Through the Benz

Hope for 2017: trans community is still moving forward

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While 2017 has given the transgender community a lot to be fearful of, there have still been some positive things which have occurred that may have gotten overlooked. We’ve all been inundated with politics lately and everyone should be well aware of the intentions and risks we’re facing from the current administration, but in the midst of so much negativity and fear there are signs that we as a community are still making progress and moving forward, which is an important message that we need to make sure people hear. We need to give people in our community hope and to show that in spite of the overwhelming amount of fear we are still here and moving forward and we’re not going anywhere.

Among the positives for the transgender community so far in 2017:

Texas Mayor Jess HerbstNew Hope Mayor Jess Herbst became the first openly transgender mayor on record in Texas when she made the following statement in an open letter posted on the town’s website in February: “As your Mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories. I am transgender. Two years ago, with the support of my wife, daughters and son-in-law, I began Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the Mayors position, but here I am” Herbst wrote.

Herbst’s open letter comes as transgender rights have been thrust into the state and national spotlight thanks to a slew of so-called bathroom bills, including Texas’ Senate Bill 6.
 

 

The Boy Scouts of America announced in January that it will allow transgender children to enroll in scouting programs. Boy Scouts chief executive Michael Surbaugh said in a video message that the organization will now accept boys based on the gender a parent puts on a child’s scouting application, ending a policy of accepting boys based on the gender listed on a child’s birth certificate. One week later a New Jersey boy has become the first openly transgender member of the Boy Scouts.

National Geographic Gender RevolutionNational Geographic Channel premiered the documentary Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric in February. A companion piece to National Geographic Magazine’s recent “Gender Revolution” issue, the new documentary follows Couric across the states as she unpacks all the complexities of gender. The documentary premiered at a screening in Washington, D.C. to a very appreciative audience, including Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who praised the show by saying “This is going to save lives.”

And in a first for the magazine, National Geographic featured a transgender person on its cover, with 9-year-old Avery Jackson who appeared on the subscriber’s edition.

 

 

 

Long-time transgender advocate Laverne Cox made history as the first transgender actress to play a transgender series regular on a broadcast television show when the legal drama Doubt premiered on CBS February 15th. Cox, already known for portraying Sophia Burset, a transgender woman on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy award back in 2014 for her performance on the show.

Laverne Cox Doubt

At this year’s Grammys, a transgender woman served as a trophy presenter for the first time in the award show’s history, which puts the Grammys in the lead among award show diversity. Slay Model Management’s Martina Robledo joined actor Derek Marrocco and model Hollin Haley as presenters at Sunday night’s festivities, which broke away from the outdated tradition of simply using a “trophy girl.”

French Vogue transgender cover For the first time in the magazine’s 97-year history, Vogue Paris put a transgender model on its cover. Valentina Sampaio appears on the magazine’s March issue, which is the second biggest cover of the year for any fashion magazine. The cover’s celebratory headline reads, “Transgender beauty: How they’re shaking up the world.”

 

And finally, Tonner Doll Company announced it will release a doll based on 16-year-old transgender teen Jazz Jennings from the TLC reality series I Am Jazz, which will be the first doll based on a transgender person.

While these are not all ground breaking news they do show that progress is being made in a variety of areas, and there is still much to be hopeful about. And 2017 is barely even two months old and a things can change in the blink of an eye, as we are already beginning to see. There is hope.

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Getting to know three-time TEA nominee Lianna Lawson!

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Lianna Lawson is a new face in the trans porn scene who has made a big impact and become a fan favorite. Her work can be seen on several different sites such as Shemale Yum and Tgirls.porn, and she can also frequently be found camming. Lianna was nominated for three 2017 TEAs for Best New Face, Best Solo Model, and Best Scene with Casey Kisses.

Hello Lianna and thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!

No problem, I’m happy to oblige!

Lianna Lawson TEACongratulations on your three TEA nominations! How does it feel to get that many nominations?

