Ryan was outed to his family when a photograph of him shaking hands with Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared on the front page of the local Bakersfield paper. Ryan, a self-described giraffe, garbed in rainbow gear head to toe, had taken part in a make-out protest during a fundraising rally for the Governor a few weeks after he’d vetoed gay marriage. Afterwards, there was a reception line and Ryan jumped right in, “Arnie was trying to get away from me, but I just kept after him,” and someone snapped the shot. So much for subtlety.
It’s stories like this that make you laugh when Ryan describes himself as a “small-town boy.” It seems like anywhere Ryan is would be a bit racier than what we tend to think of as Smalltown, USA. And yet, he does have his buttoned-up side. Ryan lives on a 30-foot boat with a good friend and his dog, Butch. In order to make that work, every rope has to be coiled just so, every knot tied tight, and every little thing in it’s place. And that’s how he likes it.
By the way, Ryan swears Butch is gay. At the dog park Butch only ever wants to play with the other boy dogs, and he has been known to get a little fresh. Whatever his sexual orientation, Butch is a four-pounder who makes a big impression. He’s litter-box trained, gets his exercise playing ball on the boat, and accompanies Ryan everywhere, hitching a ride inside the leather, thank you very much.
Ryan describes San Francisco as kind of like Disneyland, “but instead of ‘It’s a Small World,’ you hear house music everywhere,” he laughs. Ryan wasn’t sure he’d end up living in San Francisco, but he’s been here for four years and he’s really happy here for now. And, he’s certainly making his mark; Ryan was the first runner-up for Mr. San Francisco Leather Daddy in 2010.
In fact, the leather community was a big part of his inspiration to join an HIV vaccine study. He says, “the older generation of leather men is gone, wiped out by AIDS. They blazed the way for us, and we owe action to their memory.” Ryan is very serious about his health, and conscious of what he puts in his body - he rarely takes so much as an aspirin, and he only eats organic. So, when he first called the clinic he had a lot of questions about what was in the vaccine and how it would work. By the time of his first injection, he felt totally comfortable with it. “I wouldn’t do anything I’m unsure of,” he says, “and I decided the chance of ending HIV is worth a little bit of risk