Ten years ago, this magazine published an article titled “A New Trans Generation” that examined a burgeoning market for “she-male” content, a descriptive that has now largely been consigned to the dustbin. Grooby Productions, Evil Angel and Kink.com were among the companies profiled, alongside trans pioneers Wendy Williams, Mandy Mitchell and Kimber James. (Williams was making use of something called MySpace, and exploring a still-new, three-year-old platform known as Twitter.) Mitchell, it was observed, was considered outré for performing with cisgender women, which was then a rarity in the genre.
“The [audience] demand is being noticed more in America and companies are starting to see that they can make money with the niche,” James said. “It’s still bigger internationally than it is here; I think people in other countries are a lot more open sexually to things, so maybe that’s why, but I think it’s becoming a lot more professional and, little by little, more accepted by the ‘mainstream’ porn watchers.”
The times, it can be said, have certainly changed.
Today, some of the largest companies in adult entertainment have their own trans labels; the newly launched Transfixed on Gamma Entertainment’s Adult Time channel is focused exclusively on glamorous, lushly filmed pairings of trans and cis female stars. Trans male models are regularly paired with cis men on their own dedicated paysites and have begun crossing into cisgender gay male content. In the opposite direction, as Sean Michaels himself recently made his debut in the trans genre, there has been a flood of fan-favorite, award-winning gay male performers — Dante Colle, Michael Delray, Wolf Hudson, Ricky Larkin, Sergeant Miles, Pierce Paris, Wesley Woods and more — who now cross genres with regularity and with little fuss from their fans.
The XBIZ Awards, adult industry’s biggest night, added its first trans categories in 2010 and expanded them two years later. “The evolution of our award categories reflects our growth, expansion of coverage and pursuit of inclusivity,” said XBIZ Publisher Alec Helmy.
All of this has occurred as the transgender community has enjoyed increased representation in the national media.
A reassessment of this vibrant genre was long past due. XBIZ spoke to a cross-section of performers, producers and directors in the days leading up to the glitziest, most glamorous event in the trans adult community: the Transgender Erotica Awards (TEAs), including numerous nightclub events, a fashion show, a fan convention and more, all of it culminating with a ceremony, hosted by Domino Presley, at the Avalon Hollywood venue. Natalie Mars, with three trophies, and Lena Kelly, with two, were among the night’s big winners. TEAs-winning studios and labels included Evil Angel, Gender X, TransAngels and, representing the most cutting-edge content of the current moment, VR Bangers Trans.
Here is their assessment of the trans adult industry as it stands today. Buckle up for a few surprises.
I got into trans porn because I thought I would be good at it, and I was right.”
Domino Presley spoke to XBIZ after a well-received turn hosting the 2019 TEAs and as she was putting the finishing touches on her second feature as a director for Grooby Productions (“House of Whores: Coven” will be released in May). “I remember, when I was little, seeing ‘Playboy’ magazines and I always wanted to be one of those beautiful women in glossy print. Porn was the closest to that I could get in 2010. I was determined to be a star in some shape or form,” she said.
During an audition for the second season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Presley was deflated by the judgment that she required a more dramatic drag transformation (“Basically, ‘You’re trans? No.’”) and that was all the prompt she needed to make the jump into adult entertainment.
“I only knew two names in trans porn: Kimber James and Buddy Wood, because of some random video on YouTube where Buddy is interviewing Kimber. So I did a little ‘transvestigating’ and found Buddy on MySpace and hit him up. The next week I was shooting with him for Grooby Productions.”
At the time, Presley took careful note of a mere handful of notable trans names. “Only four or five girls were considered stars and everything else was girl-next-door stuff. I wanted to bring more of a ‘Vogue’ look to trans porn,” she recalled. “Class it up a little bit, get better photographers involved, and give viewers and fans the same quality that mainstream cis porn was giving. Throughout my career, I’ve brought in some of the best photographers trans porn has ever had, in my opinion, which kind of upped everyone else’s game.”
Presley, along with many of her colleagues in trans adult, has marveled at a rapid and dramatic change in fan interactions. “The younger fans are way more respectful and treat us like actual human beings, whereas a lot of the older fans still see trans women strictly as a fetish or an object,” she said. “There are also more people that aren’t closeted about their attraction towards trans women anymore. A lot of that has to do with the trans visibility movement that’s been going on. Trans people have always been everywhere, [now] we’re just all over your television and in magazines.”
Nevertheless, Presley remains frustrated by what she perceives as “hidden transphobia” within the industry. “The adult industry has started to embrace us more and there are more trans sites now that are backed by major companies which is so amazing,” she said. “But the majority of male talent in mainstream cis porn are constantly in all of the trans performers’ DMs but won’t, or can’t, shoot with us because of fear of losing work, which is insane because trans performers have to get tested at the exact same places as heterosexual cis performers. So that tells us that there are still transphobic directors and transphobic or insecure cisgender female performers that actually exist in 2019.”
At one time, only a few years ago, Presley fumes that trans performers weren’t allowed to appear onstage at various industry awards ceremonies. That unspoken rule has been smashed to bits.
“In the last few years, trans performers have been dominating the red carpets and stages at all of the award ceremonies,” said Presley. “Jane Marie and I were both presenters at the PornHub Awards, where I also modeled in the Yeezy [fashion] show and Chanel Santini has given the most epic and iconic [acceptance] speeches. The XBIZ Awards, I think, were the first to embrace us by allowing us to actually go onstage to accept our awards.”
Presley issued a directive to the industry: “Trans performers are unicorns and should be treated as such. We deserve respect and to be treated as the goddesses and gods that we are,” she said. “Our main audience is heterosexual cisgender men. Please stop perpetuating the stereotype that men who are attracted to trans women are gay by constantly booking major gay porn stars or advertising our work on gay websites or under the category ‘gay.’ It’s insulting and also feeds into why there are so many closeted trans-attracted men who can’t or won’t work with us. And don’t be problematic. If your scene offends the trans performer, rewrite it.”
“I joined the industry by accident,” Casey Kisses told XBIZ before the TEAs, where she would go on to snag the trophy for Best Solo Performer.
“To be honest, it all started with a car accident in December of 2014. The accident left me to spend some time recovering in a wheelchair. As a result, I lost my job and my apartment. I had web-cammed only here-and-there before and I was given the opportunity to live at a relative’s home. I tried to take advantage of this resource and I began webcamming twice a day. It wasn’t too long before I was contacted by producers in the trans adult industry requesting me to do a scene.”
She recalls feeling “self-conscious and insecure” about her body. However, positive feedback gave her a boost of confidence. “It wasn’t long before I met a very welcoming community of performers who helped me escape the abusive reality I was facing. I’m so grateful to have joined this community and could not have been where I am today without it. It has given me strength, courage, confidence and a family, of a sort.”
Over the past three years, Kisses has taken note of “quite a positive change” in mainstream acceptance of trans female performers. She cites numerous mainstream directors and producers eager to work with trans starlets. However, Kisses remains a fervent advocate for camming.
“When I first started webcamming there were not many transgender models on Chaturbate who competed with the volume of users that the cis models had,” she notes. “This year, my girlfriend Kylie Kisses and I hit 31,000 active users during a live Chaturbate stream! We are consistently in the top rooms and are recognized by mainstream award-winning models, as well as being nominated for prestigious awards. I don’t believe this was something that was in reach for a transgender performer a few years ago. I’m extremely grateful for these opportunities and I hope to continue to push our community forward.”
