The real reason that I took Ernan to the Black Eagle was so that he could have an introduction to radical sex culture. The bar was a cross section of everything wild and human with no pretenses. During the last three years of frequenting the place, I’d met drifters, lovers, aspiring porn stars, artists, addicts, daddies and boys, masters, sadists and newbies. These people challenged my notions of conventional sexuality as we discussed everything from power dynamics, water sports, consent, and picking up daddies on Craigslist. It was my social space, a place I could come back to and regroup after experiencing the perversions of the outside world. And I wanted Ernan to see this.
The Eagle has become a melting pot after its renovations, welcoming all types. That made it possible for someone like Ernan to come in and experience the bar without feeling self-conscious about the way he dressed. I’ve always been drawn to mixed crowds of genders, sexualities, races and classes, so I appreciated this change. There’s a cost, though: the Eagle has lost its gritty, leather, male-only vibe. Some argue that an entire scene is disappearing as a result, and today’s leather scene is a watered down version of what it used to be.
Fact is, I wasn’t alive during the ’60s or ’70s during the hey-day of the leather scene, and was only a baby in ’80s. I didn’t start going out until the mid ’90s when I was 15, and that was to straight, all-ages clubs in Kitchener, Ontario. I came out at the age of 19 (the year 2000). There’s a lot of queer history that I could only read about, but I did my best to understand the struggles that our community has been through. I get that an exclusively male, sexual leather space was extremely important. During difficult times, it was a place for men to be themselves, while enjoying other men being men. But times are changing — for the best, I’d say — and societal acceptance means being inclusive of everybody.
The backroom was the only place that still had traces of the “old Eagle.” There were always men lining the walls, sipping their Budweiser’s and gazing through the inconspicuous lighting. They were silent and starving, watching other men jerking, sucking and fucking. The Eagle’s famous for this backroom, but many nights now encourage you to have sex anywhere in the bar, so maybe that space is becoming obsolete, too.
The Eagle has naked nights, rubber nights, pup nights, kink nights, underwear and jockstrap nights. It even has a party called No Recip, where they set up a sling on the patio, and have a sub naked, tied up to a cross on the dancefloor and wearing a hood, to be fondled by the guests. Despite the changes, the bar is still on the cutting edge of sexual expression compared to other venues in the city.
I knew that every part of this was foreign to Ernan, but I hoped he could learn to enjoy it and embrace it with me. He’d been asking a lot of questions about BDSM and seemed interested to learn more, but I knew it was because he was falling in love with me. And to be honest, I was falling in love with him — it’s why I wanted to include him in this part of my life. “Love works in mysterious ways,” he said to me one time. I called him a weirdo when he said it, but I knew he was right — love can carry you through your differences and help you appreciate those differences. That’s the very definition of love, isn’t it?
I looked over at Ernan; he was speaking to a woman in a leather corset. They were laughing and joking. This wasn’t the picture of a lost leather scene; it was a scene that’s evolved. We hung out on the patio for the rest of the night. I thought about how our relationship was like the melting pot that the Eagle had become. We were two very different people coming together from different places. It was great; we brought different perspectives to the table. Love does works in mysterious ways.
I just hope it works for us.