Unless you’ve been offline for the past few days and stayed away from Facebook or Fetlife, then you know of the decision by the board of the International LeatherSir/Leatherboy contest. While they made several decisions that could create conflict, the one on limiting contestants to gay “bio-men” is far and away the most controversial.
Judging by the reactions and conversations I’ve had and my own opinion, I can safely say that the Great Lakes Den opposes that change to the rules. While we will still cover news from ILSb, we will not actively support the contest system until ILSb reinstates transmen as contestants.
I have too many people close to me who have been personally hurt by this decision. They are transgender and most definitely men. Hell, in the case of one person, it was five years before I realized he was trans. He’s also the only one actually married to a woman. Every other transman I know is gay. They are attracted to and date men.
Most of us here at the Den have close friends, our family members, who are affected by this decision. This is something that affects us personally.
The leather and kink community has always been a place for sexual outlaws. That is what made it a safe place for transgender people. It was a place where, generally, it was understood that gender and sexuality are fluid, not always fitting into neat little boxes. ILSb had been one of those places along with IML and IMsL. With this decision, ILSb is no longer a place where they feel welcomed. It feels like a rejection by their chosen family.
I oppose the threats that have been made against Jeffery Payne and his family. As angry as many of us are, there is no reason to take the opposition to this policy to that extreme. Payne, until this past week, had a reputation of being supportive of the transgender community. And I’m sure that the board thought they had good reason to make the change.
No one is saying there can’t be a gay men only space. But this policy tells gay men who had been welcome before are no longer wanted. If ILSb had always been limited to cisgender men, this would be a different discussion. It wasn’t. It was always open to transmen. The rule change in 2007 only made it official. If the restriction had been in place from the beginning, there would be hurt and anger, but it would not have been the insult that this change is. Gay men, if anyone, should understand the pain it causes to be rejected by people who used to accept them.
Do not use the existence of the International Transgender Leather contest as a reason. The opening of new spaces does not mean it is right to eliminate others. To do so is to demean our honor and sense of community. Transgender is not some little offshoot of our community. They are a part of it.
The Great Lakes Den implores the board of ILSb to rethink and change their decision on the participation of transgender men in the contest. They are, and have been, a part of our family. This decision has ripped across the community. It will take time to heal it. It needs to start with this.
Ruff Estes is the editor and publisher of the Great Lakes Den.