Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Leather Life Interview: Tyler McCormick, International Mr. Leather 2010

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #406, December 16, 2010)

Tyler McCormick, International Mr. Leather 2010.
Tyler McCormick competed in the 2010 International Mr. Leather (IML) contest as Mr. Rio Grande Leather. When he won, he made history three ways: first transgender IML, first IML to use a wheelchair, and first IML from New Mexico.

You are a transman. Do you also consider yourself gay? The trans thing is sort of thrown in there, but if I have an identity it’s as a gay man.

So you are both a G and a T in the GLBT equation. At one time I thought I was a lesbian. It was short-lived. I took a year out in the middle of college because I was not understanding whether I was a boy or a girl, and I was trying to figure out who to be. I contemplated it for a year and finally decided I’m really a guy. By the end of college I was on hormones and had had some surgery, and I was good.

When did leather and kink enter the picture? At 12 and 13 I remember fantasizing about things that were non-vanilla. And even younger than that I remember watching cartoons going, woo-hoo, the cowboy’s tying up the Indian. I entered into my first contract when I was 19.

What is your disability? I have cerebral palsy. There’s a disconnect between my brain and muscles, primarily in my legs. The muscles in my legs don’t know when to turn themselves off, so they like to just stay on all the time, fighting with each other.

And is “disability” the word you prefer? As long as you’re not intending malice, I don’t really care what words you end up using. I personally choose the words “gimp” and “cripple.” I find that if I use those words with people, they get over it a lot faster.

What did you think when they called your name as the new International Mr. Leather? As soon as my brain clicked over that it was me, this whole process went through my head—my partner would like to become a minister, and right before my contestant interview I had asked him if he’d like to say a prayer. And his prayer was not let him win, let him lose—it was, let Tyler be the man that he is and put him on the path that he needs to be on. So now I was like, wait a second, this is the path the universe thinks I should be on. I was just so humbled.

I hang onto three moments in that weekend—the prayer that Aaron said over me, and then all my classmates piling on top of me after my name was announced. And then, less than 24 hours after that, my husband gets down on one knee and proposes to me. He had said he was going to marry me after I stepped down from Mr. Rio Grande Leather in October. So when I won IML I was like, oh, no, he said he wasn’t gonna marry me until after I stepped down. I was a little freaked out. So when he proposed I knew everything was gonna be okay.

When are you getting married? On New Year’s Day.

What’s your title year been like so far? Are people accommodating of the wheelchair? It’s been amazing. People have made accessibility better because they knew I was going to be there, and I hope they continue to keep the accessibility after I roll away.

What about the trans angle? I hear from other people that people have issues, but I haven’t run into any problems because of it. I figure if I show up and I’m genuinely and authentically Tyler, then that gets people to genuinely and authentically be themselves, and we’ll all get along just fine.

I have never written a column on disabilities—when I write that column, what should I include? Everybody’s got some sort of limitation—takes some medication, wears glasses—and if we go from the perspective that some of these limitations are just more obvious than others, then everyone gets a lot less afraid.

Anybody who walks up to me and is genuine and honest and has questions, I am more than willing to answer. I would much rather have them come up and ask me than assume that I can or can’t do something.

(McCormick will be in Minneapolis next February for the Creating Change conference, presented by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Visit his website at