On August 15, 2017, we rebranded our flagship site, ShemaleYum.com, to GroobyGirls.com. This is a big day for Grooby and we’re excited to share the news with the world. The Grooby staff have been hard at work to ensure the switchover is seamless for our customers, but please be patient with us as this is a massive project.   

People looking for the official press release can click here, but we wanted to talk more about the rebrand in a format we felt was more our style. In this interview, Steven Grooby and Kristel Penn chat about the history of Grooby and its place in trans porn, the new site and what will happen to the original site, and the future of the company.  

Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @GroobyGirls and @Groobydotcom for more updates.

Kristel Penn: By the time I joined the company ten years ago, ShemaleYum.com was already established as the site for trans porn, especially for performers looking to make their big break in the industry. Can you speak a bit about the origin story of Grooby and your flagship site? First of all, does the name ‘Grooby’ have some kind of personal significance to you or is it just a made up word?

Steven Grooby: Have you only been with the company for ten years, it seems longer?  Grooby is just a made up word, because ‘Groovy’ was unavailable.  I got tired of people asking me what it meant, so I started calling myself Steven Grooby,  so it’s become very personal to me. I love the word.

KP: I bet it seems longer because of all the white hair I’ve probably given you by now! Although the Grooby brand is now exclusively associated with trans content, most people would be surprised to know you owned a number of non-trans sites back in the day.

SG: As domain names were so expensive in 1996 (and I was broke) I bought ‘Grooby.com’ as a domain to cover a number of AVS sites I had in different niches, so the sites were grooby.com/shemale/, grooby.com/bbw, grooby.com/shaved, etc. When it was clear the ‘shemale’ niche was rocketing above the other niches and I decided to create a unique site for that, I settled on the name ‘Shemale Yum’ as something catchy. It doesn’t actually mean anything other than the general idea that ‘Yum’ means (tasty, gorgeous) and ‘shemale’ was the go to word, for the little amount of transsexual porn available on video and magazines at this time.

KP: When you created ‘Shemale Yum’ in the late 90s, what was trans porn like back then? Were there a lot of other sites creating trans content exclusively and were terms like ‘Shemale’ and ‘Tranny’ commonplace then?

SG: There were a few minor sites when we started but the newsgroups were all ‘shemale’ and the other porn available on VHS were often ‘Shemale’ and ‘Tranny’ titles.  The first other websites I saw were Shemalexxx.com and Planet Shemale.  We actually started coining ‘Tgirls’ earlier than anyone else in porn, and have really been instrumental in that usage.

KP: It’s kind of cool to see how much the term “tgirl” is used now, both in and out of porn. I’ve also heard performers say they’re a “Yum Girl” which I’ve seen use interchangeably with “Grooby Girl.”

SG: ‘Shemale Yum’ is the home planet. All other sites are spin-offs from it. It’s the website that most TS models in the industry first appear on. Since 1997, it’s been featuring new models and existing stars. It’s the first place models like Vo D’Balm, Domino Presley, Foxxy, Natassia Dreams, Kylie Maria, Morgan Bailey, Bailey Jay, Jessica Foxx, and probably over 1800 other performers were photographed here first. Black-Tgirls.com came from Shemale Yum, as did Brazilian-Transsexuals.com; almost all other sites we run owe their success to Shemale Yum. Everyone knows the name and the brand.

KP: How funny – all these years, I actually thought Black-TGirls.com was launched at the same time as ShemaleYum.com! I find I still learn something new every day at work.  What about you? In your experience of being in the industry for over 20+ years, do you think the social consciousness in society (non-porn) mirrors the social consciousness within the adult community?

SG: I think the transgender porn industry has done more to bring more girls to be authentic to themselves and embrace their gender earlier, than any other industry.  Media is still catching up, almost every portrayal of a trans person is still problematic and doesn’t show them as more than a misinformed stereotype.  

KP: I agree, there still isn’t a lot of diversity in mainstream media when it comes to trans people – which means those few representations tend to either be too “ideal” or too much of a two-dimensional stereotype. Either way, lack of representation misses the nuances of what it means to be trans.

SG: Sites like Shemale Yum started showing models that were outside the stereotype norm of a ‘shemale pornstar’ very early on, inviting models from different backgrounds, body shapes and sizes, ages and stages of transition. We showcased diverse models and in turn, I’ve been told many times, that girls who saw these diverse models who were more authentic, were encouraged to make the first steps themselves.

KP: Because Yum also features performers who are earlier on in their transition alongside some of the biggest names in TS porn, I think many apply to the site when they want to make their big media debuts.  

