CYBERSPACE—As those who read adult forums (fora?) know, AVN has had occasion to rethink its attitude toward transsexual/transgendered performers and their participation in its Award Show, resulting in an additional award category (Best Transsexual Sex Scene) and increased stage presence for transsexuals at the show itself.
So it was with some disappointment that, when searching for information on some TS's performances during 2012 on the Internet Adult Film Database, we discovered that every trans person for whom we searched was listed as "male"—and that some earlier trans movies were still labeled as "gay."
To take the latter issue first, apparently many adult content viewers still don't know that movies featuring transsexuals generally appeal to, and are aimed at, straight male viewers, and have little to no interest to gay men. As one of our gay colleagues explained to us, "They've got tits! If I'm looking for dick action, why would I want tits getting in my way?"
To fix that incorrect labeling should be fairly easy, and surely trans fans will be able to compile lists of trans movies labeled on IAFD as "gay" so the IAFD staff can begin fixing them by removing the "gay" designation.
Moreover, statistics gathered over the years show that TS movies are overwhelmingly purchased (or viewed online) by men self-identifying as "straight." As one such viewer told AVN, "It's like the best of both worlds: They've got pretty faces and tits I can get off on, and since they've got cocks, they know what men like sexually, and it shows."
And of course, male-to-female transsexuals—the vast majority of TSs who perform in adult videos—also consider themselves females who've simply been born into the wrong gender, and have often had surgery and taken hormones to correct that mistake.
So we thought it would be helpful to call this disparity to the attention of IAFD's moderators:
"Hey, guys," we wrote. "Trannies have been around for a long time now, so isn't it about time that IAFD either includes them in the 'female' rather than 'male' category (as is currently the case), since that's the sex they say best suits their own ideas of themselves, or at least establish a category of 'transsexual' since most possess both a penis and breasts? It'd be the right thing to do."
Later that same day, we received this response:
"At this point, we go with genitalia, not self-image," wrote moderator Jeff. "Born a boy gets you marked as a M in our database; we're not currently structured for a third gender. When they go post-op we create a second profile in the opposing gender at that point to track those movies and then we link the two profiles together."
Trouble is, most transsexuals in adult entertainment have not undergone sex reassignment surgery, and the ones to whom we've spoken say they have no current plans to do so—so they'll be remaining "chicks with dicks" for the forseeable future.
Now, we understand that the expenses attendant to running IAFD are largely paid for by its moderators, and secondarily by donations from the porn-watching public; hence, its ability to rewrite its database software to add a category for "transsexual" might take some doing—but Jeff gave no indication that IAFD was even interested in doing so. (Those with programming experience who might want to help with such a project can contact IAFD here.)
In any case, we thought we'd get comment on IAFD's position from some of the more vocal transsexuals in the porn community, and both Wendy Williams and Brittany St. Jordan were kind enough to oblige.
"My name is Wendy Williams," she wrote. "I am 2009 AVN TS Performer of the Year. I am transgendered and labeled as a "transsexual woman." My genitalia do not define my sexuality nor how I am labeled, not only by psychologists but also the porn world [which categorizes interest in TSs as a straight fetish]. I noticed you have me listed as 'male' and under 'gay.' First, you are doing a huge injustice to your readers. Since not only do men who are into TS women identify themselves as straight (reflected on how we are listed in porn) but also you are behind in time and it's rude and borderline discrimination. If you are going to label my movies for fans to search, then how are they going to find me when they would never look under the 'gay' category?
"I was confused when you linked the AVN nominations for the 'straight' AVN Awards in January, yet you link my profile from a 'gay' category," she continued. "I have been in the adult industry for 11 years and to see something like this in 2012 is confusing and behind times. I ask that you please remove me from the 'GAY' category and listed as 'male' as I can provide you my legal documentation (driver license, SS card) that states I am female. I have lived my life as Wendy for many years and all my legal paperwork and daily lifestyle reflect me as a transsexual woman.
"I look forward to speaking to you further on the matter and seeing my profile updated to show my true and legal sex: female."
Brittany St. Jordan, a long-time transgender rights activist, was even more emphatic:
"It is unfortunate that a leading source of information concerning the adult industry is blinded by ignorance and has chosen to refuse to treat transsexuals with the respect which we deserve," St. Jordan stated. "From a technical standpoint I am puzzled how adding a third gender option is any more difficult than adding any other additional choices of breast size or kinky attributes. The issue with this is that the people running this database have no concept of what being transsexual is. Although there are some who simply put on a wig and a dress for money, this is a small number of transsexuals within the adult industry.
"We know from day one that we are feminine in spirit," she continued. "It is the world around us that puts into little boxes and puts labels on us based upon what is between our legs. Continuing this forced gender damnation only serves to add to the general confusion most of society has towards transsexuals. When a user sees us labeled under 'male,' it only serves to continue promoting ancient and outdated ideas towards the transsexual community. The same goes for FTM [female-to-male] transsexuals as well. Our classification of our gender should be based upon our belief in ourselves instead the convenience of having only two options to choose from. If IAFD wishes to stay with the choice system, then talent should be classified on how they self-identify versus how someone perceives them to be.
"We are now living in times where transsexuals are done being the freak show side act that we have been in the past. Transsexuals are finished allowing the world around them define who we are and who we should be. The days of being trapped by society's labels based upon misunderstanding and disinformation are behind us now. As we go into the new year and beyond, society is going to embrace the transsexuals as the tremendously amazing people which we truly are. It will be the companies, such IAFD, who are unwilling to change that will fade away and be replaced with more accepting and caring companies who embrace the now as well as exemplify the future.
"We are all far more than simply porn stars with pretty faces," she summarized. "We are people and now is the time the industry treats us as such. 'Tranny,' 'shemale,' and all of the demeaning terms need to stop. We are transsexuals and that is how we should be labeled. If more than two syllable words are too difficult for some, then TS is more than appropriate. Derogatory terminology is avoided when promoting other genres of adult entertainment so it is time that transsexual content gets the same treatment. All journeys begin with a single step and today is the day to begin the voyage towards the day where the ignorance is vanquished and transsexuals are exemplified for the beautiful individuals the world knows we are."