We work in porn. I prefer to call it adult entertainment, or erotica, but the word that most people understand is porn. Porn is a fickle business, which skirts the fringes of most societies – it doesn’t always conform to the most popular view – and has excelled in creating its own stereotypes and sub-cultures which many would find distasteful outside the “porn world,” whether addressing race, body type, sexual acts or genders. Porn sells a fantasy; there aren’t MILFs waiting to seduce pizza delivery boys and having ATM sex on a first date (or ever) would rarely be acceptable. Seductions rarely happen in locker rooms and there aren’t transsexuals prowling the streets with the agenda of tricking men into having sex with them.
Some of you may have seen a circulated press release recently regarding the word “shemale”, linked to a poll with the statement;
“We would like to see the use of the term “shemale” phased out and removed from your website. This not only affects trans women performers but all trans women.”
Despite my own personal feelings that the maker of this post is using it as a marketing tool to promote her own DVD products (something I applaud and respect her for) and seems to be creating a cult of personality for herself (which I don’t have so much respect for), despite the fact that I’ve answered this many times on social media or privately and despite the fact, I commented on the poll when it reached 500 posts – it seems that we’re drawing the ire, for not commenting again, when the poll passed it’s 1000 mark. Bob from Bobs-Tgirls.com responded to jibes with a rather factual and serious tweet, which then led to attacks on him. This is something I feel the poll’s author has been aiming for since the creation. There is no real interest in discourse, as there is no willingness to listen to facts or reason, just ignorant and naive rebuttals and barbs. This editorial will give some real facts about the word “shemale”, why it is used in porn and why it’s not only naive, but backwards, to believe that the removal of it (in the context of porn) is going to make any difference to transgendered people in real life.
One glaring fact is that despite the poll author’s constant tweets, PR campaign, and massive re-tweets, in over five weeks out of her 7500 followers, only a little over 1200 have been that interested in signing the petition. That’s 84% of people who were too disinterested to click two links and sign it. There has been a lot of models in the industry, who just think it’s all a bit ridiculous and have asked her not to speak for them. There was some sort of ignorant accusation made that girls wouldn’t sign as they’d be blackballed from the industry and the sites would refuse to work with them. This is based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, and for my company I can say I wouldn’t let someone’s political views – or personal arguments with myself – stop a profitable model from returning to the studio. In fact, it’s happened numerous times, as many girls would attest (references can be supplied). Well, now that’s out of the way; on with the show.
It probably wouldn’t surprise most people to say that I agree with not using the word “shemale” to identify transgender individuals on our sites. Grooby is the most progressive of any of the larger adult TS websites with a mission statement that involves, “normalizing the models within the scene/situation”, “no ‘surprise’ scenes”, to be inclusive of all types of transsexuals (we were the first to show an FTM as well as post-ops), and to provide the widest spectrum of types of transsexuals (of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and stages of transition). Although we didn’t coin the word “tgirl”, we were the most instrumental in using it and pushing it to be a good word, which I believe it is, and I use “tgirl” or “t” as my preferred noun. In 1999, we helped Bob come up with the name of his site, and we launched “Black Tgirls”. It’s also common knowledge that Grooby is the “go-to” site on the business side of the industry and we’ve consulted and helped change terminology massively on cams and dating companies, replacing “shemale” or “TV/TS” to more acceptable terms. We’re continuing to look at getting more involved with the transsexual community and have a good LGBT range of staff for our relatively small company, so to make accusations otherwise is to attack us for being ignorant to the community or disinterested is just more bullshit.
So why use the word “shemale”? Although the word wasn’t created by the sex industry, it’s there that it’s found its home and its usage. “Shemale” is a descriptor in the sex industry, long before the internet was born and continued to be the most appropriate word to describe MTF pornography worldwide. It is and should always be a word used in the context of porn and to identify that. I’ve written about this many times on our forums and social networks, explaining that this is a porn word and other proper terms should be used outside of porn. This isn’t unique to “shemale” – if you look across the porn industry it’s full of pejoratives used for sales and marketing that would never be used in real life situations. Attempting to link the usage of this word to attacks on transsexuals in the USA lacks any grounding in facts and I don’t believe if the word was removed from porn that it would have any bearing whatsoever. The ignorant, the bullies, the bigoted, and the oppressors would just move on to another word, which is the current flavor. I’m sure it is distressing to be called any word with which you dislike or has negative connotations, but changing the word isn’t going to stop that individual attacking.
