Ali Mushtaq, the 27-year-old son of Pakistani immigrants won the title of Mr. Long Beach Leather this fall. He wants to become a role model for the gay leather community — a subculture that wears leather chaps, boots, vests, harnesses and other garments to signify sexual interests.
His family comes from a Muslim-majority country, and his name is Ali after all — these days, that comes with a lot of preconceptions, and being a gay, “hot Middle Eastern guy” (actually, he’s South Asian) who wears leather chaps doesn’t exactly check any of the boxes.
“They’re always trying to figure me out,” he said.
“People right now have this idea that Muslims … are the enemy, the devil, that they’re this vilified group that’s out to take out democracy. And it’s like, no, we’re here, we’re equally part of this country, and we’re here on the forefront of progressive change in our communities,” Mushtaq said.
He talks about being a leatherman in the class he teaches at Long Beach City College. And, this spring, he’ll compete in the granddaddy of all leather competitions: International Mr. Leather. – Los Angeles Times
So how many stereotypes did Ali break already by being honored with the title of Mr Long Beach Leather? Maybe enough for orange to turn red?
We wish Ali all the best as he continues his fundraising, his shows, tours.
For more on Ali, head over to the Los Angeles Times where he elaborates about his grand parents fleeing of Burma (Myanmar) to Pakistan where his parents were born, his parents' divorce, Ali's moving in with his grandparents at age 11, and coming out to them at 15.
Ali also talks about the acceptance he has had from his family and the expectations the family had for all of its members.
"I couldn't be the out and proud leatherman I am today without the support of my family!" Mushtaq wrote on Facebook recently, alongside a photo of himself and his grandparents.
The Atchas have a few core values: Being true to oneself. Being good to others. Working hard. Getting an education.
They adore their grandson, who, they said, exemplifies all those virtues.
“As long as you have an education and can stand on your own two feet, you don’t worry about anybody or their opinions,” Ruby said, looking at Mushtaq. “We don’t worry about those people.”
If all of this wasn't enough for one man to do, in a few months, Mushtaq will defend his dissertation for his PhD in sociology at UC San Francisco. His research aligns with his own self-exploration. The topic is fitness and how race, class, and sexuality affect it.
Besides working on his PhD, going to the gym 5 times a week, Ali has been touring and raising funds for his journey to IML and representing Long Beach. One of his more memorable events was attending the Leather and Lace event held in conjunction with two different bars in Long Beach, Brit and Mineshaft, where he worked with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and The Imperial Court of Long Beach. He noted that the Mayor of Long Beach even attended the event.
From talking with Ali, he loves Long Beach and loves the experiences he has been having.
We wish you the best in your PhD, and IML!
And definitely head over to the Los Angeles Times for more of his story.