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January 21, 2017

AEE Panel Explains What It Means To Be 'Born This Way'

LAS VEGAS—As the new Trump administration takes power in Washington, it brings with it a host of religious zealots who are firmly convinced that their god wouldn't have made any males who feel that their inner identity is female, females who self-identify internally as male, or anyone who's attracted to hir same sex rather than the opposite sex—so AVN put together a panel at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo to show the closed-minded just what they've been missing in the real world. Moderated by Venus, Lux, AVN's 2016 Transsexual Performer of the year, the "Born This Way" seminar represented a wide swath of the gender spectrum in the form of industry veteran Buck Angel, relative newcomers Verta and Milcah Halili, as well as BDSM specialist Jack Hammer—and all had stories to tell of discrimination and cluelessness in an industry that often prides itself on inclusion. Lux began by welcoming the audience to AVN's "first non-binary panel," then got right down to asking the panelists to introduce themselves and explain why they're here. The first speaker was Jack Hammer, a ten-year veteran who identified himself as "queer" and noted that before he struck out on his own, he'd often worked for Intersec Studios and Kink.com, engaging mainly in BDSM and trans scenes before striking out on his own with his own website. An eight-year Marine Corps veteran, Hammer also spent 18 years as a sheriff before being fired for his sexual orientation. "Over the years, especially the last four years, working for a couple of websites I work for, I've experienced a lot of racism and sexism as far as me having done gay porn," Hammer said. "I haven't done gay porn in almost seven years, but that's because I needed to make money," adding in response to a question from Lux, "I draw my empowerment because I don't care what other people think. I don't care what this industry thinks or people outside this industry thinks, because I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do to make myself happy and to create good art." Verta spoke next, noting that she began her adult career shooting for Pink and White Productions' Crashpad series before moving on to a variety of roles for Kick Ass Pictures, Diabolic Video and others. "I don't visually conform to a lot of the archetypes in mainstream pornography," she stated, "but I do shoot some in mainstream. I shoot for myself, primarily, because I can do whatever I want; nobody's going to tell me who I can work with and how I can have sex with them. ... I think that sexuality is naturally fluid and that for people who are binary, there's fear of being stigmatized for doing things that they think are unnatural, and for me, I don't feel that way. Sexuality is a beautiful thing to me and the ways that we can connect with each other physically if we just let all the barriers drop, I think that's how we're going to revolution [the industry] and create change." "I'm Milcah Halili, and I started performing predominantly for Kink.com three years ago as a female, and I identify as a pre-hormonal trans man," Halili began. "I hope to have kids and I hope to document that. I want to give birth, I want to chest-feed before I have surgery, and I feel like visibility is very important because most of the trans men in porn right now are post-transition, post-hormone treatment and surgery and I feel like visibility and inclusion in all stages of queerness and trans sex is very important." The final panelist, and easily the most eloquent of the group, was Buck Angel, a 16-year veteran of XXX. "I've seen a huge amount of change in regards to the specific type of pornography that I basically invented, the genre of the trans male, or what we like to call FTM, porn," he began. "It didn't exist on the level I made it exist because of my desire to create visibility, because I believe visibility does create change, and that's with anything and anybody. What I've learned from this industry is, if you do not stay focused and have passion for what you want to do, you will never achieve it. If I had not stayed as focused as I stayed, the industry was not accepting to me at the beginning, and it's not the fault of the industry, it's the fault of visibility, and so I kept with it. I was the guy who said, 'You think I can't make it? Watch.' Because of that pushback, I am here." Angel expressed dismay that the industry hasn't changed as much regarding acceptance of non-standard performers as he had hoped it would. "I'm very grateful for this industry; it's done a lot for me and my visibility and a lot for my activism," he revealed. "I'm no longer just a porn star—I don't even consider myself a porn star anymore; I don't even consider myself a pornographer. I consider myself a human rights activist, a motivational speaker, a man who likes to push boundaries. I believe in sex. I believe in sex at all levels, and that's why it's important that we understand the power we have in this industry, all of us here, is so powerful that if we understand and we understand that you might not like that I'm a man with a pussy; that's okay. You might not like to see a black man and a white woman; that's okay—but it doesn't mean that people outside of this industry don't want to see that. They want to see that, and they want to see it on a level of acceptance. When we continue to put these separations in our industry where someone can't shoot with a person of color because then they can't go back; someone can't shoot gay porn because then they can't go back. That's something that overflows into the rest of the world. ... It's our responsibility to create a place where that [type of discrimination] no longer exists." Describing porn as "one of the most conservative industries I have ever vetted," he posed the question what that is. "My inspiration is about creating change in the world using sex, because everybody has sex, and porn is a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason," he