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April 06, 2016

Star Power: Talent Fuels Evolution of Transgender Genre

This article originally ran in the April 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the online edition. In 1998 Evil Angel released Joey Silvera’s Rogue Adventures: The Big-Ass She-Male Adventure and a bright new revenue stream opened for porn. Thanks to its surprising (to many) success, what had been a somewhat furtive fetish niche, filled by producers like pioneer Kim Christy, began to evolve into a thriving genre. Jay Sin, Rodney Moore, Steve Volponi, Nica Noelle and Josh Stone are a few of the producers who followed Silvera’s lead. They have seen the TS talent pool widen and deepen, fed by the internet and social media and a much-changed public perception of transgender people. The vibrant TS stars who’ve emerged have enriched their work. Silvera’s early Rogue Adventures were cast with Brazilian talent. According to Evil owner John Stagliano, “When Joey started in the late ’90s in Brazil, being transsexual was accepted more there than in other countries. You could find better performers there because it was more out in the open than any other society I know of. The U.S. has now caught up to a large extent. “I think there is a higher standard [of talent] now since it is easier to be transsexual today than 18 years ago. Most important is that there is social media now and the Internet that Joey and other producers use to connect with talent. This has had a huge effect in making it easier and safer to cast throughout the world. “Joey uses social media now in Brazil a lot. I think he still goes out at night to find TS talent in clubs or on the street. Going out on the street in Brazil was the primary way he found talent when he started. Now that is not the case. To me the Brazilian talent looks better than ever. Social media—and social acceptance—has been the reason for this.” For Jay Sin, Evil’s other major TS shooter (Transsexual Playground series), “TS talent is and was always a pain to book because there is no agent for them so you got to ask around if you want to shoot a certain model. There are more ways to contact everyone now with social media. “There is a lot more TS talent available it seems these days, with a lot of T-girls with blogs and sites—it seems most professional T-girls got their own site or are getting more work from the many TS sites out there. Also, being labeled a porn star is attractive for T-girls making a name for themselves. And for the many that escort and travel, the ones who’ve been seen can keep busy due to the exposure.” Sin says he gets a lot of contact info from these escort sites. “I just look around and see who is coming to town. I get a lot of TS talent and male talent that want to be in my TS movies contacting me directly also. I work with TS talent from all around the world and I treat them all with respect and regard them as females.” Rodney Moore uses both ads and referrals to recruit for his long-running Shemale Strokers solo line. “Sometimes I find them online from ads they have placed, but just as in straight porn, most girls who escort don’t want to do adult video. There is the added issue that many trans escorts don’t want there to be a visual record of how they were before they fully transitioned.” Moore started Shemale Strokers (distributed by Exquisite) in 2002. Then, he says, “the genre was not that popular.” He found that TS sites (“there were only two, I believe”) were just showing photos. “I saw an opportunity to grab an audience not only wanting trans solos, but also to be able to watch the videos online.” When he brought the first “Shemale” videos to his then distributor, Odyssey Group Video, he was dumbfounded to learn they planned to sell them to their gay market. “I told them that would be a mistake. … Ask any transgirl who their admirers are and they will tell you straight men.” How times have changed. Moore is “happy and excited to see that the genre has become so popular. Of all the niches I cover—BBWS, hairy girls, foot fetish, my own Rodney stuff—my ShemaleStrokers.com site has the most fans.” Moore now rues using the name Sammy Mancini as director because of what he perceived as a “huge unfortunate stigma against trans performers. … Had I to do it all over I would not have used a different name, because much of the stigma has fortunately disappeared.” And he doesn’t shy away from the sensitive subject of terminology. “Words that were very popular and totally acceptable back then— ‘shemale’ and ‘tranny’—have now become politically incorrect. Many, though not all, trans performers find these words offensive.” Online he now uses only transgirls and transwomen, “except of course for the site [name] itself, which is a brand that can’t be changed.” Steve Volponi began shooting transgirls for Digital Playground’s Virtual Sex early in the millennium and started his America’s Next Top Tranny line in 2006. During that period trans talent was stellar. “Gia Darling, Vicky Richter, Vanity, Carmen Cruz, really high end. Actually there weren’t that many around at that time, but the ones that were around were very popular.” He has shot dozens of trans vids for Devil’s Film and his own, all-trans line Goodfellas. “We have several lines that I think are target lines that girls would like