Reclaiming Trans Sexuality

Where are the voices of transwomen in porn?

Feature by Alma Cork | 21 Apr 2008

It’s partly due to the sexualisation of transsexuality through porn that many transwomen go to great lengths to point out that their gender has nothing to do with their sexuality; that they’re not transitioning for a thrill.

Which is not to say that transwomen don't have sexualities, even though medical models we encounter tend to desexualise us at best and, at worst, base our motives in paraphilia. Like everybody else on the planet we get turned on - despite our transness - and sometimes we even like expressing our sexualities. Yes, transwomen get horny. We fuck, make love, masturbate, experiment, use toys, and have deep emotional crises over unrequited love and relationship problems just like everybody else. And just like everybody else, our horniness is best served by feeling confident and empowered in ourselves. With everything else we grow through, it’s nice to have a little bit of assistance to remember that, yes, we are incredibly sexy and beautiful just as we are.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover a book of erotica all about trans people when I was experiencing my own shifting sexuality during transition. Transgender Erotica: Trans Figures, edited by M. Christian, is a collection described as giving trans authors their own unique erotic voice. Wonderful, in here I'll find stories that speak to my own sexual identity, emerging amidst all the nonsense of transition!

Only, not quite. Out of twenty-four short stories none seemed to be written by an out transwoman. Six of the stories were about transwomen, but focused on either she-males, drag queens or the narrator's sexual torment over whether the object of their desire was a 'he or a she'. A couple focused on the transwoman's cock as the climax of the piece. One story came close to being both hot and real: a touching piece about a transman picking up a transwoman and them both getting it on in mutual transness. Otherwise, there was nothing that made me feel anything less than, well, icky.

There were, however, about five stories written by and about transmen, from Patrick Califia's surprisingly tender tale about fisting at a gay orgy to Chris Jones' story about finding himself through masturbation. These had the context and empowerment I was looking for, if not the specific content.

So why is it that there were no positive transwomen voices in this anthology? Maybe it's because many transwomen desire to distance themselves from any overt references to pornography or sex. I don't buy the oft-heard story that it’s just because we're pumped full of oestrogens and lacking testosterone, even though it certainly changes how you respond to certain stimuli. A more compelling explanation, I think, is that we're faced with a sex industry where we're not considered as potential consumers, even in erotica; we're usually the ones being sold.

Plenty of transwomen do engage in sex work. The money is good and it's a decent way to fund transition costs, such as hair removal, breast augmentation and other surgeries. And there's a niche market out there for she-male porn. Still, should I be surprised that the mainstream avenues available tend towards objectifying and reducing transwomen to the 'extra benefits' in their pants? Especially when most mainstream porn treats ciswomen as objects in a similar way? Probably not, but there's also good porn and erotica out there that is exciting and empowering and aimed at ciswomen, and I'm failing to see anything similar that caters to, or is created by, transwomen.

On the other hand, just like in the above anthology, there seem to be a few trans male individuals with their own strong and grounded voices. Patrick Califia is a person responsible for charting wide swathes of sex-positive territory through academic work and erotica. Buck Angel is another: a gay porn star who unashamedly refers to himself as a 'dude with a pussy' and who, with his tattooed muscled chest, would make anybody quite weak at the knees.

I don't know why I perceive that transmen have stronger sex-positive voices. Maybe it's because in our culture men's bodies, unlike women’s, are seen as more than just commodities. Maybe it's because of the stronger links between trans male culture and lesbian culture, offering transmen a deeper sense of empowerment prior to transition. Maybe it's as simple as the pantomime reasoning that makes people giggle when they think of a cock in a frock, when there is no cultural equivalent for a stud with a cunt. Who knows?

It'd just be nice to read an erotic story by a transwoman, regardless of the intended audience - a story that doesn't involve teasing away at all the little tell-tale signs of what makes transwomen obviously ex-male. It'd be nice to have a money shot that doesn't involve cock and balls (or at least not the woman's). Moreover, it'd be nice to feel like a consumer of erotica or porn, any erotica or porn, without feeling like the exotic object to be wondered about, exposed and ultimately trivialised. I want my sexual voice represented properly, just like everybody else's.