Kisses is also eager to correct a misconception about the intended audience for trans-focused content. “I would like fans, and people in general, to understand that trans content is for literally everyone,” she said. “There are plenty of cisgender straight-identifying males and cisgender lesbian women, amongst a variety of other types of people, who enjoy our content. It is one of the most lucrative and highest-viewed niches in the adult industry and it is something that should be respected.”
Chanel Santini, the 2018-19 XBIZ Awards winner for Trans Performer of the Year, recalled her entrance into adult entertainment as “a means of survival. My life in New Mexico was not the most nurturing one. Things were rough with my family, school and my coming out as trans. I’ve always had an eye towards performing and towards working to be a creative, so with a friend we decided to make our dreams come true in Vegas.”
However, again, Santini had trouble finding consistent work. “Things weren’t turning out the way I had hoped, even with a regular job,” she said. “I responded to an ad looking for girls to film adult content. I had already done some escorting so the idea of filming didn’t seem that different to me.”
Within a matter of months, Santini’s star was on the ascent. She found steady income, a best friend and a manager she could trust. More significantly, however, Santini found purpose. “I was able to focus my career and goals in the direction which has given me the life I am able to live,” she said.
Santini describes “a wonderful change” in how trans content has been accepted by the public and the industry at large, but has taken a wait-and-see approach to the current vogue she and her sisters in trans adult are experiencing.
“There is still plenty of room for continued growth,” she cautioned. “But there has been more openness to enjoying our content and I feel I’ve been seeing more people talking to me online asking about my transition. Some are even asking for advice about their own transitions.”
She has firm words for fans of trans female content — and a corrective for the industry at large. “First, I just have to say: If you are straight [cis] male and enjoy trans women content you are still straight. This idea that enjoying my content or other trans women’s content makes you something other than what you are is an out-of-date thought that needs to stop.”
“Aside from that, I would just like everyone to know that trans performers work just as hard in the industry as any cisgender performers and deserve the same type of respect. After all, we are all performers working towards our own goal of being successful in our careers so we can live the lives we’ve dreamt of.”
Fellow A-lister Lena Kelly followed a path similar to Kisses into adult entertainment. She has also observed a marked difference over the past several years in how trans female performers are treated.
Kelly also spoke to XBIZ before the TEAs ceremony, where she walked away with two awards: The Gender X Model of the Year and Best Self-Producer, two particular trophies that highlight her steadily increasing star power as well as a fierce drive to mark her own path in life.
She is straightforward and succinct about how she was discovered. “I came into the adult industry the same way I imagine a lot of others do — by chance,” Kelly said. “Around three years ago I was homeless, living in a car, drinking a lot and doing a lot of drugs. I had no direction, goals or anything to look forward to in life. At the time I was living in chilly upstate New York and had vague plans to move to California to do the beach bum thing. It was just around the time I’d planned on leaving that a friend of mine arrived back in town from Los Angeles. She’d told me she’d met a few porn people out there, and offhandedly — and jokingly if I remember correctly — mentioned she thought I’d be great at porn. Being a drunk with absolutely nothing to lose, I asked for a contact. She put me in touch with someone who put me in touch with someone else, who then asked me for a set of audition photos. That person was Steven Grooby.”
Grooby, a trans industry titan, offered Kelly “a shoot or two” in Las Vegas. “So I dropped my harebrained plans to become a beach bum and decided Vegas would be my final destination. I drove from New York to Vegas with nothing but the useless crap I had in the back of my Subaru Forester. My car didn’t even have a title, let alone registration, but I honestly was too strung out from months of doing psychedelics every day to even notice. I was definitely very lucky to have not run into any legal or auto trouble the entire five-day trip as my car was absolute shit-on-wheels. I made it to Vegas, did my little scene and got a few more after that.”
Despite that initial burst of success, it took some time for Kelly to find her sea legs. “I was definitely a hot mess for my first year or two of porn. I went through a lot, mentally, and dealing with an absolutely debilitating back issue that sent me right back to being broke and living in my car as recently as 2018. Since overcoming all that, I’ve really been enjoying my porn career — and walking, which I definitely took for granted.”
Kelly has taken note of a dramatic change in how she and her fellow performers are treated on a day-to-day basis. “On a personal level, I’ve definitely encountered noticeably less amounts of hate mail. As recently as two years ago I couldn’t go more than a week without getting some sort of hostile noise in my DMs, on really any platform. Lately, it’s very rare. Industry-wise, it’s been amazing to watch and be a part of trans porn’s assimilation into the mainstream. It seems like every month something new and groundbreaking is happening. We’re being taken a lot more seriously, it seems like. I’ve been told more than once it’s a golden era for us and I couldn’t agree more. I feel very fortunate to have stumbled into it when I did!”
Kelly is happy to advocate for her fellow performers. “We work damn hard. Every scene we do is an anal scene,” she asserted. “I hear a lot of complaining on the straight side of the industry about reverse-cowgirl. There’s always reverse cowgirl in a trans scene! A lot of the time we also have to fulfill male talent duties — keeping our dick hard, fucking ass and pussy, providing good cumshots. I did my first anal gangbang barely five months into my career. No hate towards the straight side, it’s all hard and honorable work, but people should definitely know we have a particularly demanding workload. We deserve our requested rates!”
She is quick to point out a pernicious stigma attached to trans performers.
“People should also know our testing protocols are just as rigorous as they are on the straight side of things,” Kelly said. “A big reason why you don’t see a lot of newer cis stars and straight-porn male talent shooting with trans girls is because their agents won’t let them due to existing stigmas.”
(“I’m so sick of not being able to shoot with all these hotties because their transphobic agent won’t let them,” tweeted top trans star Natalie Mars during TEAs weekend.)
“I hope in the future things will start to change,” observed Kelly. “It’s a work in progress. But it’s definitely exciting to see these changes happening in real time.”
Venus Lux, a two-time XBIZ Awards winner for Trans Performer of the Year, has seen her star power dramatically expand over the past several years. Like Kisses and Kelly, she spoke to XBIZ before the 2019 TEAs and marvels at the changes her industry has experienced within a very short time frame.
She was ready for a dramatic life change when she first entered the industry. “I agreed to join the industry because my life at the time lacked excitement, adventure, sex positivity and the freedom to travel and work, to create my voice and to develop a life outside of my hometown of San Francisco.” Lux knew she needed to find an avenue to develop her authentic self. “The opportunity to do film work was presented to me during a time when I was recently separated from my fiancé and I wanted a new direction, a new life and a new vision [for] living my life. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make. I understood that I had to surrender my privacy and my insecurities if I was going to strive for a better life in porn, which took several weeks to deliberate.”
Lux credits the “professionalism, organization and understanding” of Kink.com for sealing the deal. “I finally agreed to shoot my first lesbian and first porn scene for TSPussyHunters.com in May 2011.”
She continually marvels, even today, at the tectonic shift in how fans, and the industry, respond to trans content. “Oh, my god! When I joined the industry in 2011, the only way I could connect with my fans was reading their comments on the videos that were posted on websites, forums, blogs and Facebook,” she recalls. “It was my way to examine my performance and gauge my popularity. As a trans performer, there were not many portals that granted me audience engagement like many of the adult websites we take for granted today like Twitter and Instagram.”
