Pride & Joy Day 13: Pleather Pride

[Today’s donation was made to Equal Justice InitiativeClick here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

I’ve done many things I’m not proud of my entire life. One of them is abandoning Indonesia and therefore its LGBTQ rights movements to live in a country where regulations that protect our human rights are being systematically erased even during Pride month). But there’s one decision I made sixteen years ago that I’ll never regret: being vegetarian.

Although I no longer align myself with PETA, the organization helped open my eyes to the cruelty animals face in the food, fashion, and entertainment industries. Linda McCartney’s story about how she and her family became vegetarian really struck a chord in me. I grew up with animals (dogs at my grandad’s and cats at home). I wouldn’t want to eat my cats, so why would I eat other animals?

As a child, I loathed vegetables and was almost a total carnivore. But McCartney’s story changed my life. It was easy for me to switch to being vegetarian and never look back because I simply stopped craving meat.

When it comes to fashion, I try to be completely vegan. Some glue for shoes is made from horse and other animals so it’s a bit tricky. My obsession with luxury brands came to a grinding halt because I had been made aware of the horrible cruelty they inflict to harvest the skin and fur of animals. And I make sure my make-up is cruelty-free.

Animal testing on drugs is a horrible practice, plain and simple, and we need to change it. The current pandemic and the race to develop a vaccine has had me battling my own moral dilemmas. The pharmaceutical industry has mutilated and murdered billions of animals for the sake of millions of humans, including me. In my book, Gentlemen Prefer Asians: Tales of Gay Indonesians and Green Card Marriages, I admit I’m not as hardcore as Linda McCartney when it comes to survival, but I hope I’ll live long enough to see the day when we completely stop experimenting on animals.

I’ve never been into leather. Sure, my early sexual awakenings were shaped by Tom of Finland and Etienne, but I never have the stomach for real, actual leather. I remember when the five-star hotel in Jakarta I worked at launched our Italian restaurant, we had brand-new leather furniture in its lounge and the smell just made me sick for weeks. It had the scent of deformed death.

But then I became close to Richard Passmore, Mr. Leather Palm Springs 2019. I went to The 24th Annual Mr Palm Springs Leather Contest 2019 at the Palm Springs Air Museum in October 2018 to support Richard (that was the night he was crowned) and I wanted to blend in and not offend. It took weeks to plan my outfit. I knew I’d wear my Wonder Woman burgundy tank top, but I couldn’t find the right pants, until I saw these Tripp vinyl short shorts. I scored a new pair on eBay for a third of the MSRP.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.