Exclusive Story

The New Grooby Girls: An Interview with Steven Grooby

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.

Kitten and Koko’s Hardcore Invitation!

kittenkoko2kittenkoko1

Kitten and Koko devour each other on Tgirls.porn!!! Kitten and Koko have real life chemistry and you can definitely tell in this hardcore tgirl on tgirl scene!!! These two literally invite you into their bedroom so you can enjoy the view from the inside! Enjoy this hot scene of Kitten and Koko playing hard!

SEE MORE KITTEN AND KOKO ON TGIRLS.PORN!!!

kittenkoko3

 

Ramona Swarosvki Sparkles in This Hardcore Scene!

RamonaSwarovski1RamonaSwarosvki2

Ramona Swarosvki sparkles, as usual, in this hardcore scene from UK TGirls! Ramona Swarosvki is a smoking hot model! She has huge breasts, a fuckable ass, and a kinky personality. She’s ready to put Jeff through his paces before offering up her luscious lips for a blowjob and delicious ass for a pounding! Enjoy this hardcore scene!!!

SEE MORE RAMONA ON UK TGIRLS!!!

RamonaSwarosvki3

[pics] Grooby Travels North to Gender Odyssey

2015-08-20-12.10.50

by Kristel Penn

I have returned from Seattle’s sunshine (it’s actually quite nice during the summer) and feeling pumped up from attending the Gender Odyssey Professional Conference. Both personally and professionally, I think it’s important to educate ourselves on  trans-specific issues and topics that relevant to the people in our industry. As an LGBTQ identified person, this conference was a really important opportunity for me to support my community.

From the official website:
Gender Odyssey’s conference programming is focused on the needs and interests of transgender and gender non-conforming people from across North America and around the world. Gender Odyssey is a place where we can gather together, learn from one another, and celebrate our growing communities. By creating a place where we can share our collective experience, Gender Odyssey’s primary objective is to offer tools to navigate obstacles and provide pathways to individual and community empowerment.

I wish I could have stayed in Seattle longer to connect with friends, but it just means I’ll need to come back again soon!

grooby-seattle001

Ready to start the day – I thought my pin seemed a relevant choice for the conference.

grooby-seattle002

All badged up and ready for the Gender Odyssey Professional Conference!

Grooby at Gender Odyssey

First panel of the day!

grooby-seattle005

The first workshop I attended discussed the obstacles many trans and gender-nonconforming people face with receiving transition-related care. Even after big decisions have been made, a scarier question becomes more apparent: how will I pay for the medical services I’m seeking? The landscape for this topic was quite vast and there was no way for the panelists to cover everything extensively, but they did discuss the Affordable Care Act, private insurance, Medicaid and Medi-cal, to name a few. The main takeaway from this session was to keep submitting paperwork to have procedures covered even when you are denied the first time.  In the photo above, you can read short bios about the panelists. I also encourage you to visit and support their organizations.

Another workshop that was of particular interest to me was titled Transition Part 2: Maintaining Relationships. Speaker Ryan K. Sallans discussed the his own gender transition and how it affected his partner at the time.  When they first met, Ryan identified as a lesbian as did his partner, and Ryan’s eventual transition was a conflicted place for his partner because of her own identity.

This sparked a thought provoking (and lively) discussion about the journey a partner goes through when the other is transitioning. I remember someone compared part of the experience as grieving, which I thought was an interesting point to make. Sallans noted how the stress of the transition can be hard for both people in the relationship and that partners often find themselves in an advocate/educator role with others while providing the bulk of the emotional support to their transitioning spouse.

Near the end of the day, I sat in on workshop called Complicated Case Studies, which discussed the complex variables that accompany a single person’s journey and how it makes it difficult for providers to know what issues/areas to tackle (when or even if). The roundtable conversatio included many mental health professionals who discussed their challenges and takeaways, all with the intention of asking and learning helpful ways to support their trans patients. It was a heartwarming to see so many therapists and case workers discussing how they can better service their trans clients in a way that was sincere and affirming.

grooby-seattle004grooby-seattle003

SeattleSeattle

Time for a drink!  Afterwards, my friend and I (who was also in town for conference) headed down to Seattle’s famous gay area: Capitol Hill. This was a cool sign to see out front at one of the bars we passed by.

Capitol Hill - Grooby

Ahhh! Just like being back in Los Angeles. Except I was surrounded by nice people.

grooby-seattle007

I don’t drink alcohol from a can – unless the packaging is pretty. Also, this was delicious.

grooby-seattle010

Post-drink, we headed down to the famous Elliott Bay Bookstore after saw a very eclectic collection of items in their LGBT section. I also spotted Dave Naz’s book, Genderqueer: and other Gender Identities , on the shelf!

grooby-seattle013

Aw, thanks Seattle! You’re so sweet.

grooby-seattle014

All in all, it was an amazing trip. Hope to see you again soon, Seattle.