Lux cites a “dreadful” first experience exhibiting at an industry tradeshow. “It was horribly alienating because I had no other trans girls that I could relate to, no other trans girls who could have maybe made me feel more comfortable disclosing that I was transgender to consumers or booth members. I felt that I had to conceal the trans DVDs that I was selling at the booth.”
She recalls an almost palpable sense of “transphobia, shame and stigma against trans performers and trans content” and a spark of entrepreneurship blazed to life. “It was very transparent to me that if I wanted to continue my career, I needed to change my approach to marketing and trans inclusion and create equal opportunity for trans performers like myself,” said Lux. “That was when the idea of launching my own website and production company, and exhibiting at my own booth to showcase other trans performers, became my primary aim within the industry.”
The trans industry was in “a very different place when I joined,” she observed, “compared to today where we can clearly see the results of continued efforts and positive change. The industry has taken significant steps toward further inclusion and de-stigmatization of trans performers. In contrast with my early days in the industry, now you find more trans booths and performers at [tradeshows], the launch of Transfixed, the launch of TransAngels, Wicked Pictures shooting their first ever trans video, prominent cisgender female performers performing with trans performers and contract stars. The industry has changed a lot in the seven or eight years of my career, which gives me hope that the new generation of girls won’t have to experience the same struggles I went through fighting for equality and visibility. We can definitely expect the industry to continue to grow with greater trans inclusion.”
Nevertheless, greater inclusion and visibility is a “double-edged sword,” she notes. “As we’ve seen more representations of trans people, especially trans people of color, in popular media and in porn, this increase in representation means that these industries have also found more people to exploit. In other words, we have become more exposed in multiple senses of the word.”
Lux cites compelling issues such as “wage imbalance, lack of professionalism, sexual harassment and industry gatekeeping by those with established power.”
“As someone who has been both a performer and a producer, I take special care in creating a safe, healthy, consensual and equitable working environment for all of my talent. Real trans inclusion will only occur when trans people are included in fairly-compensated, safe, healthy and supportive working conditions and this is what I center in my own productions.”
Lux echoes the sentiments of Kelly, Kisses and others in advocating for respect for trans performers who “continue the fight for equality and visibility, in porn and outside of porn. Make sure trans sex workers’ voices are included in conversations. Trans people are people who deserve respect, period. Whether you are attracted to us or not, as both a performer and content producer, I know from experience that making a living in porn is hard work, especially when it comes to putting food on the table. Pay for your porn!”
Pirated content is a concern shared by many of her colleagues in adult entertainment, but Lux takes pains to underline that piracy cuts deeply in the trans genre. “This is especially important if the content you are watching is produced by trans performers or producers,” she said. “Fans lose sight of the financial consequences of piracy, and how its effects are most harshly felt by the independent content producers like me. I enjoy producing content for my fans. But every day I face an uphill battle making sure that I am adequately compensated for my labor and content and try to stop it from being freely distributed on the internet.”
Lux is especially passionate about advocating for trans performers of color. She envisions “an industry run by trans women of color where we are not simply expendable talent, nor even just on-camera talent, but the behind-the-scenes production staff, producers and distributors. I want to see an industry where trans women of color are adequately and fairly compensated for their work and supported by their fans, and supporting each other, as we work to create something enjoyable and sustainable for our fans, ourselves and all our futures.”
Like Venus Lux, Kimber Haven and Morgan Bailey have added to their star power and extended their career longevity by branching out into production, promotion and other related avenues.
Bailey was a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient at the 2019 TEAs and took the stage to rapturous applause to accept the honor. She is a firsthand witness to the rapid explosion of interest in trans performers and content. “I got into the industry when I was 23 to escape small-town Illinois. There were few trans performers; almost a year later it started to explode. Over the last ten years, we’ve seen it grow so much and that is because of demand. People want to see us, study us and get off to us. I think it is completely natural to be curious about something that’s unfamiliar and I feel like we trans folks are still a little unfamiliar to most.”
She has observed “no age limit to who is admiring anymore,” a marked change from her early career. “In the past it was mostly middle-aged men who, after a few divorces, were ready for something new. Middle-age guys care a lot less what their peers think, whereas the younger generations are very concerned of what people think of them — or at least it used to be that way. The admirers are getting younger and smarter. Finally, something great to be said about millennials! The most important thing for me is that people know that we’re not just a fetish,” Bailey said. “We are real people and while I don’t mind being admired or fantasized about, there’s so much more to us than just sex.”
Kimber Haven, like many of her sisters in trans adult, credits camming and the sharp eye of a savvy producer for her career success. “I had retired at the age of 40 from executive protection, as a bodyguard. I became bored at home during retirement and started camming as a way to occupy my time. My cam shows became popular and I was discovered by the trans porn star Wendy Williams, who took me under her wing and helped me break in to the adult industry.”
She notes “access to free adult content” on the internet determined her career track from the start. “I started making very different films than what is available. My thought process was [that] if you wanted guys to pay for their porn, you have to give them something they can’t find for free.”
Bailey attributes the rapid increase of interest in trans-female content to one simple fact: “They’re finally realizing that trans content has nothing to do with gay content and that our market is straight men. Gay men have no interest in trans women. You have to be sexually attracted to femininity, and to women, to be sexually turned on by a trans woman, regardless of what is between her legs. We’re not attracted to genitalia as human beings, but rather feminine or masculine features. Guys aren’t out at a club, saying, ‘Check out the vagina on her!’ They are attracted to her features, not her genitalia.”
With the increased focus on trans female performers, Bailey wants to provide an educational checkup to fans and industry members alike. “Men need to keep in mind that some trans women are very touchy about terms like ‘shemale,’ ‘ladyboy’ or even ‘tranny.’ This seems odd because our content is found by searching the exact terms that offend a lot of trans women,” Bailey notes. “That always amuses me, because a PC environment doesn’t really gel with porn. We are supposed to push the envelope and create kinky content. It’s difficult to make porn and not offend anybody. I think you need a thick skin in this business, and if you’re that easily offended by terminology, then perhaps porn just isn’t for you.”
She urges her fellow performers to take the high road. “It’s much like receiving dick pics. Sure, they’re inappropriate, but if you’re in porn, it comes with the territory. You’re going to get lots of dick pics, and offensive and very sexualized comments and messages. That’s the biz. If you don’t want to be called ‘slut,’ ‘bitch,’ ‘tranny,’ ‘whore,’ then perhaps this isn’t the right profession. We’re creating adult entertainment. The very basis of our entire career offends many people, so being sensitive isn’t going to get you far in this business.”
Aubrey Kate’s background as a gymnast and dancer prepped her for a career in adult entertainment; like many of her colleagues in recent years, it was camming that produced the spark that ignited her path to stardom.
“I always loved dancing and using your body in such beautiful ways,” she told XBIZ. “I started out stripping and camming and I ended up getting contacted by Kink.com a few times and turned it down.”
However, a fortuitous trip to Las Vegas for a pool party brought her into the orbit of a variety of adult performers and Kate was off to the races. “A week later, I was filming every day — even multiple scenes in the same day. And I never looked back.”
Kate remains cautiously optimistic about the current vogue for trans performers and content. “I feel like, yes, the world is learning and trying to be more respectful. But I also think there is a long way to go.” She is encouraged by such mainstream entities as Jessica Drake and Wicked producing and costarring in trans content, as well an increasing amount of different types of trans content. (“Basically girl-girl lesbian porn, but instead of toys, they have real cocks that work and cum.”)
