Tranny Content Comes of Age
"Straight men want trannies," says Alex Ladd, co-owner and head of production for DVSX.com. "Whether they want to admit it or not, the numbers on the web show us that there's definite interest."
Ladd, who started out directing transsexual films for Elegant Angel, has carried several tranny titles at DVSX since the company was founded more than three years ago.
DVSX's "Third Sex Encounters 2" was nominated for AVN's 2006 Best Transsexual Release award, and its next tranny series, "The Bitch Got Balls," will be distributed through sister company XCartel.
"It's a very small market, but it's a very good market because your pieces out the door may not be huge in volume, like a typical title, but reorders are constant. It does especially well on the web, where customers keep buying," Ladd says. "My web guys tell me that we get customers who go on the 'straight' part of the site, and then about 20 percent will click onto the tranny site and stay on it."
Once the territory of smaller specialty studios such as Robert Hill Entertainment, Devil's Films and Legend, the transsexual market gained exposure as a few big-name producers developed their own tranny lines. Joey Silvera's "Rogue Adventures" and "Big Ass She-Male Road Trip" series, distributed by Evil Angel, set a precedent for high-quality transsexual gonzo productions in 1998. Since then, major production companies have jumped on the tranny bandwagon, including Vivid, Anabolic, Caballero, Metro Interactive and Red Light District, to name a few.
"I'd say it's become really hip and a viable source of income over the last two to three years," Ladd says.
Gia Darling agrees. As a male-to-female transsexual adult performer, Darling runs the only tranny-owned production company, Gia Darling Entertainment, and in 2006 won AVN's Transsexual Performer of the Year award based on her "Transsexual Heartbreakers" series.
"What I've known for years, people are just barely starting to realize — that people out there are tired of the same old boy/girl thing," Darling says. "It's gone crazy because everyone has seen how profitable it is."
Although established within the American tranny scene with its small group of in-demand and sometimes financially demanding adult models, Darling understands the popularity of using offshore talent for U.S. production companies, which often film in such countries as Brazil, Argentina and Thailand.
"If you look at it as far as the numbers, it's definitely great because I can shoot a film in Brazil for a fourth of what I shoot a film here," she says. "I can probably make a whole film in Brazil for what I pay for one hardcore scene here."
Darling cites many breakthroughs in her 10-year career, including being the first transsexual model to appear in full-on magazine layouts as both a Penthouse Pet and Hustler Honey. With a soft, doll-like resemblance to Barbie's little sis Skipper, Darling has cultivated a loyal fan-base consisting mainly of heterosexual men and women.
"In their fantasies, there's always that girl-on-girl thing, but the other thing they like is a girl topping a guy," Darling explains. "For me, sometimes it's easier to be a top, so I like to do that."
Dicks For Chicks
When Defiance Films decided to enter the tranny market, it surveyed distributors to find out what type of tranny content might appeal to a wider audience.
"We wanted to do something special, and what we found is that most of them wanted to see trannies with girls, not with guys, and they wanted to see some names, if at all possible," says Anthony Simone, sales manager at Defiance.
"Transtastic," released in February, is Defiance's first foray into the transsexual market and, somewhat surprisingly to Simone, a big success.
"I knew sales would be good on it if we did it right," he says, "but I just didn't think it would be that good. We've had some really popular titles that have done well, but this has outsold everything so far."
For A-listers Cindy Crawford, Cytherea, Dana Vespoli, Daja Daire and Roxy Jezel, it was their first opportunity to work with top tranny actresses Vanity, Carmen Cruz and Kayla Coxx. Simone says the biologically female performers were a little leery when approached for the project.
"I think they felt like maybe it would hurt their career," Simone speculates. "Some of the guys in the industry maybe wouldn't want to work with them afterwards. We didn't find that, though. I mean, it was a legitimate concern on their part, but it didn't hurt them at all."
In the transsexual market, performers cope with scrutiny and stigma both onscreen and off, largely due to confusion among the public and industry insiders alike.
And marketing transsexual product often is complicated by the perception that tranny sexuality is somehow "gay." Adult retailer Daryl Jenkins, who owns A View to Video in Oxnard, Calif., offers an honest opinion of the genre.
"I think we're turning a bunch of regular guys gay, is what's happening. Because, here's how I explain it to the guys: No matter how you look at it, it's a man, OK? It may be a trend in somebody's book, but let's not let it overrun the business," Jenkins says.
"You've got every company out there running to make transsexual tapes. Ten to 20 are coming out a week, and I just think we're reaching a saturation point. Here's my biggest complaint from customers that don't rent it: They're walking through the new releases, and all of a sudden, there's a big, old, fucking dick hanging out there. To the guys who like it, so be it. But there's a lot of guys that just don't."
Keith Webb, co-owner and vice president of gay powerhouse Titan Media, begs to differ.
"It is not gay. Let me tell you, it is not gay. Gay men do not want to watch chicks with dicks. It's straight men that want to watch it, and then they put this stuff in the gay section," Webb laughs. "Get it the hell out!"
However, gay men do seem to show interest in "guys with pies," according to Webb.
In December, Titan released "Cirque Noir," which contains one scene featuring tranny performer Buck Angel. Since few on either side of the adult industry have even considered a female-to-male transsexual performer, Angel realizes he is an anomaly as "the Man With a Pussy."
"I'm coming in and fuckin' shit up," Angel tells XBIZ in a phone interview from his home in the interior of Mexico.
"Believe me, it was very difficult for me to get where I am today because this industry is, in a sense, so vanilla," Angel says. "Why is an 800-guy gangbang OK, and getting my pussy fucked is not OK?"
Frustration, though, is giving way to Angel's acceptance of his role as a gender revolutionary and porn pioneer. An appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" in March and a distribution deal with Avalon Entertainment are helping to promote his indie title "Adventures of Buck Naked." Three other titles produced with Robert Hill Releasing are available at Angel's website, and his newest project, slated for shooting in June, is titled "Buck Angel's V Is for Vagina."
"I have invented a whole new genre of porn," he says. "Not a whole lot of people can say that, you know? Eventually, in the next five- 10 years, every studio will have a Buck Angel. You watch — it's going to happen."