I entered through the front door of the shop where James Tyrcha greeted me with a hug and introduced me to some of the employees of Leather 64TEN. James then led me down to the basement of the store for this interview. “Give me a sec, let me turn this down” he said, as he adjusted the volume on some upbeat music that had been playing. We sat down at a round table, surrounded by office supplies, marketing flyers for various events and scraps of leather from previous workings- making the room smell amazing.
Tell me about yourself
“Well, I moved around a lot as a kid” he started off with, naming a list of cities and town surrounding Chicago. James was formerly a member of the Army reserve- honorly discharged. He talked about the time he spent with the military in Egypt and life in the reserves. James says he is very passionate about dogs “dogs are the best thing in the world, I always say my heart is made of paws”. When asked what his top/favorite dog breed was, he replied “French mastiff” aka Dogue de Bordeaux. He hopes that “once things settle down” he can get a dog again, after sadly losing his dog a few years ago. James currently lives in Chicago and has lived in the Uptown neighborhood for about 6 years.
How long have you been out as trans? What was coming out like for you?
“That was my whole life …so transitioning for me really wasn’t a transition, it was more of acceptance of actually physically becoming male with the hormones. Early as three years old, I knew I was male.” James went on to talk about identifying as a male for the majority of his life. In the sixth grade he used the boys’ locker room for about four months (1987) without issue. He described the horrifying day when “they figured out” dragging him out of the locker room, calling the police, placing him in handcuffs and calling his mother. James talked about being the first “female on the guys football team” in high school, even being interviewed by the local news. He talked about the difference between the knowledge on trans people that is available then as opposed to now. In March of 2007 he made the first steps to begin the medical part of his transition, going to a variety of providers. His support system was initially understanding until he started testosterone, where things changed. After some trying times in relationships, James was able to land in a better place surrounded by more supportive individuals. When the conversation shifted to sexuality, James talked about his shift to being a gay male. “I was nervous at first, it’s like coming out again. I was a straight man who had to find out I was gay, but the acceptance was mind-blowing”
How long have you been a part of the leather community? What got you interested?
“Have you ever seen Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’ music video? That. All of that. That is what first got me interested.” James said he had been a part of the leather community “for a while” and couldn’t recall an exact timeframe, but states that it feels like a family.
What was the 64TEN competition experience like?
“It was logistical, but I didn’t have a lot of leather. I couldn’t fit into my leather shirt because of my transition.” James had a friend lend him some gear for the competition. He did a lot of research- every judge, judges’ boy, MC, the history of the competition and 64TEN. If it was a part of the contest, James was prepared for that. In addition to the research, James did a lot mental and physical preparation “I went in with a really winning attitude”. “I had to really sit down and think about my speech, I reached out to other title holders, who guided me and gave me some great advice for a 90 second speech”. James described the overall experiencing, including winning as “a brotherhood and bonding experience”.
Can you briefly list some things you have done for the community in the past? What do you see on the horizon?
“Well, there was creating Transmale Chicago, and bringing Buck Angel here in January. But that was just the start of things. I have been volunteering for Windy City Empire, doing a lot of fund raisers for organizations such as TPAN and others.” James talked about the upcoming transmale beach party the summer of 2016 as well as work with creating an educational play place. This will be in the basement of Leather 64TEN ranging from classes on BDSM to sexual health and other topics. “I’ll be organizing other events, I can’t talk about it yet, but I plan to donate to Vital Bridges, the Trans Lifeline and The Leather Archives and Museum.”
If a younger, gay/queer transman wants to get into the leather scene but perhaps feels intimidated, what would be your advice?
“I would advise them to come to the store [Leather 64TEN], or a similar social setting. Jackhammer is great … do some online research.” James encourages people to visit his website (transmalechicago.com) and visit Buck Angel’s website (buckangel.com). James also encourages networking and reaching out to other transmen involved in the community
What has been the biggest perk of winning 64Ten?
“A sense of belonging…it’s a whole new family for me…everything that I have to give now is here.”