Elliot Musgrave talks to Steve Ganzell about being the first trans Mr. Los Angeles Leather.
BY STEVE GANZELL | PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM
Sitting in his living room not long after winning the title of Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2019 that took place at the end of March this year, Elliot Musgrave is open and forthright. He has no hesitation to discuss the issues which might be difficult issues for some.
He mentions early on that he never expected to win the Precinct contest and certainly never thought he would be going to Chicago for International Mr. Leather (IML) as the representative from Los Angeles. He shares that he was aware of some of the hurtful things people had said about his being a transman who is into leather, and who is participating in a contest.
“Any time something comes to me second hand, I’m much more critical of it. I kinda put some distance there. I’m also pretty good about knowing these things aren’t about me…. That’s their work to do.”
Many in the leather community have addressed issues of body positivity. Elliot brings a completely new level of insight to the discussion. A professional trainer who specializes in working with the trans community, he understands the struggle.
In a community that traces much of its esthetics to the hyper-masculine images of Tom of Finland, the current LA title holder is a man who has had to explore and understand gender in a way that most cis-gendered leathermen take for granted.
During the photo shoot for the March 2019 issue of THE FIGHT magazine—in which the contestants for Mr LA Leather were photographed in the nude—the topic of Elliot’s scars were addressed. He was asked about it and responded that they were the reminders of his struggle and that he felt proud.
Despite some people’s reactions Elliot “feels like he is aligned with his purpose right now…that he is right were he ought to be.”
He says that he is no longer able to stand at the edges of events and activities. He notes that in the past there were times he felt invisible and attributes this both his own reluctance and the hesitation of others to discuss issues such as his being trans. He also points out the the majority of his experiences have been welcoming and positive. He is quick to express his gratitude to the men of ONYX who have been so supportive.
It is an interesting juxtaposition. In a community that traces much of its esthetics to the hyper-masculine images of Tom of Finland, the current LA title holder is a man who has had to explore and understand gender in a way that most cis-gendered leathermen take for granted.
He recognizes that he brings a different life experience to the hyper masculine world of the traditional leather man. “Because, I was raised as a female and tended to hang out in queer or lesbian spaces, I had to learn how to adjust and adapt to gay male space… The more you show up and show people you are here to stay, you are committed, the more they accept you and try to understand.”
Not only does Elliot note his own experiences in this process, he invites others to examine that experience as well. Not as a blanket criticism or rejection but rather as an opportunity to question and understand.
While title holders can be seen as representatives of a bar, of a club, or of an entire community—in actuality few of them are. Most are just the guy that the night of the contest was chosen by the judges as the “winner.” Being a Mr. LA Leather usually means you managed to survive a lot of chaos and confusion and are a good sport, willing to do even more. Some title holders have a message and their title allows them a big platform to deliver that message.
In Chicago at IML, the first round of judging determines who of the 50-70 contestants will go on to the part of the contest in which they get to deliver a 90 second speech. Some of the speeches get bottled up at the end of the night and sold to sufferers of insomnia. Others are recorded and picked apart by English majors because of the their unique syntax. A few cause tears, more cause good natured laughter. But every now and then, someone stands on that stage and has something to say, something that we as a Leather community need to hear.
After spending an afternoon with Elliot, I really hope the guys in Chicago hear what he has to say.
The Mr. Los Angeles Leather contest is 20 years old this year. The sash that is traditionally given to the winner has the name of each of the 19 men who have worn it is on the back of that sash. I know each of those 19 men. Many of them are men I am grateful to call my friends. Because the sash is getting a little worn and because we have run out of room for more names, it will very likely be retired this year.
Elliot’s name is the first transman and most likely the last Mr. LA Leather on that sash. He is in good company and he deserves to be there.