‚ÄúI think most people are aware we exist,‚ÄĚ Alex Leffers says about deaf members of the queer community. Still, he contends, ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of unnecessary fear. We use our hands to communicate, true, but we do welcome conversation with people that aren‚Äôt familiar with sign language. Stop apologizing for your lack of knowledge and just talk to us.‚ÄĚ
Residing in Gaithersburg, Maryland with his deaf partner, Valerie, Alex Leffers is a self-described deaf, bisexual, kinky leatherboy FTM. He‚Äôs won a number of leather titles, and declares, ‚ÄúLeather and kink is my lifestyle. I live it everyday. I‚Äôm a leather boy, a submissive who enjoys the attention of a dominant. Being a leather boy is‚Ä¶an identity.‚ÄĚ
A former sorority girl, Leffers has written several essays about his life: first as a deaf lesbian in the 1993 anthology Eyes of Desire: A Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader, and then, as a trans guy, in 2008‚Äôs follow-up, Eyes of Desire 2.
Discovering no support groups for deaf trans people, Leffers founded the Yahoo group, TransDeaf, ‚Äúto connect and feel that we‚Äôre not alone in our journeys.‚ÄĚ
He served for a number of years as an officer with the Washington, D.C. chapter of Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf (RAD), a nonprofit organization that promotes the rights of LGBT deaf and hard of hearing. In 2006-2007, he represented International Deaf Leather as a member at large on the RAD Board.
Leffers also remains on the board of American Boyz, the trans masculine organization behind the True Spirit Conferences of early 2000s. ‚ÄúWe started out with a fire lit in our pants, but we‚Äôve slacked off, due to, well, life. [We] put True Spirit on hold until we‚Äôre able to resolve internal business issues.‚ÄĚ
That timing coincided with Leffers winning leather titles‚ÄĒAtlantic Deaf Leatherboy 2004 and International Deaf Leatherboy in 2005‚ÄĒthat dominated his attention.
Although his own experience has been positive, Leffers recognizes that some trans guys complain about discrimination within the gay leather and S/M communities, including International Leather SIR/boy contests, which had a bio-male only rule. The organization recently lifted the ban and trans men can now compete. Other leather groups, sex clubs and play parties‚ÄĒlike Chicago Hellfire Club‚Äôs Inferno‚ÄĒstill exclude trans men.
‚ÄúIf you, as an individual are not attracted to us,‚ÄĚ Leffer asserts, ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs fine‚ÄĒmove on! There‚Äôs a 95 percent majority of biological men with the anatomy you‚Äôre looking for. Why worry about the few trans men?‚ÄĚ
The anti-trans sentiment that imbues some of these venues, Leffers admits, makes for play spaces that don‚Äôt feel safe for trans men. ‚ÄúMany people play in the nude. Even for the trans man who‚Äôs open, nudity can be uncomfortable. [They] risk getting thrown out because of who they are. Finding public play spaces that are trans-positive is difficult.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOur anatomy is different,‚ÄĚ Leffers acknowledges, ‚Äú‚ÄėDo you have a penis?‚Äô is the most common question I‚Äôm asked. Most of us cannot afford lower surgery and‚Ä¶surgical options for lower surgery are inadequate. Our manhood is constantly put to the test and we are challenged frequently. Leathermen are quite masculine and [often] have trouble seeing trans men as being masculine. Little do they realize, there are many of us mingling among them and they have no idea that we‚Äôre trans!‚ÄĚ
Leffers is proud of his accomplishments, but not one to rest on his laurels. His next challenge is resuscitating American Boyz. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm now ready to get back into it and try to bring back Amboyz and True Spirit!‚ÄĚ
Jacob Anderson-Minshall co-authors the Blind Eye mystery series, including Blind Curves and Blind Leap.