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VIEWS Introductory speech at the IML/IMBB 2022 contest
by Joey McDonald

This article shared 960 times since Sat Jun 4, 2022
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Note: International Mr. Leather (IML) 2022 and International Mr. Bootblack (IMBB) 2022 took place May 26-30 in Chicago. At the culminating contest on May 29, Chuck Renslow Charitable Foundation President Joey McDonald provided an introduction. Here is the entire speech:

I've been asked to share my speech from Sunday night's IML Contest, so here it is.

Welcome to Chicago everyone, and welcome to the 44th Annual International Mr. Leather Competition and the 30th Annual International Mr. Bootblack Competition.

I have to tell you that when I arrived at the Congress Hotel on Thursday afternoon and saw a bunch of folx gathered under the marquee, I felt a sense of comfort calm a lot of my anxieties. The bellman took my luggage and welcomed me back, and the desk clerk said that they have missed us. I even heard someone say, 'the leather folx are back'. It made me smile and it gave me comfort.

Before I go any further, I want to offer my complete and utter gratitude to some people, who without their commitment to IML, this weekend would not be happening: Executive Director, Bill Stadt, Operations Manager Roger Scheid, and Executive Project Manager, Tom Greenleaf. They have worked continuously since 2019, through four possible dates and four cancellations — tracking cancellations, moving reservations, and moving deposits. Thank you. I appreciate all that you have done, and all that you continue to do for IML.

In addition to them, we have 20 departmental staff leads, and over 300 active volunteers working this weekend. Please join me in thanking our staff!

Next, thank you to our sponsors and vendors, especially those who have stayed with us these past couple of non-event years. Your continued support has help sustain us. They too, deserve a round of applause.

Last, but certainly not least is all of you. Some of you have had reservations since 2019 or 2020, and some came on in 2021. The rest joined this year, once it was fairly certain that IML would happen. You deserve the biggest applause of all, because without you we are just an empty hotel.

When I sat down to start writing this speech, my thoughts went a million and one places. It has been a very, very long three years. So much has happened in the world and to our community. And I have so very much that I want to say but I'll try to keep it brief and on point.

In 2019, I talked about history and community. I talked about security risks and medical diagnoses. Lavender scare and mental institutions. But I also talked about Stonewall and other protests, the Satyrs and Warlocks, and the Gold Coast, the Cooper's Donuts riot in LA in 1959; the Dewey's Restaurant sit-in in Philadelphia in 1965; the Compton Cafeteria riot in San Francisco in 1966. I followed that up by encouraging everyone to consciously celebrate ALL OF THE COMMUNITY when they celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall — especially those who often feel left out- transwomen, especially transwomen of color; gender binary and gender nonconforming people, transmen, youth, and our elders.

Well, history was made that night when Jack Thompson, a transman of color, was sashed as the 41st International Mr. Leather. He hadn't had the title for 24 hours before an asshole who though very highly of himself felt the need to attack Jack with transphobic vitriol. That didn't last long, however. You see, our community had done a little growing up since our first trans IML winner, Tyler McCormick, had to wade through bullshit in 2010, sometimes feeling very alone. This time, a lot of the community stood up for Jack, and the transphobe found himself losing both stature and station. And Jack, well, he's still our IML41, ready to finally hand this "job" off to a successor.

And then COVID hit. The rails fell off in March 2020. A pandemic was declared, and the world came to a standstill. That person that was still in the White House that should have been leading us to safety but didn't. He pandered to his base, told outright lies and nonsense, and denied science. And people died. Lots of people got sick and died. Sound familiar? While the rest of the world tried to figure out what to do, our community had an advantage. This was not our first pandemic, and what we learned back in the 80s was information we could use this time around: take care of the sick, cooking, cleaning, helping — doing all that we could for those in need to help them survive. When tests became available, we went to get tested and we took the vaccines when they were offered. As of July 2021, eight in ten LGBTQ+ adults report being vaccinated for COVID-19. We learned to navigated through levels of bull to get what we need.

Close behind was racial unrest across the US. Maybe it was because we were glued to the news to get the last updates on COVID, that the world began to really pay attention to the racial injustices that happen with regularity. Since May 2020, there have been 49 specific incidents of violence that have resulted in hundreds of protests across the country. Beginning with the May 6th murders of Deasjon Reed and McHale Rose in Indianapolis, estimates are that 15 — 26 million people have participated in marches to protest police brutality, racial profiling, and social injustice. Once again, our community stepped up and stepped out to protest, to walk alongside Black and Brown people. We reached into the resolve that fueled us through Stonewall, ACT-UP, and Marches on Washington. We agreed that Black Lives Matter, All Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter.

We watched in horror and anger the actual murder of George Floyd by a police officer on the streets of Minneapolis, remembering the way Matthew Sheppard was left to die tied to a fence in rural Wyoming. We cried. We marched. We chanted. We demanded action. We demanded accountability.

We have been angered beyond belief at the continuation of mass shootings here in the US, with 11 major incidents resulting in 113 deaths since May 2020. And nothing has been done. The NRA has a strangle hold on the Right and push back with all the gaslighting in their power.

You're probably asking yourself why I am rehashing all of this. I want to reflect again on my 2019 speech, and a dark thought I mentioned. My exact words were:

"But what's feeling a bit scary today, in 2019, thanks to that person in Washington, is having a government seemingly more interested in peddling and legitimizing hate and division. It feels like history could repeat itself."

While we were dealing with the issues of the world, Republicans voted in extremists, openly partnered with racists and white nationalists, pushed back on democracy and voting rights, stormed the Capital, and stacked the Supreme Court. With Roe v Wade dangling in the wind, 26 states have considered or passed anti-abortion laws. Nearly 670 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed since 2018 — nearly 240 this year alone, and our liberties are at risk. 36 states are looking at ways to cut back or cut out transgender rights completely. From the absurd to those that threaten both the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ folx, laws are being proposed, and the Right and all of their factions are coming for us.

Every election cycle, Chuck would implore us to get involved in our community and national politics. He urged us to talk to our friends and families about the politicians that would vote against us and laws that would discriminate against us. This is one of those moments — we are at a place where this country could swing so far right that we will lose most, if not all of the rights that we currently have.

In 2011, during his speech at the contest, Chuck Renslow said the following: You know, for years I've stood here at the opening of the contest and I've challenged you, I've urged you to take the energy and excitement of this weekend back to your own communities." So tonight, I'm channeling Chuck. There are an awful lot of things that need to be addressed in this country — mass shootings, racial equity, inclusion, women's reproductive rights, trans health, etc. But we can't do anything if we lose the house and senate. Go home. If you're not registered, get registered. Tell everyone around you the importance of this election and what's at stake. Urge them to vote and to reach out to their networks as well. With numbers, we can beat the right. With numbers we can get the country back on course. With numbers we can protect our rights.

So that's the end of my public service announcement. Thank you for listening. You didn't come here to hear me drone on, you came here to be entertained and to see who is going to walk away International Mr. Leather 2022 and International Mr. Bootblack 2022, so as Chuck would say,


This article shared 960 times since Sat Jun 4, 2022
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