It’s almost surreal. I wasn’t going into porn thinking I’d get nominated for anything, however that being said, it’s amazing to have not only one but three nominations among many other talented and beautiful ladies. So something is being done right, I think.

How did you get started working in the porn industry?

Well I just started posting images of myself on social media revealing more and more. Eventually Grooby director Omar Wax scouted me and got my ass, quite literally in front of a camera. The rest kinda just went from there.

Many consider being a model in the porn industry would be a dream job. Is the job really as glamorous and as much fun as people would assume?

To the uninformed it would seem like the “dream job,” but it is, in fact at the end of the day, a job. I mean there are some cool parties with cool people though, but you gotta *work* to get there.

What’s your favorite part of the job and your least favorite part?

My favorite part about the job is getting to meet all the amazing people in front of AND behind the camera. Some of the most interesting and amazing people I’ve ever met have been through doing porn. As for the least favorite thing about the job is the stigma attached with being a trans sex worker.

What advice would you give to aspiring models who want to get into the industry?

I would tell them that they should know the risks and to think really long and hard about what they want out of working in the adult industry.

Who are some of the people who have influenced you the most throughout your career?

A lot of my influences comes from fans and friends, some of my friends being people like Shiri, Robin Banks, and Natalie Mars. All wonderful people. As they’ve all definitely helped me throughout my career in one way or another.

Lianna Lawson

Can you tell us what Grooby means to you?

Well as you know Grooby is one of the flagship companies that produces and distributes trans porn. That being said, it’s quite an honor to be featured by them and basically be propelled onto the home screens for those that appreciate and admire trans porn. And for that I’m pretty grateful. It means a great deal that I can be a part of the Grooby community and be accepted for who I am.

Does your family know you work in the porn industry and if so, how do they feel about it?

They know I do porn, but like any parents they’re concerned with all the risks associated with doing porn, I assure them that I am safe and doing well. They’re not happy with my choice to be in porn, but hey I’m here.

What was your childhood like growing up?

My childhood was pretty ordinary growing up so to say; I grew up in a military household, so there was lots of moving around and some strict rules. I was also the youngest of three siblings and for the most part I stayed outta trouble, got good grades, and played an unhealthy amount of video games. I didn’t necessarily have any long friendships because of the moving, so I found solace with online games and their communities and kinda explored things from there.

Lianna LawsonHave you always known you were trans, and was it a process to come to terms with that?

I wouldn’t say that I always knew I was trans, but I had a feeling that things were not “right” growing up. My teens were basically a period of self-discovery and lots of teen angst. And being raised in a fairly strict conservative household did push me to hide some of the ways I felt and acted. Initially I thought I was just gay, but I was drawn more to the feminine side of things and felt more comfortable exploring those aspects of myself. Eventually I sought professional help and guidance when I was 23 which allowed me to be more comfortable with myself and much happier.

Is your family supportive and accepting of you?

I would say they’re still getting used to the fact that I’m transitioning and are slowly coming to terms with it in their own special way.

How do you address those who claim that trans women are being exploited as sex workers?

There’s exploitation in almost every aspect of life, to think that trans sex workers are an exception is a little naive. You just have to have a steady head about yourself and know when something just isn’t right.

Violence and suicide are two of the biggest problems that the trans community faces, with 41% of trans people attempting suicide. What can we as a community, and more importantly, what can society do to address the issues which all too often leave trans people feeling like their only option is to end their life?

A part of the solution would be the community recognizing the warning signs when people are at risk of committing suicide. It’s up to the community to know and address what’s wrong or troubling the individuals who reside in said community. Support groups for LGBTQ people would be a great place for trans people seeking help and to get the care that they need to help prevent suicide. With increased efforts by the community it can bring awareness to society to change for the better and hopefully decrease suicide rates among transgender people.

What do you feel are the biggest issues facing the transgender community right now?