stated. "It means that we have the power to create change on such a level, but we aren't using it. We must wake up and we must create change. It is a reason why our country is in the position it is today. We are electing a president today who will try to destroy us." Lux lauded Angel's attitude, adding that she felt industry members needed to "maintain a level of respect, and [engage in] no shaming, no judgment, no hate. We need to maintain open communication together and talk about the future." She went on to discuss the industry's fight against Prop 60, saying, "It hit me hard personally as a trans woman of color who is not only a performer but also a producer ... and seeing the camaraderie and having the open communication allowed us to work toward the future: how can I support you and how can you support me? That is what I hope we can contribute to today." Lux then turned the panel's attention to the issue of what resources the adult industry can offer to non-standard performers, noting that "it's been a long journey" during which she had been "running my business by myself, booking myself, marketing myself, branding myself." "Some of my experiences have been pretty dark, pretty bad," Hammer said. "I've been on sets where models told me they wouldn't work with me because I'm black, and it would be detrimental to their career to shoot with me. There's really no resources for that. It's not like, if I worked at a bank and someone said they wouldn't work with me because I'm black, I could sue that bank for allowing a person to discriminate against me. In those [on-set] situations, there's nothing to stop you from just being fetishized as basically BBC, big black cock. No matter what your talents or what you can do, that's pretty much what you're looked at as. ... We need to get that stigma out of this industry. What we need to get these directors, these agents and everyone else who tells these models that they shouldn't shoot with black guys until they're at least like 30 or near the end of their career. That's ridiculous." "Where does that come from?" Angel asked rhetorically. "The bottom line right here is about money; let's be real. It's not about creating change, it's not like we're activists; the reality of this industry is about making money, so that's the problem; they're too scared their customers won't want to buy the product, that they're not going to make the money, right? So somehow, we have to have a conversation with those agents that this is not true. ... Somebody has to start taking the chance in this industry. If we keep talking about it, it will get into the heads of people." One of the changes Angel was referring to was his creation of the first transgender sex toy. (Maufacturered by Perfect Fit Brand, the Buck Off won for Outstanding Innovation at Thursday's "O" Award ceremony, held during the AVN Novelty Expo.) That led Hammer to talk about his current position as webmaster for a website that is dedicated to interracial bondage, which he believes may be unique. "There are no resources," Halili declared, "so essentially, the defining moment in my career was when I decided that I was going to create resources within myself. I had to start looking at myself as an entrepreneur, I had to take my power back, and really research other entrepreneurs that I admired. You've got to think of yourself as a boss. You've got to go, 'Okay, I'm gonna call the shots; I'm not here just to conform and do my job; I'm here to do my job as a boss.' ... You figure out what sells and from there, you can create more change through your vision and message." Verta agreed that the industry needs to be more supportive of its members, citing how so much of the industry rallied to defeat Prop 60. "We need more leadership and more education," Lux summarized, "more people to step up to us and go, 'Hey, I love what you've doing. How can I help support you?' And you have to have answers for that." Lux then opened the floor to questions, and the first asked whether there were any producers the panel felt were already friendly to non-standard performers. "I've worked in this business five years, and the companies I've found that were most friendly to trans women are Evil Angel, Kink.com and also Grooby," Lux responded. "Evil Angel shoots a lot of transsexual women content, and they try to have inclusion in that genre. The trans market really does not have many trans people holding power. I feel most of the companies are owned by cis men, and they could use more trans voices, especially when it comes to market campaigns." Halili added Intersec and Pink and White Productions to Lux's list, while Angel said he had had to create his own company. "You have to make your own opportunities if you want to see change," Angel said. "The opportunity is here, but I don't see a lot of people from the trans community taking it. ... There is this idea that you want it, it's going to be given to you and that's that, and when it's not there, you get—it's called 'victim mentality.' Why? Why? Why? Why me? Instead of saying, 'I want to create this change.' Pink and White Production Company did that. There are very few queer-owned companies that take charge. ... When you put us in movies, that creates change and motivates other people to create change." Another questioner asked how the members of the panel feel about what he described as "hashtag" identifiers, which led to a discussion of how many in the trans community dislike being called "trannies," feeling that the term is derogatory. Angel, however, made a case for embracing the term and taking back its meaning, much as sex workers have taken back the word "whore," since companies continue to use the term in marketing and for search engine optimization. The panel concluded its discussion after about 45 minutes, though several audience members approached the stage to ask more questions and thank some of their favorite performers. Pictured from left: Venus Lux, Buck Angel, Milcah Halili, Verta and Jack Hammer. Photo by JFK/FUBARWebmasters.com

 
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