Dana St. Amand says that the “least interesting” thing about her is that she’s a transwoman.
“What I’m really trying to do with any of the content that I put out is just show a transperson existing,” she told In The Know. “So much of seeing transpeople in media or hearing about transpeople in the news, it’s all so focused on our trauma … [I] focus on being a joyful person who happens to be trans, who has gone through some things in the past, but it doesn’t matter, because I am happy now.”
What makes St. Amand happy is making swords.
Most of the time, when you think of a bladesmith or a blacksmith, you’re probably thinking of a man hitting hot metal on an anvil with a hammer. But the reality of the process is much more complicated.
“That’s about 10 percent of our final job,” St. Amand explained. “What we do [as bladesmiths] is, we do the general shaping at the anvil in the forge, and then we take that to the grinder and do a whole lot of finishing work — finishing shaping work.”
St. Amand’s specialty is making her finished pieces look like they were made by hand. There are little imperfections here and there that she loves, and that her clients — who she summarized as “chefs who need good knives,” “pagans who want blades for rituals” and “queer people who want swords to propose to their partners with” — love too.
“My joy comes from doing whatever the f*** I want,” she specified.
Her slogan — made famous by her TikTok — is “Be gay, make swords,” a play on the old expression, “Be gay, do crime,” which she told In The Know was a phrase that came about during the time when marriage equality wasn’t legalized — the “crime” being loving whomever you want.
While marriage equality has come far since those days, the smithing world is still heavily dominated by straight, white men. So St. Amand considers it a privilege that she was able to have the space and time to learn her skills and acquire the tools to pursue swordmaking.
“I feel it would be a disservice for me not to give [skills] back to the underrepresented people who would otherwise not have the ability to go anywhere and to learn these things,” she said. “[It] can be very challenging to get into, because there are these patriarchal standards within this field.”
A former student that St. Amand said stood out to her was a “teeny, tiny non-binary person who looks like you could punk them over the back fence.” This student was one of the best St. Amand has seen, and they could swing a hammer like nobody else, proving that, like most areas dominated by white men, there is space to be carved out for others, too.
“Just breaking down these walls of these fake patriarchal rules surrounding gender identity and surrounding the work that you can or cannot do is a very valuable thing that I can do to give back to my community,” St. Amand said.
St. Amand added that she’s formed her own community of trans, non-binary blacksmiths and bladesmiths who have all connected through social media.
“I think it’s more common than we would realize, and it’s just not super publicly known, because a lot of blacksmiths and bladesmiths, at least in my own experience, are pretty introverted,” she said. “We’re not necessarily shouting from the rooftops about ourselves. We just want to make our things and move on.”
Growing up in Manhattan, Kan., St. Amand initially got into swords because her parents would read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to her. She was immersed in fantasy culture from a young age — it even served as an escape when she started questioning her gender identity — and she started smithing as a hobby several years before she came out officially.
“It was through this process of creating something new from something else — taking different pieces and learning how they fit together to create what I wanted it to be — that I was able to come to terms with a lot of the repression that I had felt growing up and a lot of these feelings that I didn’t understand,” she said.
But ultimately, smithing is just something that makes St. Amand happy.
“How did I get to the point where I kind of have a thick skin surrounding how other people treat my trans identity and all of this?” she asked. “I’m ultimately just going to say f*** it and live my life.”
Donate to St. Amand’s GoFundMe here to help her expand her shop and create a space where folks of all backgrounds can come and learn.
If you enjoyed reading this interview, check out In The Know’s conversation with the first trans athlete to compete on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team.
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