International Mr Leather (IML) Jeffrey Payne will visit Sydney for Mardi Gras as part of a global tour to demystify and broaden the appeal of the international leather community.
Payne, who competed against Sydney Mr Leather 2008, Alan Norman, will be in town with his husband, David Roy, from the end of February to take part in a string of events to promote the leather way of life.
“The word ‘international’ in International Mr Leather seemed a rather good clue that I needed to reach out to the world,” Payne told Sydney Star Observer from his home in Dallas, Texas.
“I am fortunate in that I am able to travel to 11 foreign cities during my title year, along with over 30 cities within the United States. However, in setting the goals and objectives I had in becoming IML, it was imperative for me to reach out to as many cultures and communities as possible in hopes of building bridges, bringing issues to light and letting the leather community know that IML, the title and the man, is accessible to everyone.”
Although it will be a whirlwind visit, Sydney’s leather community has already lined up a string of official events for the pin-up boy to take part in — including Hats Off, a charity fundraising night, Mardi Gras parade, Harbour Party and a special 30 Years of Leather exhibition.
Payne will also help launch the Brookes Trust while he is in town. The trust, named after Australia’s only International Mr Leather winner, Patrick Brookes, will help fund the Mr Leather Australia New Zealand title holder’s trip to the IML competition each year, as well as trips around Australia and New Zealand to promote our leather communities.
The world of leather opened up to Payne as a young man after visiting his first leather bar — from there he was hooked.
“Leather had this certain sexiness to it and it turned me on to a great extent,” Payne said.
“So my first run-in with the community was solely based on the sexual aspect of leather, however, as I began to learn about the community at large the more I became intrigued with it.
“I am of the age, per se, where I learned from other members within the community; mentors. They have provided invaluable information to me during my journey.
“I realise there are books on how to play and internet sites on which to read instructions, but the human element is essential in learning how to play correctly and safely. There is a huge difference between reading about how to throw a whip and actually experiencing the actual throwing of a whip. It is the experience of it that is invaluable.”
Payne hopes that in his year as IML he will be able to dispel many of the myths that shroud the leather community.
“The misconception that we beat, gag and bind each other every single day of the week. I strive to educate the public that we only do that on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I’m joking,” he laughed.
“I believe the most common misconception is the thought or belief that our community is only about sex. Although that is a factor in our community, it is not an all-encompassing notion and last time I checked, sex was a factor in every community. However, due to the fact we are more open about our sexuality, in my opinion, opens the door to the general public for misunderstanding and misconceptions. As a community I believe that we must continue to reach out to others to educate them as to who we are and why we do what we do.”
In fact, reaching out has been a part of Payne’s life for as long as he can remember. Originally from Maine, Payne grew up in an orphanage in Louisiana after the death of his mother, Sharon St. Cyr.
After being named IML 2009 Payne founded the Sharon St. Cyr Fund (SSC Fund) to help raise funds and awareness for charities.
“My childhood was tough, however, it only allowed me to appreciate my adulthood. I have a very optimistic outlook on my life and realise that I can achieve anything that I put my mind to,” Payne said.
“I am very goal-oriented, however, I have the flexibility to change those goals depending on the events that may happen which are out of my control. Flexibility and being able to adapt to change are very important and my childhood taught me those traits.
“The Sharon St. Cyr Fund (SSC Fund) is an organisation that my husband and I set up in order to assist individuals within our community with hearing impairments.
“I am losing my hearing at a very fast pace and currently wear hearing aids. Hearing aids are very expensive and unfortunately, not everyone is able to afford them. So the SSC Fund raises monies to help individuals with that expense.
“We also raise money to bring about a greater awareness to the Leather Archives & Museum and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.”
But in the meantime Payne is making the most of his title and the respect, admiration and tens of thousands of admirers that brings — an enclave of which calls Sydney home.
“I look forward to having an incredible adventure in your country and thank you for welcoming my husband and me,” Payne said.
“I am eager to meet each of you and speak about your local community as well as learn about your culture. But most of all, let’s have fun.”
info: Jeffrey Payne, IML 2009 will be at Hats Off on February 22; the 30 Years of Leather launch on February 24; Mardi Gras parade on February 27; Harbour Party on February 28 and the Harbour City Bears’ Inspire charity night on March 2.