If anyone would have told Brent Heinze – 18 years ago – that he would be half-naked, suited up with a harness, tight leather pants, whips, chains and bulging muscles, posing for a photo shoot, not even he would have believed it. After shedding nearly 100 pounds and molding himself into the hunky spectacle that represents the leather community of Colorado, Heinze is the epitome of empowerment and true leather style.
The leather community in Colorado is nothing short of ecstatic for this year’s big International Mr. Leather competition. Rallying behind their own, Heinze, Mr. Leather Colorado 2010-2011, the leather community and Coloradans who have had the chance to meet Heinze believe wholeheartedly, he has the chance of a lifetime to win this prestigious title. Heinze – a columnist for Out Front Colorado – is unique because, yes he has a beautiful body, piercing eyes and that little boy charm, but his contagious positive energy and deep-rooted love of community is turning heads. Heinze truly represents leather sub-culture at its healthiest: “At its core its about people communicating, connecting and an exchange of energy. [Leather community] is all about sharing sexual, physical and emotional moments. It’s all about respect,” he said.
There is a complexity to the leather sub-culture because it allows people to not only dress in a style that brings out a raw and primal attraction, but it enables them to come together and celebrate sex appeal while embracing what Heinze has called sex-positive behaviors. The sexuality of the culture has been mis-represented in the past, perhaps partially because mainstream society hasn’t yet fully accepted this sex-positive notion of becoming comfortable with one’s sexual expression. For many Colorado locals involved in the leather sub-culture, it is simply a way of allowing that power and attraction to evolve.
As Mike Maez, Mr. Leather Colorado 2006 and director of the Mr. Leather Colorado Foundation put it, “Connecting with your primal urges is as natural and freeing as learning to walk. We are all here to experience the highest vision of ourselves and who we really are.”
In essence, the Colorado leather community believes that being a part of it all enables a way for them to feel accepted and enter into a safe place to celebrate their individuality through growth, development and self-expression.
In a culture that has gone through its own share of struggles – there has been a transformation to pledge change, to make sure the interacting members are safer and informed about the risks associated with sexual behaviors.
HIV/AIDS has affected the leather sub-culture accross the globe. IML Founder Chuck Renslow even admitted in 2009, “Too few understand that HIV/AIDS infections dominate life … we have an entire generation who may not fully appreciate or comprehend the severity of the situation.”
The large swing of AIDS related deaths at the IML level is also something that is publicly surfacing. So it becomes vital for local leaders like Heinze, who feels a responsibility to advocate for health and prevention, to take a step forward.
As the heat rises on this taboo topic, local and international representatives feel an obligation to spread change for the health of the community. Using his leather title and social work background. Heinze has developed programming for two state-funded HIV prevention programs utilizing his passions and enthusiasm for prevention and safe practices with Southern Colorado AIDS Project and the Denver Element.
Renslow banned barebacking materials and practice on the IML level in 2009, advocating for a healthier community.
Joey Macdonald, a member of the IML Executive Committee and Denver Daddy assures that much of the excitement for leather folks, comes through scenes and role-play. “Leather sex can be about power exchange, pushing boundaries of pain/pleasure, finding one’s limits of bondage, isolation and percussion – all of which could – and often does – happen without penetration.”
Heinze represents leather Coloradans through his charity work, non-profit programming and counseling making him the perfect candidate for IML.
Bella Rosa, a member of the charity group Leather Magick, said Heinze is more than just a representative. “Mr. Leather Colorado is about leadership and unity.” And Heinze, without a doubt, has the Colorado community routing for him as they embrace his warm spirit, delightful manner of presenting himself and his ability to make those he connects with see the beauty in every facet of Colorado culture.