Clifton Tatum, Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2015, on hyper masculinity, intimacy and pushing your boundaries.
BY TOM PARDOE | PHOTO BY CHRIS GREEN
With six candidates competing this month for the title of Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2016, THE FIGHT spoke to the outgoing titleholder, Clifton Tatum, Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2015, about community activism, safer sex and finding your passion.
First off, tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in 1958, in Oxnard, CA. I earned my Masters of Science Degree in Counseling and Guidance and worked with youth in the High Schools, Juvenile Hall and the Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation from 1980 until I retired in 2008. Currently single, I have been married twice to women before coming out as gay in 1999. I moved to Palm Springs in 2012 and truly enjoy the retirement life here.
When did you realize you were into leather?
I describe my attraction to leather as purely animalistic. I never forgot the feelings in my loins when I saw Al Pacino in “Cruising,” 1980. At the age of 43, I was formally introduced into the leather scene, with its hyper masculinity, smells, swagger and unapologetic raw sexuality… I found my tribe.
Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2015, what have you been up to all year?
When I speak of my year as Mr. Palm Springs, I speak from the idea I wanted to bring leather folk out of dark corners of the desert leather bars and show people who we were and all the good work we do and the fun we have. I also wanted to make a contribution to LGBT youth charities. That being said, I have done over a dozen fundraisers, raising over $20,000 for local LGBT youth charities. I have traveled to Washington DC, Cleveland, Ohio and Chicago where I placed 8th at the International Mr. Leather contest. I have appeared as Mr. Palm Springs Leather at many bars, private and public events here as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
What did you discover about yourself during your reign?
I found out that I’m more passionate than I thought. I always saw myself as even-tempered… When it came to planning, organizing and executing my events, I became very focused, controlling and goal oriented. My close friends had to remind me these people are volunteers not inmates… [laughs].
What surprised you about your community?
My community stepped up! I had only lived here three years with no family or history in Palm Springs. I just stated my platform to the community when I won my title and I was able to recruit well over 75 volunteers to participate and support me in numerous activities during my reign.
Where did you turn, in times of frustration or difficulty?
Every titleholder should have a least one good friend by their side to keep things real. I had Leo Newcomb, President of Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert. I would not have been able to accomplish anything without him by my side keeping me focused, energized, balanced, compassionate, patient, in check and realistic. It’s very easy for me to lose focus with all the demands I put on myself. We fought, argued, cried, laughed and applauded each other this whole year.
What is it that, without fail, turns you on?
Ummmm… when all else fails, if you want my undivided attention or see me dance on my toes, a long hot nipple play session does it every time.
What is the most important thing to share with a curious/newbie person?
Get out of you head and let your passion take over. See where your passion leads you, don’t judge or allow others to judge during this process and you will be forever changed.
Intimacy and leather. How are they connected?
Leather sex, if done correctly, is one of the most intimate and sensual experiences two consenting adults can explore. The mantra of the leather community is safe, sane and consensual. With the understanding you set your own limits you can step out of societies judgment of what is moral or immoral. You can then release all inhibitions and have an out of body, while pushing your boundaries, experience with your partner, while either in a submissive or dominant role.
Final thoughts as you move forward?
If anyone is ever given an opportunity or has thought of giving back to their community, do it. Reach into your heart and think who has been your greatest hero or had your own wellbeing in mind. Think who has touched your heart. How could you then become that person for someone else. Then follow your own passion and see where it takes you.
This year as Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2015, has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I owe my life to the LGBT and leather community because of their activism and community outreach. It was that outreach that protected and embraced me when I came out. My year’s work to do the same for our future LGBT members has been it’s own reward.