I think one of the big issues facing the transgender community would be acquiring and maintaining a job in the workforce without discrimination or fear of losing their job and having job security not only on a federal level. The mainstream media tends to focus on some non important issues like trans women in bathrooms and are primarily concerned with what our genitals look like. So the public is being informed that when it comes to trans people, you should be afraid or disturbed. Not to mention the media has a tendency to portray only the bad news, but that’s an entirely different subject.

Lianna Lawson Shemale Yum

There is a negative perception of the adult entertainment industry and those who work in it by mainstream society. What can we as an industry do to break down those stereotypes and get people to view us in a more positive light?

What would really help break down the negative perception of the adult industry would be the normalization of sex and breaking down how it is seen as a holy ritual. However that isn’t going to happen anytime soon because we live in a puritanical world where violence is rewarded and sex is shamed. Hopefully society’s attitude towards the adult entertainment industry will evolve and everyone will be better for it.

Who inspires you?

I’d say friends and a little bit of Sasha Grey.

As a trans woman do you find it difficult to date, along with being a pornstar?

Well I don’t date much and I’ve only been on a couple dates and the dates I have been on the people I’ve seen have known that I’m trans and do porn. I can see how it would be difficult, but I have not encountered those problems just yet.

When you’re not working, what activities do you enjoy in your free time?

Well I enjoy playing videogames, watching movies, reading books, etc. y’know the usual. Two things worth mentioning though are my interests in photography and dancing. I’d like to explore a little bit more with both, but they’re kinda just little hobbies that I dabble in. Also dancing is a great way to stay active.

I read that your favorite movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which is also one of my favorites. Do you enjoy classic movies?

Yea I really enjoy the classics, they’re a great place to delve into the beginnings of a really fascinating industry.

With your interest in photography would you eventually like to get behind the camera and shoot or produce porn?

I think it’d be an interesting move to shift from in front of the camera to behind and end up shooting porn. That would be something to see.

Lianna Lawson     Lianna Lawson

Do you enjoy interacting with your fans on social media?

Sometimes it’s an absolute blast talking to people from all over the world and other times it’s a total drag. For example I can talk about some really cool things like chemistry or firefighting and other times it’s some Joe Blow who is looking for some wish fulfillment or a cheap thrill. it’s kinda all over the place, lots of hits and misses.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

That I have a dick, but seriously I think people would be surprised to know that I’m down to earth and a fairly easy going person.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I just don’t know, I do however hope that it is not as a statistic.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview Lianna, it was a pleasure!

Be sure to follow Lianna on Twitter and Tumblr!

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TEA Time is almost here: the 2017 Transgender Erotica Awards are coming!

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With the Transgender Erotica Awards coming up soon I thought I’d share my perspective about what it’s like to attend the TEA events for those of you who have never gotten the chance to experience it in person. Hopefully this will help convince you that it’s an event that can’t be missed!

TEA 2017

The purpose behind the Transgender Erotica Awards is to recognize those who work in and have excelled in this industry, but it’s so much more than just the awards. While it is nice to be recognized for your accomplishments, the best part of TEA is just getting together with friends to celebrate what we do. And with all the negativity we face because of working in the porn industry, let alone the fact that we’re also trans, it’s nice to be with people where it’s okay to feel good about what we do and who we are. We get a chance to put aside all the negative crap that seems to predominate the news lately and have some fun for a few days. And for me, it’s more than just a gathering of people I work with and the fans who enjoy the product we create, it’s more like a family reunion. I’ve made so many friends in this industry, people who have come to mean the world to me and are like family, and that is what makes this so truly special. I get to dress up in a fancy gown and hang out and party with some pretty amazing people, and it doesn’t get much better than that! And for those new to the industry it’s a great opportunity to learn how the industry works and to meet people and network. But TEA is so much more than just about the awards!