[Pic Re-Cap] Stockroom and Grooby Team Up for ‘Trans Talk’ Panel

Trans Talk hosted at Stockroom University

by Kristel Penn

This weekend Stockroom hosted their first ‘Trans Talk’ panel as part of their weekly series, Stockroom University. Head Mistress Hudsy Hawn approached me a few months ago to pitch the original idea and she asked what I thought and if Grooby would be interested working together to put this on. I’m pretty sure I told Hudsy a resounding “YES” before she could even finish her entire pitch to me. So special thanks and recognition goes to Hudsy Hawn for all of her hard work. She was a pleasure to work with and she did a fantastic job with everything.

Got to see lots of old and new friends, which is one of my favorite things about doing events like these. Saw one of my all-time favorites, Kelly Shibari, who was accompanied by 2015 TEA sponsor Stephanie Berman from Semenette,  Eddie Wood and his cutie pie BF (note: apparently people kept mixing us both up because he’s also short and dapper), and 2015 TEA winner Chance Armstrong (who was accompanied by a very cool friend of mine),  just name a few.

Special thanks also to our panelists: Buck Angel, Morgan Bailey, Tori Mayes, and Michelle Austin. They all were amazing and I’m so proud of the work they’re doing to educate and inspire others. Please continue to support them and their future endeavors!

Thanks to my partner in crime, Sparky Snakeden, for heading down with me to Stockroom early to help set up and keeping things running smoothly behind the scenes.

Much appreciated to Dan Miller from XBIZ on the awesome write up! Read it here!

trans-talk002trans-talk003

If there’s an opportunity to be weirdos, please know we’ll be weirdos.

trans-talk007

trans-talk008trans-talk005

Michelle Austin posing in our limited edition Grooby Girls summer tank top!

trans-talk024

trans-talk025

Goodies from our panelists and Grooby!

trans-talk001trans-talk006

Pre-panel pictures with Sparky Snakeden, Morgan Bailey, and Chance Armstrong!

Trans Talk

Pretty much sums up our personalities.

trans-talk011

trans-talk012

trans-talk013trans-talk014

‘Trans Talk’ focused on each panelists’ individual story and then we discussed topics like pronouns, terminology in/out of the adult industry, body positivity, how to be a trans ally, and how the experience of being trans varies so greatly from person to person. Hudsy then opened up the panel to Q&A from the audience.

trans-talk016

trans-talk020

trans-talk021

trans-talk027

trans-talk009trans-talk029

trans-talk022trans-talk028

I obviously had a good day.

Systemic Transmisogyny Inherent in the Legal System

Systemic Transmisogyny Inherent in the Legal System
by Victoria Darling

In 2012, Brittany Carpenter thought she was doing a friend on a fixed income a favor. She sold 20 Vicodin to someone who turned out to be an informant. Brittany is a transgender woman who began her journey in 2004, about a month after she turned 18. She ended up serving five months in a men’s correctional facility: a halfway house because she is transgender, and is currently on three years’ probation during which she needs to submit to a urinalysis to test for illegal drug use. She was provided a private restroom and shower during her confinement and even though she was housed with men, she said that she had no negative experiences. “The director of the facility was gay, so he told everyone if they gave me one issue they would be sent out to prison,” she told me. “The male staff wasn’t allowed to touch me or search me in anyway.” She said that “was allowed to have females only to search me and do my drug tests.”

As a condition of her probation she still needs to submit to drug testing every three months until October 31st of 2015. “In the three years I’ve been on probation, I’ve always been allowed to use the woman’s restroom without someone watching me,” she stated. This suddenly changed on June 16th, 2015. “This time I was forced to go to the men’s restroom and take a drug test while both male probation officer’s watched me. When I requested for a female and to use the female restroom I was told, that I was a man, that I may be a woman in my head but I was still a man, and was told [I couldn’t] have a female [officer present]. When I mentioned that I have used the women’s restroom for the past three years he said that he didn’t care. I had to leave the stall door open and mind you, it’s a public male restroom.”

This kind of incident is not uncommon, and herein lies the problem. The internet is full of reports in which trans women who are housed in men’s correctional facilities experience transmisogyny, violence, and even rape. Cee Cee McDonald was sentenced to a men’s prison for simply defending herself against a male attacker. In February 2013, Leslie Ann Manning –another trans woman incarcerated in a men’s facility– reported being raped by a fellow inmate who threatened to kill her if she reported it. In a lawsuit filed against the State of New York, Manning said that prison officials showed a “deliberate indifference” in failing to protect her from her attacker. There are dozens more instances where law enforcement personnel completely ignore the rights of trans women, and this needs to change. Additionally, since a disproportionate number of trans women are part of the sex work industries, it stands to reason that trans women run a greater risk of incarceration in men’s correctional facilities.

