One of the first questions I ask the ruggedly handsome Tarsus, Mr. Oregon Leather 2011, is: “When a fellow Leather brother or sister visits Portland, Oregon, what should be some essential hotspots he or she should visit?” He responds, “Portland has gone through some changes over the past few years, and I feel that we finally have cause for going out again. There are a few new places I like to venture out to: Hawks PDX is one of them– an all-male sex club; and The Syndicate is a great place for men and women to come together and play. The Eagle Portland is a must in the Leather tradition and has nekked pool on Thursday, as well as LURE (Leather, Uniform, Rubber and Etc.) on the 4th Saturday of each month.” Nekked pool?! Oh, sorry… I got distracted. (Where‘s my plane ticket?!) Anyway, it was in August 2011 when the man who goes only by Tarsus became our newest Leather ambassador to the Beaver State. The bearded and inked Leatherman works as a bartender at Embers, the oldest gay bar in Portland, and he has been an active member of the Leather/BDSM family for six years. The artist and activist spoke to me about his plans for his Title year, the Leather community, what he personally sexy in a guy, and more…
JR: Hello, Tarsus. Congratulations again on your Title of Mr. Oregon Leather 2011. How has the Title year been treating you so far?
T: The Title has been great. I have been a longtime member of this community and have worked with past Title holders over the years. When I decided to run, the general comment I got was “It’s about time!”
JR: (Laughs) Since winning, do you find that you get hit on more when you go out? Or, are guys intimidated by the Sash?
T: Getting hit on is always welcomed. (Chuckles). I do not find that the Leathermen in my community intimidate easily. It may be that the younger generation grew up with more freedom than I did. They come up to me and ask about the sash and what it means. I get a lot of exposure as a bartender at Portland’s oldest gay bar.
JR: Very cool. So, while we are on the subject: What’s the most unique thing about the city of Portland? What makes it stand out from the others?
T: The one thing I hear more than all others is that Portland is a great big-little city, that people are nice, and that it’s still an affordable place to live. Portland has a long, rich Leather history. Riches lie in its people and their stories: Tony DeBlase, the creator of the Leather Pride flag, for example. I never tire in hearing about the sexcapades days, before AIDS; or stories from Leatherwomen while the men were off fighting in World War II. It is these people that gave me the strength to carry on the traditions that is Leather.
JR: It’s the responsibility of a Titleholder to raise awareness and money for philanthropic causes. What causes and/or issues are you dedicated to?
T: Very much so, there is still cause and need… and as long as that is true, I feel that with the Title there is responsibility. The main cause I am dedicated to is equality. If we had equality, then many of the issues we are fighting for would not be issues at all. For example: gay marriage. We are citizens of this country, we pay taxes… but yet we are not equal. In many states, a gay civil union is still not recognized. It is this prejudice that trickles down to our children, and to our neighbors’ children… and the effect is bullying.
JR: How true. So, as a role model for the Leather community, who do you consider a role model yourself?
T: There are so many, but here in my community the first to come to mind is Andy Mangles. His vast knowledge and experience within the Leather community is approachable and forthcoming.
JR: Along those lines: What can every member of the Leather community do, on a day to day basis, to keep our community thriving?
T: I have asked myself this question before I decided to run for my Title, and the answer was clear: communication. It‘s a simplistic thing. We refer to brotherhood, but do we show it? There is a great divide between the older generation and the new generation. I hear it from both sides. The older generation has paved the way and at great cost. The younger generation may not know what life was like 20, 30, or 40 years ago. So I urge for both sides to communicate: to tell their stories and to help each other understand the Leather history and future.
JR: Well said! Now, on to a more titillating question. Leathermen are often seen as the epitome of masculinity and sexiness. What do you find personally sexy in a guy?
T: For most, and that includes myself, masculinity and sexiness are physical traits. The ideal man: tall, dark, handsome, wrapped in leather– someone that you secretly want to meet in a dark alleyway. However, now that I am in my mid 40’s, I find that this was a scene played out more times then I care to recall. Sorry, I went off on a tangent! (Laughs) It’s eyes. I always look at the eyes. And facial hair. That is what I find masculine.
JR: I agree. While we’re on the subject, do you have any celebrity crushes?
T: Other then the hot men I will find myself among at IML?!
JR: (Laughs) What color hankies would I find hanging from your pockets?
T: Left: gray and purple. What color do you flag?
JR: Light blue and royal blue, usually left but occasionally right. Purple is always great too but not too much success with that. And I am gradually introducing some new colors too… like yellow! (Smiles) So, where can people catch up with you this upcoming year?
T: Outside Portland, I am in Seattle a lot. Chicago in May for IML. In July I will be at Dore Ally in San Francisco.
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?
T: I thought it was Isaac from “The Love Boat”, with that handlebar mustache!
JR: Well, I have one thing to say to that: Welcome aboard, it’s love!
Visit Tarsus, Mr. Oregon Leather 2011, on his Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/messages/675184936#!/profile.php?id=100002803517340