ILSb-ICBB board was right to reverse trans exclusion, but there’s more to being a man than anatomy

Haberman-Hardy-I find it ironic that the current kerfuffle about the rules changes in the International LeatherSIR/boy and International Community Bootblack (ILSb-ICBB) contest fell so close to the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The irony has less to do with the march than with a statement made by one of the icons of the Civil Rights movement, the late Martin Luther King Jr.

King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Well, this has certainly been a time of challenge and controversy for the leather community. The rules change that stipulated that contestants for the Leather Sir and boy titles must be “bio-born male” reversed a change from 2007 when the contest moved to San Francisco. Since then, the stipulation was only individuals who identified as gay males may compete.

Now, I am happy to report that the board of ILSb-ICBB has reconsidered its rules change and have dropped the “bio-born male” requirement.

Even so, we are now left with a lot of folks who are hurt and angry at having been relegated to the status of “other” in a community that prides itself on inclusion and acceptance.

The whole thing brings me to the question answered by King many years ago. What is the measure of a man?

It is a question that has haunted me since the T got added to the acronym LGBTQ, and I think I have come to terms with it. My feelings on this have evolved, and so I will accept that the board of ILSb-ICBB has evolved as well, albeit very quickly. But the matter is still worth examining.

Before reading further, understand that this is going to be about sexual attraction and gender identity, so it might disturb some readers and that’s probably a good thing.  Bothering people has always been a way to spark conversations that lead to change.

Being a gay man, the concern for the equipment between a man’s legs has always been an obsession. As a leatherman, I have written two books on details of just how to torture and delight a man by focusing on those organs, so it surprised me when I awakened to the fact that plumbing does not make the man. Oh, I admit I do still love those “dangly bits” in the context of a BDSM scene, but they are only one aspect of what I find as masculine.

I know lots of men who have sufficient equipment, but exhibit anything but masculine energy.

And that energy is what drives the attraction for me. There is an aggressive strength that is uniquely male, and it has very little to do with genitals and everything to do with attitude. There is a confidence a man exudes that, in its most positive sense, is almost magnetic. There is a physical bearing that shouts “maleness” and that is every bit as important as a bulge in the jeans.

These are both inward and outward signs of masculinity, but I have found them present in most of the trans men I know. To the world and to themselves, they act, look and feel every bit as much a man as I do.

I have had the privilege to know several of these men before they transitioned. I knew them as women first, yet I always thought of them as men. I watched as their bodies changed and as they fulfilled the lifelong dream of making their outside match their inside. It was an amazing gift for me, and it helped me along in my evolution.

I have many friends who have made that transition, and to a man, each has proven their courage and character. Making a decision to devote the time, energy and resources to go through surgeries, counseling and ongoing treatments to be who they knew they really are is inspiring. Some of them are famous, some are just everyday men, finding their way in the world. Some of them are gay and others attracted to women, but never would

I think of them as anything but male. It is who they are.

I have friends who I have “played” with in a BDSM scene, in spaces that were reserved for “men only,” and the only question I have ever heard was, “who was that hot guy you were flogging?”  It was obvious to everyone that they not only looked masculine, but they were men.

So again I am glad the board of ILSb-ICBB has reversed its decision regarding my brothers who were born female. I sincerely hope they will come to know why their decision outraged so many people, not just in the “trans community,” but in the leather community as a whole. As a community and as men, we are all greater than our “parts.”

I am delighted they have arrived at the decision to move from standing in comfort and convenience to a better place in the face of challenge and controversy.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board member for the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 4, 2013.