Anyone can post dirty pictures, but it takes real vision to build an online community around the erotics of gender jumping.
Over the last five years, Grooby Productions (www.grooby.com) has established itself among the Net's foremost purveyors of transgender erotica, and has done so not just by finding and photographing an amazing international spectrum of tgirls, but also by providing a forum in which discussions of transgender aesthetics and raw desire play out along side crucial dialogues touching on issues of health, safety and common courtesy.
"Our growth has been very organic," says Steve Gallon, Grooby's owner. "It started as an attempt on my part to get free pictures. As it's developed, we've incorporated discussion forums. I'm a big presence, and I let my opinions be known, but there's a pretty free flow of information, opinion and debate. And there are the pictures...."
Ah yes, the pictures. We ask Gallon to run down his wares.
"www.shemaleyum.com was the first site, and I'd probably have called it something different if I'd known then what I know now, that a lot of girls find the term "shemale" offensive and pejorative. But it's the first site and a very lively one. Then we have www.ladyboy-ladyboy.com, which is almost four years old. Many have tried to imitate its style but this was the first site to go into Asia and shoot ladyboys specifically for the Internet. It also has a very useful guidebook and health section. Next there's www.brazilian-transsexuals.com, which is now three years old and growing every day due to the amazing quality and quantity of photos of the hottest Brazilian t-girls that my contact Luiz gets from his permanent location down there. After we got a big demand for black transgenders we started www.black-tgirls.com, and it's now our fastest-growing site. Another new site is www.hawaiian-shemales.com, which, as the name would suggest, is all Hawaiian girls. Finally, there's www.adulttravelguide.com, which is currently the only Grooby which crosses into girls who were born girls, as well as transgenders. It has a huge original photo collection of mainly Thai girls, ladyboys - both post- and pre-op - and loads of info on where to meet them, protocol for behavior in-country and lots of safety and health advice."
"We have something for everyone," Gallon continues. "Another of our sites, www.bobs-tgirls.com, has Playboy-style stunners, model types that just blow your mind. But I've never been able to get into Playboy types myself - I'm never going to meet the Playboy type, you know? - I prefer the girl next door. So our girls are of all types. Many of them aren't absolutely flawless, but that's the appeal for a lot of guys, and it really plays into the fantasy element - these girls really could be the girl next door."
It is perhaps one measure of Grooby's success that the company's most recent venture is a partnership with iconic adult video director and star Joey Silvera, building on his Rogue Adventures and Please lines, and featuring thousands more breathtaking t-girl images.
One secret of Grooby's success may have to do with its refusal to categorize its clientele and the fact that its sites provide a safe place for men who consider themselves straight to pursue their curiosity about transgenders.
"We don't pigeonhole the visitor," he says, "and a lot of our business comes off of "straight" sites. We treat this as a fetish, and we get people of all orientations. Curious people can come in and ask frank questions and get frank answers. The result has been that I've met or corresponded with a lot of people who have told me, 'You really got me into this'."
The dialogue the sites' openness nurtures also helps Gallon find out what his customers really want to see. For example, Grooby sites have recently begun to run photos of post-op t-girls, this in accordance with wide demand among the sites' visitors.
Since at least one Grooby site, www.adulttravel.com, offers information about meeting born-as girls and transgenders in Thailand, where Gallon lives half the year, the question of HIV inevitably comes up.
"The health issue is one of my big concerns," Gallon says. "What it comes down to is that in Thailand the ladyboys are often safer than the 'real' girls, because they're often better educated. The bottom line is that if you have sex with anybody anywhere without a condom, you're fucking stupid. But I don't think I've met any ladyboys in Thailand who would have sex without one, even if their partner were willing."
Beyond safety issues, Grooby sites are host to often-raucous discussions about most every aspect of the t-girl phenomenon, from gender identity to whether a t-girl is sexier with or without her dick. It is here that Gallon clearly weighs in on the side of compassion and emphasizes that, in effect, t-girls are people too.
"These guys say, 'Why'd she cut it off, why'd she get the operation? She looked better before ...' and I have to say, look, man, this is something she wanted to be rid of for 20 years and now she's free of it. You should be happy for her. This is a human being you're talking about for chrissakes. It's like the whole is-it-a-boy-is-it-a-girl thing. The bottom line, as I always insist, is that no matter what you see on the outside, this person feels like a woman, and has always felt that way and will always feel that way. So it's really not up to you to decide one way or the other about it. She's a she." Catching himself sounding like a nice guy, Gallon quickly adds, "I don't kid anybody about what I do - I do porn. But there's no reason people can't be treated as people."