TEA Con 2016     TEA Con 2016

TEA Con debuted last year and was a rousing success, and it looks to be even better this year with it being held on Saturday March 4th at Avalon, site of the awards show. TEA Con gives fans a chance to meet and hang out with the performers in a more relaxed environment, along with the opportunity to get autographed photos and merchandise, along with a picture with their favorite model. And Grooby will no doubt have some goodies to give away such as their awesome Grooby Girl t-shirts and calendars. I think I spent all of five minutes at my table because I was having too much fun wondering around talking with people and taking pictures. Even though I work in the industry I’m still a fan, and TEA Con gave me the opportunity to hang out with people I hadn’t met before and make new friends.

TEA 2016

The After-party has traditionally been held the night following the awards, but this year it’s been moved up to Friday March 3rd, with the awards being held on Sunday March 5th. The party takes place at Bardot which is a fabulous venue, and the folks at Grooby know how to throw a heck of a party! It’s always fun to see the outfits people wear, which range from elegant to outrageous and everything in between! The music rocks, the alcohol flows, and the party is one of the best! What I notice most are all the smiles and laughter and hugs, and people just happy to be there among friends. You can say with absolute certainty that a good time is had by all!

TEA 2016

And finally, the Awards Show is Sunday March 5th at the Avalon, and is always an amazing event. The Avalon is a beautiful venue and adds to the over-all atmosphere, which is one of excitement, elegance, and celebration. When you first walk in and see the red carpet and then the big staircase and the auditorium beyond that, it literally takes your breath away. And even more breath-taking are the people who attend and all the amazing gowns and dresses you see, along with some pretty snazzy tuxedos and suits! If you like to people watch then TEA will be your dream come true! The awards show begins with walking the red carpet and getting interviewed and photographed, which in itself is quite an experience! Morgan Bailey is the queen of the red carpet and nobody does a better job of interviewing that her! Then we mingle and have a drink or two and socialize with everyone before making our way to our tables for the award show. And then the fun begins, with your friends and coworkers getting recognized for their hard work. It’s always hard to pick who you want to win because most of the nominees are friends, so no matter who wins we’re all happy. It’s quite an evening.

TEA 2016     TEA 2016

And the TEA weekend wouldn’t be complete without attending Club Cobra on Thursday night which is the unofficial start to the TEA festivities. Cobra is always a fun night and a good chance to hang out and have a few drinks with your friends, or to make new friends!

And come Monday when all the festivities are done and we’re dead tired and our feet are killing us from wearing heels for the past four days, you’ll look back and have a lifetime of great memories and understand what an amazing experience the Transgender Erotica Awards really are! It’s one of those things that has to be experienced in order to understand it! And then you’ll be counting down the days until next year’s TEA!

TEA 2016

This would not be complete without a big thank you to everyone at Grooby who put in so much time and effort to make this event so special. A lot of work goes into organizing and planning TEA and making sure everything runs smoothly, and it’s a credit to them that these events always seem to come off without a hitch. The Transgender Erotica Awards have come a long way since the first one held in 2008, and it will be exciting to see how it continues to evolve and grow in the coming years.

TEA    TEA

Nice socks Dev 🙂

And last, but certainly not least, a big thank you to the many talented photographers who cover all the TEA events and never miss capturing all the special moments. You guys are the best! It’s nice to have so many amazing photos to remember these events by, and to use to promote things. TEA photos are always the first ones I go to when looking for images to use for my interviews, so thank you for that!

TEA 2016     TEA 2016

For more information about TEA and to purchase tickets, visit the TEA website here: theteashow.com/

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My thoughts on the Chelsea Manning case

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I have to admit I have mixed feelings about Chelsea Manning’s sentence being commuted by President Obama. I suppose I’m okay with it because it does not absolve her of the crimes she was convicted of like a pardon would have, and she has clearly suffered inhumane treatment while being incarcerated.

