(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #313, May 25, 2007)
PHOTO: Dan Beach
As Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2007, Dan Beach will be representing The Minneapolis Eagle and Minnesota’s leather community in this year’s International Mr. Leather (IML) Contest in Chicago May 24-28 (<www.imrl.com>). I interviewed him recently in the living room of his townhouse, while his dog Turner kept watch.
Why are you into leather?
Part of me wants to say, well, why not be into leather? It’s the image, it’s the look. Obviously there’s a certain feel, certain smell, certain look. But there’s the fellowship of people who are into leather, too, and that’s a very attractive part of it. People tend, I think, to perhaps respect others a little bit more.
How long have you been into leather, and how did you get into it?
I discovered leather in college. The way it happened, actually, was the Internet. The Internet was pretty young at that point, and the web hadn’t even been born yet. But just looking at different postings, the discussions, photographs—when I saw men in leather, it was like, yep, that’s what attracted me right away.
Why did you enter the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest?
I’d had friends who did it before, and I saw how much fun they had. And I thought it would be fun, and it was. But more importantly, I wanted to increase my involvement in the leather community, both locally and nationally/internationally. I saw entering the contest as a way of getting that experience—you know, jumping into the pool deep end first.
How far in advance of the contest did you decide to enter?
I decided in December, or perhaps even earlier. I’d been thinking about it for quite some time.
How did you prepare?
I did a lot of reading on people in the community, the various groups, some leather history. I’ve also been hitting the gym more often.
In your reading, was there anyone who really stood out and impressed you?
One person who impressed me, based on his writing and what other people have written about him, was John Pendal, IML 2003. I read some of Larry Townsend’s materials, as well, which I thought were really well written.
What further preparation are you doing for IML now?
I’m familiarizing myself more with politics, actually. There are a lot of political activists on the IML judging panel this year. I’m working on knowing current stances in politics, being aware of my own opinions on various issues, and being able to articulate them. Again, still hitting the gym. And then trying to stay calm and not to be nervous.
What political issues are you passionate about? What causes do you see as really important for leather right now?
There are a lot of issues. One of the issues, not necessarily political but one that I see as very important, is renewing people’s understanding and concern about AIDS and HIV—along with decriminalizing BDSM activities when they’re done consensually. Those are not necessarily political hot buttons, but those are two issues that I’m passionate about. And I’m following the whole gay marriage/civil union track, as well as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
What do you want to do with the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle title?
I’d like to help raise awareness on various issues. I had that same question from someone else, like what events would I organize, or things like that. But Minnesota has a lot of events—groups are holding events all the time—and I don’t feel that I have to try and compete with them. What I would rather do is work with the groups that already exist, with the events, and use my title to bring more people to those events.
If you win IML, what do you want to do with that title?
Again, much the same as what I want to do here locally, I’d want to do on more of an international or national level. Working with groups that already exist, whether it’s the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, or other leather groups and organizations.
What can you do to affect the issues you’ve talked about?
At this point I see myself working more on a personal level with people. I’ve been talking with friends, essentially getting the word out, trying to educate people whenever I can, whether that’s in the bar, in a car pool, at work, or at the gym—strike up a conversation and you can usually work one of those topics in somehow. Besides that I’ve been volunteering with different organizations like the Aliveness Project and Minnesota AIDS Project.
What are you into—what flags do you wear?
The two that I would say I wear most often are a white and black check, for safe sex, and gray for bondage.
And which pockets would you wear them in?
I could wear them in either.
What don’t most people know about you?
Hmm. That’s a hard one. Because generally I’m a very open book to most people.