TransEthics: When did you first realize that you’re transgender?
Riley Alejandro: I didn’t know that transgender was a thing until I was at least in my teens, probably around thirteen or fourteen, when I had access to the internet. I first started expressing issues with being told I was a girl around 8 is my first thought of it, telling my parents that I wasn’t a girl, that I was a boy and making up a lie as to why. I was forced to go to therapy. That’s when I also learned that this wasn’t something that people accepted too well.
The more involved I got involved with the internet as I grew up, the more I learned about it and that well, yea, there are a lot of people like me. Honestly, my greatest insight came from femme boy groups on Gaia Online. As someone who liked dresses and make-up, girly things, and so forth, there places were safe havens for me. I met fellow femme trans people who I still talk to now, many, many years later. However, it took me a long time to really grasp that I can be trans and true to myself. I wasn’t any less trans for being femme and liking very femme things.
It was something I only really started embracing in the past couple years. I used to try to deny being trans due to this for a long time. Despite knowing I was trans for a long time, coming out to my parents twice before (once when I was eight, and once when I was sixteen), I kept repressing my feelings due to the reactions of those around me. I finally started transitioning when I was around nineteen or twenty, so about four or five years ago. Even after that it took me a bit more time to understand that I was non-binary.
TE: Do you feel that non-binary people are erased by the trans community?
RA: Yes and no. I see and feel that Assigned-Male-At-Birth (AMAB) non-binary (NB) folk are completely erased for the most part. The trans community is such a vast and different place depending on where you are, online and offline, and has so many different factors involved.
There is a lot of misgendering and gate-keeping involved when it comes to NB people being involved in the trans community for various reasons which I think affects it the most in terms of erasure and acceptance. The idea of certain people not being trans enough based on assumptions or ideas that you need x, y, and z to be trans. I’ve seen people spend more time gate-keeping trans communities from certain people than focus on the issues and giving voice to the actual problems facing the trans community or how trans people are treated in the world as a whole.
Some people just spend their whole time saying who is and isn’t trans as opposed to focusing on removing the obstacles in the world. Like, people whose sole purpose is to attack neo-pronouns and non-binary identities as opposed to using that time to raise awareness of the issues medical gate-keeping does to harm the community as a whole.
TE: Some non-binary people use “enby” as gender defining term. How do you feel about that terminology?
RA: I don’t think I’ve ever used it. It’s just a phonetic version of NB. It’s definitely turning into its own gender identity I think though, which is really cool to see evolve. I don’t think it’s for me though. I tend to prefer androgyne or androgynous or non-binary/NB. I’m still not exactly sure if there is a more exact term for my gender, and I think that’s okay.
TE: What first attracted you to sex work?
RA: Sex work was something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I’ve always been a bit of an exhibitionist so I’ve always enjoyed the show aspect of it. When I was younger (warning for slurs coming up) I used to be very active on trap boards. Being a trans kid, I would pose as a AMAB person who was very feminine and I got away with it. Since I was underage I used that excuse to never pose nude or anything, but knowing the fact people found my femininity to be attractive was definitely a rush.
Eventually I was ‘found out’ and banned from the board for lying and all (which I wasn’t but cissexism!) but I took half the board with me! People were mad and used the fact I had even the moderators and all confused to my gender was something that showed that I was someone worth keeping. It was… a whole weird phase of my life but I think that really fueled by fires to want to do genderfucking a bit more on the serious side in sex work.
Genderfucking and bending the rules and laws of attraction, are really fun for me. The final push was I used to be a big contributor to a free site. They used to originally only have women and toys and guys and toys. After plenty of people complained that I posted in the guys and toys section, they added a transgender and toys section. I started to post in that and the guys and toys section. I was contacted by the site owner who told me I could only post in the transgender and toys section and I gave him a very polite and informational reason as to why that wasn’t good, since transgender isn’t necessarily a gender and at the time, I was still considering myself to be a guy so, both were correct as I was a transgender guy. He then deleted all my videos. So, I left. It was my final push to decide to stop doing those things for free and start seeing if I could get paid for it. I’ve had a weird and eventful history. (laughter)
TE: Usually when people think about trans porn, they think of trans women. Have you had issues finding interested parties for your work?
RA: I would say yes and no. It’s been an interesting ride for me. I’ve had so many people assume I am a trans woman. Even with my FAQ and me constantly stating that I am not a trans woman, I still get questions about my vagina and when I got it, how much it was, and so forth. People love to tell me how they can’t tell that I had surgery. That one always makes my eyes roll out of my head.
I tend to post in/under trans sections since people get offended when I post under women (and I do not ID that way at all), I have a vagina so people get mad when I post under men, and then there is transgender which… well, I’m not a trans woman! That is why the two sites I work for, Clipvia and Clips4Sale, do not have automatic or mandatory gender categories which is the best thing for someone like me.