Chelsea Manning is a United States Army soldier who was courtmartialed and convicted in July of 2013 for 17 violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, including five counts of espionage and theft, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents. She has served nearly seven years of her 35-year sentence.

I am not a lawyer or an expert on the Chelsea Manning case. I am a transgender woman and also a veteran. Transgender people have a long history of serving honorably in the military, and as a veteran myself I feel she has brought dishonor to herself and the Army and brought a lot of negative attention to trans people in the military, especially since her defense used the fact that she’s trans as one of the main reasons to justify her crimes. Being transgender and serving in the military is not easy, but it can be done as evidenced by people such as retired Navy SEAL Kristin Beck and Shane Ortega who served while being open about the fact he was transgender and played an important role in getting the military to allow trans people to serve openly.

Whether you view Manning as a traitor to her country or a hero for being a whistle-blower depends on your point of view. This is a topic which people seem to have very strong views about and there seems to be no middle ground. But the one thing which is not disputable is that she was convicted of violations of the Espionage Act for releasing classified documents and that she pled guilty to 10 of those charges.
But, after doing some research it became apparent that it would be a tough if not impossible task to mount a defense against these charges because the way the way the Espionage Act is written and the limitations the defense had to contend with. However, Manning’s defense was based largely on the claim the Army disregarded Manning’s emotional turmoil over her gender identity and isolation in a military that barred homosexuals from serving openly, which in my opinion is a pretty weak defense and does little to defend her actions. Again, transgender people have a long history of serving honorably in the military and managing to do so without committing espionage.

I’ve also learned more about the Edward Snowden case and I have an easier time understanding what he did and why he did it than I do the Manning case. There are obvious similarities between the two cases and it’s difficult not to compare the two. But to me, the main difference is that Manning was a soldier and broke her oath to serve her nation and fellow soldiers. She voluntarily joined the Army and took an oath to serve her country, and she broke that oath and the law when she willfully stole classified documents which she released. Should there be no consequences for her actions? But, Snowden fled the country and is living in Russia to avoid prosecution, while Manning went through the legal process, acknowledged she had done something wrong, and was tried and convicted. So, it does seem kind of hypocritical for me to be okay with what Snowden did while condemning Manning actions, but as a veteran what she did just doesn’t set well with me.

I also take issue with all the people who have campaigned for Manning to be pardoned for her crimes because of the inhumane conditions and treatment she has had to endure while incarcerated. I think we all agree that her treatment while being detained has been inhumane and unacceptable. But to say she should be released because of that is unreasonable because the two issues are completely unrelated. She was found guilty of 17 charges against her, and while her mistreatment is deplorable, it has no legal baring on her conviction; that is a separate legal issue. I’m sure Charles Manson has claimed he hasn’t been treated fairly in prison, so should he be pardoned too? Any trans person who is incarcerated has my sympathy and support because I can’t begin to imagine what a nightmare that must be. Anyone who is incarcerated deserves to be treated in a humane way and given the rights they are entitled to, but in my opinion they deserve nothing more. Prison is for people who have broken the law and been convicted for their crimes; it is not meant to be a fun place. Perhaps she, as with all people who willingly choose to break the law, should have considered the consequence of her actions.

The other argument which I take offense to is that she should not have been convicted to begin with because she was reporting war crimes. Again, she did plead guilty to 10 charges and was convicted of 17 counts including espionage. And I’m fairly certain that the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Espionage Act have no exemptions which state that espionage is acceptable as long as you’re reporting war crimes. And speaking of war crimes, has there been an official investigation and hearing to determine an official ruling of war crimes? She was also convicted of theft, having stolen information which was not hers. So, everyone who wants her pardoned must feel that stealing is acceptable and that people who break the law should not be punished? The bottom line is that she was found guilty of espionage. Her guilt or innocence is not in question and should not be an issue.