SG: I truly believe with no hyperbole intended, that we’ve been responsible for many girls being able to be true to themselves.  While many may find this problematic because of their own issues with the porn, there are few other outlets that have allowed girls social interaction and a platform to be themselves.

KP: I often get frustrated by the misconceptions about porn outside of our industry, and in particular, misconceptions about Grooby as a company. I’ve heard some out crazy, outright lies about us and it still makes me mad! I don’t know how you stay so calm. Perhaps I’ll be calmer 10 years from now.

SG: I’ve been in this industry longer than most, and at Grooby we’ve evolved and changed. In the early days, when I was younger and traveling the world, the ego did overtake a bit too much and I recognize that.  We did always believe in treating the models with respect and manners, which is why we’ve seen producers come and exit the company rather rapidly if they didn’t fit our ethos.   

I stand by everything our company does – and with the people we work with in the US and Europe, we’ve created a company that the employees are genuinely proud of.  We always try to do ‘the right thing’ and we’ve evolved from being just a porn delivery company, to an adult entertainment media lifestyle company with more than just porn.   

KP: I’ve been particularly proud of our evolution into a lifestyle company, with the creation of TAIF (Trans Adult Industry Foundation), handling the editorial content for Transformation Magazine, and the educational workshops we’ve been hosting in non-porn specific places on destigmatizing porn and its consumption. Despite that, however, I notice you are still confronted on social media on a somewhat regular basis (although, it seems with less frequency these days).

SG: I’m probably the easiest target in the whole adult industry as I engage people on social media, and because like the entrepreneurs I admire, I believe in being the face of the company. The attacks on us, or on me personally, by a small group of people I find amusing, the only issue they can find were on the site name – or that fact that I’m a ‘white’, ‘cis-gender’, ‘male’.  I’ve seen interviews where people have claimed to have been instrumental in the name changing of the TEA’s and I’m sure there will be a few here also. Only last week, a cam performer claimed the reason we changed the TEA’s was because of sponsorship money, which was absolutely false.

KP: Do you have to fight the urge to respond to every untrue claim? I know I do.

SG: When you’ve been at the top of the game as long as have, you expect to be sniped.  We just take it as it is,  make the statements why we are doing what we do, stand by it and if people want to discuss it, then by all means. But nobody other than the Grooby staff members have had any input on any name changes we’ve ever done.  That’s the fact.

KP: I bet some will be shocked by the name change.

SG: Never say never (and I never did!).

As you know, this wasn’t an overnight decision. It’s been a planned and protracted timeline that’s taken us to the renaming of the site and a lot of work to get ‘GroobyGirls’ built into the brand it is now.

KP:  Yes, this was definitely a decision that took quite some time to solidify. I’m glad we waited until we could get all of our ducks in a row. I think this rebrand will feel very fitting to our fans and performers. It won’t take a lot of energy to make that switch over in someone’s head.

SG: Yes, and also, change is good, and we’ve changed our company and sites constantly over the past 20 years, but simply renaming a brand that has as much worth as ‘ShemaleYum’ wasn’t something that could be done without having a proper plan in place, and that plan was to build ‘Grooby’ and ‘GroobyGirls’ into the brand, to be bigger than the individual website names.

The tshirts, calendars, all the merchandise, the hashtags, and the naming of more new products with ‘Grooby’ such as GroobyVR.com and GroobyDVD.com have all been to make ‘Grooby’ the searchable word, and the key to this has been to get ‘Grooby’ into the more general usage that it has become.

KP: Just to reference a point people generally bring up when it comes to keywords/search terms used in porn. You mentioned before that words like “shemale” are the most searched for porn than other related terms.

SG: Yes, most research shows that it is – and for search engines, people looking for transsexual porn will use that. We dropped using the word in all our editorials and previews years ago and worked on making ‘GroobyGirls’ a bigger descriptor. If you look now, where ShemaleYum.com used to rank 1st page on a search for ‘shemale’, it doesn’t feature at all now – so for us, the search engines on that word are now irrelevant. But ask practically anyone who is interested in transsexual porn to name the biggest TS porn companies and Grooby is going to be within the first names they mention. We can spend more time and energy on more specific search terms and reaching new audiences through the branding.

We’ve had to recognize that the word ‘shemale’ can be considered offensive by a lot of our models, and even though they’ve continued to work with us, our aim has never been anything but to show them the utmost respect and to create an environment and company which they will to love to work in.
GroobyGirls.com is the perfect fit for the new site.  Through our marketing and merchandising and lots of effort that name has become synonymous with trans girls who work in, or want to work in adult entertainment.  Across social media you will already see girls calling themselves ‘Grooby Girls’ and anybody with a passing interest in trans porn, know’s what ‘Grooby’ is.
We’re the first site not to have to use any descriptor in our title other than ‘girl’.  Which is exactly what our models are.   Gorgeous, interesting, fun, sexy, powerful girls.  They’re Grooby Girls.

