Discover more from Bricks, Wigs, and Gay Crimes
How I Earned My Honorary Degree in Leather and Performance
I didn't actually get a degree. They don't actually give those out.
Queens > Manhattan? You decide!
First, I must share the latest episode of TransContinental. We traveled to the faraway land of Queens! My sibling Angel joined! My sibling as in, we have the same mom. We also met the founder of Unclockables, a tuck kit for people who want to hide their bits. Give it a view! Share it! Fall in love with it. Move to Astoria or Jackson Heights. Allow me to pet your dog.
I Heart Vancouver
I’m writing you from a swanky coffee shop in Vancouver, Canada. I just left Japadog, an old recommendation from Anthony Bourdain. He would have been pissed that I got the veggie dog instead of the Wagyu. But I can’t do the meat! At least not today. In a few hours, I have to meet “the man in the pink hat”, Glenn Tkach for the Vancouver gay tour. I’ve been told that this is one of the most livable cities in the world. It is. But more on that later!
Now! The moment you’ve all been waiting for, Part Two of the Slap and Tickle story.
Earning Leather Bear Status at the Eagle NYC
The dimly lit room was suffused with the smoky scent of leather and urine. The air crackled with a palpable energy, as the audience of the gritty leather bar awaited the performers who would bring Broadway to the iconic BDSM bar. I stood in the green room listening to my castmates power through their lines. My queue was coming up and I knew I’d have to physically push my way through the crowded bar, shouting my first line.
Acting is terrifying. Acting in New York is impossible. Acting in a leather bar, filled to capacity, while clips of Crocodile Dundy assaulting a trans woman are playing on a loop—well, you get the idea. The first two performances left me in a state of paralysis with my heart beating and my mind separating from my body. During episodes of PTSD, your nervous system can’t tell if the input of your senses is giving information that is dangerous or harmless. Like a war veteran having panic attacks during a fireworks celebration. In this case, I was hearing the sounds of people acting out traumatic events. My body didn’t know if I was in the military again, re-experiencing my own sexual trauma, or back in a cage fight in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Yet, for some reason, I found myself in a leather bar, night after night, acting out scenes of sexual violence. The reason seems to have had some divine influence. I’ve dealt with panic attacks but these were more intense than I ever had. Just before taking this acting role, I was in a yoga school. At the school, all we truly learned was how to activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System.
The explain-like-Im-five version of what we learned was, if your body experiences certain things, like being upside down or controlled breathing–then you can “trick” your body into being calm. Your stomach starts to growl because your body thinks you’re in a safe place to eat. You yawn because your body thinks you can safely rest. We haven’t had that much evolutionary time since sleeping in caves and hunting Whooly Mammoths. Forgive the Mythbusters term, but you are hacking your body and your nervous system.
Rehearsals became a chance to practice controlled breathing and meditation. I would go into inversions (being upside-down) and hug my ribs. There, I could focus my intention on what my body was feeling. If I was panicking, I could breathe through it. A mantra would play in my mind. A voice telling my body, “You’re okay. You’re okay. We are safe.” I repeated that line in my mind for the entire play. Even when I was saying my actual lines to the audience.
Backstage, during the play, I listened for the line, “An thus my drag career began.” I had about three seconds to burst out of the curtains and LOUDLY complain about a tourist at a drag show who was transphobic to my character, Shira, during a performance. I gave myself a beat to physically push the audience aside and groan so loud that people thought someone in the audience was dying.
I stepped into the spotlight. When you’re in the zone, you can feel the audience experiencing what you are projecting. The sharing of energy is something that is difficult to describe. It’s an emotional high that is hard to reproduce outside of the theater world. When you can remove yourself and become your character–it's heaven. You’re an interdimensional being. You’re the light in a movie projector.
Performing in a leather bar might seem incongruous to some, but for me, it represented a powerful reclamation of my own identity. This space, traditionally associated with rebellion and self-acceptance, offered me the opportunity to heal and redefine myself beyond the boundaries of my PTSD and panic attacks. I mean, it’s a leather bar. It smelled like urine. Not because of a plumbing problem but because beefy gay men were peeing on each other the night before. Historically, it’s not been a safe space for trans women. I’m so glad I had an opportunity to change that narrative.
As the play ended and the most difficult scene passed where I save the main character from a sexual assault in the men’s bathroom, a final applause echoed through the matte black brick walls of the bar. I stood there, bathed in a sea of adrenaline and relief. The stage had become my teacher, helping me build my armor against the past. With each performance, I not only entertained but also embarked on a personal voyage of self-discovery.
This wasn’t just a play for me. It was a huge personal triumph. Conquering panic attacks and PTSD was not an endpoint but a continuous journey. The leather bar became a sacred symbol of resilience and the embodiment of my own transformative power. I’ll never be Mr. Eagle NYC or one of those molten lava hot leather bears but I deserve an honorary Ph.D. from the Eagle. I over came the leather bar, now I can keep on coming back. That was a double entendre. ;)