Trans Ethics: We’ve interviewed trans-masculine non-binary people here before, but never a trans man, so you get to pop the cherry here. Do you feel trans men are ignored in the media?
James Darling: Trans men are often not represented in mainstream media as much as trans women. I think that has to do with a lot of factors, one of them being that there just aren’t as many higher profile trans male celebrities as there are trans women celebrities. I also think most people are unfamiliar with what trans men are, and maybe don’t find it as interesting tabloid fodder as they do with trans women, and that probably has more to do with transmisogyny than anything else. For example, trans men are more often celebrated for wanting to be men vs the way trans women are often looked down on for wanting to be women.
TE: Would you be so kind as to tell us some of the issues trans men face?
JD: For trans men that want to transition, there are legal, medical and social aspects to deal with such as name changes, accessing hormones or surgery, relearning how to move through the world and be seen as men. There can be some unexpected aspects to being seen as a man, behaviors you might have that are perceived differently as you transition such as the intonation of your voice being perceived as gay when it lowers due to testosterone, eye contact can be seen as a form of aggression with other men, women can feel unsafe around you if you walk near them at night, things like that. A lot of health risks of long-term hormone use are largely unknown, but it’s important to continue to regularly get pap smears and monitor your blood-work and cholesterol levels and keep an eye on things.
TE: These issues seem to be similar to many which trans women face, simply reversed.
We trans women know what it’s like to lose male privilege. What is it like to gain it?
JD: A lot of that will be largely dependent on other intersecting oppressions. For example my experience transitioning is going to be very different as a white man than someone who is a trans man of color, and there is no way I can ever understand fully what that is like. For me it has really highlighted just how racist and misogynist our culture is. I am often listened to and taken more seriously than women. I’m rarely questioned. I get called back to interviews more often than my friends who are women or a person of color. When I have interactions with police, I rarely need to fear being shot or taken to jail. I usually can walk around at night without fear of sexual harassment. The only sexual harassment I receive is online or at gay events. The list goes on and on.
TE: How did you get into sex work?
JD: I had considered multiple forms of sex work before I moved to the bay, but the first job I had in the sex industry was doing a porn scene for Crashpadseries.com. It was a really wonderful experience, I felt safe and respected. I was able to have sex in whatever ways felt comfortable and fun for me and it was very low pressure. From there I decided that I really enjoyed porn and wanted to pursue making a career out it, which was (and continues to be) nearly impossible. I have worked in phone sex, escorting, pro domination, cam shows, etc. I’ve also worked in the production side of porn before I launched my site FTMFucker.com. The only form I don’t really have experience with is street based work or professional stripping in a club.
TE: Do you have a preference as to the type of partner you like to work with?
JD: People who are hot, present, and confident. I have worked with many different genders of scene partners but it really depends on the individual. Lately I have really been enjoying working with more trans women, such as my scene with Venus Lux in my film Tboys + Tgirls, but I’m more interested in the individual than whatever equipment they may have. Trust, if we’re into each other we’ll find a way to make it work and it will be really fun.
TE: Are you currently in a relationship?
JD: I have several wonderful lovers in my personal life, but I don’t have a serious partner at the moment.
TE: When did you first realize that you were actually a guy?
JD: I’ve always been a weird kid and knew something was off. I never wanted to be a mother or girlfriend when my friends would play house. I was much more interested in being the boyfriend, or the family pet. Maybe that says a lot more about me than I realized at the time (laughter). I came out as being queer when I was 13. I was from a very conservative place and did not know any other LGBT people until I was much older. I realized I was trans when I was about 16. I was already very androgynous and kind of avoided labels like “butch” or other things until a trans woman told me about the concept of trans men. I looked it up and it was the first time I ever had language to understand the way I felt about myself and that the kind of body I wanted could be possible. When I left home at 18 I started pursuing doctors that could help me access hormones. I eventually found someone to help me when I was 20, and that’s when I started medically transitioning.
TE: How did your family react to you coming out trans?
JD: They were not supportive at all. When I came out at 16 they ignored it and thought I was mentally ill and going through a phase. We didn’t speak for several years until after I moved across the country and was getting ready to have top surgery. I think they realized that I was not going to change, and if they wanted to be a part of my life they had to learn to get over it and accept me as I am. We are on much better terms now, and my parents love me even if they don’t understand. They refer to me as their son now, which is pretty incredible. I’m really grateful.
TE: That’s amazing! I’m glad your parents came around. How’d they react to you being part of the Trans 100 this year?
JD: Only my dad knows that I make porn. I told him about the Trans 100 and he told me he was very proud that I am making a difference in other people’s lives.
TE: Can you describe how it feels when someone tells you that you made a difference in their life?
JD: Honestly I’m still very surprised I made it on the Trans 100 list, there are so many other trans people who are doing work than is so much more important than porn and deserves to be recognized. It felt validating though, to have myself and several other trans people who work in the sex industry named on this year’s list. Sex workers make up a huge percentage of the trans community. While what I do is pretty small-scale stuff, sexuality is a very important aspect of life and I’m really honored that so many people have felt empowered in their lives through the films that I’ve made. I never would have thought that was possible when I started doing porn, I did it because it was fun and paid some bills. It is a really special experience to do something that you love, succeed at it, and have your work help other people.
TE: Why do you think so many trans people are in sex work?
JD: There are huge obstacles to having and maintaining gainful employment when you’re trans, especially for trans women. The sex industry is not as much of a viable option for trans men. When you transition you often lose your work history and have to deal with so much stigma against trans people. Sex work often becomes one of the few resources available, especially for femme presenting people.
TE: That says a lot about the kind of culture we live in doesn’t it?
JD: It really does. This is also the case for many cis women. We live in a culture that dehumanizes women and the feminine, where their sexuality becomes one of their only valuable commodities. That’s not to say that the sex industry is horrible place and women and trans people have no agency, because that’s also not true, but it does say a lot.
TE: Just one more question: How should we “fix society”?
JD: That’s a pretty big question! I unfortunately don’t have all the answers, something tells me I wouldn’t be running a porn company if that were the case. I would like our government to stop funneling money into wars, abolish the prison industrial complex, and use some of that money to fix our broken education and healthcare systems. To see more employment opportunities for trans people, housing resources and comprehensive healthcare access, I would like to see an effort towards more compassion and understanding and less violence against trans people, and respectful dialogue in the media. Things like that, but you know I get naked on the internet for a living, so I guess most people take my opinions with a grain of salt.
TE: Thank you for chatting with us today James.
JD: Of course, thanks for having me.