Last week marked the 39th annual International Mr. Leather, a pageant-esque competition and general celebration for kink and leather fetishists. Nearly four decades in, this year’s marked a first for the competition: Ali Mushtaq, a gay Muslim American adjunct professor of sociology, and 2016 Mr. Long Beach Leather, was the first Pakistani-American to compete.
Sounds specific, I know, but it’s a pretty big deal, as explained in this fun New York Times profile of him. As a Muslim-American (who relates more to Islam as a cultural identity than a religion) his presence at Mr. Leather this year is an important representation for gay and kink-minded Muslims and South Asians, helping to open up the idea of what the leather community looks like. Some standout moments from the profile:
- He wears a necklace with a pendant that says “Allah.”
- He named his whip “Wally.”
- “I wanted to be more edgy, the libertine that everyone gossiped about and called a slut.”
- His 70-year-old grandmother, whom he lives with, is proud of him.
- This isn’t in the profile, but here’s a pic from his Instagram:
Of course, it’s not exactly all fun and leather—Mushtaq has been the subject of some abusive Islamophobic messages and has faced a bit of stigma in the leather community. But he continues doing him in the name of visibility, and despite not placing in the top 20 of International Mr. Leather, it’s clear he simply wants to be the open, complicated, gay figure he never saw growing up, telling the Times, “My presence shows that people that look like me, that are Pakistani, that are Muslim, are here for peace. We are the sex symbol. We are the people that everybody wants to hit on.”