First trans man of color wins the title
For many leather titleholders and competitors, the International Mr. Leather title is the pinnacle of achievements. California native and current Baltimore resident Jack Thompson took home this year’s title, beating out 67 other competitors for the honor. This year’s iteration of International Mr. Leather had one of the biggest classes, showcasing titleholders from 15 countries, 26 states, and Puerto Rico.
“It was time,” Thompson, the 2019 Leatherman of Color, said about his decision to run this year. “I knew two years ago that I was in a place to start thinking about running for a title. With the impending move to Baltimore from Oakland and knowing I’d have the time and energy to devote to a title if I won one. Moving so close to D.C. made it easier to run for my first title, Leatherman of Color. Part of the contract of that title is that you run for IML and I looked forward to running as Leatherman of Color.”
Thompson is the first trans man of color to hold the title of Mr. International Leather. The first trans man was Tyler McCormick in 2010. Thompson is the second consecutive member of Onyx, a leather organization for men of color, to win. During the competition, Thompson came out on stage during the physique part of the contest wearing a Transgender Flag jockstrap. Another notable part of the competition was the speech portion, where the top 20 finishers came out and gave a variety of speeches on various topics, ranging from acceptance, to leather magic, to the criminalization of sex workers. Thompson’s was about being enough.
“My whole life I’ve been told I am not enough- I’m not black enough, not queer enough, not smart enough, not strong enough,” he said in his speech. “There’s people in this room right now that don’t think I’m enough of a man to be allowed on this stage…when I was being trained as a sex educator, I was asked one of the most important questions I will ever ask: for who? I’m not leather enough? For who? I’m not submissive enough? For who? I’m going to tell you something that took me nearly 30 years to learn—if you’re enough for you, then you are enough. Period. That’s the hard part, looking at yourself in the mirror and actually knowing that you are enough. It’s not easy and I do it every day. But when you finally see yourself as enough, no one can take that away from you. So when someone makes you feel like you’re not enough for them, ask yourself: am I enough for me? That’s the only opinion that matters. I am Jack Thompson and I am a proud biracial, transgender, HIV positive man and I promise you, I am more than enough!”
The speech was the only one of the night to earn a standing ovation. Thompson’s husband, Geoff Millard, also competed on the bootblack side of the competition, coming in as first-runner up. Millard has the distinction of being the first competitor to be first-runner up in both the International Mr. Leather and International Mr. Leather Bootblack competitions.
“Geoff and I talked about all the possible outcomes of our run for IMLBB,” Thompson said of running with Millard. “If he won and I didn’t, if I won and he didn’t, if both or neither of us won…all the other possibilities seemed way more likely than me winning at all.”
Unfortunately, Thompson’s victory did not come without controversy. A disparaging transphobic statement was made by the leader of a regional leather organization on social media. Within hours, the poster was dismissed from his post and the leather community and its titleholders showed up in force to support Thompson, using the hashtag #JackismyIML.
“Even with the few issues I’ve had, it’s been wonderful,” Thompson said. “My home community has been so supportive and I am lucky to have them. The greater community has opened their hearts and arms to me, and I could not be happier to represent them. The haters aren’t my concern. This community has stood up and told them that their negativity and small mindedness will not be tolerated. So I have no fear.”
Thompson’s title year got off to a whirlwind of a start, with Pride month starting just a few days after the competition. First up was New Jersey Pride in Asbury Park, where Thompson rode with the current Mr. New Jersey, Lynx, a top 20 finisher at IML.
“NJ Pride was my first Pride event ever outside of California,” Thompson said. “It was great seeing so many familiar faces and to meet so many new ones. The New Jersey community is so full of love and personality. Waving at the crowd with [“girl Jen,” Ms. New Jersey Leather] and Lynx and getting to spend so much time with my Leather Woman Of Color wife, Velvet Storm. [She] made that trip better than I could have asked for.”
With sash firmly in place, Thompson has marched in Pride parade celebrations throughout the Mid-Atlantic, kicking off with Asbury Park, followed by Capital Pride in Washington D.C., adopted home Baltimore’s march as well as Philadelphia’s before making the trek to New York City for the World Pride March and Stonewall 50 year commemoration. And that was just his first month as International Mr. Leather.
As for the year to come?
“I see a lot of travel and a lot of hugs,” Thompson said with a smile. “I haven’t seen a lot of the world and I can’t wait for it to see me. Lucky Rebel (International Mr. Bootblack 2018) said it best, ‘Representation Matters’. Seeing a bi-racial/trans IML embraced in as many places as possible will help others feel like they can be members of this beautiful community, too. Also that we are already here! The contests, bars, play parties, and marches have so many different kinds of people, genders, bodies and personalities and we are ALL leather. If folks don’t like it, they don’t have to be here.”