After we finished our drinks at L’Aigle Noir, I suggested we check out Le Stud, another leather bar in the area. The streets were bordered with large snow banks at the edge of the sidewalk from the previous day’s storm. Ron smoked a cigarette and gave us a rundown of the bars that had closed in the village over the years. Ernan and I trailed behind, half-listening, kissing and grabbing each other. “It’s a good thing I don’t love you,” I said quietly, already drunk.
“I don’t love you either,” he said defensively, jokingly.
There was an expanded metal sign above the Avenue Papineau entrance that read, “Le Stud.” Painted brick walls led us inside with snow trailing along the walkway. It could’ve easily been the entrance to a warehouse or car garage — a fine example of Montreal’s gritty side. I’ve always been drawn to that sense of post-modern grit: the urban decay, graffiti murals, abandoned storefronts and eroding infrastructure. Ernan seemed somewhat apprehensive and looked back as I took a picture of the entrance; he didn’t want to go inside without me.
Ernan, dressed in a sweater and button down shirt, stood out against the dilapidated entrance. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence, and he never seemed to give it much mind. I loved how he dressed — not because it was my style, but because it was what he was comfortable with. For me, true liberation is the freedom to look and act how you want.
Since leather had become socially accepted outside of leather bars, it makes sense that regular attire has been accepted inside of them. Sure, there are fewer men are wearing gear to places like this, but it doesn’t mean that BDSM is less popular. Perhaps guys are just choosing when they wear their harnesses and biker caps, rather than donning them all of the time. The Black Party or Brüt in New York City are proof enough that men dressed in leather aren’t extinct.
Le Stud was dark and dingy inside like a proper leather bar should be, even though nobody inside was actually wearing leather. The crowd was masculine, filled with classic manly men sporting the blue collar look, which seemed to be the direction that progressive leather bars are heading toward. Lining one of the walls were images of guys with their cocks out and ass cheeks spread, setting the tone and creating aspirations.
We grabbed a drink and went to the small dance floor on the main level. The DJ was playing chip tunes, with hard smacking 8-bit sounds filling the bar. I knew the genre had a brief stint in the UK, but some of the men there were jumping up and down like they were familiar with the music. I’d never actually heard the music played publicly before. But it seemed Montreal was making its own rules, merging masculinity with cutting edge electronic music. Whether you like that kind of music or not, this sort of innovation is what the leather scene needs.
Ernan stood off to the side, watching Ron and I dance. He was moving subtly to the sound, looking back and forth with those curious blue eyes of his. I knew that all of this was foreign to him, and his curiosity was coupled with a fear of the unknown. But I saw an excitement in him too — the more time we’ve spent together, the more he became interested in exploring new things. I signaled for him to join us on the dance floor. “I want to suck your cock at the sex cinema,” I said when he came.
He grinned. “That’s really hot. When are we going to go?”
“Maybe on New Year’s day.”
Ernan had changed since we met during Toronto Pride earlier this year, letting go of his traditional notions about sex and relationships. He made a lot of allowances too, accepting crucial parts of my personality — I could be myself around him as a result. In turn, I learned to accept important parts of his personality, and realized that the ultimate form of liberation is acceptance of ourselves and others.
Despite not labeling our time together, we were quickly developing one of the healthiest relationships I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how me leaving Toronto fits into all of this.
We danced at Le Stud until 2am, then grabbed poutine from La Belle Province, a trashy fast-food joint. Ron and I slow danced in the restaurant. After our farewells, Ernan and I left him, went back to the hotel and fell asleep in each other’s arms.