Over the past two years, Gerald Cernak has volunteered a combined 430 hours, mostly all within the LGBT communitysuch as for Equality Illinois, Center on Halsted, Gay for Good and the Chicago Leather Community Outreach.
"It's extremely important [to volunteer within the LGBT community], and given our current political environment, the need for more people to step up and lend a hand, I feel, will be what insures various organizations the ability to utilize funds towards the fight," Cernak said.
Cernak has been volunteering for almost 20 years.
"I've done a lot throughout the years, but the most powerful was being a part of the TPAN Ride for AIDS Chicago," said Cernak, who was a crew member on the TouchÃ© & Leather64TEN Teamand that team raised more than $25,000.
Cernak is running for Mr. Chicago Leather, the annual contest that starts Jan. 28 at the Leather Archives & Museum, 6418 N. Greenview Ave. The winner will represent Chicago's leather and kink community at the International Mr. Leather ( IML ) in late May, also held in Chicago.
The local leather community has been a fun-filled adventure, he said, "with people who are very passionate."
So what attracts you to the leather community?
"The smell of leather, and how extremely sexy it makes you feel," he said.
Cernak's leather life dates back about 20 years, too. "On my 21st birthday, a guy who I had been talking to on AOL suggested we attend a party at Cellblock," said Cernak, who didn't own any leather at the time, thus, had to purchase his first-ever leather vest.
And the two went into the back bar area at Cellblock.
"A few hours later, after having a fun night, I emerged from the backroom covered in hickeys. Let's just say it was one of the few times in my life I was happy to have a turtleneck in my wardrobe," he said, laughing.
Cernak has worked for the past 11 years in a small office on the city's Northwest side.
"My work-wife, as I call Angela, is very supportive; she's always willing to take a picture of me in my newest leather that arrives in the mail, jockstraps excluded," Cernak said. "My boss and the owner of our agency is as equally accepting and has attended many of my summer cookouts."
- Age: 40
- Job title: Manager; State Farm in Norwood Park
- Neighborhood: Rogers Park
- Relation status: Dating Jeffrey Basile for two years. Basile recently stepped down as Mr. International Rubber 19.
-Hobbies: Traveling, gardening, building terrariums, "and spotting guys in basketball shorts or with gray sweatpants on."
-Favorite book: And The Band Played On, by Randy Shilts
-Little-known fact: "I love eating Mac & Cheese with ketchup. I know it sounds gross, but tastes so good."