“I might have snuck into the host hotel once or twice,” Miguel Ayala says, “but I wasn’t ready. I ran out.”
The hotel in question was in Chicago, Ayala’s hometown, and it was hosting International Mr. Leather. It was a situation he wouldn’t become comfortable with until well after he had moved to Washington, where Ayala finally immersed himself in leather, putting down roots at the DC Eagle, even running for Mr. DC Eagle in 2013. He lost to Ramien Pierre, who went on to reign at IML in 2014.
“I guess Ramien going on to win IML is validation that I did pretty well,” chuckles Ayala, who has since become a leather leader in his own right, heading up DC Leather Pride with Kyle Collins. The organization, known for its parties during January’s Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, also throws a number of events during Capital Pride, and this year brings several changes.
Chief among those is a switch to an earlier weekend, to avoid getting lost in the hubbub of Pride events. “There’s a lot already happening Pride weekend, so we decided to move to a separate weekend,” he says. “It’s making some of us nervous, but…I think it’s going to be the start of a new tradition for the D.C. area. And I think it really just helps broaden what it is to be part of the LGBTQ community here.”
The DC Eagle will play host to three of DC Leather Pride’s five main events, including a partnership with the popular monthly dance party DistrktC on Saturday, May 13. The night before, Friday, May 12, DC Leather Pride partners with the Cherry Fund for a dance party featuring DJ Seth Breezy from Atlanta and D.C.’s DJ Kudjo, plus go-go dancers. And at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 14, comes the inaugural Tea Dance and Beer Bust featuring DJ Say What?, more go-go dancers, and sponsor Bluejacket Brewery offering three of its brews on tap for a $15 “Bottomless Beer” promotion.
Beyond the Eagle, there’s the fourth annual “Drag Out Your Leather” fundraiser at Cobalt, with resident diva Kristina Kelly emceeing a drag show featuring Mr. DC Eagle 2017 Grey Onyx and Leatherman of Color 2017 Kai Anderson. The two titleholders will compete at IML 2017, and all funds raised will go toward their expenses.
The Green Lantern kicks Leather Pride off on Thursday, May 11, with its popular weekly promotion enticing men to strip their shirts for free drinks from 10 to 11 p.m. More recently, the promotion has expanded include 12 to 12:30 a.m. — though only for those daring enough to strip to their underwear.
The whole weekend was planned with a Rebel theme, a nod to Capital Pride’s 2017 theme Unapologetically Proud — as well as to Madonna via her 2015 album Rebel Heart and track “Unapologetic Bitch.” It’s something Ayala identifies with.
“I definitely relate to the rebel theme this year because I was a little rebel since high school,” he says. “I helped start the first gay/straight alliance in Chicago and eventually got inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame for that.
“I feel like I hit that peak of gay activism when I was 17. I’m just trying to catch up ever since.”
DC Leather Pride runs Thursday, May 11, through Sunday, May 14, at Green Lantern, the DC Eagle, and Cobalt. Individual event tickets are $10 to $40. Visit facebook.com/DCLeatherPride for more information.
Photos from DC Leather Pride: Rebel Heart party.
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