Prizm News / August 12, 2019 / By Ken Schneck

Photos by Eric Paul Owens
  • Eileen Galvin
  • Age: 30
  • Identifies as: Nonbinary Transwoman
  • Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
  • Current Hometown: Columbus

So many of us LGBTQ+ superheroes have to maintain our secret identities in the work place: Clark Kent in the newsroom, and Superman when we’re out saving the world. 

Eileen Galvin is more like a Jessica Jones-type superhero. By day at the Columbus College of Art & Design, she is the IT Help Desk Manager known as Eileen Galvin. At night, she is a burlesque superstar known as…Eileen Galvin. 

“I am lucky that I have this opportunity to work at a place where I can be my whole self,” says Galvin. 

- Advertisement -

With a life that blends activism, expertise, and style, Galvin is proving every day that you don’t have to hide behind a mask to be super. 

How do you navigate the wonderful world of labels?

Everyone’s experiences are so unique and individual; if you talk to 10 people, you will get 10 different stories. I find it difficult to choose labels that suit me precisely, but I have learned that labels don’t work with precision. Labels work with approximation. I have landed on “nonbinary transwoman” because that currently works for me and is important to my history and my politics.

How did the burlesque journey come about?

I actually started burlesque before I started transitioning, and then burlesque was my springboard. When I was at OSU, I tried drag, but there was something about the mechanics of drag that didn’t work for me. I was working with a canonical interpretation of drag, and it felt like “almost…but not quite.” Then I met performers from the Velvet Hearts, a queer burlesque troupe. I saw one of their performances and I wanted to try it. They were so open and welcoming, giving me the space to work things out and figure out who I was as a performer. 

Photos by Eric Paul Owens

What goes into creating a stage persona?

I always want to provide a layered experience where I can interact with the audience and have them questioning every aspect of Eileen Galvin. How does she do her taxes? What does she wear onstage? What does she buy at the supermarket? What does really she want out of life? I also love embracing my body and how that connects to empowerment. Maybe I step out on stage and you expect one type of body connected to my gender, and then you get something else. How do you, as an audience member, reconcile that? 

You spoke at the Trans Pride March in Columbus on June 14. What was that experience like for you? 

It was incredible. You write something with an audience in mind, and then you show up and there’s a massive, supportive group in front of you. It was exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time, and my heart and my stomach were banging into each other. But I knew that I could say something that would support the experiences of everyone else, particularly of black trans people and trans people of color. I was so grateful to be there and really felt the amazing energy coming from the crowd and the other speakers.