I’m confident the question would be asked, “if ‘shemale’ offends so many people, then why not just change it to transsexual/transgender/tgirl?” Not only is ‘shemale’ a good descriptor for the type of porn companies like Grooby, Evil Angel, Kink, Devil’s Film, Shemale Strokers, Bob’s Tgirls, Shemale Club, and the many solo models sites who use it, it IS the most valuable word in terms of search engine results worldwide. It’s the most recognizable word for non-English speakers to find this content and with over 50% of our sales coming from non-English speaking countries, it would be problematic to not use it.
Google analytics show a wide difference between the searched words;
Shemale – 2.74 Million hits.
Tranny – 450,000 hits
Tgirl – 90,500 hits
Transsexual – 60,500 hits
So 30 times more people are searching on Google for the word “shemale” rather than “tgirl”. It would be unreasonable and unthinkable to ask companies to stop marketing to over 95% of its potential clientele?
There is another issue that in their short-sighted attempt to remove “shemale” from porn sites that has been overlooked by this minority (although it was spotted by some of the adult performers). If you were to Google “shemale” you’d be presented with page upon page of porn sites. There are no lifestyle, helplines, awareness or factual blogs, medical advice or activism. Just porn. A Google search of “transsexual” finds all those topics and more presented on the front page. Easy to find, relevant, and easy accessible. If adult companies started competing for “transsexual” over “shemale”, it would decimate and devalue the search on “transsexual”. In this way, having a “bad word” actually works better for those seeking transsexual knowledge as the porn can be found elsewhere.
We changed the name of the “Tranny Awards” in 2013 in an attempt to garner more mainstream attention and appeal to a wider range of sponsors, which is something we’ve been successful with on both counts this year. We changed the name to the more appropriate “Transgender Erotica Awards” – or “The TEAs”. We received a number of complaints, stating that now when someone searched for “Transgender” they’ll get redirected to a porn award. Although we’ve taken care to try and use search engine terms only for “transgender erotica” (and rank 1st page on Google), I believe as the event grows, it will appear higher on a “transgender” search.
Bob, from Bobs-Tgirls.com had already responded why he needed to use the word “shemale” on his website, yet kept getting hassled on why he hadn’t responded to the poll reaching 1000 strong. He stated, “we discussed the search engine aspects. If you get all your 1000+ petition signers to join my site, I can remove the word.” He’s taken the time to engage and made a valid point, yet the retorts given show really more what this poll is about: complaints about capitalism over lives and misguided digs and blackmailing. It was suggested that there would be site members out of those 1200 signers (doubtful) and that “good publicity” would be given to those who comply.
Statements such as,”in an industry that is struggling, when 1.2k are asking for something even if under 5% sign up that’s a lot of money coming in to a site” show how little she knows about the industry. Bob’s site probably converts at around 1:600, so even if these were all tgirl porn fans and qualified buyers (they’re not), only 2 would join if all 1200 clicked through.
Grooby is a site that aims to make a profit; that’s why we’re in business. We pay our staff well, we put a lot of money into the local economies we work in, and we pay over $750,000 in model fees directly to transsexuals worldwide each year. We’ve been doing this for over 18 years and we aim to continue. To stop using the word “shemale” in our site names and search terms would be (at this point) potentially devastating. Trying to change the brands would be so bad that it would possibly kill those sites. Other sites, including Bob’s, would be in the same boat.
It’s been pointed out that apparently we’re the biggest offender of the usage term “shemale” on our website “Shemale Yum”, using the word 17 times! I couldn’t see that many but what I did see was that every use of it was either in the name of the site, for example “Shemale Yum is the longest running…” or in search engine descriptors ” … shemale video …”. We don’t name specific individuals as shemales and we use other terms within the text also. These are sales pitches used to try and be picked up by search engines, or provide accessible reading and marketing to surfers who come across the site.
The fact remains that, apart from the financial issues and the threats from a handful of misguided individuals, I believe in the usage of the word “shemale” in porn as a website title or as search terms. I believe it’s better to have one word that identifies transgender porn award from other transgender websites and venues. I believe in educating people (as we always have done) on proper terminology, respect, and the normalization of transgendered people across the board. I don’t believe the rants and feet-stomping from people with no idea of this business is relevant or going to change anything. In my 18 years of business, I’ve stood by this and will state it again: as a model, you have a choice with whom to work, and if you don’t believe that we at Grooby treat you with respect and aim to present and promote you in the best possible light, then don’t work with us. If you are a potential member and disagree with what I believe or how our company presents the models, then you do have the choice to not pay for our product.
My final point is that despite my obvious irritations at those trying to poll for the word to be removed, they do generally have my respect. I respect that they are trying to do something instead of nothing. I feel they’re directing their energies in the wrong place and given all the issues that transgenders are facing worldwide daily, there are far bigger and more important situations that they could direct that energy to and that could have a positive effect, rather than complaining about a word.
When is a shemale not a shemale? There is no such person as a shemale.