Whatever your opinion of Chelsea Manning, be it from the perspective of a citizen of this nation, a veteran, or a trans person, the fact remains that she committed a crime which she was convicted of and sent to prison to serve her sentence. I suppose time will tell what her legacy will be in the history of our nation, but in my opinion she failed her country as a soldier and she failed the transgender community by attempting to justify her crimes by using the fact that she was trans as an excuse. And our nation and military failed her by not providing safe and humane treatment while she was incarcerated. Perhaps something positive will come from this, that her mistreatment will serve to highlight the problems within our military and civilian prisons and prevent other trans inmates from being subjected to inhumane conditions. And hopefully Ms. Manning will find peace and be able to move on with her life.

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The war against porn…yet again

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So once again we have a President and a Republican led Congress who feel the need to declare war against the porn industry. Excuse me, but hasn’t this been tried numerous times, most recently under the Reagan Administration, and haven’t they all failed? Yes indeed. Apparently no lessens have been learned from these past failed attempts. In July of last year Trump signed a pledge promising that as president he would, among other things, consider appointing a Presidential Commission to examine the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth, families and the American culture. Could it be that this new tough stance against porn is to help win points with conservatives who have questioned his ownership of a strip club and being married to a woman who once posed nude for GQ?

Numerous states, including Tennessee, Virginia, and Utah have filed legislation declaring porn a public health hazard. But South Carolina wins the prize for most originality. Legislators there want to require all computers to come with preinstalled porn filtering software, and then charge people a $20 “digital access fee” payable to the South Carolina Attorney General’s office in order to get the filter removed. Wow, that seems a tad bit illegal to say the least. I’d say there would be far more interest in filtering software that would block Trump’s idiotic Tweets that we seem to be bombard with daily.

The war against pornSo now we have hordes of bible-thumping Republicans who are claiming that pornography is a public health hazard. Really? And even more ludicrous, they’re claiming that porn is a threat to the future of society. The Future of Society. Okay, I’ll play along. Please show me some quantitative data to support these claims. Anyone? I wasn’t aware that pornography caused poverty, hunger, mass shootings, unemployment, global warming, terrorism, homelessness, global instability, increased crime, increased the national debt, or any number of other actual problems that plague this country. I’m pretty sure if these same politicians take a look at themselves in the mirror they’ll be staring at the actual cause of these problems. And doesn’t it seem a bit odd that so much time and effort is being spent introducing legislation to wage war against porn and discriminate against trans people when there are much more urgent problems to deal with such as our nation falling apart at the seams because we have become so divided over our President-elect and so many people are losing faith in our government. But sure, let’s waste time worrying about where trans people pee and about porn. I think the Republicans need to take a hard look at their priorities. But then again, this quite clearly shows what the Republicans see as their top priorities: taking away the rights of certain groups of people, and censoring things they don’t agree with. Is it just me, or does this sound awfully familiar, kind of like Nazi Germany? That’s comforting.

The Adult Entertainment Industry is not a public health hazard nor is it corrupting society. Porn is like anything else; a bit of common sense and self-restraint is needed when partaking of it. Same as with alcohol, junk food, gambling, and recreational drugs, which, by the way, are all legal. And if we want to take a look at public health hazards, let’s consider two of the more obvious health problems facing this country: smoking and obesity. Please note that I am not shaming anyone or making judgements about either of these, I’m just using them as examples. Smoking is a known carcinogen and will cause damage to your health. There is enough data supporting this that it cannot be argued or refuted. And last time I checked, smoking was legal. So, dear Republicans, please explain why you aren’t going after the tobacco industry. Could it be that the Tobacco Lobby lines your pockets with obscene amounts of money? Now let’s talk about obesity, which is a national epidemic. Recent reports have estimate that 38% of adults and 17% of teenagers in this country are obese. American’s obesity epidemic is now three decades old and obesity rates continue to climb year after year with no end in sight. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illness are a staggering $190.2 billion or nearly 21% of annual medical spending in the United States. The annual nationwide cost from loss of productivity due to obesity-related absenteeism is nearly $3.38 billion. So obesity is a known health risk and a large burden on the economy and the health care system, yet I have not heard that the Republicans are waging war against obesity. It seems clear that Republicans view pornography as more of a risk than smoking and obesity, in spite of a wealth of data that proves otherwise. Huh. And this makes sense how?