“Trans content and performers should all be treated equally,” Kate stated firmly. “We all do the same things on camera. We all choose to be in this industry. I’m just so over the stigma with ‘crossover’ performers. I am so honored to film with a handful of A-list cis female performers that film with us TS girls because they are into it and they don’t care what other people think. Like I said, there is a long way to go but I think that everyone is trying and learning.”
Buck Angel – the iconic performer, entrepreneur and activist – is closing in on 20 years in adult entertainment and has taken to tweeting the hashtag #tranpa – a cheeky play on “grandpa” — in reference to his status as an elder statesman. He is a familiar face at tradeshows and when mainstream media elects to write about adult entertainment, Angel is usually a name they dial up first.
“I started in the industry around 2002. I was creating a website for a transsexual woman,” Angel told XBIZ. “I was also creating, with my partner at the time, domination websites as I was very deep in that scene and my wife was a pro domme. This is how I learned about creating content, using a camera and designing websites. As I was creating for the trans woman I just realized there was no genre of FTM porn — trans male porn — and that old light bulb went off in my head and said, ‘Man with a Pussy!’ Back in the day, the women called themselves ‘chicks with dicks,’ ‘ladyboys’ and played off of their unique bodies. So, I did the same, thinking I was going to be well-received.”
However, Angel immediately faced a backlash, particularly when he appeared in 2005’s “Cirque Noir” from Titan Media, a gay porn title. “I got hit from all sides. Even my own community. They said I was creating ‘freak porn’ and that it was disrespectful to trans men and the trans community. I had to fight like hell to get where I am today. It was very difficult. The industry was also not too excited to see me.”
Today, Angel cites a “100-percent change” in how the larger adult entertainment industry, and fans, responds to trans performers and content. “I can speak to my work mostly in that there was such pushback from people who were interested in my work or even turned-on because most were gay men and they questioned their sexuality. They questioned why a man with a pussy would turn them on! I questioned it, as well, because when I started there was no genre. I had to build from the ground-up. So, seeing that it was mostly gay men coming to my site and buying my films, I created content for them. Over the years more and more gay men opened up to me saying they loved what I was doing and hoped that more men like me would come along.”
He cites a proliferation, for example, of dating sites for gay trans men, as well as more cisgender gay men “feeling confident to talk about their desires and crushes towards men with pussies. Today, many more women are now consuming trans male porn — and that is all sexualities of women. That excites me a lot!”
Angel is proud that he is known, today, as much for his activism as for his “good old-fashioned pornography” and that he has a body of work that he believes speaks for itself. “I think my fans see that in my work. For me, to be able to find this space and use it to educate people on our bodies and sexualities is very empowering, not only for me but also for the consumer, to make people feel that being attracted to a man with a pussy is normal and not weird. This is why I believe pornography is a great teacher. In the right hands, we can make a lot of positive change. Mostly I want people to be comfortable being sexually attracted to us all the while still thinking nasty thoughts!””
However, despite the obvious pent-up demand for trans men in adult entertainment, the current talent pool for trans male performers is relatively small. After “Cirque Noir,” a trans man didn’t appear in a mass-appeal gay adult film for another 12 years when NakedSword Originals and director mr. Pam cast Viktor Belmont in “The Devil’s Deal & Other Sordid Tales.” One year later, performer and entrepreneur Dominic Pacifico uploaded content to his eponymous website featuring FTM newcomer Connor Atlas, while newcomers such as Luke Hudson and Ari Koyote are among the bright new stars enjoying the spotlight on such niche-oriented sites as JockPussy.com. But progress remains incrementally slow.
“There was no knowledge of a man like me,” Angel recalls. His career was still in its early stages when he accepted Titan’s offer. “When I did ‘Cirque Noir,’ I was just really getting known, and so that helped just a tad, but mostly the men lost their minds because — and only because — of my vagina. There are some gay men who are so vagina-phobic! I think that was where the pushback was coming from, as well as that I was challenging their idea of masculinity and what [it is to be a] man. They could not have me destroy their manhood.”
Cisgender men are “very focused on their cocks,” he notes, “and so when a man with a vagina shows up and he is all-man, too, it makes them question [themselves] a lot. And most people do not like to question themselves or their desires. Titan was forward-thinking and took the chance when it needed it. I remember all the other companies saying horrible things about me working with Titan. It is not shocking anymore. Thank god!”
Eddie Wood is trans male performer whose career track, like Angel’s, has branched into activism. During the 2019 TEAs ceremony, he won the trophy for Best Transman Performer. “I moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to begin graduate school at UCLA,” he told XBIZ. “In my first year there, I began my physical transition from female to male. I learned about trans porn at a queer erotic film festival, and then answered Buck Angel’s call for trans male performers for the first film of his series ‘Sexing the Transman.’”
Jump-cut to four years later, when he shot Michelle Austin’s “Trans Man Adventures” for Kennston Productions and, later that day, attended the Transgender Erotica Awards for the first time. “I was immediately hooked [by] the industry! It felt amazing to be surrounded by other trans people — transitioning at UCLA had been a very isolating experience — and to be at an event that centered around celebrating trans achievements,” he said. “I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Buck Angel, James Darling and Cyd St. Vincent by creating trans male porn content so that there might be more positive images of trans male sexuality for trans and cis people to consume.”
The “Trans Men Adventures” series is believed to be the first featuring FTM trans men having sex with MTF trans women, which has now become a focus of Wood’s onscreen adventures. “Most of the trans porn out there features trans women in scenes with [cisgender] men and women and other trans women. While there is a growing trend of trans male performers being paired with cis males in gay porn, my style of porn mimics the traditional straight boy-girl style of porn, just with trans actors,” he said.
Wood also enjoys introducing elements of BDSM into his work, as well as what he terms “transcest,” a spin on the “fauxcest” sub-genre that has exploded in popularity in recent years. “I have a good number of ‘transcest’ scenes in which I play either son or nephew to trans MILFs and aunts, or I play trans ‘Daddy’ to a trans or cis girl. When I bottom for trans women, I like to kind of flip the traditional straight porn script on its head by saying things like, ‘Yeah, fuck Daddy’s pussy,’ or, ‘Do you like it when Daddy gives you pussy hugs?’”
The growth of Wood’s four-year-old production label has necessitated an evolution in his shooting style as fans and customers began asking for specific scenarios. “I started out producing solo content, but through networking in the industry and online, I have been able to collaborate with lots of other performers — cis and trans,” he notes. “I am proud to say I exclusively own over 50 of my scenes. For the first few years of producing content, I predominately bottomed because I thought that is what fans would like to see — me, a man with a vagina, bottoming for trans women and the occasional cis male. But this past [year] I started shooting scenes where I top trans women while wearing a strap-on. I think the dominant-male-submissive-female scenario plays well along with what I would coarsely describe as the inversion of our genitals. I think that a lot of straight fans get off on fantasizing about what it would be like for them and their partner to ‘switch’ roles.”
Along with many of his colleagues, Wood has closely observed rapid growth of the market acceptance of trans content. “I have experienced a lot of openness and acceptance from the performers, producers, directors and news outlets to the trans industry and adult industry as a whole,” he said.
He credits this blossoming for appearances opposite top starlet Casey Kisses for Transational Fantasies in 2017, and a 2018 offer to costar opposite Natalie Mars for Grooby Productions. The growing acceptance of trans male performers resulted in several films for Severe Studios for Wood, including a cover. He further cites Viktor Belmont’s appearance for NakedSword Originals, as well as a scene for TransSensual opposite superstar Venus Lux.
