Trans Ethics: What kind of job did you have before you started modeling/camming?
Becca Benz: I worked 11 years for a university as the Operations Manager for a research center, and later handling the administrative and fiscal duties for the employee wellness program. Prior to that I worked 11 years managing environmental remediation projects for the Department of Energy. But then I transitioned and can’t seem to get a job.
TE: Were you let go from the university for being trans?
BB: The official reason I was let go was because my job was suddenly reclassified and I was told I was no longer qualified for it. This was several months after I went to living full time as a woman.
TE: That sounds like awfully convenient timing. Do you buy their explanation?
BB: Not really, but there was little I could do beyond talking to my manager and presenting my case to the director. The people I worked directly with were all very supportive. What happened was very sudden and unexpected and it caught everyone by surprise, and they did what they could on my behalf. It’s ironic because I was a member of the universities transgender “affirmative action” team, and our job was to insure trans people were not discriminated against, and to promote policies and provide education on behalf of trans staff, faculty, and students.
TE: Was you being on that team was in addition to being an Operations Manager?
BB: Yes, the trans team was voluntary, and in addition to my regular job.
TE: You obviously transitioned later in life than some of the models I’ve interviewed. When you were let go from the university, were you single?
BB: I was singe, having been divorced probably six years earlier. I was a single parent raising my two sons by myself, so that made the situation all the more stressful. My main focus was taking care of my sons, but also trying to find another job, while still in the middle of transitioning and learning who I was and trying to figure out my place in life.
And for the record, my divorce had nothing to do with my gender issues or anything related to that.
TE: You read my mind. I was about to ask that next. (laughter)
BB: My wife knew about my cross-dressing but was tolerant of that, and at that point I thought I was content with just the occasional dressing. I occasionally thought maybe I was trans, but I was not willing to give up being a husband and father, so I never really spent too much time thinking about that. I knew nothing about transitioning at that point.
TE: How did you discover that transitioning was an option?
BB: It wasn’t until my youngest son was going into his senior year of high school that I finally started dealing with my gender issues. I started thinking about what I wanted out of life once my kids were grown and out of the house, and what I needed to be happy. I’ve known I was different since I was maybe three or four years old, but it took me most of my life to figure things out and put the pieces together and make sense of things –to understand who I was. Obviously the internet played a huge role in helping me learn about what it means to be transgender, and more importantly it helped me meet other trans people, and that was so important. I started reading lots of blogs and met people through blogging. Then I started my own blog and just developed a whole network of friends through that. That allowed me to learn and to understand more about myself.
Eventually I went to therapy, and then found a psychiatrist, and then started hormone therapy. But the big thing was that I had finally reached a point in my life where I could transition. I had finally accepted myself and who I was, and was ready to take the step to transition, and understood all that was involved.
It’s a process, and for me it just took a long time. I often get asked if I wish I could have transitioned when I was younger, and for me that’s easy to answer: No, I would not change a thing about my life because I know I had to go through the journey I did to reach the point where I was ready. And more importantly, if I had transitioned earlier I wouldn’t have my sons, and they are the most important people in my life. Being a parent is the most important thing I will ever do in my life.
TE: How did your children react when you came out to them?
BB: I express myself better in writing, and I knew I’d be nervous when I told them, so I wrote letters to everyone in my family. The letters gave some general background information about transgender people, and I wrote about myself and my journey to reach the point I was then at, ready to transition. I just tried to address any questions or concerns I thought they may have. So I told my sons I had something I wanted to talk to them about, and then I gave them the letter to read. I raised my sons by myself for most of their lives and we’re very close and I know they would always love me, but there’s always that doubt in the back of my mind because I know so many people who have been disowned by their families when they came out. I was sitting next to my oldest son, and as he was reading the letter he reached over and held my hand, which just made me cry because I knew everything was going to be okay.
They had no idea I was trans because I went to great lengths to make sure they never found out, but they have been completely supportive and understanding. They just want me to be happy and to be able to be myself. They are both very protective of me and have been my greatest source of support through all this. They are my rocks and what keeps me anchored.
TE: That is so beautiful!
BB: Yeah, I’m very blessed to have two amazing sons.
TE: So you turned to doing modeling and camming because you –a very qualified person– can’t find work because you’re trans?
BB: Yes. Last fall I had four interviews in one week and they all went really well. Probably some of the best interviews I ever did, which is saying a lot because I m very critical of myself when it comes to interviews. But I nailed these, and they were for jobs which I was very qualified and had lots of experience doing. Yet not one job offer. That just left me feeling like I was never gong to get a normal job in mainstream society.
