tlc: year with
a leather club

a documentary by Randy A. Riddle


Interview Transcripts:
Gil F.


Gil F. -- photo (c) by Michael Cox

Gil is a North Carolina native who was a dance accompaniest at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for fourteen years. He has composed for local filmmakers and dance companies, formed the F-ART Ensemble, and has performed with Eugene Chadbourne and other North Carolina musicians. He was recently laid off from his long-time position with the Dance Department at UNC-G, a victim of state-level budget-cutting, and now works on the grounds crew at the university. 

All material (c) 1995, CCD. All rights reserved. 

RAR - Could you tell me about some of the performances you've done with the club? How do they relate to your feelings about Leather? Are they "performance art"? 

GF - To a degree, they're self parody and parody of the Leather scene as I know it or particular people in the club, depending. Especially when I pull out the accordian, many people regard it as an instrument of torture, and so when I squeeze that box and get people saying, "Oh no, not the accordian. Shut that goddamn thing up. Put it away. Take the ax to it," then I feel like I'm accomplishing a little bit of purpose of teasing people, making fun of things, getting people to be able to laugh. Supposedly, Leatherpeople are so stern and in self-control, which is really not the case a lot of times. ... But, when you're entertaining or you're getting people to have fun and you're at a bar night, you don't want to be so rigidly and sternly in control. So, part of it's to have fun, to make fun of the scene, also social and political commentary, sometimes satire on people's cultural and religious notions, because much of Judeo-Christianity is SM oriented -- the cruxificition is an SM fantasy, as far as I'm concerned, always has been. You don't even need to look at "A Clockwork Orange" to have Alex's fantasies going through his head about being one of the Roman Legions whipping Christians, it's in the Bible itself. 

RAR - What do you think of staged fantasies? Are they a kind of "performance art"? 

GF - Staged fantasies almost invariable look stagey and are a performance, and sometimes can be a very nice commentary on some of the things that people are actually looking for rather than what actually goes on, but they serve that function of sometimes being idealized or not so idealized. Some fantasies, if they were actually scenes, I'd say, "Hey, man, this isn't working." 

RAR - Let's talk about the piercing you had done in DC during the March on Washington weekend. What were some of the reasons that you picked that particular time to have it done? 

GF - Piercing for me was one of the most... it is a very personal thing... it symbolized, for me, a next step up into commitment, to practicing in Leather and actually practicing as a Fairy. It was important to me to have the right event, and I felt that the March on Washington was an event that was of significance where I had learned something, I had learned an enormous amount, not only from the Leatherpeople, but a whole lot from the Fairies I met there, too. There were significant connections I made with people there. Also to affirm myself in the Club and as a member of TLC, that I had come far enough to... you know, the ring symbolizes sort of a "marriage" in the club, that I had made a stage passed the noviciate into the next level up. Certainly, it was a very emotional commitment on my part. Commitment's a word I like to think of and it's certainly, when you get your body altered in that significant a way, it is a commitment because it's going to stay with you for quite some time. 

RAR - Have you gotten any unusual reactions since you got the piercing? 

GF - Oh, I've had people be freaked out or usually people just being curious and saying, "Did that hurt?" and "Not all that much." Of course, for the nipple piercing, well tit piercing -- I don't think I have to censor my language that much -- but for the nipple piercing, supposedly it's the most painful and yes, it did bleed for a while and I was very gleefully gory about it to other Leathermen, and it's interesting, the other Leatherpeople usually flinched more than the Fairies who would say, "Oh, that looks nice and raw." That's always a curious thing. Of course, given that Stuart is my mentor in the club, and that I'm almost as much a Fairie as I am a Leatherperson, that made sense to have him be my piercer. 

RAR - What is a Fairie? 

GF - A Fairie is an anarchist who defines his or her anarchy however that person wants to. Frequently, it has to do with radical sexuality and openess in practice of being Gay, into country living, into political activism or polticial anarchy of whatever sort. Definitely eccentric, one's own person within a social construct, frequently communal in orientation. Certainly people in the communes like Short Mountain or, I understand, in the California communes, who are Fairies, are very concerned about community living and the farm, sharing things, cooperative business. Others are extreme individualists, and I probably fit in that category if there is such a category. I'm making this up and I know it may be bullshit to many other Fairies, but that's what I think. Whether I'm right or not, I'm going to find out on my own terms. And I'm very much a definer of terms as I go and I sometimes fit into certain social subsets, such as "musician", "theater person", or "Leatherperson", "faggot in general", "Calvinist", but I have rough edges, very pointed sharp edges that frequently break that circle and I'm the polyhedrinal peg that won't quite fit in that circular hole. 

RAR - How do you connect your spirituality with Leather/SM? 

GF - First aspect, I guess, spiritually that I find in Leather/SM is that it's helped me connect back with a physical identity that I used to deny. I had a very Byzantine notion of what spirituality was when I was younger, where I tried to deny, as much as possible, my physicality. So, it's helping me reintegrate, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, into accepting myself as a person; it's helped me come out. But, the whole sense of animal that is Leather. To a certain degree, you take on the identities -- it isn't merely shaministic, for some people it's something of a shade of identity with the animals you wear -- the cow, the bull, the wolf, the bear -- whatever the fur or whatever you adopt is that part of the fetish. Becoming more attuned to one's animal nature through nature itself and learning how to deal physically with pain and integrating it as a source, an actual source, a normal source of pleasure. That takes a certain discipline and many kinds of discipline depending on what kind of play you find, that with other people, with yourself, by the way, I'm very much an advocate of auto-erotic SM. I'm interested in self-flagelation, various kinds of play, even masturbation with hand-cuffs on and things like that are significant ways of playing that you can do by yourself. But, it's learning to find one's limits, in the physical and using one's body as a means of discovering emotional, psychological, spirtitual boundaries, but going beyond those boundaries in one's self.