I was sixteen when I first thought about transitioning. Being the nerd that I was, I wrote up a pro-con chart. But the concept of transitioning felt so daunting. In high school, how could I ever get people to see my gender differently? Lots of makeup? Jewelry? Skirts? Demure femininity? If that's what it took, I wasn't having any of it. It just wouldn't be worth it.
I later expanded my idea of what transitioning meant. Still, when I did finally transition, I had changed my mind about what was worth it. Feminine entrapments were not as foreign to me anymore, and if it meant that I'd be called 'she' at my job more often, I was happy to get femmed up each morning. But I had a secret wardrobe that I'd wear to butch it up on the weekends.
I love being a butch woman. I had always been afraid that it meant I'd pass a lot less often. But the opposite turned out to be true. My elbow length hair was often read as a characteristic of being Native American, or being in a town with so many hippies, instead of a sign that I was female identified.
Let me tell you, when I finally cut it, grew out my chin hairs, donned a tank top or muscle shirt and headed for San Francisco pride, I passed flawlessly. Nobody expects the butch dyke next to them to be trans.
That's when I realized that I was happier not following the rules. And I'm proud to break all the expectations of what a trans woman is supposed to be like.
Despite my own dysphoria, I wanted to be proud of my body when so many told me that I was supposed to be ashamed. I found a group of trans women and allies who share naked pictures of each other and I had a blast. Like many others there I still didn't feel like showing off my junk, but that didn't matter. The positive feedback about my body was incredible.
I wanted more of that kind of community. That's why I wanted to go to Camp Trans so much. It's a place where a hundred or two young radical transfolk gather and fight specifically for the rights of trans women.
But even though Camp Trans is set up on a sliding scale cost, but taking a cross country trip is pretty expensive. I was only working as a part time tutor and was being supported by my partner at the time.
So when a lover of mine told me about getting paid $500 to do a photo shoot with a porn company, it was hard to resist. That would be plenty of money to cover the trip to Camp Trans, and it would take almost a month for me to make that much from my job at LCC.
When I decided to do it, I desperately didn't want them to find out that I'm multiracial. The last thing I needed was for them to put a feather in my hair and do a tranny squaw set. I'd be exotified enough as it was.
I prepared myself for it as best as I could. I knew it would be different than the photo shoots I had done with my friends. But I was caught off guard at how difficult it was to be sexy the way they wanted. It wasn't sexy the way I would be sexy for my lovers, but something completely alien. I mean, bending over and spreading my ass cheeks? I don't get what's sexy about that. And they put me in spiked heels for the first time.
The worst part was how they wanted my body to act in ways that just wasn't possible for me, especially under such a stressful situation. I've been on hormones for years now, I'm just not going to get and stay rock hard without a good reason. Toward the end, the photographer set down his camera and said, "So, um, are ya gonna cum soon?" Talk about pressure.
I managed to fake it pretty well and had him quite convinced. It had helped that I had already told him that I didn't squirt anymore. He said that the website would be disappointed but that he understood. I had a hell of a time holding myself together though, and the second I was in the car and out of his sight, I was shaking. It took me a good week of solid processing before I could feel like being sexual again.
Sometimes breaking the rules can hurt. But as far as trauma goes, that wasn't so bad. The hard part is hearing from people who are supposed to be my allies as they talk shit about people like me. Who buy into the myth that there are "true transsexuals" and then there are "shemales." And my choice to allow my genitals to be photographed means that I'm doing this for the money and the attention of men instead of for myself. It goes hand in hand with the people who want to create civil rights protections that will only apply depending on your surgical status.
It all comes back to what I've got between my legs and frankly I wish everyone would just but out. There's this assumption that I have to hate that part of my body because it's maleness. But who says that she has to be a symbol of maleness. I once read the words Lauren W., another gender rebel, who wrote:
"I grew up reading Pat Califia and Tristan Taormino and Carol Queen, reading all about dykes packing dycks, dykes drooling over dycks, dykes fucking with dycks, all depicted in steamy detail on the pages of On Our Backs, Best Lesbian Erotica, How to Fuck in High Heels - and so it never seemed all that incongruous to me that I, like every other queer girl I knew, happened to have one."
That's how I feel about it these days. I've just got a high tech strap-on--it's strapless! I feel more at home in myself. It feels like a very good place to be in. And I owe it at least partly to being forced to confront the issue when being in porn.
That's why it's hard to be in a feminist space where sex work is seen as inherently vile. It's the hypocrisy of a pro-choice movement that turns around and says that women in sex work are suffering from a false consciousness and must be saved from their own choices. There are a lot of demeaning and exploitative jobs out there, what makes sex work so special?
Despite everything else, in the sex industry I've had my gender respected and valued in ways that no other job has done. No one's ever gotten my pronouns wrong, and I can't even say the same thing about most of the queer organizations I volunteer for.
My experience wasn't the funest thing I ever did, but it wasn't a sob story either. I chose to go back for another shoot, and it wasn't so bad the second time around. In fact, I think I want to make my own porn now.
I mean, tranny porn is about as accurate a representative of trans women's sexuality as girl-on-girl porn is an accurate representation of lesbian sexuality. And following in the footsteps of my sex-positive cis-dyke sisters, when I want it done right I'm going to do it myself. And use knowledge from my experiences to create a feminist and oppression aware alternative.
Somewhere along the line I heard that feminists aren't supposed to make porn. I heard that all trans stories are tragedies. I heard that the best way to survive is keep your head down. But like I said, I like breaking all the rules.