Jack Thompson, the reigning Leatherman of Color 2019, beat out 67 other titleholders to win International Mr Leather 2019 on Sunday. The occasion, hosted in Chicago as it has been each year over the 41-year history of the competition, marked the first time a trans man of color had won the title. He was accompanied on the platform by Mr. Leather Ireland 2019 Fionn Scott who was the second runner up and Mr. San Francisco Leather 2019 Jawn Marques who was the first runner up.
This year’s IML was the second to occur after the death of event founder Chuck Renslow. Held at the Congress Hotel, the weekend-long convention and competition hosted thousands of queer people for the well attended vendor mart, dance parties, Kink U classes, and more. But on Sunday, titleholders from all over the world competed for the top title, while four contestants competed for the affiliated International Mr. Bootblack. Kriszly de Hond, from Holland, who gave a speech about using the title to give space to bootblacks in Europe, where they are misunderstood, do not have adequate bootblacking stands (where they would shine the boots of leathermen), and are oftentimes disrespected, took home that sash.
Over the span of the competitions, contestants gave a variety of speeches, many touching on how the outsider status of being fetishists make the community revolutionaires, and how community members must and have embraced that. Some also touched on SESTA/FOSTA, a bill passed by Congress last year and signed by President Trump to curb online sex trafficking, that also ended up limiting the abilities of sex workers.
“At this time, we must align our politics with those of sex workers,” Geoff Millard said on stage during the IMBB speeches discussing how the community must increasingly protect the more marginalized. Millard, who is the husband of Thompson, won first runner up for that title. In the IML competition, after the full slate of 68 competitors was narrowed down to a top 20, Amp Somers, Mr. Friendly SF 2019 touched on FOSTA/SESTA as well.
Of the top 20, nine were titleholders from outside of the United States, four were members of Onyx — the leather organization for men of color — and two were trans men.
Thompson, who is Black, made an outsized impression. During the physique competition where contestants show off not only their body but their confidence, he wore a Transgender Flag jockstrap. He began his speech by talking about feelings of inadequacy, saying he often felt, “not strong enough, not black enough, not smart enough.”
“There’s people in this room right now that don’t believe I’m man enough to be on this stage,” he said. At Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend in April, Thompson told Out that he was initially afraid that a rumored IML policy would bar him from competing. That policy was said to require all contestants to have a male gender marker on their government issued ID. Thompson was assured by IML organizers that this was never a policy of the event.
“If you’re enough for you, then you are enough,” he said on stage. “Period.”
“I’m Jack Thompson and I’m a proud biracial, openly transgender, HIV-positive man and I am enough.” he closed. The speech was the only speech of the night to receive a standing ovation.
Thompson’s win follows the win of Tyler McCormick who was the first trans man to win International Mr. Leather in 2010. The occasion also marks the first time that two members of Onyx have won the sash in a row. James Lee took home the IML sash in 2018 while Lucky Rebel, who is also a member of Onyx, was his IMBB.
INTERNATIONAL MR LEATHER 2019 WINNER
2nd Runner Up Fionn Scott
1st Runner Up Jawn Marques
IML 41 Jack Thompson
INTERNATIONAL BOOTBLACK 2019 WINNER
2nd Runner Up Sparky
1st Runner Up Geoff Millard
IMBB 41 Kriszly de Hond
INTERNATIONAL MR LEATHER 2019 TOP 20
Mr. Atlas Leather 2019 Colin Marcus Jackson
Mr. Ramrod 2018 Elimination
Mr. New Jersey Leather 2019 Lynx
Mr. Leather Belgium 2018 Bart
Mr. Friendly SF 2019 Amp Somers
Mr. CMen Leather 2018 James Stewart
Mr. Leather Spain 2018 Joseph Rider
Mister Leather Berlin 2018 Jens Walker
Laird Leatherman 2017 James Addinsal
Mr. San Francisco Leather 2019 Jawn Marques
Mr. Leather Ireland 2019 Fionn Scott
Mr. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish 2018 Greg Jones
Leatherman of Color 2019 Jack Thompson
Mr. Mid Atlantic Leather 2019 Emerson Aniceto
Mr. Michigan Leather 2019 Will Baker
Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2019 Elliot Musgrave
Mr. Leather Venezuela 2018 Gaspare
Mister Fetish Spain 2018 Emerson Prieto
Mr. Chicago Leather 2019 Saber Onyx
Mister Leather Europe 2019 Evert Leerson