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Mr. Atlanta Eagle talks leather, crystal meth and HIV.

Chandler Bearden’s smile is creeping through the phone during our call. I’ve just suggested that his winning the impressively sexy title of Mr. Atlanta Eagle 2010 might be a boon to his sex life, but he’s laughing it off.

chandler“Just because I won a title doesn’t mean I’ll change my standards when it comes to sex,” he’s saying, in the casually cool voice of a handsome, single 31-year-old who has the world by the tail and doesn’t even know it… yet. But might the hotness level of potential partners, I insist, be rising as well? “Past title holders tell me it’s bad for your sex life,” Chandler demurs, “because there’s so much work to do before Chicago.”

Ah, Chicago. That would be the International Mr. Leather contest (IML), the annual pilgrimage of outrageously hot, kinky men from around the globe, who descend on the windy city for a long Memorial Day weekend of exhibitions, sexy shenanigans and, of course, the contest itself.

Chandler2Chicago is the next stop on a journey that began for Chandler in early April, when he strutted in three categories (bar wear, fetish wear, and your basic jock strap) to win the Eagle title. It might be easy to dismiss the event as a pageant with a kinky streak, but the leather community also prides itself on good stewardship in the gay community. The current reigning Mr. IML, Jeffrey Payne, (on left in photo, with Chandler and Mr. Atlanta Eagle 2009, Alan Penrod) founded the SSC Fund, which benefits sexual rights advocates and services for the hearing impaired.

Chandler has an obvious respect for that kind of community involvement, and he doesn’t hesitate when asked about the issues close to him. “I’m an HIV positive man in recovery from crystal meth addiction,” he offers. “I came from the street, literally, and I’ve been clean for three years. I think I can offer my experience, my strength and my hope when it comes to helping others with similar problems.”

Fair enough. But isn’t much of the leather/fetish scene based on an element of danger, and pushing boundaries? Might that contribute to drug abuse and alcoholism in that community?

Chandler5“There could be an element of truth to that,” says Chandler. “But I believe it tends to be blown out of proportion. I myself like to find new edges, but I have to be sure I am physically, mentally and spiritually safe throughout the experience.”

“I’m not an advocate, like, ‘I think people should sober the fuck up.’ But I am saying that safer sex requires sobriety. If you are pushing limits, you need to have your faculties so you don’t cross them. You can’t always make wise decisions when you’re drunk. I’m not at all interested in having sex with people who are high.”

My own trip to IML in Chicago, years ago, was a lost weekend of drugs and sex, during the worst of my active addiction to meth. Is Chandler ever tempted to tap someone on the shoulder and tell them they’re an addict or alcoholic?

“Not really,” he says. “When people tried to tell me my life was going down the drain, it didn’t work. I had to come to that realization myself. Being the man I am today is enough of an example, for anyone who is looking for one.”

Chandler3Chandler is also an advocate of “full HIV disclosure,” and his reasons are personal. He had a longtime sexual partner who never disclosed his HIV positive status and eventually, Chandler believes, infected him.

“I don’t have a preference regarding the status of my partners today,” he says, “because I know what I need to do to stay safe. There are also other diseases out there, so I want to protect myself from them as much as I protect someone else.”

The fundamental issue, for Chandler, is one of trust. “There must be trust in order for these fetish or leather scenes to happen safely. And each partner must be honest about their boundaries and be able to really communicate that.”

Was Chandler speaking about the rules of fetish-themed sex, or simply outlining values ” trust, honesty, communication ” we can all follow for our health and well being, sexual and otherwise?

The question is pointless. For Chandler Bearden, it’s all the same.




  1. Mike Mccall April 21, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks for yet another great article Mark. I follow from afar mostly but there are times when ya just gotta chime up. I can say I am lucky to have gotten smarter than my ex of 12 yrs. I allowed myself to be pulled into the meth scene by him, know how much i loved him and it would only make us stronger (Yeah right). 12 yrs later after losing it all, I sit here rebuilding my life as a single guy of 43 but remain HIV-. I often look to your posts of those few occasions I feel that strong desire to call the dealer and go pick up a bump or two…
    Thanks for the words you write and feeling you have towards all.

  2. Trish April 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Love that Chandler and loved your article!

  3. David N. April 21, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Great article! I congratulate Chandler on his win and his life! He is an inspiration to me!

  4. admin April 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    You’re welcome, Mike. I know without a doubt that helping someone else, even “from afar,” is the best way for me to remain grateful for my life and sober in the process. Thank YOU for making my day.

  5. bobby m April 21, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    great article. i loved reading it and what it stands for altogether. thanks mark.

  6. Paul King April 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Chandler’s blatent openness honesty was refreshing…nice article! Thanks!

  7. Randy P April 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Not only is that the Chandler I know and love, but a person I respect for his own role in his life. Kudos Mark, as always!

  8. Mark Olmsted April 23, 2010 at 11:10 am

    One of the realities in my addiction was that I depended on the drug to create the disinhibition that was required–for me–to get to the point of creating a scene that looked like my fantasies. In sobriety I’ve had to accept that there is a process that involves some “work” – especially given the fact that I no longer make testosterone (poz for 25 years), and that is a very potent drug unto itself. I’ve have to discover the erotic pathways in my brain and summon sexual energy in an entirely different way. (And yes I do shots–but it’s not the same as what one naturally produces)
    Sometimes I don’t want to go through that process. I just want to have regular sex or–horrors–read a book. That was another leap–to allow myself to redefine what it means to be gay. I’m not dishonoring some great gay God of pleasure by not engaging in pursuit of psychosexual connection as often as I can.
    Lord knows I’ve had enough “fun” for several lifetimes. I’m more likely to sit back and enjoy watching the young hot and charming men like Chandler carry the torch. (The joys of being 51) Not to say that I never play, but there a right-sizedness to the issue of sex that is a real relief.
    Btw, does Chandler realize his football uniform is unlaced? Let me handle that for him.

  9. Bobby April 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Chandler rocks!

  10. The Subversive Librarian April 25, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Chandler absolutely does rock. And he’s as nice as he is good-looking.

  11. Shawn May 13, 2010 at 2:08 am

    Great article on a super nice guy and amazing title holder!
    Looking forward to seeing him representing at IML!

  12. REDE POSITIVO PT May 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Mark, I’ve being following your career as an activist and a blogger, also by being a gayman and an ex-drug addict and a POZ.com member for many years now (I’m 48 y/o and I feel free and happy to mention that I’m alive after 18 years of HIV-many IS a good word).

    We are a portuguese speaker network for CPLP countries (Angola, Brazil, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, S. Tome & Prince Islands, Portugal and East Timor ) and I’m the guy on the wheel here 😉

    I translate you to portuguese whenever I can and in fact, I love your videos (some are on our webpage some others everywhere in facebook and Orkut).

    Trust me! WOW…you are an example to live up to. We are starting here with a social network, we might need more than hints, but yours are immensely nice to have 🙂

    Thanks for all that you gave me personally and to this community that I started.

    Hugs (Abraços)

    Luís Sá

  13. leann m. rossi May 29, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Kudos too my two most favorite positive advocates carrying the message…. I love you both dearly…. hugs to you Mark and good luck Chandler in my sweet home Chicago….

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