Over the years, I’ve interviewed many leather titleholders. Usually we sit down shortly after they have been sashed and I write about their life up to that point. I’ve haven’t done a follow-up interview after the titleholder has stepped down. I’ve never liked the term “wasey.” It usually means a has-been, someone who used to be someone important, but isn’t anymore. I’ve known a few leather titleholders who are a wasey. One even sold his leather after he stepped down. I once overheard a leather titleholder at IML remark, “I can’t wait until my year is over and I can go back to being me.” Other leather titleholders don’t abandon the leather community after their year is up. It is too much a part of them. I’ve often said that the true test of a leather titleholder is not was he or she does during their title year, but what they do the following year. Not every leather titleholder is a wasey.                    

I remember sitting down with Mr. Maryland Leather 2016 Eli Ra in February of 2016. We met in a crowded suburban restaurant on a weekday afternoon. He walked in wearing full leather. I knew at once that this leather man was the real deal. I sat down with Sir Eli again on September 18th. This time we met via zoom, but he was still in leather. This is one titleholder who doesn’t phone it in.                                                                                               

I asked Sir Eli what his most memorable moment was of his Mr. Maryland Leather 2016 title year. He had many. He held a very successful fundraiser and suit drive for an organization called Suit Up that provides business attire to underprivileged persons going on job interviews. His most memorable event was his HIV Smart benefit at Grand Central in Baltimore to help promote PREP awareness. The event included a food truck in front of the bar, and he was able to get the same van that usually comes to Pride events to provide free HIV testing. His fundraiser had the ability to impact people’s lives. Even employees of the bar, who did not have health insurance, got tested. People who just happened to be walking down the street and saw all the activity joined in. The afternoon brought everyone together. It turned out that more people were tested that day for HIV then during the enormous Baltimore Pride event. Sir Eli was deeply humbled by all the support. He added that when selecting his charities for his fundraisers, he thought about some of his kinks: nipple play (breast cancer awareness), sex (HIV / PREP), and his suit fetish (Suit Up).

When Sir Eli stepped down as Mr. Maryland Leather in November of 2016, he still stepped up. In fact, he ran and was awarded another title Mid-Atlantic Handler 2019. I asked him why he would run for a second title. He said that Mr. Maryland Leather was a fundraising title and Mid-Atlantic Handler was more of a fetish title. Also, his pup wanted to compete, but didn’t want to do it by himself. Although his pup wasn’t awarded the title of Mid-Atlantic Puppy 2019 (He was first runner-up), Sir Eli still pushed him to do everything that he would have done had he won. His pup started “Let’s Go Play” an organization that combines education and play. Let’s Go Play has held very popular “pup nights” in Baltimore and Washington. They even helped host the well-attended ‘’pup mosh” during Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend.     

We now find ourselves living in a time when there are no leather contests to attend or fundraisers to produce ( In fact it was just announced that Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend is canceled for January 2021.), I had to wonder how this busy leather man was handling 2020. Believe me he hasn’t slowed down.

As a two-time leather titleholder, many people send Sir Eli questions. People are more comfortable texting a question to someone and not asking an intimate sexual / fetish question in person. Sir Eli has taken these questions, the kind that one would only ask in bed, and turned them into The Pillow Talk Project. He answers questions on Facebook via zoom presentations every Wednesday at 7 pm. (Details can be found on Facebook. He also plans to record and post on YouTube.)

He has also formed a leather family, the Illuminati House of Ra as a safe place for BDSM education and fellowship. Founded on four elements: elevate, educate, energize, and expose, his tribe provides a safe space for people who may have broken away from their biological family due to issues surrounding being LGBTQ+. His family has also given birth to the Leather Boys of Color and the Leather Girls of Color groups. Sir Eli strives to make sure that there is a place for everyone in the leather community.

When he was the current Mr. Maryland Leather, He was often asked, “Why did you do this?” or “Why didn’t you do that?” He laughed and added, “Was there a manual for being Mr. Maryland Leather because I never received it.” Not everyone fits in the same box and why should they? During his title year he suggested to the contest producers that they add a Ms. Maryland Leather title and a Maryland Leather Pup title. His suggestion wasn’t taken. I had to ask how he felt about the recent announcement that the Mr. Maryland Leather title would stop and that a new title Maryland Leather Person would replace it in an attempt to be more inclusive. Eli replied, “If something isn’t broken, why fix it?” Adding additional titles would have resulted in more titleholders working to help the community. Changing it is the new thing to do. Eli compare the change to the attractive new boy who walks into the bar. Everybody wants “what’s new and shiny.” The Mr. Maryland Leather title was the first leather title in Maryland to provide service to the community. He is not sure it had to be “yanked out of the way.” On the bright side, he noted that maybe someone else will step up and produce a Mr. Maryland Leather type title.   

For now, Sir Eli is keeping busy online and with his leather pod family. He is aware of all the current division, not only in our country, but also in the leather community. He suggested that perhaps having everyone stop and stay home is a good thing. It forced the community to hit the pause button and gave everyone time to think.

Sir Eli’s leather journey didn’t end when his title year ended. For Mr. Maryland Leather 2016 Sir Eli Ra there has been a busy second act. I’m already looking forward to seeing what wonderful adventures and creative experiences Sir Eli has planned for his third act.

Author Profile

Rodney Burger
Rodney Burger
Rodney is originally from Hagerstown, Maryland and for many years has lived in Baltimore. In April 2017, Rodney was sworn in for his 10th year as the President of the ShipMates Club of Baltimore. He has been involved in the leather community for many years, but often denies that he sold Jell-O shots at The Last Supper. He has been writing THE LEATHER LINE for the BALTIMORE OUTLOUD newspaper (Baltimoreoutloud.com.) for over fourteen years. He has produced the Mr. & Ms. Baltimore Eagle Contest and the Maryland LeatherSIR/Leatherboy Contest. In 2001 he was proud to serve as Maryland Mr. Drummer 2001. Rodney also does stand-up comedy and in 2013 was thrilled to perform at Philadelphia Leather Pride Night. He has been nominated multiple times for a Pantheon of Leather Award, was selected Leather Man of the Year in 2013 by COMMAND M.C. and by the Baltimore Leather Association of the Deaf in 2006. The 11th annual 12 Days of Christmas benefit show was dedicated to Rodney and his partner Sir Steve. He has been twice selected as ShipMate of the Year. He has judged Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2015, Atlantic States LeatherSIR / Leatherboy and recently judged Mr. Eagle NYC 2018. He is delighted to be able to bring news of his beloved leather community to his readers every issue.