After meeting during Toronto Pride, Ernan and I began dating. We’d been seeing each other for about a month and were spending most of our evenings together. We were having fun getting to know each other, and I enjoyed his quirky sense of humor — I assumed it was an Irish thing, but maybe it was just him. The more I got to know him, though, the more aware I became of our differences. For example, I tended to be a loner, whereas he was much more social and belonged to a large group of friends. He also had no experience in BDSM, and was fine with having a vanilla sex life. But I preferred having kinky sex. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the sex we were having — there was a great connection, which is crucial — but I wanted to share my dirtier side with him.
I decided to take Ernan and my good friend Andy to the Black Eagle during Toronto Leather Pride. The bar was full of leather folk decked out in full gear. I wore my leather restraints, a tank top and denim, and Andy dressed in a leather vest, cap and wristbands. Ernan, on the other hand, wore a dress shirt tucked into his jeans. He knew that it was Leather Pride, but he was new to the scene and I wanted him to be comfortable.
After we grabbed a drink, we went to the Eagle’s upstairs patio. Ernan was wide-eyed, gazing at the folk in chaps, harnesses, puppy hoods, jockstraps and collars. It was great to see so many people dressed in leather. People like to say that the Eagle isn’t the leather bar it used to be. It’s true, and it’s a shame, because the only time leather is the norm now is when there are events like Leather Pride. But at the same time, I’ve come to appreciate what the Eagle has evolved into.
The first time I ever went to the Eagle was a few years ago with DH. It was just after he’d offered to be my sexual mentor, but before I was set free and on my own.. This was also before the Eagle was renovated in 2013, when the darkroom was still downstairs. I was too scared to ever go into the Eagle on my own, and it was completely foreign to me, but I was intrigued by its hyper-masculine vibe. I mainly went to techno bars back then.
DH, on the other hand, had spent his youth at the Eagle, and was eager to be taking me. “The most sincere people in the community are the leather folk,” he said to me as we had a beer on the upstairs patio. He had so much pride in his eyes, and it validated the impulses I had about the scene.
Shortly after the renovations were done, I remember going to the Eagle for the Trade party. The music was hard and edgy — I was so happy that they were finally playing techno on Church Street. There were young go-go dancers on the risers, dressed in harnesses, sucking cock and eating ass right on stage as DJ Scooter McCreight pounded out the beats. I noticed that the Eagle was changing. I couldn’t put my finger on it yet, or say how it was changing exactly, but something about this new vibe resonated with me.
I soon became a regular, telling anyone I could that the Eagle had the best dancefloor in the city. Big acts like Dinamo Azari, Horse Meat Disco, Deko-ze and even Fort Romeau, which really surprised me, started to become regular features at the Eagle. The dancefloor still smelt like musky pits and crotch, and it still oozed testosterone. You could find muscle men, bears, hairy chests, guts, twinks in leather, pierced nipples — the whole gamut of gay sexuality, crammed together in one space.
I’ve made out, worn nothing but a jockstrap, danced with International Ms Leather and have even been willingly choked by a daddy right on that dancefloor. But the Eagle, as I came to know it, wasn’t that same leather bar that DH knew. It’d be great to have an actual leather bar in Toronto, but the Eagle had become something that was, and is, satisfying the cravings of a new generation . . .