“James Darling shot for Kink.com’s TS Seduction. Buck Angel shot a whole performer showcase for TransSensual. Jason Sparks has opened up two FTM [labels] in the past three years — JockPussy and MyFTMCrush.com. Every day, I find new FTM performers online and I hope that I have had something to do with more and more trans guys feeling comfortable enough to take the dive into the adult industry,” he said.
He also credits such platforms as ManyVids for democratizing opportunities for trans men to dip their feet into the waters of adult entertainment. “Users can discover an FTM performer they really wouldn’t find elsewhere,” he enthused. “There are now over 100 FTM performers on this platform! There were so many, they decided to have an FTM King contest for the first time, which ran concurrently with its other King and Queen contests for cis and trans women performers. I won FTM King!”
Wood additionally cites Dominic Ford’s JustFor.fans platform for making it easier to find trans male performers. “Three of the top-ten trans performers on JustFor.fans right now are trans men! These two companies have really changed the game for trans men by being so inclusive with how they are set up. For example, many other platforms include trans women options for tagging videos — cock size, boob size or selecting performer gender — but exclude options for trans men. Instead of being relegated to the trans women section, where fans most likely wouldn’t be looking for center-of-masculine performers, ManyVids and JustFor.fans have options to identify as FTM and tags like ‘man pussy’ and ‘mangina’ that specifically allow our fans to find us.”
He describes such labels as TransAngels — “a huge co-sign from MindGeek,” the mega-company that owns and operates many adult sites — and Transfixed, the high-gloss label newly launched on Gamma Entertainment’s Adult Time platform, as “the latest examples of an industry leader including trans performers. Just look at the growing list of sponsors for this year’s TEAs to get an idea of how many companies that want a piece of that trans porn pie!”
Wood believes FTM content is “the final bastion of exploration. In 2019, it might seem that people have imagined and consumed every possible configuration of sex between or among people. I think we have almost reached ‘peak perversion,’ and all kinds of people — regardless of gender or sexual orientation — will want to consume something they have never seen before. A man with a pussy having sex with a woman with a penis: who wouldn’t want to see that?”
XBIZ Award-winning director mr. Pam takes pride in her street-level connection to the nightclub scene and the gay male community. Prior to casting Viktor Belmont in “The Devil’s Deal & Other Sordid Tales” for NakedSword Originals, she had taken note of a personal evolution. “Being bisexual and having dated transguys for the last 15 years, I was slowly seeing this ‘dyke side’ of my life creeping into my gay sex stories,” she notes. “Trans guys were popping up on Grindr and Scruff and I was hearing the dialogue change with my gay boys using phrases like ‘fucked his bonus hole.’ I knew the gay porn industry was ready.”
On the day of filming, the cast and crew were unexpectedly anxious. [Costar] Justin Brody was super-excited because he had always wanted to have sex with a transguy, so we were popping his cherry. And although Viktor didn’t show it, he admitted later he was a little nervous, too. The minute I called ‘Action!’ all our nerves disappeared and it was on! The energy Viktor brought to the scene was explosive. Leo Forte and I were on cameras; we looked at each other with that ‘Fuck, yeah!’ look when you know you have a great scene.”
Pam admits she was taken aback that the type of backlash faced by Buck Angel, more than a decade earlier, never quite took shape. She notes any negative commentary had to do, in large part, with Belmont’s tattoos and his oversized gage earrings. “I was honestly prepping myself and Viktor for more backlash and outcry from the gay porn fans. I really adore Viktor. He’s one of the most amazing, progressive, kind and naturally sexual people I have ever met. I had a panic right before the scene was going to go live that people were going to be brutal and that I had put him in harm’s way. Honestly, I had trouble sleeping a couple nights. I pride myself on taking good care of my boys. How could I potentially put an all-star performer in the crossfire of the vicious anonymous social media commentators? But to my surprise, everyone loved him! Gay porn consumers know a rock star performer and hot sex when they see it and that’s exactly what Viktor and Justin gave them.”
The positive feedback encouraged pam to push the envelope a bit further with NakedSword Originals. “Just between us? I have another trans crush of many years — Danni Daniels.” Pam described her as “tall, blond, gorgeous, big titties and huge cock. I had seen her dick-down a room full of horny gay bottoms at a Folsom Street Fair party a few years ago and have wanted to film her ever since. And I’m happy to say she is one of the stars of NakedSword’s ‘Five Brothers,’ our Spring 2019 feature!”
John Stagliano, the iconic founder of Evil Angel, notes that his company has produced and distributed trans content for over 20 years. “The movies Joey [Silvera] and Jay Sin make are owned by them and distributed with Evil’s help. Same with many of the titles Aiden Starr makes,” Stagliano told XBIZ. “Joey asked me in 1998 if Evil would sell trans movies. I could see that Joey was passionate about this. I agreed only because of his passion. I will not sell movies just because they make money. We did not need to find a new niche at the time. But for Joey, I could see that this was important. I love selling movies about sexually adventurous people and the trans performers Joey has shot over the years are some of the most sexually aware and adventurous people we have ever worked with.”
Stagliano and Sin currently produce about half-a-dozen trans titles per year, while Starr produces roughly an equal amount. “Evil helps finance a few more, maybe four more. And there is another director at Evil, perhaps our best photographer, who is about to make a super-glamorous trans movie. I shall not name that director just yet; I leave it to the launch of that line,” he said. “Trans is a genre we love to explore at Evil. And by the way, Jazz Duro has also done two ‘Transgressive’ movies; Jazz also shoots content for Jay Sin’s site TSPlayground.com.”
Stagliano is straightforward about how far to take his company’s exploration into one genre or another. “I have to say I have not heard directly from fans in any form other than their dollars spent on trans content. That is what guides us,” he said. “Trans [women] with cis girls is interesting, and fun to shoot, but we really don’t know if it sells better or worse just yet. For Evil directors, it is about putting sexual people together who really want do this content. We don’t discriminate on the basis of sex; we [pair performers] on the basis of sexuality.”
He cites trans star Aubrey Kate — the 2017 XBIZ Awards winner for Trans Performer of the Year — as a sterling example of a trans female performer who so perfectly fit the Evil aesthetic the company made her their first trans contract star.
“Aubrey has been a phenomenal sexual performer. She sells really well. We had the opportunity to make her our first trans contract star; it worked extremely well for both Evil and her. She oozes sexuality. I find that there are many girls who are exceptional in trans. Evil directors connect with them.”
Stagliano is proud of the varied menu Evil Angel offers to fans of trans content, or to the curious explorer. “Aubrey Kate, for sure, is exciting to watch. I personally like Jay Sin’s TS Playground, and anything Joey does with trans,” he said. “Aiden Starr stuff is a bit different, less about what us middle-aged men want to see, and more about the personal sexuality of the performer. So I would recommend Aiden to the somewhat younger viewer, and Joey and Jay to the somewhat-older more first-time-experimental guy. Still, what the fuck do I know? I see great scenes all the time from all of them. They connect to the performers. I would advise buying only trans content from producers who are really into the genre. The best sex is captured when the people on set connect with the performers. Just following the bucks making what sells is fine, but not the best way to get real, unforced sex, and Evil has managed to cultivate that.”
