LOS ANGELES — Straying away from the typical presentation format, Grooby Productions CEO, Steven Grooby, and the company’s marketing and editorial director, Kristel Penn, invited attendees to join them at a roundtable discussion of current issues plaguing the trans porn community.
To start, Grooby asked all those in the room to standup. The crowd looked at one another confused, but stood up regardless.
“Good,” he began, bringing his hands together. Dressed in a light blue button up and dark-wash jeans, Grooby looked professional but approachable. “I like to start meetings standing up! I don’t know why, but it always seems to get people off their phone. No one is slouching, no one is looking at their telephones. No distractions.”
The room laughed. Grooby, then, explained that he attends multiple conferences in the year, and he always hosts this roundtable discussion to, not only meet other professionals in the trans porn community, but to educate himself, as a cis-man, on current trans-related issues.
“I’m here to learn from you,” Grooby clapped his hands in enthusiasm. “I’ve been in this industry for a long time, but there is always something to learn. I’m gonna have you guys introduce yourself, and then we’ll get right to the discussion.”
Before the room went one by one to introduce themselves, Grooby explained he would cut the hour-long segment into two parts; the first would involve tactics to best help monetize self-produced content, and the second would be the current state of the trans porn community.
In attendance were webmasters, performers, cam models, company CEOs, reporters, anti-piracy lawyers, casting agents, directors and even a student who was doing research on trans porn for their dissertation.
Among the attendees that highly participated was KacyTGirl of KacyTGirl.com. When Grooby asked the room if they felt content trade — which is when performers do not pay each other, but do scenes together which are then distributed individually — was a financially viable option for content production; he also asked if stars with lower Twitter followings felt as though they would not earn as much as their scene partner, who might have a higher following, Kacy gave an insightful answer.
“I like content trades, especially with people who have higher followings," she said. "As someone who might be considered a lower-tier performer, I find that trading content with someone that has a higher following really increases my visibility. They might have 135k followers, but they send me their traffic and it helps in the long run.”
At the mention of “long run,” the conversation shifted towards trans-branding — especially in the current social-political climate.
“A few years ago I had a talk here, at XBIZ, about how we would never change the word Shemale on the site,” Grooby admitted. “I talked about how we needed it for marketing and SEO. As you know now, we’ve changed! So, never say never. ShemaleYum is now GroobyGirls.”
Likewise, Fran from TransationalFantasies.com expressed her company’s own concerns.
“I was here for that chat,” she enthusiastically said. “Our company, ShemaleStrokers, is now Transational Fantasies. Our name change has been in the works since 2013! I have found emails dated from then; we had mentions of SEO, lots of different names we wanted to try out. But it came down to the billions of DVDs driving organic traffic, you know? But as difficult as its been, we’re happy!”
Grooby bounced off Fran, “It’s never enough though, is it? There’s always one more step we can take to be better! But, you know, I’m not really the best person to talk about this, because I am a cis, white man.”
Then, he told a story about how he recently encountered a new acronym on Twitter: LGBTIA+. He said he made a joke of the acronym and offended multiple people on Twitter. He apologized.
“The point is … I am someone who has been in this business for a long time … I’m very open-minded, I try to think that I know what I’m doing, but I had to look that up,” he explained. “So, my question is … at what point do we change language? Kristel … this one’s going to you!”
Penn, always dapper in her blazer and button up, paused for a moment. She acted flabbergasted, then immediately recollected herself to speak.
“No pressure!” Someone in the room yelled. Penn and the rest laughed.
“You know, this is something I talk about at great length, and I don’t think that there’s an answer,” she remarked. “Yesterday Fran and I were on a panel that had to do with ethical porn creation. It was a big roundtable, and was very heated! What I took away from it, was that there seems to be a big disconnect between the performer side and the business side. Another takeaway was that our trans genre is its own thing. How we run things is a little bit different than mainstream porn. We present with an interesting dilemma … our porn has to do with identity. Our porn has to do with sex, bodies and identity on top of that! So, what is our responsibility, as a business, to help express identities. I don’t have an answer, but there needs to be more dialogue.”
Penn also added that, since the trans porn community is smaller, it’s easier for communication to occur, because the big hats (such as Grooby) are easier to connect with online. She, then, asked for suggestions from the performers themselves.
Newcomer Janelle Fennec said, “The transgender community is kind of a misnomer. We’re actually a community of communities.” The room nodded in agreement. “You have to consider where they intersect, and I think a lot of people’s entry to the transgender world is through porn. So, I think it is good to be at the tip of the iceberg, so I’m very happy that you guys have made these name changes. But, ultimately porn is a form of art and it’s meant to be edgy, so not everything will be 100 percent politically correct. I, as a model, have that understanding. I debuted on ShemaleYum.com and I had no problem with that name, but I know others might have.
“So, as these communities grow and change, it’s good to be open-minded,” she added. “It’s good to change with them. Moving forward, we should be open-minded and flexible.”
Gavin from AmatuerPorn.com had a hopeful solution. “On AmateurPorn.com we’re giving options. Trans models can choose to identify as male or female, but they can also choose to identify as trans and be placed under that category.”
As the clock approached the one-hour mark, Grooby thanked everyone for coming.
“That was enlightening,” Grooby closed. “I learned. I definitely learned.”
Like a tight-knit community, the crowd gave each other final hugs and promised to see one another again at the Grooby-sponsored happy hour happening immediately after at the Penthouse.