Tumblr has been the best place but I noticed I mostly just attract fellow queer people or confused straight men. I’m not a meat hunk like Buck Angel, so I don’t attract too many gay men I don’t think. I could be wrong! I am pretty fluffy but I am femme, even in the types of porn I do, how I act, etc. So I definitely think its been a bit of an issue when it comes to finding my niche so to say. It definitely doesn’t help that I do a lot of fetish porn too.
TE: What’s your favorite fetish?
RA: Puppy play! I have so much fun doing those videos.
TE: Just to be clear, that isn’t beastiality, is it?
RA: Not at all. I am 10000000% against that. It’s just dressing up, acting, playing. Dom/sub type stuff.
TE: How do you respond to people who say that sex work isn’t ethical?
RA: That they are pointing their fingers in the wrong direction. Independent workers who create, produce, and sell their content on their own grounds are not the issue. The mainstream is the issue. They should instead be pointing their fingers at the unethical tube sites who do not pay their uploaders, whose uploaders are a majority of people who have stolen content, and so forth. Start with those sites who do not allow for the ethical content creators to be able to dominate the market like they should.
If we didn’t have the issue with tube sites creating people who feel entitled to our labor, I think it would be a bit easier for the ethical workers to be in the main[stream] a bit more. This could be an ignorant look at it as I am not too versed when it comes to markets, economies and so forth (I’m a Human Services major, not a Business one), but I believe it’s a good start.
TE: What field of work does being a Human Services major prepare you to enter?
RA: Human Services is just another name for Social Work for the most part. I have a focus on counseling and a dual minor in Sociology and Psychology. I really want to work with schools to help make them more prepared and safer for their queer youth and faculty.
TE: Would you consider that a form of activism?
RA: Absolutely. Anything to try and improve the situation for people, raise awareness, and so forth is activism to me. I understand not everyone can be out in the streets, working inside organizations, and so forth. Every little bit people can do helps and matters.
TE: Why do you think trans people seem to be so misunderstood?
RA: Most people get their information on trans people from media and well, we’ve seen how media treats trans women. So they get their information from transmisogynistic jokes, mainstream porn, and so forth, as opposed from narratives from trans people by trans people. This is changing with people like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and so forth, but even then it is still a very strange, and not all exactly perfect way of representation.
While both of those women do not bend or mistreat their narratives to fit into cis ideas or for cis soundbites (such as denying the ‘born a man’ and ‘wrong body’ narratives), most of what is shown is still watered down or changed to fit these strange ideas cis people have of trans people. Also, very rarely do you see NB people in the media, if at all. So one of the reasons is that the media is creating this self-fulfilling issue of just constantly feeding themselves these incorrect ideas and repeated narratives.
TE: How do you think we can change this?
RA: Let trans people talk and define themselves as they see. Stop focusing on acceptable narratives. [Include] trans people of all spectrums. I think the media has this fixation, a horrible fixation, with trans women and their stories. I don’t mean in a good way either. It’s a really exploitive and fetishizing one. We need to move away from that.
While I think we are starting to do that with Jenner and her transition, look at the media coverage surrounding her life, her reality. For the most part, it’s really, really gross. I think we need more narratives driven by trans people, talking about their own lives, from their own perspectives. Things done by and with trans people. I know Laverne (Cox) and Carmen (Carrera) both have had documentaries focusing on these but they were, iirc, web documentaries and never saw airing on big networks. We need to change that. Trans narratives done by trans people need to be what we are replacing the cis led interviews with.
To add on that, the media drops the ball when it comes to trans narratives and lives that do not fit their bill. For example, where is the coverage and the outcry for Mya Hall, the Black trans sex worker who was murdered by police? The only major news outlet on her death started the article talking about how her fellow trans sex workers were wearing too much make-up, heels too high, and skirts too short! It’s appalling.
TE: You’ll get no argument from me there.Just one more question: Do you think the Jenner interview hurt or helped trans people?
RA: I didn’t watch it. I saw the outcry from trans women, making remarks about it and what not. I cannot say for sure. I think its a give and take for certain things. Jenner is showing a little ever talked about part of the community, those who transition later in their lives, since the current media focus tends to be those who transition earlier (especially trans children for that shock and awe value). I feel the whole situation with her is a shit-show, for lack of a better term. It’s been nothing but jab after jab at this poor woman for finally living her true life, mostly because of her age and her looks. Seems pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Misogyny and thus transmisogyny is pretty much the only reason the media took an interest in her and her story and I feel that is not on Jenner herself, but those who want to capitalize on it. Not being a trans woman I also don’t really see it as my place to comment on if it hurt or helped either because I am not the one who the questions and assumptions will mostly be placed on, ya know?
TE: Well said. Thank you for speaking with us today, Riley.
RA: No problem. I quite enjoyed it.