to be on the covers of.” Transsexual Prostitutes, Transsexual Cheerleaders and Transsexual Babysitters are a few of the company’s “staples.” Occasionally there’s an outlier like Transsexual Glory Hole Surprise, which he calls “kind of a fun thing.” His parody The Tranny Bunch was named Best Transsexual Movie at the 2016 AVN Awards Show. “Every once in a while we also try to put in a Transsexual Gang Bangers—two scenes, one girl and four guys in each, and one girl against the other. [Most recently Jessica Fox vs. Khloe Hart.] Hot stuff. I get a lot of girls bugging me to be in that movie. They all want to do a gangbang. It’s pretty crazy.” Would the stars he worked with 15 years ago have gone in for that sort of thing? He laughs. “No, not a lot of them. This new generation of girls is … they’re just ready to rock. It’s such a better time for them now. With Caitlyn Jenner coming out, it’s really mainstreaming almost. Be in the genre, be a girl, be one of the performers—they’re really making their way to the forefront of this business.” When Josh Stone of Trans 500 (distributed by Pure Play) did his first work in the genre in 2012, he didn’t know what to expect, “being that my background and comfort level was in ‘straight’ porn.” He found himself not only welcomed but at the same time educated “in regard to the transgender community in general. In just my short four years alone in this genre I’ve seen the talent pool open up to a much broader scale. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact our society as a whole is more educated and the acceptance of transgender women. The talent pool is much broader and of all shapes and sizes. There’s even a market for BBW transsexuals now. As the genre grows so do the niches within it.” Nica Noelle, who started directing TS talent in 2012, says that her distributor at the time urged her to “really focus on the ‘big reveal’ moment when the guy in the scene discovers that the girl has a penis. I hated that approach.” A few years later, when she created the TransSensual line with Mile High Media, there was no longer pressure “to depict TS females as women with an asterisk. It’s now generally understood that TS women are women, and there’s no need to draw special attention to their genitals.” Stone echoes her sentiments. “Transsexuals are just like genetic female talent and should be treated as such. I have learned there was no special formula when shooting them than I was before. My camera lens is capturing either a hot solo or hardcore scene with a hot woman who happens to have a penis. Though I date genetic females I can appreciate the beauty in how they live their lives.” When it comes to ranking individual performers there is remarkably uniform agreement among producers. Venus Lux, not surprisingly, tops everyone’s list. Says Stagliano, “Venus is great at connecting to her fans on social media and that is important today, and that makes her a good choice for a [Joey Silvera box] cover.” Also highly rated are stars like Jessy Dubai, Aubrey Kate, Sienna Grace. Noelle points to Aspen Brooks, “who is new to the scene but just the most adorable person ever.” She and Volponi are both high on Foxxy—“such a wonderful woman and so easy to work with and such a professional.” “She’s phenomenal,” Volponi adds, “with her promotion and keeping her looks together and doing scenes.” Another of his favorites is Khloe Hart, “who left the business, unfortunately. I thought she was great, with her acting abilities.” Stone singles out international models Carla Novaes and Bruna Butterfly as well as “fresh newcomers” Lexie Beth and Jessi Martinez. “Recently in Los Angeles I worked with Domino Presley. We also just awarded Kylie Maria as Trans500 Model of the Year, so expect more projects with her.” Evil Angel’s Stagliano sounds a note of caution for would-be trans shooters. “Transsexual movies are our most profitable product we sell. But—they are the most difficult movies to produce. The producer-director must be into the performers. Arousal cannot be faked like with female actors. That is why Joey’s and Jay Sin’s transsexual movies sell so well—they are both really into making them.” For Noelle the porn biz, even as it loves the TS profits and lauds the TS stars, has a ways to go in regard to full acceptance. “TS women are still getting the short end of the stick in this industry and that’s got to change. They aren’t being paid what they should be. They’re expected to cover their own travel and hotel if the shoot is out of town. They can’t get quality roles. Studios take advantage of the fact that trans porn is still considered ‘niche’ and so they regard transwomen as lesser than cis female performers. “I hope we’ll soon realize that vaginas and penises don’t define us as men and women, and that the divide just shouldn’t be there. I know that’s a big paradigm shift and I’m not sure how long it will take to get there. But the courageous transwomen of today are definitely working their asses off to pave the way for the women of tomorrow.” Pictured above, clockwise from top left, AVN Transsexual Performer of the Year Venus Lux, Foxxy in Deep Inside Foxxy (Transsensual/Mile High), River Stark in Rogue Adventures 42 (Joey Silvera/Eviil Angel) and Nat in TS Playground 22 (Jay Sin/Evil Angel)

 
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