Friday, October 18, 2002

Interview with Stephen Weber, International Mr. Leather 2002, Part 2

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #193, October 18, 2002)

(Continued from Lavender Issue 192)

International Mr. Leather 2002 Stephen Weber lost weight, got in shape—and then got angry. We talked about that anger and how it shaped his time as Mr. Texas Leather, and continues to influence his IML title year.

Shortly after I won Mr. Texas Leather 2002 I started getting invitations to things—sometimes they would be play parties, sometimes they would just be events in the gay and lesbian community—that [prior to losing the weight], I had even e-mailed people asking for admission, or asking what could I do to help, or simple things like that, and was turned away. I know that at least with some of those events I was turned away largely because of how I looked. So then I started to get very angry, and that gave me that burning platform that I really needed, I felt, to make a difference at IML. A lot of people don’t know, I grew up on the Navaho Indian reservation. So I had fought discrimination for a long time, because I was a white man on a Navajo Indian reservation and was a minority at my high school.

Are you comfortable with my asking what your racial mix is?

It’s interesting that you ask, because I did not know what race I really was until after I left high school. I’ll answer that in just a second. I do look like the proverbial white man. And my high school was 76% Navajo Native American Indian, so you can imagine on the reservation there’s a lot of prejudice that comes along with that.

So anyway, I went off to college, and then we learned of my family lineage—we found out that I’m actually Cherokee Indian and German, but really more Cherokee than I am German. So then I find out I’m Native American, and registered on the Bureau of Indian Affairs technically as minority. Well, word got out on that, and now I have some of my white friends discriminating against me, saying “Oh, you’re an Indian.” I had that going on, plus I was wrestling with the fact that I was a heavy guy. I just wanted to hide.

Anyway, I started getting very angry as I was mentioning before about the fact that I was getting invited to different events. Also, I would go out and guys would be interested in me that before wouldn’t give me a second look. Some of them I had even tried to talk to before, and they just wouldn’t give me the time of day. And it really started to make me angry. Yes, I was flattered, and I was like, well, this is really nice, now they’re interested in me. But then I would stop and think: I’m the same guy that I was last year when I was eighty pounds heavier—the only thing different is me physically. I have the same heart, I have the same mind.

So that became a message that I want to share with as many people as I possibly can, specifically in our own closed community. By that I mean GLBT community as well as the BDSM community—because as open as we say we are, what I’m finding is that we are the most critical of each other. We discriminate against each other all the time. Sometimes perceived heavy people or perceived very thin people don’t get opportunities that the good looking, in-shape person might get. And when you take an opportunity away from somebody because of that, it pisses me off, it makes me very angry.

Some people think you have to be this Adonis to be donning your leather, or to be a hit in a leather bar. It’s not a place for heavy people, it’s not a place for thin people, it’s not a place for women, it’s not a place for minorities. Or any other prejudice that people might have, whether it’s age or race or whatever it is.

As a community we strive so hard to gain acceptance and be noticed in the general public’s eye, in the vanilla crowd, but my feeling is that as long as we have this infection or this—it’s a strong word to use, but this disease within our own community, that we discriminate against each other, how are we ever going to present any kind of a unified front to anybody? We’re not believable. It’s so hypocritical.

We’re all different, and we should be different because it would be awfully boring if we were all the same. But there’s so much out there that each of us has to offer that people need to open their eyes and give other people a chance.

So I used that as my platform for IML, and that’s one of the main reasons I ran for IML. I said, if I can go out and win IML, and use that platform to put myself in a situation where I otherwise might not be able to be, and then I can use that opportunity to make a change in even one person’s life—then I’ve done my job. Then, in my own mind, I’ll have been a successful IML.

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