Prior to his election as the 41st International Mr Leather (IML), Jack Thompson earned titles including ONYX Mid-Atlantic and Leatherman of Colour. He was also Mr May in the 2018 Bare Chest Calendar. But as a trans leather man, Jack’s IML election was not without controversy. Paul Stag spoke with Jack to find out about the IML contest and his hopes for his title year.
Who is Jack Thompson?
That’s a hard question. I’m a leather man. I’m a trans man. I’m HIV+. I’m a nerd. I’m a wolf. I’m a husband. I’m a submissive. I’m a son. I’m a drag king. I’m a friend. I’m bi-racial. I’m a lot of things.
Can you describe your journey to IML 41 in Chicago?
I’ve been in the leather community for many years, but I didn’t want to run for a title. Not until I was ready. After we moved to Baltimore, I had a stable living situation and I wasn’t nearly as busy as I was when we lived in the Bay Area. I knew I had the time to run for a title. I won Leatherman of Colour in December 2018 alongside the first Leatherwoman of Colour, Velvet Storm. Then my husband Geoff and I prepared for months for IML.
Had you been to IML before?
Yes, I went in 2017 when my husband ran as Mr San Francisco. He came in first runner-up.
How did the act of competing compare to what you thought it would be like?
It was exactly what I imagined it would be like. Having gone through it as the husband of a competitor, I had heard all the stories. I’d also known many other men that had run for IML.
What was the event like for you?
It’s all a blur. I honestly didn’t go into the contest thinking I would win. I hoped I’d be able to give my speech, because I really liked it and hoped others would too, but I had NO IDEA I had a shot at winning. When I was called as one of the top 20 entrants I was ecstatic, but figured that would be it. When Jawn and Fionn were called as the first and second runners-up, I was very curious to see who had won. I felt like fainting when they called my name. None of it felt real. Not even after my husband ran out on stage and gave me the biggest bear hug. I still thought it was just a dream. The rest of the weekend almost felt like it was happening to someone else. There was a lot of running from place to place and I couldn’t take it all in. I was also waiting for the other shoe to drop – I knew how some people the community would feel about a trans man winning IML.
What was the reception like back home after your momentous win?
It’s been amazing. My co-workers at the Baltimore Eagle were beyond happy for me and threw me a huge welcome home party. The DC Eagle also threw me one and have been very supportive. I haven’t been back to the Bay Area yet, but I can imagine that my reception there will be insane.
Would you like to address the controversy caused by a couple of ‘traditionalists’ after your win?
I have to keep taking hits from small-minded, ignorant people in this community. And I want everyone else to publicly say that this bigoted behaviour isn’t OK in our community under any circumstances. I will keep taking those hits.
Can you tell our readers about ONYX and what it stands for?
ONYX is a leather community organisation run by men of colour. There is also a sibling organisation, the ONYX Pearls. Our mission is to educate, explore, and empower fellow leather people of colour and our allies. We have chapters that span most of the US. Every chapter is a little different and has its own events.
Editor’s note: ONYX also hold an incredible party during the IML weekend with the very best DJs!
What would you like to achieve with your title year?
I want to be as visible as I can be in as many places as possible. I want to show people in the community that have issues with me that I earned my place here. At the same time, I want to show the other people in this community, the ones who don’t know if they belong here, that they do. We are made better by our differences and we should be embracing that in leather.
What was the most memorable moment during IML in Chicago?
Forty or so of us getting stuck in the elevator. #freefalling
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of entering a contest?
If it’s not fun, why are you doing it? There will be stressful times and times that you question why you’re there, but having a title is also fun. If you lose that, why do it?
How can fans and supporters follow your travels and get in touch with you?
I’m mostly on Facebook @IML2019. I also have a Twitter and Instagram (@JackIML2019). •