Aiden Starr, for her part, credits the structure of Evil Angel for her ability to create trans content that connects with the viewer. “My success at Evil Angel is due in very large part to the setup of the company,” she said. “They are my distributor and so I produce everything that my name is on that is not an Evil Angel title. John gives me the freedom to produce my own titles, which means I fully fund them with my own money. Owning my titles allows for a special connection with my content.”
Starr speaks glowingly of her inaugural experience in the genre. “I will never forget the first trans scene I ever directed — for my movie ‘Hot for Transsexuals.’ I didn’t know Jonelle Brooks well before I shot her, but I felt our connection from the moment she walked onto my set. Not only is she one of the most beautiful women I have ever shot, she’s also the most intuitive and connective individuals to grace my footage. I had produced other trans content for other companies before, but this was so much more special to me. It was part of me. This scene was a collaboration between my performers and myself in the most intimate ways possible. That’s what is so special about Evil Angel porn. The directors are all very personally invested in our films. I’m also incredibly proud of ‘Aubrey Kate Plus 8,’ winner of a 2019 XBIZ Award. The movie consists of two mega-sex scenes that were very challenging, but very rewarding to shoot. If not for John and Evil believing in me, the world would never have these scenes. Fans of all experience levels will love the crazy chemistry.”
Legacy brand Kink.com is another industry powerhouse with a storied history of producing trans content, long before the current vogue, albeit with their own — pun intended — kinky edge.
Kink’s newly installed CEO Alison Boden notes the company’s first trans site, TSSeduction.com, was launched in 2007. “Our goal was to bring Kink’s ethos to what we saw as a huge gap in the content offerings at the time — trans women in a dominant role, topping men,” she told XBIZ. “Both TS Seduction and TSPussyHunters.com feature trans femdoms in lightly story-driven, high-production-value scenes.”
It was the direct feedback of hungry fans that prompted Kink to expand their offerings (that kind of fan connection, for example allowed the iconic Sexxxy Jade, among the scant few African-American trans stars, to become the first trans female performer to appear onscreen for the company over a decade ago).
“In 2012, TS Seduction members were asking for more, so we took their feedback and added TS Pussy Hunters to the lineup to cater to folks who were interested in seeing trans girls topping cis women,” Boden notes.
Boden believes the broader society’s “far-too-slow” movement towards recognizing and embracing trans woman has actually impacted the growth of the trans market. “At Kink, it inspired us to expand our trans content offerings, including a series we released in December 2018 called ‘Slag Angels on Wheels’ that starred some of the most beautiful and popular trans performers — Natalie Mars, Lena Kelly, Natassia Dreams, Shiri Allwood, Kayleigh Coxx — and culminated in a four-girl gangbang of Pierce Paris. It’s been extremely well-received and inspired us to increase our trans offerings even further in the future.”
She is inspired by the sense of community fostered by the trans adult community. “I attended my first TEAs show, which was really incredible,” said Boden. “It was awesome to see so many talented performers being honored for the outstanding work they do and it felt great for Kink to have the opportunity to contribute as a sponsor.” As a producer and on-camera talent, Josh Stone closely observed the rapid rise of interest in trans content earlier this decade. “Large Miami companies that had always specialized in straight websites began launching transsexual sites,” he said. “In 2011, my partner came to me about wanting to start a production company and we did our research and decided this was the direction we were going to go. I became the producer and shooter of the content and Trans500.com was launched in 2013.”
The Miami-based filmmaker brings a specific aesthetic to his content that is unique, he believes, to his area of the country. “I’ve always thought that Miami shooters have a different style,” he said. “We like to focus on the models and shoot them as perfect and beautiful as we can. I brought that style of focusing on the model to Trans500. I want the fans to see every asset they have to offer. We at Trans500 are model-focused, 100-percent. As a guy, I appreciate beauty and I want my lens to capture the models in the best lighting and setting.”
Stone has kept Trans500 focused on its founding aesthetic. “Our content primarily showcases the models as bottoms with high-quality production,” he said. “Of course, showcasing new models and variety will always be something that must happen to keep members and attract new members.
Although Stone is impressed with the new-found visibility of trans performers, he also sees fundamental change occurring incrementally. “Trans content has always been popular but I think the biggest change has been visibility,” he notes.
“Trans women are being cast and seen in mainstream porn companies such as Wicked. You do see more [cisgender] talent branching out and working with trans performers, even though crossover male talent still have a stigma attached [to them]. The market needs more male talent like Sean Michaels to cross over.”
He keeps a mix of fresh and veteran talent in circulation at Trans500, noting that a diversity of talent serves a hungry, underserved market. “We are blessed to have worked with a lot of trans stars from all over the world. Every model brings something different and unique which is a formula for success,” Stone said. “Some examples would be the big booty of Lexie Beth, who has one of the biggest asses we have ever shot. Members are obsessed of seeing her ass worshiped and fucked, so models with a big booty do well. Then you have models like Natalie Mars who ooze sex appeal and are natural performers. We will always try and shoot new starlets because we want to introduce models — like Janelle Fennec — to our fan base. Katy Leon has become a phenom; not only because of her big ass but her tattoos. We have not shied away from showcasing models that are heavily tattooed.”
He urged the mainstream adult industry to treat trans performers as equals, not as a fetish. “Men who watch trans porn primarily identify as straight. The days of shooting trans women as a ‘fetish’ have changed and the market should reflect that.” And the trans market “would not be possible,” he said, “without veteran performers like Foxxy and Wendy Williams,” Stone said. “Trans500 will never forget those models and we will continue to make a place for them.”
Williams, a prolific performer and producer, publicist, promoter and entrepreneur, has enjoyed nearly two decades in adult entertainment. She has observed the market changes, both rapid and incremental, with a close eye.
“I have been blessed to have a career of 17 years in the Industry. When I started the market was so different; the internet and tube sites have changed how we as models have been able to make money. The age of ‘transsexual’ porn superstars is over,” she told XBIZ.
“Back in my day, the market was about DVDs and porn ‘stars’ were [only] seen on DVDs — hopefully a cover. Now anyone with a smartphone can produce content and call themselves a porn ‘star.’”
Although she does attribute the popularity of tube sites, for example, as having crushed the DVD era, Williams is grateful for the rise of user-generated content, which has dramatically leveled the playing field for performers. “This has opened many doors for us to make money besides being featured on a company’s website or DVD. We now can sell our own content on sites like ManyVids and control the type of content we want on the internet and how we want to market it.”
Williams vividly recalls the sparsely populated early days of trans adult. “In 2002, I was dating a guy from an AOL chatroom! He lived in Florida. He and I were trying to figure out a way to financially come up with the money for me to move there to be with him, when he mentioned he knew a few transsexuals who did porn. At that time, there were only a few models with Independent websites — Tonya, Foxy Angel, Meghan Chavalier and a few others were the only solo websites and a few of them were based out of South Florida. The biggest website was ShemaleYum.com — now known as GroobyGirls.com — and they were searching for new models, so I applied. At this time I was paid $500 for three photo sets, and no video, and thus began my intrigue with shooting porn.”
