By Andy Armano
This series focuses on individuals who give to our community and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Often it is through our personal adversities that we discover who we are and transform the challenges into strength.
His mother taught him resilience and to believe in himself. Now Elimination Onyx, Mr. Ramrod 2018, carries on her legacy as he builds bridges within our community.
Andy Armano: Tell me about your name.
Elimination Onyx: Elimination Onyx is the name given to me by Onyx, a brotherhood of people of color who enjoy the leather lifestyle. It has become my family here in Fort Lauderdale. It is true brotherhood of always having a friend and a place where you belong. That’s a blessing.
AA: Tell me where you’re from and how you got to here to Florida.
EO: I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland. Fort Lauderdale was a dream of mine since the early 2000s, but personal circumstances kept me there for many years. After watching 12 Years a Slave, I realized that I was holding myself hostage in Baltimore. So, I picked up and moved here in March 2014.
AA: How did your childhood shape you into the man you are today?
EO: I know I’m a mama’s boy. I’m happy to be a mama’s boy and I’m blessed because I was a mama’s boy. My mother was a single mom, and she worked three jobs to take care of us. We had the best of everything because of her hard work. She sacrificed a lot and she was a great provider. Had it not been for her example, I’m not sure I would’ve been ready for the opportunities that life has brought to me.
My mom was a a great example for me. She worked her way out of Section 8 housing to a great, wonderful neighborhood. Once we made it out to the other side, she continued to have that aura of success, of never settling for less.
I am the the oldest and there were two other siblings under me. The pressure was on to make sure that I supported my mom in everything that had to be done at home. As the oldest sibling, I made sure my siblings ate and did their homework.
AA: At the time, was that role of caretaker for your younger siblings something you embraced, or was it something that was you rebelled against?
EO: I embraced the role, definitely. My mom taught about taking care of family. She took care of her children, her brother and she took care of my grandparents. She passed that down to me. And when the time came, I took care of my mother.
AA: That must have been difficult to lose your mother. I just lost my mother in November.
EO: My mom will have been gone five years and it is still fresh. I still talk of her in the present tense. I miss her every day. It took me a long time not to get angry at Mother’s Day or when people posted pictures of their mother. I still get angry when people say bad things about their parents.
It continues to be hard, but I found peace here in Fort Lauderdale. I found peace here within my community. I found peace within my leather brotherhood, and because of that peace, I’m able to make a difference, hopefully, in someone else’s life. And, I’m able to live my life happily.
I firmly believe in giving people roses. I gave my mom all her roses while she was here. You reap what you sow, here on earth and in heaven.
AA: I am so touched by hearing that. Tell me more about how her lessons and values laid the ground for your later successes.
EO: Growing up, I had to face the existence of black folks in the world. I grew up in Baltimore where it was extremely segregated. My mom taught us how to take pride in who we are as individuals. She taught me how to be strong, because she was strong. She taught us how to overcome any adversity. She taught us how to put your best foot forward, no matter what you’re dealing with inside.
I can remember a time when my mother was fighting cancer. I went to go take her to her treatment looking like I just rolled out of bed, and she refused to go with me. She said, “No matter what we’re going through, always look your best because the first impressions are lasting impressions.” And she said, “How can a doctor take you seriously when you ask a question but you look like that?” So, after that, no matter what I do, I always try to make my first impression be the best impression, from head to toe.
AA: Tell me a little about your journey with your leather brotherhood.
EO: I actually started in leather in the nineties at the Baltimore Eagle. That experience was unique because Baltimore was very segregated and there weren’t many people there who looked like me. At that time, I was living two lives. I was living my vanilla life, and my gay leather life. Here in Fort Lauderdale, I have been able to really dive into leather. I’m unapologetically me and I’m unapologetically Mr. Ramrod. That title is something that I wanted, I earned, and I feel that I can do a lot with it for the community.
AA: Have you seen an evolution in the leather community? I know that racism’s been a problem. Toxic masculinity has been a problem. What’s your experience been with that and has that changed?
EO: A change is coming because we’re going to make a change come. There has been time, here within my own bar that people were not very hospitable. But the great thing is that I continued to come, and together we’re going to change that mentality.
As Mr. Ramrod, I say that the gay community comes in so many different flavors, and, just like ice cream all those flavors are good. Shame on anyone who chooses not to try to taste, to feel, to allow themselves to be open enough to experience all the diversity within this community, because it’s beautiful.
AA: Where do find your strength today?
EO: The community. The positives that I see. The smiles that I see. My brotherhood in Onyx.
AA: Tell me about your movement, “Enough.”
EO: My movement is the Enough Movement. Enough hate, enough racism, erasure, walls, ageism. Enough of killing of people who are black and brown. Then, on the plus side, we all need to know that we are enough. I am enough. My body is enough. You are enough.
AA: That’s beautiful. I love that word because what I’m hearing is both enough, like that’s enough of that old way of thinking, old way of those attitudes. It’s also enough, like I am enough.
EO: Absolutely. That’s the great thing about that word, I can use that same sword to fight my enemies, but then use that sword to cut the fruit of the tree and feed myself.
AA: If there were words of encouragement you would give to somebody you just met, what would that be?
EO: Pursue your authentic self, whatever that looks like, whoever that may be. I would encourage everyone to not allow the naysayers to push them away. Naysayers should be the gasoline to fuel them to keep pushing, and that fire within them to fight the good fight. If they don’t have that gasoline, I got it for them.