The fact remains that pornography showing consenting adults has been deemed legal in the eyes of the United States judicial system. You can argue the morality of porn if you choose, but defining morality in the legal sense can be a sticky wicket, and the bottom line is that people in this country have the right to choose whether or not porn is immoral and whether or not to watch it. If you don’t like porn then don’t watch it; it’s actually pretty simple isn’t it? This is America where there’s a nifty document called The Constitution that guarantees us certain rights, including the First Amendment which among other things guarantees the freedom of speech. So no one has the right to dictate whether we as Americans can view porn. Of course the Republicans seem hell-bent on rewriting the Constitution so it fits their own warped beliefs, and if that doesn’t work they seem okay with just ignoring it. Welcome to the new America. And if porn gets censored, then who’s next, because it won’t end there. The new slogan of Trump’s America: If we don’t like you we’ll just censor you and legislate you out of existence. Again, it’s hard not to notice the chilling similarities to Nazi Germany.

The war against porn

The Adult Entertainment Industry, and please take note of the word entertainment, provides a product for the entertainment of customers. And judging by the popularity of porn in its various forms and the revenue it generates, I’d say lots of people enjoy their porn and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Porn is a business which is here to stay, and there would be a lot of unhappy people, including a large number of the self-righteous conservatives who hide behind their bibles, who would not be happy if porn were to go away. Let me correct that; even if the Republicans do succeed in regulating it somehow, porn will never go away because there is too large a demand for it. This country runs on supply and demand and the all mighty dollar, and don’t kid yourselves, porn is a big business that generates a lot of revenue. And money talks. Look no further than all the lobbyists on Capitol Hill to see what money can buy.

Trans people who work in the porn industry may as well get a big target tattooed on their foreheads, because we seem to be the number one target of the Republicans. It seems odd that we’re such a threat to them, because we in the trans community are far more likely to be the ones attacked or murdered or discriminated against. These days we have to be concerned for our safety and fear of getting pummeled with bibles from the religious zealots who feel the need to “save us.” Speaking for myself, I’m just fine thank you and don’t need to be saved, especially by people who are so hypocritical and judgmental. I don’t know about your God, but my God is loving and sees people for who they are and how they live their lives. And quite frankly, if people like you are going to heaven, then I have no desire to be there with the likes of you. I prefer to be with people who are accepting and kind and don’t judge or preach, which disqualifies all the conservatives, religious zealots, and Republicans.

And lastly, it is these types of witch hunts which fuel stereotypes and shaming which are all too prevalent in today’s society. Please see my Through The Benz column here from last November which I wrote about shaming and the porn industry. Shaming is used as a means of taking away people’s dignity and it eats away at the core of who we are and makes us question everything. It leads to depression, it leads to suicide, and it leads to hate, especially the worst kind of hate; hating ourselves. Shame kills, and that needs to stop. But sadly, it appears that the culture of shame in America will only increase under the Trump Administration.

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A Canadian original, the beautiful Jelena Vermilion!

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Jelena Vermilion gives us one more reason to love Canada! This sassy and articulate young woman has made a splash in the porn industry and leaves quite an impression when you get to know her. She has that special star quality of being amazing in front of the camera while performing and also being extremely insightful and informed about not only the issues within the trans community and porn industry, but also global issues. This lady can definitely hold her own in an interview! One of the things I enjoy most about doing these interviews is that it gives me the opportunity to get to know people a lot better, and I particularly enjoyed chatting with Jelena and doing this interview. Jelena is a special lady and I see great things ahead for her in whatever endeavors she chooses. And congratulations are in order for her recent Transgender Erotica Awards nominations for Ms. Unique and Best International Performer (West)!