I realize I’m certainly not the only person struggling to find a decent job, but it just reached the point where I couldn’t help but feel like being trans was part of the reason I wasn’t getting any job offers. So I decided to refocus my job search, thinking about where I, as a trans woman, would be more accepted and where being trans was not looked upon as a negative thing. Porn was an obvious choice. But my intention was to send out letters inquiring about jobs on the admin/business side of things.
So I started doing research about the porn industry and came upon Grooby, which caught my interest because they did trans porn. So I read everything I could about the company and about Steven. Eventually I found his blog which I read, including the blog posts about how to become a model. That got my mind wandering, and after I sent the letter inquiring about regular jobs I also applied to be a model just for the heck of it, never dreaming I would ever be accepted. Well, no one was more shocked than I was when I got an email from Steven saying they wanted to do a shoot with me!
I never, ever imagined I would be doing modeling and be where I am today, but I’m happy with where I’m going, and for the first time in a very long time I feel like I’m making progress and my life is moving forward again. These past four or five months have been quite the adventure!
So yes, I just felt like I couldn’t continue doing what I had been doing and making absolutely no progress in finding a job.
TE: After all you went through looking for work, how do you respond to people who claim that institutionalized transphobia doesn’t exist?
BB: I don’t think they’re being very realistic to make that claim, or else they just don’t understand or have been in a situation where they have gotten to experience it. Discrimination, in whatever form it may take, will always exist, just because of human nature. The fact is that there will always be closed-minded people who insist on pushing their personal beliefs on everyone else instead of just being accepting and letting people live their own lives.
TE: How do you respond to people who say sex work is unethical?
BB: Whether or not it’s ethical or unethical is irrelevant in my opinion. It exists. There is a demand for it and there always will be. What we do is not illegal, so there is no merit to all the complaints and moral judgments people make about porn or sex workers. We are providing a service, plain and simple.
TE: How does modeling and camming make you feel?
BB: I have always been shy, introverted, and I hated getting my picture taken, so the fact that I am doing modeling now is quite a jump for me! But I learned to feel comfortable with myself and my body and to not feel ashamed of myself. I have to say that I actually enjoy modeling. I feel good about being part of the creative process and putting out a product that people like.
And who wouldn’t like to get attention and be told they’re pretty? (laughter) It’s still weird getting used to dealing with the attention, and even to think that I have fans! It’s all still very surreal in a lot of ways, but it’s been a good thing for me personally because it has helped build my self-confidence, which is something I’ve always struggled with.
TE: Do you struggle financially being in the sex industry?
BB: I never went into this thinking I was going to get rich. My intention from the beginning was to see where this takes me and to use this as an opportunity to move forward. From what I’ve learned it is possible to make a living from porn if you’re willing to put in the time and effort and branch out into camming or having your own website, which are certainly possibilities. But I never went into this expected to become rich and famous. People like Venus Lux are certainly role models and inspire me to keep pushing to see what I can achieve, but money was never my main objective.
TE: Are you aware that there are some people who see you as a role model?
BB: I have people tell me that sometimes, and it’s still hard for me to picture myself as a role model. I just try to be myself and treat people the way I want to be treated. I feel like I’m still new at this and learning myself! I went into this thinking I had to have the “porn star” persona and keep Becca separate from my real life, but I’ve found that I can’t keep the two totally separate and the “real me” seeps through anyway, which I now feel isn’t such a bad thing. I just try to conduct myself with class and to be seen in a positive way and to represent models and the trans porn industry in a positive light.
TE: When someone says that you inspire them, how do you respond?
BB: I feel very flattered and humbled, and I take it as a big compliment when someone tells me that. But like I said, I just try to provide a good example and am always happy to help new models or interact with fans. I have received so much help and support from my fellow models and especially from my fans. I would not be where I am today without them, and I’m happy for the opportunity to “pay it forward”.
TE: There are trans women out there who are understandably afraid to come out. Losing family, friends, and employment are common factors in the decision to remain in the closet. What would you say to these women?
BB: It’s not an easy decision because there is so much at stake and it has an effect on so many people. I would just say that you have to think about things and only you know what is right for you. Everyone’s situation is unique and there is not a blanket answer that covers everyone. But at the end of the day you have to be able to live with who you are. I reached the point where I could no longer continue to live as a male and I had no choice.
My one piece of advice is to reach out and let others help you through this, and not to try to go through it alone. There are so many resources available and people willing to help, and it makes it so much easier to have a strong support network available.
TE: Thank you Becca.
BB: Thank you so much for the opportunity to do this interview and to be a part of Trans Ethics!