A Year in the Life of a Leather Man

By Nicholas Snow

Clifton Tatum, Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2015, will officially end his reign October 31, and what a year it has been.  Among the many lessons earned, he explains, “I was surprised how comfortable I am on stage wearing little to nothing while hosting an event.”

Entering the year, Clifton says, “I thought I was going to be invited to and involved in more leather clubs and dungeon play parties.  My title year had little to do with leather sex.  The reality is, I was involved in events surrounding other leather titleholders and fundraising activities.”

Philanthropy was at the top of Clifton’s mind with a goal of raising $25,000 for charity during his reign.  Also a priority, doing his best to represent Palm Springs in the International Mr. Leather (IML) competition.  He explains, “I was on the road a lot, making appearances and getting my name and face out in the larger leather community.”

His star—or in this case, one could say his jockstrap—certainly did rise, as he started the year with 350 Facebook friends and is now maxed out at 5,000 with hundreds of additional followers.  He reveals, “I also did a silly dance video on my birthday, while wearing leather that has been viewed by almost 40,000 people so far.”

Did his reign impact his love life?  He responds with laughter, “Not the way I thought it was going to.  I’m single and thought I was going to land a hot, rich, eligible bachelor.  That didn’t happen,” he confides, but not all was lost.  “Wearing the sash or vest makes it very easy to flirt and a great way to meet people. It also makes it easier for others to approach me.  That’s all I’ll say,” he expresses with a laugh.

He prepared diligently for IML with local leather leaders, explaining, “They critiqued every detail of clothing and body language, and my speech and delivery.  The most important advice was not to lose a sense of myself and who I am…  I needed to present my best self and not just mimic someone else or a perception of what the judges might like to see.”

Clifton ultimately took 1st place in round one in competition with all IML contestants.  On the following day, in round two, the top 20 contestants competed, and Clifton came in eighth overall.

How did being a man of color influence his reign?  “Very good question,” he responded.  “Ramien Pierre, Mr. IML 2014, a black gay man, said it best… ‘I’m a sub-culture within a sub-culture within a sub-culture.’”

He continues, “When I’m not wearing the vest but I’m in leather, I find that others will step to the side and few will approach me.  With leather boots, that puts me at about 6’6”.  If I’m wearing leather displaying any connection to being a titleholder, people are much friendlier.  I have not encountered any overt racial bias but more of a lack of invitations from certain organizations.”

At deadline for this story, Clifton’s fundraising have exceeded $17,000, far surpassing a previous title holder’s reign total of $5,000.  Clifton’s chosen charities this year have been The Trevor Project, For The Children, The LGBT Community Center of the Desert, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Sanctuary Palm Springs.

What are his greatest memories of the year?

“Without a doubt, the reception and welcome from the Palm Springs community and overall leather community,” he says.  “I have only lived here three years with no history or family roots in the desert.  The ease at which people joined me on my journey, from obscurity to raising thousands of dollars with the help of over a 100 volunteers to date, was epic.  And most of all, the friends I have made and keep meeting…so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

What’s next for Clifton?  He reveals, “I want to do some traveling, housework and repair, and find that illusive boyfriend.”

He crowns (or sashes) the next title holder during Palm Springs Leather Pride, taking place October 29 – November 1st, and organized by Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert (PSLOD).  For more information, visit www.desertleatherpride.com.

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