Williams branched out into other areas of promotion to stay relevant within the industry and to make a living. “The trans market isn’t big enough to make a full-time living, unless you are a phenom. I was never the prettiest or most passable, or a company favorite, so I’ve had to always adapt to the times and find ways to keep myself working,” she observed. “Many people will tell you that I am one of the reasons that trans women having a publicist became popular in our genre. I was never a company favorite so I learned from Pamela Peaks as well as [trans legends] Joanna Jet, Heidi Joy and Gia Darling in the early 2000s how to market myself as an independent model. I was going to mainstream events where trans women weren’t treated the same as the [cisgender] female stars. I used every contact I had and really pushed my brand. I was only one of three trans performers to have a production company and really pushed the boundaries of marketing — that’s how HotWendyPR.com got started. Eventually, publicists began adding trans women to their rosters and now it isn’t seen rare.”
She echoes the frustration of her colleagues over the incremental pace of institutional change, particularly behind the scenes. “I would love to see large mainstream companies like Evil Angel and Devils Film give producer roles, too. It’s 2019, and a trans woman directs not a single series when the content is about trans women. It was nice to see Evil Angel make Aubrey Kate a contract girl, but Devil’s had trans contract stars in the ‘90s, so why did it take so long for it to happen again?”
Williams believes the industry could take more of leadership role and pick up the pace of change. “People always say ‘baby steps,’ but in my seventeen years I’ve seen the changes in visibility and I would love to see it happen a bit faster,” she said. “I want to see trans producers — Domino Presley is now directing for Grooby — given opportunities outside of self-directing. I would love to see more toy companies like Fleshlight give deals to trans models, and the list goes on. I will continue to push for trans acceptance whether I’m still involved in front of the camera or behind.”
Director Ricky Greenwood recently took the reigns of Mile High Media’s TransSensual label from XBIZ Award-winning helmer Dana Vespoli, who was the successor to Nica Noelle, the co-creator of the transerotica series.
Noelle and Mile High vice-president Jon Blitt conceived the series to present trans content “in a new light and not as a fetish,” Greenwood said, “but as erotica for trans and cis viewers alike who enjoy story-driven, taboo fantasies.”
Greenwood maintains a steady “trans-positive” focus on his shoots. “I approach each movie the same way,” he explained. “My style is simple: long and sensual shots, beautiful lighting and the trans woman is always the main character in the movie or vignette. It’s not a guy having sex with a trans woman; it’s a trans woman making love to another person.”
As TransSensual evolves, Greenwood credits Noelle and Vespoli for being ahead of the curve in how to create and promote trans content for the today’s market. “Nica set the baseline of what the TransSensual could be; Dana brought the brand to another level. She created new series and opened more doors for us. Me? I just keep following their path while bringing a more technical, cinematic look into each film. I think the combination of all three [viewpoints] makes the brand stronger and better.”
Greenwood notes a particular change in how their content has been received. “I remember when we started the studio. It was hard to find performers and it was always the same group of people,” he notes. “A lot of people want to work with us now and it’s very refreshing for us and for the talent. It’s fun for the trans fan to have better product, made with love and passion, showcasing a variety of stars.”
The concept of widgets on an assembly line – grinding out trans content shot on the cheap wherever in the world the American dollar is over-indexing – doesn’t fly anymore. “You can tell that producers are bringing their A-game into it,” said Greenwood. “Everyone is moving forward to make the best product possible. It’s good to be a part of the evolution.”
Bree Mills, the trailblazing head of production for Gamma Entertainment and winner of multiple XBIZ Awards, echoed her colleagues’ stated focus on glamour and empowerment for trans women when she launched Transfixed on the Adult Time platform earlier this year.
Initial Transfixed episodes paired A-listers Venus Lux with Cherie DeVille, Chanel Santini opposite Kleio Valentien and Natalie Mars with Riley Reyes. Such co-mingling would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
“I’d been wanting to create a high-end trans lesbian series for over two years,” Mills told XBIZ. “My original motivation came from talking to cis female performers who expressed a desire to work with trans women but didn’t necessarily want their experience to be limited to a niche studio or fetish series. They wanted something very beautiful and inclusive and erotic.”
This feedback reflects a common refrain among trans female performers to break free of having their intrinsic nature be fetishized and to allow trans content to reflect their honest desires and interests.
“I began researching trans-focused lines and noticed a pattern that many of the highest-performing scenes were lesbian pairings. Yet, they were few and far between,” Mills notes. “This further cemented my interest in developing a series for both the performers and their fans. In the spring of 2018, I was busy working on other projects when I had Cherie Deville on my set. Cherie is a very popular and well-respected performer who I’ve collaborated with many times. We were talking over dinner about ideas and she asked if I would be willing to shoot her first scene with a trans woman. I told her about Transfixed and we both agreed it would be a perfect project to work on together. A couple months later, we were filming the premiere episode, which, like all future episodes, was an artistic collaboration inspired by pop culture and fashion. It starred Cherie with the legendary Venus Lux and the rest is history!”
Mills described Transfixed as “very free and fluid; it’s like my art project! Each episode is its own unique thing and a space for pure creativity.” Her leading ladies are intimately involved in developing the aesthetic of each episode. “My overall style is to create visual homages to queer history, pop culture and fashion. Each concept should feel like a beautiful living photograph. And, since I get to be so experimental, we’ve done episodes that are shot like music videos, traditional stories, even a mockumentary. It’s a lot of fun! We’ve received a lot of interest from performers to participate, more than I even have shoots for, so I’ve been mostly working off of pairing performers who’ve approached us with other women they want to shoot with. I am so proud to see so many top cis adult stars stepping away from the outdated stigmas of working with trans women and wanting to be part of this change.”
The “extremely positive” initial response to Transfixed has been instructive, Mills said. “What makes me the most excited is to see the response from our large lesbian fan base. In a survey we syndicated after the first episode, over 80-percent of the respondents indicated that, while they had never watched a trans scene before, they would happily watch more Transfixed. This shows the power of creating something that doesn’t follow the traditional rules — it can transcend markets. I’ve had similar reactions from the fans of the cis women we’ve worked with, who are overwhelmingly curious and excited to see their favorite stars explore this side of their sexuality. Not to mention the performers themselves!”
Mills believes trans content is the next genre to “hit the tipping point” and go mainstream. “This movement will come, in large part, because the cis women in the business are increasingly interested in shooting with trans women, despite what some of their agents or other old-school porn players may think,” she notes. “We’ve already seen several of the biggest stars shoot scenes with trans women, often for their own websites, and this, in itself, is the biggest indication of the change to come. All that’s missing is a premium and beautiful mainstream series for these kinds of pairings to be featured. That’s where I want Transfixed to come in.”
Dan Hogue of TransErotica and his partners at PornStarPlatinum long ago identified a need for official website homes for trans female performers. “We have known for years the community was growing both in its fan base and in performers,” he told XBIZ. The DVD line for their site PornStarsLoveTGirls.com was an instant smash upon its initial release earlier this decade and remains their top-selling line. They determined to help their performers develop a web home that reflected their unique personalities and interests.
The intention was to bestow trans female performers with the same star treatment as cis female stars. “Our focus is to create an environment for the girls that feels safe and comfortable,” Hogue said. “We want them to feel like we are a family helping one another out with life in the adult community as well as in business. We try to think like the models: what would they want to see and how do they want to pursue the fans? We have discovered when we make our models feel safe and happy, it causes a ripple effect of positivity — and earnings — for everyone.”
TransErotica has undergone a nuts-to-bolts upgrade to keep up with demand. “Much has changed over the past year,” said Hogue, describing an affiliate network revamp and a content management program that assists the performers in managing their channels and social media presence. He also notes a distinct switch to “quality over quantity,” echoing the aesthetic turn taken by his colleagues.
