Jack Thompson recently beat out 67 titleholders to win this year’s International Mr. Leather, making him the first trans man of colour to do so.
The competition, now in its 41st year, saw thousands of LGBTI revellers descend on Chicago, and Thompson’s landmark victory was met with widespread praise.
According to reports, Thompson made an immediate impression on the judges, wearing a transgender flag jockstrap during the physique competition.
Thompson’s win followed the win of Tyler McCormick, who was the first trans man to win International Mr. Leather in 2010.
During his speech Thompson spoke of feeling inadequate, and said he often worried he was “not strong enough, not black enough, [and] not smart enough”.
“There are people in this room right now that don’t believe I’m man enough to be on this stage,” he said.
While Thompson has received an outpouring of support since taking the sash, he has also been met with transphobia, with posts denigrating his win circulating on social media.
One such post was from Craig MrCode, the now former President of the South-East Conference of Clubs (SECC), who shared his opinion in the days following the competition.
The SECC is comprised of a diverse group of clubs in the U.S., including leather, BDSM, fetish, and bear clubs.
“I am happy for the winner, BUT it is MR International Leather,” MrCode wrote on Facebook.
“He identifies as a man. But not born a man. I feel that the decision [to crown Thompson] is politically motivated.”
In response, the SECC distanced themselves from MrCode’s comments, and removed him from his role as President.
In a statement posted by Wayne Turpin, the new SECC President, he stressed that MrCode’s post was not representative of the SECC or its member clubs.
“I reached out to our new Mr International Leather 2019 to let him know how sorry I was that this had happened, and assured him that the post was not reflective of SECC or our member clubs,” Turpin said in the statement.
“SECC wishes to express our deepest disappointment in the recent posts from Craig MrCode regarding Jack Thompson. His comments conflict with the inclusive nature of our by-laws and the spirit of our family.
“The member clubs have responded and requested that the board remove Craig MrCode as the President of SECC.”
Teagan, a trans lesbian who took out the title of International Ms. Bootblack last year, also took to social media to defend Thompson, and encouraged solidarity within LGBTI communities.
“Let this be my official notice to the community,” she wrote.
“If you come for Jack, I will come for you. If you hear somebody say transphobic sh*t and don’t speak up, oh boy don’t let me hear you call yourself an ally.
“This is not a test. This is not a drill. This is when we need to show up for our trans and non binary siblings.”
Kevan Walsh, who took the sash for Laird Leatherman last year in Melbourne, said he’d seen “a mass of posts in my Facebook feed – a minority of people calling into question Jack’s win on the basis of his being a trans man”.
In a post on Facebook, Walsh said that Thompson won on his merits and that he was “proud” of him.
“My community is diverse, everyone is welcome at my table,” he wrote.
“I will continue to judge people on their merits, and on their actions – just as I ask you to judge me. I acknowledge that no-one is perfect; it’s what we do with our mistakes and with our errors of judgement that define us as leather people – not our gender identity.
“Unfortunately today’s comments about Jack aren’t isolated – I undertake to continue to both call out and try to educate when I hear these statements.”
Liam Clark, the inaugural winner of Melbourne’s annual Rubber Man competition, similarly shared his support for Thompson on behalf of Slick, a week-long event that sees rubber lovers converge to celebrate all things shiny and kinky.
“Trans men are men. Trans women are women,” he said.
“Rubber is for everyone. All sizes. All colours. All genders.
“We will not tolerate racism, transphobia or body shaming at any Slick event or in the Melbourne Rubber Community.”