But Brittany Carpenter wasn’t engaged in sex work at all. She was trying to sell a friend’s excess medication to help that friend out. When asked if she had any prior arrests, she said: “Nope. I was a good girl. [It was] just this one thing. My life revolves around my children so I don’t look for trouble.” When asked about the incident on June 16th , Carpenter stated the attending officer “said that I was a man, that I may be a woman in my head but I was still a man, therefore I couldn’t have a female officer [watch me take the test]… I’m terrified just thinking about going back there. Because of this I am now on anti-depression medication as well as having to seek counseling again. I cannot control my crying. I can’t sleep. I feel as I was raped, raped of all my dignity and pride.”

While LGBT advocates are celebrating the inevitable victory of same-sex marriage, there is a disturbing amount of silence about trans women who find themselves in similar situations or unjustly incarcerated in a men’s prison. People need to understand –now more than ever– that trans women are women and deserve the same treatment from the law (and society) that cisgender women do. With so many of us entrenched in the underground economy due to prejudice and circumstance, we deserve to know that if we do go to jail at least we’d be treated like the women we are.

(Originally posted on the Grooby Post)

Trans Mentality: One Woman’s Story From The Inside

isolationsadgirlhideface-feat

Trans Mentality: One Woman’s Story From The Inside
by Victoria Darling

Author’s note: This story is 100% true. To protect the identity of my friend, her name has been changed to Pamela. This could be any trans woman who seeks assistance from a mental health facility, however. This article discusses institutionalized transmisogyny, gaslighting, misgendering, and transphobia. Appropriate trigger warnings apply.

I came home from running errands to three voice mails on my phone which I left charging on the night stand. Her tone went steadily from slightly annoyed to panicked and tearful. Just before arriving I received a text reading: “They are about to declare me 5150 because I’m asking to be released and they won’t let me go.”

I sat on a plastic bench which just was too uncomfortable to have not been designed to be that way, and about fifteen minutes later, my friend Pamela came out of the Restricted Area. Tears were still streaming day-old eyeliner down her cheeks, and she was clumsily carrying her stuffed bunny and a duffel bag. “Get me the fuck out of here…” she stated, striding half in fear, half in something I can’t to this day identify, out the door before I could even stand up.

Pamela is a trans woman who transitioned a little later in life than she would have liked. Gender dysphoria got the better of her at the age of 35 and she decided that she just couldn’t lie to the world any longer. After two years, she lost her job and hadn’t been able to find a new one. She’d been couch surfing for nearly a year and had tried camming for income, but for whatever reason, she wasn’t able to build a following. Adding to Pamela’s issues, she recently did not get a job she had really desired because she had been doxxed (doxxing is the practice of revealing another person’s personal information on the Internet) by a transphobic feminist, who had released her birth name along with a litany of libelous slander on several websites.

Depression was getting the better of Pamela. Suicidal thoughts became very prevalent with her, and on the advice of her psychologist she went to seek in-patient treatment at a mental health facility. I had dropped her off at the facility less than 24 hours before, and her demeanor then was one of guarded hope — like a child entering school for the first time. Now, as she was flinging her belongings over the seat, she was shaking and had a terrified look in her eyes. I started driving. After a few minutes she said, “That was officially the stupidest thing I could have ever done. They had zero interest in helping me. At all. All they did was gaslight and misgender me.”

I was silent for a bit, offended at the behavior just described to me being a trans woman myself. I knew Pam needed to talk, and being her friend, I needed to listen. We sat in silence for a few more minutes, and gradually, I coaxed Pam’s story from her.

When I dropped her off, it was nearly noon. She told me she wasn’t even admitted until seven hours later. Having sat in those torturous benches for only 15 minutes or so, I could see why she would be a little edgy. She’d been given a private room and was assured that her being transgender would not be an issue. “That was a fucking lie and a half,” she told me. “It was an issue. When the staff gendered me properly, it was condescending and patronizing. When they started calling me ‘sir’, I fucking lost it.”

She told me she’d been cleared to take her own medication, and use her electric razor in private as laser hair removal is only effective on dark hair. Evidently, neither of these happened. When it was time for her morning medication she was given Lexapro and Prazacin, but was denied her hormones because –apparently– there was not a pharmacist on staff who could confirm that the medications were what the labels claimed they were. It was Saturday, and Pam was told thaton Monday the pharmacist would be in, and the meds would be confirmed then. She was also told that the hospital she was at did not carry any of her medications. I am pretty certain that denying anyone their prescribed medication is not legal.

“They refused to even look at the pill description on the label, or use the pill identifier on drugs dot com,” she said with frustration.