He is impressed by the “huge growth” in the market and sees continued expansion on the horizon. “Before, I think it fell under the ‘taboo’ label. Years ago, cis and trans girls performing together were a rarity. Now, you are starting to see them shooting together more and more. It is now the norm. The fans, talent and agents are [catching up] to the trans community,” Hogue notes. “The reason? I think it has to do the lessening of the porn stigma in the mainstream. Those that were afraid are now saying, ‘Fuck it! I want to do this and I’m going to do it!’ They are breaking down any barriers. And there are a bunch of hot, talented and kinky trans girls out there, having a lot of fun, and it is contagious!”
Rodney Moore (known in trans adult as “Sammy Mancini”) tracks his entrance into the genre to a friend and colleague, Chimera Chase, who was shooting hardcore trans content in the late ‘90s, when the genre, he notes, was not particularly popular. In early 2002, Moore hired a trans female camera operator, Allenina, and decided to experiment with filming solo scenes with trans performers. “I thought I would give that a try, thinking that there’s a lot of guys who fantasize about being with trans girls, but want to see videos where they can have that fantasy instead of watching them have sex with someone else,” he said. The result was the standalone website ShemaleStrokers.com and an eponymous DVD series. “At that time, the terms ‘tranny’ and ‘shemale’ were still acceptable,” he noted. “A few years back, being aware of how those terms had become not just politically incorrect, but hurtful to some, we decided to change the name to TransationalFantasies.com, even though it meant losing the ‘Shemale Strokers’ brand.”
Moore remains energized by his original focus of “realizing the fantasy of being with a trans girl for men who may rarely, or never, get the opportunity to do so, even though it’s something they fantasize about a lot.”
His site was among the first to offer video content, in addition to photo sets, and it “took off like crazy, as did the genre, in the mid-2000s,” Moore notes. “It continued to do amazingly well, until the arrival of the free tube sites. It’s hard to compete with free.”
He has seen the style of trans content evolve from “stroking and cum-shots” to a focus on “fantasy and specific things like rimming or foot fetish. I believe there are a lot of [cisgender] men who are curious about being with a trans woman, so trans content allows you to experiment with that curiosity and see where it takes you. The more trans erotic content there is out there, the more men discover they’re into it.”
Any summation of trans adult entertainment must include Grooby Productions, whose aesthetic and dedication to creating a sense of community — along with such pioneering studios as Bob’s T-Girls and Mancini’s SheMaleStrokers — laid the groundwork for today’s cross-market gold rush.
The origins of Grooby go back to 1996, when founder Steven Grooby, as he is publicly known, created a number of free sites using newsgroup content for various niches that he had an interest in. The trans site was the most popular by an extreme margin — and it took about a week for the free host to boot him off the service. Grooby then moved to a small paysite model and was contacted by a producer in Texas to shoot original content at $150 per roll of 36-exposure film. That content was hugely successful and Grooby Girls — previously known as ShemaleYum — was born.
Shortly thereafter, Grooby traveled to Thailand and was among the first to shoot content there for the internet, subsequently launching Ladyboy-Ladyboy. Black-Tgirls.com and Brazilian-Transsexuals.com soon followed as the website business grew into an affiliate program, then DVD production and finally a model that encompasses almost all areas of trans erotica, including community activism and advocacy.
“We feel we’re a small company that punches above its weight, and we enjoy what we do,” Grooby told XBIZ during TEAs weekend, which his company founded and continues to produce.
Grooby Productions focuses on “all aspects of trans women and erotica. We understand that porn isn’t a one shop fits all business, and we’ve specialized in working with models with all different looks and backgrounds,” the producer said. It’s an aesthetic that sets Grooby apart, even to this day.
“We prefer ‘realistic fantasies’ where the model looks like someone you may meet in person, and then engage in a sexual encounter with, rather than the unattainability of massively retouched or over-stylized content,” he said. “We run the only black trans site; we were the first company to put the alt-tatted-skater models in our shoots; we work with trans women of all body shapes, in different stages of transition and different looks, and this works extremely well for us.”
Grooby reflected on the company’s “very slowly rotating door of producers, who were relevant in their times.”
The ‘90s and 2000s were focused on the “gonzo style of Tony Vee, where the content was less about image quality and more about how horny the scene was.” Grooby credits a current, globe-spanning team of producers in Japan, Russia, Brazil, Canada and the U.K. who have focused the studio on “overall quality and creating something unique,” he said.
“We’ve had a history of trans producers working for us for about 14 years, but never so many as we have in place now, and we are looking forward to more. Our focus has always been on putting the models and the customers first, and the happier we can make both of them, the better the content is and the better the site works.”
Grooby isn’t convinced the current growth in the market for trans content is due to the normalization of trans issues in the mainstream media. “I don’t believe that’s a truism,” he said. “There has always been an interest in trans erotica, and we’ve seen, over two decades, mainstream companies come into the industry and try to have a piece of that action and usually failing, as their focus and their content are wrong. The ceiling for those willing and able to buy trans porn is extremely low — much, much lower than it would appear.”
He singled out pirated content to underline his point. “If you look at tube sites, one would make the assumption, given the amount of trans porn on them, that the market share was a lot higher. Many people are still wary of buying, or getting caught watching, trans porn for whatever puritanical, backwards reasons,” he notes. “The potential market has expanded slightly, but if you look how few production companies are producing trans material on a regular basis, then you can extrapolate how big the market is.”
Grooby, however, is heartened by the growth of trans models who are now self-producing. “Models making their own content, and getting it out there — many of them not only for the money, but for the validation of producing their own porn, how they want to be seen,” he said.
Kristel Penn, Grooby’s marketing and editorial director, is focused on expanding the company’s ability to directly impact the day-to-day needs and concerns of their performers. “An issue of great personal significance to me is mental health awareness and specifically addressing how it affects the transgender community and the greater LGBTQ population,” she said.
Penn described how the trans community experiences violence and suicide at higher rates than other demographics. She believes it is imperative performers have access to competent and sex worker-affirming mental health services.
“In 2019, we will continue on this mission through avenues like our nonprofit organization, the Trans Adult Industry Foundation (TAIF), and through Grooby itself to develop more competent, ethical and sustainable resources to support the community we work in,” Penn said.
“Our business ethos is about giving people a site that exceeds their expectations both in content and customer service — delivering the porn they want to keep paying for,” said Grooby. “We’re very involved in running the company as ethically as possible, and all of our staff are all very proud of that.”
Grooby reaffirmed his business ethos, a recurring theme that was echoed throughout the TEAs weekend events, and a notion that was explored and encouraged throughout the researching of this story as performers and producers alike gave credit to those who extended them a helping hand when they needed it and who continue to look out for them today: Community.
- Aiden Starr
- Alison Boden
- Aubrey Kate
- Bree Mills
- Buck Angel
- Casey Kisses
- Chanel Santini
- Dan Hogue
- Domino Presley
- Eddie Wood
- Evil Angel
- Grooby Productions
- John Stagliano
- Josh Stone
- Kimber Haven
- Kristel Penn
- Lena Kelly
- Morgan Bailey
- mr. Pam
- NakedSword Originals
- Ricky Greenwood
- Steven Grooby
- Transational Fantasies
- TransErotica Network
- Transgender Erotica Awards
- Venus Lux
- Viktor Belmont
- Wendy Williams