Polish those boots because it’s almost time for the Mr. & Ms. Philadelphia Leather contest. The annual competition will take place 8-10 p.m. Feb. 16 at The Bike Stop, 206 S. Quince St.
“Pup” Ruckus has judged, staffed and volunteered at many leather and fetish events across North America. Self-described as a smart husky with a true passion for obedience school, he is the past title-holder for Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather.
PGN: What were you like as a kid?
R: I grew up in a very Southern and Greek household. We grew up in Savannah and parts of Florida.
PGN: Is there a large Greek population in Savannah?
R: There is, yeah. There’s a big church there and the Greek population is pretty prominent. Same thing in Tarpin Springs, Fla., where I mostly grew up. It actually has the second-highest concentration of Greeks in the world.
PGN: What were you like as a kid?
R: I was a water baby. That was my big thing. I love swimming in pools. I love swimming in the ocean. You couldn’t get me out of the water as a kid. I was really adventurous. I loved exploring and being outside a lot.
PGN: What did you want to be when you grew up?
R: A marine biologist. I really loved dolphin and sharks, octopus and squid, animals like that.
PGN: So how did you end up in Philadelphia? Not too many squid around here.
R: Ha! Well, my mother and I moved to New Jersey. Then, when I was about 21, I moved here to go to Temple to study biology.
PGN: Are you in the field now?
R: [Smiles] No, I actually work in tech. I’m an IT guy. I work with servers and domains and a little bit of coding. While I was in school, I started working for a nonprofit organization. I was always interested in tech too, so when a position opened up, I dove right in. I didn’t even finish college and that’s how I got to the position I hold now.
PGN: What’s the nonprofit?
R: It helps people acquire the public benefits they qualify for: medical assistance, housing, Medicaid and things like that. It’s a really great organization and it makes the system, which can be tricky for people, accessible and easy.
PGN: Tell me a little of your coming-out story.
R: Well, at 13, I came out to my family as a lesbian, and then about seven or eight years later, I came out as trans.
PGN: What were some early signs you were part of the LGBT community?
R: I knew from a very early age that I liked women. There was never any questioning or shame about it. I never had that, Oh my God, I think I’m gay! moment. I liked women. It was just something that was natural for me. My family raised me in a very queer-positive environment. So I never thought of it as something to be ashamed of.
PGN: What made it a queer-positive environment?
R: I grew up with a gay uncle. My brother also had a lot of queer friends growing up. I was exposed to gay media early on: My mom’s favorite movie was “The Birdcage” and she enjoyed “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” So I was raised with stuff like that.
PGN: What’s your favorite LGBTQ film?
R: I really like this film called “Boy Meets Girl.” It was about a young trans woman who tries experimenting with women, but falls in love with her best friend. It’s a really good film. And then there was “But I’m a Cheerleader,” the quintessential gay film when I was growing up.
PGN: Where did you live before coming to Philadelphia?
R: South Jersey, Egg Harbor Township area.
PGN: How did you find community there?
R: I didn’t. When I was 16, I helped create the first gay/straight alliance at my high school. I’d been looking for it and it didn’t exist, so I decided to create it.
PGN: When did you transition?
R: I started to medically transition at 22, right about when I moved here
PGN: How was the family’s response?
R: It wasn’t great at first. They struggled with pronouns and my name for quite some time, but since then they’ve become great allies and great activists, speaking out when they’ve encountered something homophobic or transphobic.
PGN: When did you get involved with the leather community?
R: I’ve been experimenting with kink and BDSM since before I was 18, in different sexual and romantic relationships I’d had with other women. But publicly I got involved with the leather community when I was about 23, about a year after my medical transition started.
PGN: What’s something people don’t know about the leather community?
R: It’s very philanthropic. We do a lot of fundraising, especially around HIV/AIDS research and groups like Trans Lifeline, groups that support us and provide medical care.
PGN: So let’s talk about the upcoming Mr. & Ms. Philadelphia Leather. You held the title of Mid-Atlantic Puppy 2017. What did you do to win?
R: Yes, I actually held it for an extended reign of about 19 months. The current title-holder is Pup Skunk; he’s my title son. So, to win, you are judged on your overall presentation the whole weekend: As soon as the meet-and-greet starts until they announce the scores, you are being judged. Presentation and how you interact with people is important; how you get along with other puppies, showing that you can be a good ambassador for the community.
PGN: OK. I need Leather 101: What is a puppy?
R: A puppy is a human of any gender who engages in some type of canine role-play. You can be a puppy, you can be a dog or a wolf. I find the difference is often the attitude. Puppies naturally tend to be more playful, and dogs can be a little more serious. Though I should say that just because you identify as a puppy or wolf, etc., does not mean that you are leather-identified.
PGN: Does the leather community ever get pushback from the animal-rights community?
R: No, we actually have quite a few vegans and vegetarians. Most of them wear faux leather or neoprene or rubber. There’s also a sexy or hot-wear outfit, which you don while answering random pop questions. You get judged on how quickly and how well you present your answer.
PGN: Something others think is dangerous that you may not?
R: Hmmm, a kink that I engage in quite often is blood play. A lot of people are really squicked by blood, which is understandable.
R: It makes you go [shudders]. I partake in blood play with one person, my fiancé Caressa. We’re completely fluid- and blood-bonded, and that’s something some people find dangerous. But we use clean needles and make sure everything is sanitized.
PGN: [Laughing] Yeah, I’m one of those who gets “squicked.” I can’t even watch “Grey’s Anatomy”! Something that makes you feel good?
R: Getting my leather family together. It doesn’t happen often because we’re so spread apart. My fiancé is moving here, but she currently lives near Seattle. We have multiple dynamics, but she is my owner. We have a dog-and-handler dynamic, and I also have a puppy Roke who is collared to me and they live in Houston. Roke has another puppy in Ohio.
PGN: What does the handler-puppy dynamic entail?
R: Just like you see at a dog show, when we go to puppy events she’s my handler. I’m also her service dog, so if she needs to get up or walk somewhere, she will hold on to straps on me and I’ll help her. I’m a physical service dog, just like one with four legs would be.
PGN: What are you looking forward to at this year’s Mr. & Ms. Philadelphia Leather?
R: I’m looking forward to seeing all the contestants. There are so many different people who come together for this event. Whether they win or lose, I like to see what people have to present. I like the vulnerability and the bravery of all the contestants. It’s something to see and experience.