LEATHER PRIDE IN THE MIDWEST:
An Interview With Jeremy Morris, Mr. Iowa Leather 2012
Last October, at ”Iowa’s favorite gay bar” The Blazing Saddle, Des Moines Leatherman Jeremy Morris won the Title of Mr.Iowa Leather 2012. Since then, the youngster has kept himself pretty busy, with one of his goals being to reach out to the GLBT community at large. On his Facebook page you’ll find Morris partying (always for a cause, natch!) not just with his fellow hot-to-trot Leather brothers but also with some very colorful drag queens and other celebs. (I particularly dig the picture of Morris with lovely Jessica Pray, Miss Iowa 2011, at an AIDS benefit…) It’s enough to make this bona fide New Yorker bemoan, “Damn, I wish I was there too!” It’s not just fun and games for this energetic Titleholder, however… Raising money for HIV/AIDS is on his agenda, and he tells me, “My goal is to have one hundred thousand raised before the end of my year. This is one of my biggest focus points beyond IML and I’m thankful for such a wide support base that over sixty thousand has already been raised. Yes, it keeps me running pretty much every weekend, but seeing the end result has made it all worth it.” In between social and philanthropic events, the Hawkeye State’s most visible Leatherman took the time to speak to me about his year ahead:
JR: Congratulations again on your Title of Mr. Iowa Leather 2012. How has the Title year been treating you so far?
JM: Thank you! This year has been busy from step one. But it has been truly humbling how many people in the state have rallied behind me this year.
JR: Since winning, do you find that you get hit on more when you go out? Or, are guys intimidated by the Sash?
JM: I had just moved to the Des Moines area a few months prior, so I was still “fresh meat” in the area… but it has brought a larger awareness to me around the country. No longer are there days of sneaking into the bar in jeans, a sweatshirt and a hat to just enjoy a quiet drink. But it has been for the good. It’s helped open up many doors to expanding the Leather community in Iowa!
JR: That’s the price of being a public figure! Now, speaking of Iowa: A lot of people who live on the coasts or in big cities have ideas about life in America in the Midwest… especially when it comes to the Leather community and the GLBT community in general. As a Midwest Leatherman, how do you feel about this? What stereotypes or myths would you like to debunk?
JM: The Midwest is an interesting place to live. No, the population is not confined in such tight spaces as the bigger city, but the options are endless and many are more willing to explore different fetishes. When I moved into Iowa as an adult I noticed that this state is nothing like its stereotype… not that the value of the family farm has been lost. Iowa is a leader for LGBT rights within this state. Here we enjoy protected housing & employment. I still remember being in shock when the state Supreme Court voted that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional. Yes, our state fair prides itself on having an entire street full of vendors frying anything they can on a stick, even butter. Overall, Iowa provides more of a large span of cultural diversity than one would expect. And yes – We root, root, root for Iowa… until the game is won!!!
JR: What philanthropic causes and/or issues are you dedicated to?
JM: Even before winning this title, charity work and event organization was a big part of my life in the state. Iowa has a heart to help those in need, and has shown so many different facets to be involved in the communities within this state. Several dear friends in my life have been struggling with the economic downturn to pay for their medications. Our local HIV/AIDS organizations lost roughly a third of their federal funding because our known positive population in the state is one of the lowest.
JR: It’s a shame it has to be that way. Now, in your opinion, what makes someone a role model for the Leather community?
JM: Personally, it is those who are willing to reach out to the younger generation. So many times the older members within our community seem to be above reaching out to the younger men & women wanting to explore the leather & fetish communities. Sadly we are seeing clubs with member’s average age being well into the 50’s or higher, even seeing a few dying out because they didn’t take the time to reach out to the next generation. The people I look up to personally are these very people. I was fortunate to have several key people in my life take me step by step into the leather community and continue to guide my along my journey. I know very well that my own personal journey is just begging but I work constantly to always bring someone new in the community with me anywhere I go.
JR: I totally agree with you. A lot of guys don’t “discover” the Leather scene until relatively later in life… and that may be because our community has not been reaching out to them as pro-actively as we should be. Along those lines, I ask you, What can every member of the Leather community do, on a day to day basis, to keep our community thriving?
JM: Don’t count out the younger generation. Reach out. Meet them on their level, at their hangouts, and you will find so many ready to explore/learn/grow in the community.
JR: When a Leatherman comes to visit your neck of the woods, what stops should he include on his visit?
JM: You can’t make a trip into Iowa and not stop at The Blazing Saddle. It is one of the pillars within the local community, not only for the LGBT community but for Des Moines in general. The owner and staff at the Saddle have helped build a vibrant community in the East Village section of town and are always keeping their doors open for everyone. And remember – At the Saddle it’s ALWAYS a double and NEVER a cover. This is also the center of the Leather community. Here you will find the home bar for two clubs, The Corn Haulers and Titans of the Midwest.
Iowa is rather spread out and there are several other places to check out along your way. In Cedar Rapids, It’s time for Basix. This staff is always welcoming and friendly… Be ready for the SoCo because the staff loves to keep pouring it! In Davenport, check out Connections Night Club for great drink specials, awesome music, and always a good time. (Some great bears always end up in the cages!!)
JR: Woof! While we’re on the subject: Leathermen are often seen as the epitome of masculinity and sexiness. What do you find personally sexy in a guy?
JM: Confidence, not arrogance.. Everyone loves a freaking hot man, even more with some good leather on. A man that can show confidence without being arrogant is an amazing turn on for me.
JR: What color hankies would I find hanging from your pocket/pockets?
JM: Besides having my bone and chew toy with me, you’ll always find at a minimum a blue, yellow & grey hankie on me. Black, green (several different), and khaki make their rounds and red is a work in progress. Sometimes there just isn’t enough pocket space.
JR: (Laughs) How true. So, Jeremy, do you have any resolutions for 2012?
JM: Back to the Basics here… The stupidity of my late teens is still plaguing my wallet and I’m focused on being debt free by 2014. I will admit though, I never really set goals for the New Year. I prefer to set short term goals that feed into a larger plan. There is one key goal: One hundred thousand raised for HIV/AIDS awareness in the state of Iowa. One always wants world peace and to bring home the IML title too…
JR: Finally, just for fun: According to popular reports, for better or for worse, mainstream America still identifies the late Glenn Hughes of the Village People as the most widely recognized Leatherman in American pop culture. How do you feel about that?
JM: So I’ve become even more of an open book to the people around me as Mr. Iowa Leather. One of the guys I work with asked me this exact thing. “So are you like the guy from the village people or like the guys from Police Academy?” Hughes took steps out into the world before the larger community was ready to make those steps for themselves. Its great to look at the past, but I’m ready to show the world the rest of the Leather community. I look to those before us for inspiration and show such respect for them because they stood out at a time when it wasn’t P.C. to do so. They laid the groundwork for the openness I get to enjoy daily!
JR: Thanks Jeremy! See you when you visit New York!