KP: So why did you go with GroobyGirls?

SG: When you and I sat down to go over new names for ShemaleYum all those years ago, the one thing I absolutely did not want, was to do what I think everyone would have expected, to change it to ‘TgirlYum’ or something else using ‘transsexual’, ‘tgirl’ etc. I wanted something that defined the models less in the typical descriptor words, yet defined them within another.

KP: I do remember those conversations quite vividly! We brainstormed for what felt like hours, not coming to an agreement that felt like a good fit, tabling the project for a bit, and then returning back to it again.

SG: Using our brand name (as a company that specializes only in the transgender field) is what defines the type of model and they are all girls, so ‘GroobyGirls’ is the perfect website. Fans should be in no doubt what sort of content we feature, and models are already happily wearing and promoting our ‘GroobyGirls’ shirts and brand.

KP: What has been the most difficult part about this switchover process?

SG: Keeping it a secret. Apart from only a small handful of Grooby staff, absolutely nobody had any idea we’re about to do this. So it was difficult and I think that makes it more exciting and for me more fun.

KP: This morning our staff coordinated and triple-checked with each other before making the switch over to ensure we timed everything right. Do you think this is going to make a difference in sales for us?  How do you think the members will react?

SG: It’s good to make changes and keep things fresh. I don’t think this will affect the sales immediately either negatively or positively but it’s going to help with the continuance and building of the Grooby brand. I think the members will mostly be nonchalant, they come for the models and not the name. We have amazing support from them, but if this does help some people decide to join when they previously had an issue with it, then all the better. The main effect is going to be for the models. Many haven’t had a problem with the name but many have, even though they’ve understood the why’s and history of the site. This should hopefully resolve any of those issues and I believe by just being ‘Grooby Girls’ it’s something they can continue to be proud of and stand by.

KP: What’s going to happen to the old site?

SG: We’ll have to keep it up as a redirect but simply when people type it in, they’ll be redirected to the new GroobyGirls.com. We’ll work with affiliates and sites on changing their branding and links. It’s a long process – we aim to get the ‘previously known as’ off the site within 12 months and the Shemale Yum brand will fade organically.

KP: What about all the logos on the photos and videos on existing content?

SG: It would be financially impossible to change all of them – and they are of that time. Everything going forward will be branded GroobyGirls.com.

KP: Grooby owns and operates over 30 membership sites. Do you plan on changing the names of any of our other sites that have the word “shemale” in it?

SG: ShemaleYum.com is the biggest and most important of our sites, and this site had to be first otherwise we’d look hypocritical. We’d also look hypocritical if we didn’t re-brand the other sites and we’ve plans for all of them, we just ask people to be patient. Most of our sites already use ‘tgirls’ (a word which we helped define) or ‘transsexuals’ but for the rest we’ll change, we’ve an amazing domain for Shemale.XXX so watch for that.

KP: Do you think this will encourage other sites to change their name from ‘Shemale … ‘  or other similar rebrands?

SG: I have no idea and I don’t really care. We make decisions for our company. We’re the most recognised brand in the world for trans porn from a business, fan and model perspective. We’re proud of our standing in the community and the support we both give and get with the trans adult community and the wider adult business community. As I stated, this has been a long and planned path to get to this position and we still have some way to go. What ever other companies or sites do is entirely up to them.

KP: What do you see ahead for Grooby?

SG: Grooby is going to continue to capitalize and build on our brand but stay specialized only in the transgender field.  We’re going to look at more reaching out into the community and continue to work on getting our foundation, TAIF.org, to continue doing good work in the wider trans world.  

KP:  I’ve also been researching additional organizations where TAIF can donate money to. I’d like to also encourage people to email us suggestions of organizations who might benefit from support from TAIF.  Any insight on what’s ahead production wise for us?

SG: On the production side, we are always looking for new opportunities.  Our recent deal to do the editorial content for print publication, Transformation, is very exciting and we may look at more ideas like that.

In the immediate future to celebrate and commemorate the changing of the site name, we have new tshirts, embroidered patches, and stickers going out to all the models – and the much anticipated annual Grooby Girls Calendar will be out soon.

KP: And also, the super secret Grooby Staff Calendar with cover model Steven Grooby.  And me is Miss September.