s one of the reasons I love social media, as its easier to stay in contact on a global scale.
MasterMarc: Chicago was a place you’ve got a lot of new impressions and you have found several new friends there. You have been part of an event which is a little the Holy Grail of the fetish world. To come back is not easy at such a moment. There you have felt that Leather is still the leading fetish in the kinky scene. But do you think that even events like the IML are starting to be more open also for other fetish guys?
Kevin: I guess again this is an interesting point. Though there was a lot of leather on display over the weekend of IML, it was by no means all leather. Granted, to a large extent leather is the focus of it (being called International Mr Leather kinda pre-determines that lol). But, for example, I ran into my good friend Max Samauth, International Mr Rubber, who was there. There were plenty of guys going around in rubber, wrestling singlets/sportsgear, lycra.
Particularly for a lot of new guys on the scene, there can be a lot of crossovers between the different fetishwear. While some might be focused on leather, others may dabble in leather and rubber, maybe some sportsgear, etc depending on the context/situation. One reason why my club back home, Geared Ireland, caters for all is that it recognises this variety in interest and does not want to exclude. Its first titleholder last year in 2014 was a “Mr Gear Ireland” who represented all fetishes. This year there were three- Mr Leather Ireland (representing leather), Mr Rubber Ireland (representing rubber), and Mr Geared Ireland (representing all fetish- leather, skin, rubber, sportswear, army, etc).
Of course if you go to an event entitled International Mr Leather, you’d get the impression that leather is the leading kink in the fetish world. Context is everything, and in reality sexuality tends to be more fluid than can be put into boxes. It may have just been my experience, but I didn’t perceive any negative reaction to people wearing non-leather. In fact, the more people appeared to be open in their self-expression, the more other people responded positively to it.
MasterMarc: You are living in a country in which homosexuality was forbidden till 1993. Ireland was for a long time even more catholic than the pope is. Now 21 years later it is the first country worldwide in which the people have decided in a voting that gays should have equal rights. What has been changing in this “short” time and what was the reason for it?
Kevin: Many factors have contributed to the same-sex marriage referendum passing. Of recent, a lot can be attributed to the canvassers that were out campaigning for a Yes vote. They were able to personalise it for the general public, which was key. A minority cannot win a referendum on their own, they need the support of others. People realised that not only had they friends or family in the lgbt community, but how deeply impacted these people they cared about would be; they were able to understand what equality meant for us because they could empathically feel what it would be like if it was taken away. These canvassers came from everywhere in our society, and we can’t thank them enough.
Though it has been a long journey since 1993 to get to this stage. With any mindset, when new challenging perspectives are introduced, it takes time for these to be processed. Four years ago Civil Partnership was introduced, seen by the lgbt as substandard, but by the wider community as enough. Then there was the Sochi Olympics, which highlighted lgbt inequality again, and within Ireland saw Panti Bliss and even Hozier (with his Take Me To Church video), shine the light on Ireland as an example. All throughout these years, the general public were processing this. If this referendum occurred 2, 5, or 10 years ago it would have been difficult to pass. But it happened now, the timing was right, and hopefully it creates a ripple effect throughout the rest of the world (was delighted to see Greenland follow suit!).
MasterMarc: It really seems to have an impact of other countries. The discussion restarted at many places. The reason that Ireland has had a real conservative and catholic image and that it was this country who has done this step is giving an increase of motivation to a lot of fighters for equal rights. On stage at the IML you have asked your boyfriend, if he would marry you. What is the importance of marriage for you personally?
Kevin: Being honest, I never thought I’d get married before I met my current partner. I never knew the significance of it, until I was in a relationship with the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Today is actually the 4-year anniversary of our Civil Partnership, we were one of the first few to do so when the bill was passed here in Ireland four years ago.
But it’s not the same, we would never be allowed to call each other “husbands”, we were “civil partners”, it just didn’t feel right. Marriage holds two important sides. On the outside, it offers us protection for the life we’ve built together, and will continue to build together. On the inside, it is a deep commitment to each other, a grand gesture of love and trust in our relationship.
MasterMarc: Do we really have to copy everything? Isn’t the Civil Partnership the more modern institution? Sometimes i think that heterosexuals should fight to have the right to do a Civil Partnership. 🙂 Is it really that big difference or is it just the fact, that we don’t feel to be accepted as equal if we aren’t allowed to marry?
