In October, the New Jersey Leather Family crowned its newest title holders during the 20th annual New Jersey Leather Weekend. Meet Mr. New Jersey Leather, Bobby, and Ms. New Jersey Leather, Gretchen. Both titleholders are local to Asbury Park, where the annual contest is held at Paradise.
During their run, they spoke of growth, community, and inclusion.
“The NJ Leather community really became my family, they have been there for me and helped me grow as a person,” Bobby said. “The opportunity to represent them allows me to give back and show people the amazing community I come from. When I was 19, I came out to my bio family as gay. I was not accepted, and had to move out. From age 19 to 22 I did not have a community or support system and really was on my own. When I walked into my first leather event at Paradise in Asbury Park for a Sinner Sunday, I was nervous to explore my kinky side. I was immediately welcomed, paddled on stage, and met some of the people who I call family today. It was shortly after that I knew I wanted to be a part of this community as well as eventually represent as Mr. NJ Leather.
“I decided to run this year because it felt right. With all of the internal fighting within our leather communities, and within the larger LGBTQ community, we have to stay together. Racism, transphobia, and misogyny are just a few of our issues that we are still dealing with. I wanted to take the opportunity to represent the community and strengthen the values that leather has taught me. Tradition, Respect, Community, and Self Love.”
Gretchen also cited personal growth as her motivation to represent the Garden State as Ms. New Jersey Leather. “My biggest reasons for running were community and growth. I recently went through some personal life events that had me questioning my own mindset. In reflecting on how I made my decisions leading up to that time, I realized I put everyone else first, regardless of self sacrifice.
I came out of a tough period thanks to the support of some friends, specifically Lisa Clark and Rai Guerra, within the NJ Leather family. This family is always there for everyone as they were for me, so I decided why not grow together with them, while doing what I love to do within the LGBTQ and Leather Communities.”
The year ahead is full of possibilities, with both titleholders required to host two fundraisers and attend Asbury Park’s annual Pride parade.
“My goal for the year ahead is to be led by my values, teach by example, and to learn by listening,” Bobby said. “I plan on reaching out to the younger new generation of leather people and to show them that they have a place with us. I plan on showing people what I know, but more importantly to listen to those who have something to say or share. When our current administration is constantly attacking our communities, we have to stay together.”
“I don’t want to limit the possibilities of what may come of it,” Gretchen said about her plans for the upcoming year. “At a minimum they are to represent the title, the producers, the family, and community with dignity and respect, raise funds for the Asbury LGBTQ Health Clinic and the Leather Heart Foundation, and to travel to as many events globally as possible during my title year.”
Bobby and Gretchen can both be found on Facebook and Instagram under their respective titles.