A Sign of Progress
By John Hayden
When you picture the quintessential leather daddy, you may imagine a big, buff, built man who looks great in leather, commands a room with his presence, and looks fierce in a sash. Basically, you’d be envisioning Mr. Eagle Wilton Manors 2022, Kevin Bubba.
But Kevin’s community extends beyond South Florida’s leather community. “I have always been profound(ly) deaf since birth.” Being deaf has always been a part of his life, and he says he’s always been welcomed into the leather scene. “Back in the 1990s, South Florida had a leather bar called The Stud. I entered the bar and realized the leathers socialize, and was very comfortable.”
Once Eagle Wilton Manors opened, Kevin told OutClique he felt right at home once again. “When I started working for the Eagle, I started working as a security guard. I realized that disabled and deaf individuals really love this community. It felt very much like family. It seems like it’s growing and getting even bigger. That’s why all of us want to stay together as a family and grow the community.”
Being a leader in the leather community while being deaf presents some challenges others never face. “The hearing community has a lack of recognition (in) acceptance and use of sign language in all areas of life. To be a leader, I have to remind the hearing people to speak slowly, repeat what they said, because they don’t have any education about deaf culture.” But Kevin says there are advantages, too. Immediately being accepted into a new community because you are deaf. Conversation can continue as normal in sign language while across the room, being underwater, through windows, or across train platforms.”
The competition to be Mr. Eagle was intense, and consisted of five categories judged by a panel that knows which details sets the top tier above the rest. When Kevin won, he says he was shocked. “They gave me the title and the sash! The competitions included who had the best leather daddy. I honestly did not expect it. I worked hard. All the judges seemed to be impressed with my uniform. It felt like starting a new chapter in my life. Inspired.”
During his reign, Kevin will be fundraising for the IML (International Mr. Leather competition) in Chicago. He also plans to teach about deaf culture and sign language at the bar. “The Eagle family seems to be very motivated to learn some signs. I have three coworkers who took a special interest in communicating with me and they are very excited to do so.”
He also wants to work with kids, teaching them how to paint with hand signs. But most importantly, he’s living in the now. “I plan to enjoy every minute of it and keep building this amazing family we have.”
Some of Kevin’s comments were translated from ASL by interpreter Victor Blocker.