Hot Metal Hardware Knows No Gender, Breaks Gender Roles

They run on drag time at Cruze Bar in the Strip District. This means that, anywhere between 11- 11:30 p.m. on the first Friday of each month you’ll hear a familiar call over the mic, “Whose house is this?!” A crowd of new-comers follow the seasoned audience members in shouting “HOT METAL HARDWARE!” And the show kicks off …

Hot Metal Hardware started in 2010 as an all-king performance troupe and was briefly called Suspicious Packages (innuendo intended). Many of the performers were looking for a place to perform masculinity on stage, finding the performance community at the time to be lackluster when it came to space for kings. According to founding member Lyndsey Sickler, “Kings didn’t have their own space to perform. I had only seen them on stage as props or back-up dancers for queens.” A group of performers and drag enthusiasts including JJ Cox, Orion Blaze Browne, Chance Encounters, Dylan Dickerhersoon, Christopher Crash, Shane Fuldesires, Maycum Dizzi, Zack Havok, Aer and Lyndsey Sickler got together and decided to change things up.

When gender is so ingrained, we forget the way it affects us. We forget how it impacts our decisions, our relationships, and the way we view ourselves. Gender roles and expectations often leave many of us feeling misunderstood and misshapen. Queens bring femininity to the stage and heighten it to the point of ridiculousness, toying with stereotypes. If we’re paying attention we can start to question these worn-out tropes. Masculinity should be open to the same level of disruption. Kings bring masculinity into the spotlight. They poke at it, bend it with frivolity, and put flowers in its well-oiled beard.

Many of the founding members have come and gone in the last seven years, but the mission of HMH has stayed the same, to create space for performers who need it.

As discussions around gender identity and performance identity have expanded, HMH has stayed nimble to the performance community’s needs. They quickly and enthusiastically embraced performers beyond just kings. Now you can go to a show and see kings, queens, burlesque, boilesque, high femmes, genderqueer performers, and some stuff you’ll find hard to describe. There’s no room for Ru Paul-esque discrimination against trans and nonbinary performers here, no xir-ry! (pronoun pun!)

As the lines between what determines kings from queens continue to blur, Hot Metal Hardware continues to adopt more inclusive language. While they call themselves Pittsburgh’s Premiere Gender Performance Troupe, all the performers identify their performances a little differently, although most will agree, they’re performing gender. Sometimes they’re performing the gender they identify with day-to-day. At times they’re performing a gender they want to play with. Best of all, some find that when they step on stage, they’re no longer performing, but rather, finally being themselves.

For more info about Hotel Metal Hardware, visit their Facebook page.

If you’re interested in performing, send them a private message and chat with the crew. Everyone is welcome!

For Scarlett Feverson, leader and performer with HMH, this inclusive look at gender identity has made space for her to “express a certain emotion or feeling in a way that is safe, creative and fun.” Scarlett identifies as a gender performer because she plays with concepts from burlesque, drag queens, and high femme performers. She says, [On stage] “I can amplify what’s happening in my life.” For her this looks like getting in a full body Deadpool costume and stripping down to pasties and a mask before revealing her true identity.

Hot Metal Hardware is also considered a learning troupe, which means performers at every level will be on stage. HMH is the first stage some performers step foot on; for others they’re lip syncing their fiftieth Whitney Houston ballad. King performer Cole Hardluck has performed with HMH since July 2017 and says about his first performance, “I was completely nervous! I thought about running away multiple times, but waiting next to the stage there were a few members who I barely even knew. They helped me get over my nerves a little. Everyone was super accepting and helpful. They gave me the confidence I needed and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had to this day.” Since then Cole has grown to perform numbers including his favorite “Do Re Mi” by Blackbear. “It was an eye opener and showed me the confidence I really have now.”

Each month the show at Cruze shakes things up with a new theme spanning from Homo Hoedown to Yinzsplosion and Hot Metal Heroes. HMH also brings in performers from all over the country including New York, Columbus, and Canada. Shows are 21+ only, and just $5 to get in, but you’ll want to bring some spare dollars to tip the performers. If you’re lucky, you may get a kiss from a dapper gentle-them in return!

Samone Riddle is the founder of QueerPGH, an online magazine made by and for queer folks in Pittsburgh. When they’re not working, they’re performing as Archer DuBoi, biking, or snuggling cats. They’ve been with Hot Metal Hardware since October 2017 and plan to keep showing up each first Friday at Cruze to screw with gender and meet lovely queerbies.