Any physician who deals with trans patients will tell you that starting and stopping hormone therapy is very hard on the endocrine system, not to mention any negative psychological impacts which will vary wildly from patient to patient. Fact is, Pamela was already of precarious mental health. Being two hours late taking her hormones, when the nurse refused them to her explaining the meds needed to be verified, she had slammed her hand down on the counter and nearly screamed “NO! That’s NOT okay!” She was there on her own accord and she demanded to be released immediately. She was told “The psychiatrist needs to clear you. He’ll be out soon.”

She then requested to use her electric razor in the ladies room so she could get the bristling fuzz off her face. She was told that she would need to shave with a disposable razor provided by the hospital, and would need to shave in the public area where the men did. (I suspect this was about the time is when her first message was left on my phone.) “I’m NOT a MAN!” she yelled at the nurse, who stated that there is an M on her Medi-Cal card, and thus the nurse needed to uphold the male standards of care. “My ID says female”, she countered. “My BIRTH CERTIFICATE says FEMALE! I don’t know where the State got that information, but I have been fighting with them for weeks over it.”

This is when the nurse told her “Calm down sir. The psychiatrist will be with you soon.” At this point in her story even I wanted to give that nurse a more than furious talking-to. The Los Angeles LGBT Center recommended that facility as a safe space for trans people to get in-patient mental health treatment. Obviously, this was not going to happen. (I likely got the second call right around then.)

Pam explained that she had been told repeatedly that the psychiatrist would be with her “soon” for over an hour by this point. She’d been denied her hormones, her razor, her cosmetics, and by extension she’d been denied her femininity. “I told them that I knew I was being gaslighted, and I told them it wasn’t going to work,” she said to me. She was able to gain access to her own phone (the prior calls were from the payphone they had in the hall) and the message she left was heartbreaking. It was a meek voice, swimming in tears that simply said “Victoria… please come get me…”

Between then and my arrival, Pam had asked one more time to see the doctor who could release her. Again she was told the doctor would be with her “…soon…” The nurse had been playing this little game for nearly two hours.

That’s when she broke. Shaking and tearful, she demanded that they not play this game with her, and again was told to calm down. “YOU DON’T TELL A WOMAN TO CALM DOWN WHEN SHE’S ANGRY!” she screamed. “You should know that better than anyone.” That’s when the orderlies were called to take her to the 5150 wing. Pam began walking calmly to her room. The orderlies followed her calling out “Sir, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

Pam told me that if she’d been told it would take an hour or two at the beginning, she simply would have gone to her room and read her book while she waited. “The constant ‘sooning’ was a way to keep gaslighting me, just so they could hold me against my will. I’m sure of it,” she stated.

I’m not a ‘sir’, she said to herself silently. The orderlies were called off, which was very fortunate for Pam, as it would have made my fetching her so much more complicated. After about 15 minutes, she told me, the psychiatrist who could release her entered her room, flanked by orderlies who — she said — misgendered her yet again. She sat cross-legged on her bed, tears rolling down her cheek, clutching her stuffed bunny. “Let me go home,” she stated calmly.

“Your file says you are suicidal,” the doctor stated.
“I have suicidal ideations, which are a symptom of something else. I’m here for a diagnosis. I’m not going to kill myself,” Pam told the doctor.
“I have the power to hold you here,” he said.
“Please. Just let me go,” Pam replied calmly and tearfully, repressing the urge to strangle him for threatening her. She was pushed to the point of sheer panic, and being restrained against her will is a deep and primal fear she has. She knew this, and recognized again that he too, was trying to gaslight her in order to keep her there. (She was shaking again when she told me this part of her tale, panic in her eyes.)

Thirty minutes later was when I saw Pam coming out the door. She would have come out sooner, but it took them 25 minutes to get her hormones back to her. The nurses kept claiming that there were no medications brought in with her, and they didn’t have any more of her possessions. (This by the way, is an excellent example of gaslighting. Both were lies.)

I am outraged over what happened to my friend at a supposed “trans-friendly” space. The Los Angeles LGBT Center has taken action, filing a formal complaint with several authorities against that facility, and they have suspended recommending any patient for treatment there until appropriate education for the staff can take place.

As for Pam, she’s in the process of finding another place to live, and is still unable to locate work. Since coming out trans, she has been a target for transphobic feminists, societal prejudice against trans women, and a victim of institutionalized transphobia. The terrible truth is she could be any trans woman, and we need to work together to make this kind of treatment a rarity rather than the rule.


Victoria Darling

After transitioning in 2011, Victoria moved to Los Angeles where she and long-time friend Niki Flux founded the blog site TransEthics. Victoria interviews trans people from around the world and is a major supporter of sex workers’ and trans rights. Visit her website at Trans Ethics.