Mr Leather UK – The history, the current situation and our position

About the author:
Jack Holroyde is the President of London Leathermen and a former holder of the Mr Leather UK title. He’s been involved in activism and community building in the LGBT+ community since he was a teenager, and is passionate about offering safe spaces for everyone regardless of background, ability or affiliation.

As a committee, we recently asked Mr Leather UK 2020/21, Jon, to refrain from wearing his sash while marching with us at Pride in London.

This is part of a wider stance on the Mr Leather UK Title that we want to explore and to demonstrate some transparency around to our members and the other clubs of the UK.

First, a little history: Mr Leather UK was historically run by MSC London. The first contest was in 1988 and it has run on and off since with a regular run from 2011-2021. In 2016 there was an abrupt change in how the contest was run. It was trademarked by a private company which runs it to this day.

During this shift, Leathermen Cymru expressed concern over the use of the ‘UK’ name – they felt that this inferred representation they had not asked for. Indeed, Mr Leather Wales has run since, with international recognition since Leathermen Cymru was awarded ECMC membership.

Recently, it became clear that the new Scottish club, Leathermen Scotland (which grew out of the very successful Glasgow Leather Social) also did not recognise the title, with them joining the ECMC with the intention of running their own recognised competition.

The politics of a potential Northern Irish Mr Leather UK are complex, to say the least. Our brothers in Leathermen of Ireland and Mr Leather Ireland have done a fantastic job in working across the border and across traditional secretarian lines to provide a club and representation for the whole island of Ireland, with broad support from the community there.

It’s worth making clear: the old MLUK title wasn’t meant as a representative of a country, they were a representative for MSC London. Other titles, particularly in the US, are essentially marketing events run by bars. One might be ‘Mr Eagle Sacramento’ or ‘Mr Friendly SF’. Even on the continent, title holders are often regional, forgoing national titles altogether.

The current situation is therefore unusual – there is the implication of representation for the country, but nobody ever stopped to ask if this is what Leathermen in our country wanted.

Given the explicit lack of consent from the other 3 nations of the UK, it appears that what we have is an English title, using the UK name and inferring representation on other clubs that they have explicitly and repeatedly refused to accept.
This, to us, is an highly important issue of respect and an issue of consent.

Last year, we met with the leadership of MLUK and representatives of each of the UKs ECMC clubs. A long discussion was had and much food for thought was generated.

We took a stance at that point that we should formally withdraw all our support, explicit or implicit, for the title until this situation is resolved. We removed photos of previous Pride parades in which I featured wearing the sash. We formally requested our logo be removed from the MLUK website. We made it clear that we could not offer sponsorship for MLUK to compete at the ECMC’s Mr Leather Europe contest.

As part of this we asked MLUK20/21, Jon, to refrain from wearing the sash while a guest of our club, which he has graciously agreed to.

Hopefully it’s clear that this is a principled stance to stand in fellowship with our brothers in Leathermen Cymru and Leathermen Scotland.

We believe there is a place for titles: but titles have to come with the support of the clubs they claim to represent.

We don’t have a say in how Mr Leather UK is run any more- but we’ve made our values clear and now we will act according to those values in how we plan and run our events. We hope this will stimulate conversation and positive, principles based actions on how we represent ourselves as a community in an environment increasingly hostile to diversity and difference.

We also hope to talk more in future about what a good title could look like, to try and move the conversation forward, have all parties work together in a spirit of brotherhood and reconciliation and heal some of the historic wounds associated with the running of the title competition.

Please feel free to email or call me, or chat at the Leather Social on Sunday, should you have any questions or feedback.

All the best,

Jack Holroyde
President LLM

MLUK, 2019

One thought on “Mr Leather UK – The history, the current situation and our position

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.