Kevin: Heterosexual couples can get a Civil Partnership. They got the choice of either, we only were allowed one… http://www.marriagequality.ie/getinformed/marriage/faqs.html Feel free to peruse the 160 statutory differences between civil partnership and marriage 🙂 lol Marriage isn’t for everyone, nor should it be, but I’d rather freedom of choice over deterministic freedom.
Kevin: Sex is about the experience itself in the present moment, I have always been a tactile person. It’s not that it has to be romantic, but the emotional element and connection is important for me. Sure it can be stripped down to a game and made into a sport if you wanted to, I simply prefer not to think of it in terms of winning or losing- more just enjoying the ride 🙂
MasterMarc: Are you the leather guy who is just into vanilla or how important is SM for you?
Kevin: If I’m in an ice-cream parlour I’m not going to order vanilla…lol S&M is another part of the spectrum of sexuality. I’m not going to place it above or below anything else in terms of importance, as all flavours have their place; for me there’s a fluidity to sexuality…and I like to be able to explore the full spectrum…
MasterMarc: Ok i see you like to remain a sexual mystery. 🙂 You are now first Runner-up IN IML. That’s a nice title but at the same time also an obligation. What is your mission and what is your aim for the next year?
Kevin: Since being elected Mr Leather Ireland, my aim has been to promote inclusiveness and support in diversity. Now that I’m 1st Runner Up in IML, this hasn’t really changed, it just creates more opportunity to do so.
I want to continue the momentum that’s been built up over the last couple of years in establishing our monthly Dublin fetish night (Geared Ireland, 3rd Saturday of every month in a place called Fibbers). Part of this involves encouraging new members to get involved locally, as well as promoting it abroad when I visit other clubs around the world. I also have ideas for community fundraisers which I’m working on with my titleholder brothers, which hit on the important areas for me (equality, diversity and support).
A common block to new guys attending our dresscode fetish nights is that they don’t yet have the gear to adhere to the dresscode. We already have a few ways to help curious guys out (such as a gear sale held each year, some members will also loan gear out for a night if sizes fit, or we can direct where to get inexpensive gear). I’d like to look at ways of streamlining this and making it more well known, as I think it will encourage the scene to grow.
MasterMarc: Yes it is important to keep the doors open for people who are interested in fetish. As the fetish scene was a not really accepted underground movement to close the doors was a kind of protection. We are happy that times have changed and now we have also to change a little our community. With sadOsam I am running my little information project. I really love your project with which you want to tear down the barriers to our fetish an sm world. Do you see other points in which we as fetish and sm guys and community have to change ourselves?
Kevin: What makes your project so great is that you are also breaking down barriers by providing first hand knowledge and information. It’s not always about going out into the community and being active, it’s also about providing ways of answering people’s questions and demystifying fetish/sm. Then let people make up their own minds, once they’ve had time to process it.
I wouldn’t like to tell someone else to change themselves. I think we get enough of that from the media, and what I marvel about the fetish world is that you really can be yourself.
It can be difficult though after having to protect ourselves for so long, to allow this part to be exposed to people potentially outside our sphere. Other people have likened it to “coming out of the closet” a second time. It’s in these times that our fetish community can really shine through in our support for each other. Go to social events, support each other. Never underestimate the positive effect a simple smile can have on a new person exploring the scene. We were all in that same position at some point. When I first started exploring the scene myself I had a somewhat mixed experience, and it was only through the encouragement of friends that I tried again. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today talking to you.
MasterMarc: Kevin, it was a great pleasure to talk with you. I wish you all the best for your future and I hope that your work for tolerance and acceptance will be a great success. The closing words are yours:
Kevin: Thank you too MasterMarc for getting in contact, and for being so patient (I think we’ve been chatting for a week now, as I was travelling around in and out of WiFi coverage). Your site is a great resource. And for all your readers, thank you for reading. Know that knowledge is an incredible thing, and so is what we choose to do with that knowledge (from the Kama Sutra, to the Submissive’s Bill of Rights, and beyond). I hope to see you all at some point; feel free to say hello if you see me at any of the events around Europe and the US!