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Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011

Advice for an Aspiring Porn Star

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I am a 29-year-old male who is highly attracted to the porn and sex industry. I would like to be a shemale post-op or ladyboy (physical characteristics of a lady and male genitals) and enter the dream profession. Can you tell me whether it would be the right decision and guide me through the details of the process?

For some thoughts on this question, I turned to Tobi Hill-Meyer, a member of the Handbasket Productions sex-positive media collective and winner of a 2010 Feminist Porn Award for the film Doing It Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project []. Her second film, The Genderfellator, was released this year. Tobi responds thusly:

"I want to make sure that you have your information right and that we're on the same page.  It sounds like you're getting a lot of your information from the porn industry, which is notoriously inaccurate.  We can begin by clarifying a few things that you should know.  First, "post-op" specifically refers to vaginoplasty, and while it may technically be true for you to call yourself "post-op" if you get breast enhancement [surgery], you may confuse folks or lose work.  Second, surgery isn't required [to obtain] female physical characteristics; hormones do most of it. [Finally,] it's fine if 'shemale' is a term that resonates for you and that you want to use for yourself, but we should be clear that many trans women find it very offensive and that plenty of trans women who have female characteristics and have not had vaginoplasty would call themselves female and/or prefer not to be called a shemale.

"To get advice, I have found that getting in touch with other trans people can be monumentally beneficial.  Seek out any trans groups or events in your area. If you can't find any, look online for community groups and discussion boards.  If you're looking to [get] hormones or surgery, you'll need to find a doctor and/or a therapist, and they can help you through that process.  It can be really useful to have a community to turn to for support as well, especially if your doctor is incompetent or prejudiced, which is unfortunately common.

"When looking to get into pornography, it's important to first figure out what you want out of it and where your boundaries are.  That will help you figure out who you want to work for.  The feminist porn industry and the mainstream porn industry can be very different, especially the trans mainstream industry.  You are pretty clear that you want to work in the mainstream tranny/shemale industry, and you sound at least somewhat familiar with it as a consumer.  Many of the larger sites have links somewhere on the home page to apply to be a model, and you can simply find sites that you like and apply for them.  Grooby is one of the largest and tends to have photographers in many of the larger U.S. cities.

"Connecting with other sex workers can be really useful and can offer more specific advice.  Organizations like the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) are good places to make those connections.  Also, you can ask anyone who hires you for references; that's useful both for making sure you're not dealing with someone who is unscrupulous, and also to get to know some of the other people working in your area.  They can also give you a better idea of what you'll be signing up for.  It's not uncommon to idealize sex work and have unrealistic expectations.  I know plenty of folks who really enjoy their jobs in the sex industry, and I certainly like making porn, but even when it's fun it can still be hard work.  The more realistic your expectations are, the better prepared you'll be when you start working.

"Overall, I would really emphasize community as important.   You'll have more questions than can be answered in this column, and having folks you can turn to makes a huge difference."

If you are in the Milwaukee area, the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center is a good place to start looking for support groups and referrals for doctors and therapists. Milwaukee also has a new SWOP chapter that recently started meeting; this group is private, but I can put you in touch with the organizer if you contact me at laura@shepex.com.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.

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