Amy Baltz’s colleagues know her as Amy Baltz, but she’s better known as Despoena Calypso, or Ms. DC.
For the past year, she also answered to “Ms. Atlanta Eagle.”
DC will never forget the first time she saw the leather pride flag painted on Atlanta Eagle’s exterior.
“I had never seen a leather pride flag that big,” she said. “This was definitely a leather space, and it was proclaiming it very proudly from the moment I set foot on the property.”
DC is the ninth sash-wearing Ms. Atlanta Eagle. Her competition included an interview, bar wear, and fetish attire, plus a “mystery grab bag” performance onstage.
“[A former Ms. Atlanta Eagle] walked by me wearing the sash. In this studded leather corset and leather pants and leather boots and I was like, ‘Woof. How do I be that? How do I do that? How do I support that?’” DC said. “I was like, ‘Oh I belong here. If she’s here, I can be here.’”
DC is changing the way Atlanta and the international leather scene looks at women and nonbinary folk as part of their community.
“I wanted to show that everyone is welcome at our bar. You don’t necessarily see a girl with braids in her hair in a pink dress and a tutu and a 1950s look. That’s my style,” she said. “I just didn’t see a lot of me in the leather. … And I realized the only way I was going to see that was if I competed and gave my brand of leather and my brand of protocol.”
Since her competition, she’s seen more lipstick and high-femme fashion in leather, and there will soon be a “Mx” title in addition to Ms. and Mr. at certain competitions.
“My platform was all about, everyone’s invited to a seat at the table, and we’re going to leave a chair open for who we don’t know is coming,” she said. “I am not the only person in this conversation. I’m maybe a tipping point. I’m honored and grateful that I got to be part of the discussion and say, ‘This is why I think we need it.’”
DC isn’t leather only at the Eagle. It’s a lifestyle she devotes herself to daily.
“Leather lifestyle is about living your life to a higher standard. It’s about how you interact with the world around you,” DC said. “Leather is a fetish. Leather is a garment I wear. Leather is choosing to live myself to a higher standard and it is also a nod to the history of our past and the oppression we faced.”
DC defines her bisexuality as being attracted to individuals of her gender identity and others. She realized as a young child that she was into bondage. She liked self-suspending from trees to read books, and tying herself, and later her partners, up.
“I looked up how to tie a girl to a bed. What popped up was a picture of a woman in shibari,” DC said. “I wanted to do it. I wanted to be it. I wanted to watch it. I wanted to photograph it. … It kind of flipped a switch to me; I wanted everything to do with rope like that. But I was 16 and that’s not readily available to you when you’re 16.”
DC explored her sexuality and purpose for the next few years, and found leather.
“The leather lifestyle might be seen from the outside as cosplay or [Live Action Role Play], but really we have chosen this,” she said. “There’s usually a piece of leather on my body or a little piece of rope. Some people are dance moms. Some people are military. I’m leather. It’s an identity and the choice I’ve made.”
The House of the Primal Kind is DC’s leather family.
“These people are my everything. They’ve seen me through good stuff and bad stuff. They’ve seen me make really rough relationship mistakes. They also taught me how to hold a flogger so it doesn’t hurt my back,” she said.
DC said each leather family is different, and hers encourages its mentees to earn their stripes.
Over the course of a decade, she earned first her belt, then her boots – a reminder of being grounded in who she was and the community she represented – and most recently her vest.
“From there, and this is something I have not earned, maybe you get a master’s cap or a cover,” DC said. “A sir’s cap or cover is specifically meant to come from the community or the leather family you’re in, and it is to show that you have been doing the work and you will continue doing the work. It’s like a lifetime achievement award in my book.”
All of DC’s leather is white, even her Ms. Atlanta Eagle vest. That’s an intentional nod to the history and tradition of leather, but a sign that she’s part of the next generation.
“I want to prove that I will take care of and shelter and educate the next generation. I am in a continual state of cleaning my white leather and reconditioning it and ensuring that it stays white,” she said. “It’s almost a ritual for me; a meditation of sorts. To promise to uplift and support instead of cut down, and it’s a promise to make the space for the people I haven’t even met yet. It’s not just a fashion statement for me. It’s very much something meaningful that’s a commitment to my community; to myself; to the future mes that are going to be.”