Jelana Vermilion

What was your childhood like and when did you realize you were transgender?

My childhood was pretty tumultuous. I experienced a lot of trauma growing up, which I think contributed to my delayed realization of being trans until around 16. I had always acted in my own way which I suppose would have been read as ‘feminine’ archetypically, but I didn’t express it knowingly until around 16, even though my presentation was pretty femme.

Was it a process for you to come to terms with the fact that you were trans?

Yes, it was a challenge. I struggled with feeling helpless to do anything about my feelings of dysphoria. I balked at starting HRT for a long time because I was conflicted about being on medication for the rest of my life. Thankfully when I decided, I was able to start before the end of my puberty, at 17.

Is your family supportive and accepting of you?

My folks are strange people. They are superficially accepting of me as being trans and who I am in general. But, I don’t have contact with them, as they can be quite inadvertently abusive, without effort to be accountable. My siblings and other extended family (I have few relatives I am in frequent contact with) are accepting, mean well, and we are on good terms.

Jelana Vermilion Jelana Vermilion

How did you get started working in the porn industry?

I had recently started escorting, and I was scouted by Toronto Grooby Producer (at the time) Kevin Dong. He asked me if I’d be interested in modeling for Canada-Tgirl.com, and that if things went well, there may be opportunity to shoot a hardcore set. I agreed, and I really enjoyed myself. The rest, as they say, is history. I was then scouted again by new Toronto Producer Vito Scalia once Kevin left Grooby.

Does your family know you work in the porn industry and if so, how do they feel about it?

I have no interest in hiding who I am or what I’m about, so I have told them. My mother gets paranoid about my safety, driven by her misconceptions and (of course), sincere concern. My father- I’m sure- has complicated and condemning feelings about it as he doesn’t want to think of his (daughter) in that light. I couldn’t care less what they think about it.

Jelana Vermilion

There are some who claim that trans women are being exploited as sex workers. What are your thoughts on this?

I think that it’s a complicated issue. I think in a world where trans people- especially femme trans folks- had the same employment, educational, and economic opportunities as their cis peers, many would not choose sex work. Many people revel in sex work, and others choose it because it is the least foul/best overall choice for them. I know that I fall within the former category. I think, however, that it is poverty and capitalism which exploits people to make choices (i.e. consent to labour) that aren’t ideal.

What do you feel are the biggest issues facing the transgender community right now?

I think that transgender people being given more exposure within the collective consciousness has been a good improvement. I also think that the gender binary has been reinforced through these homogenized narratives of Male-to-Female and Female-to-Male transitions being disseminated. I think an issue the trans community faces is the erasure of non-binary and intersex identities. I think medical coverage for trans folks who choose to medically transition is obviously a contentious issue, also.

When you look back at 2016 what will you remember most?

I was nominated as Ms. Unique and Best International Performer (West) for the 2017 TEAs, and that was a pretty special moment for me in 2016. I am ever grateful.

Congratulations on your nominations!! Will you be attending TEA in March?

I’m not sure; I’d really like to I’m just not sure if I can swing it.

Jelana Vermilion Jelana Vermilion

As a Canadian, what are your thoughts when you look at what’s going on in America, with the country so divided over Donald Trump being elected?

I feel for my American neighbours. Many people are hurting and scared, and many people are now emboldened by what they perceive as righteous and valid behaviour. It seems to have created a large dissonance within many communities in every state. I hope that people will focus on being kind to one another.

Do you see any big differences in how trans people are treated in Canada versus America?

It does seem that on a federal level, Canada makes a conscious effort to ask pronouns/gender identity/preferred name in interpersonal dealings and on their governmental forms. I have even noticed these changes trickle down provincially and municipally, so it is quite interesting to see. We also have gender identity and presentation protected from discrimination under our criminal code, so that is neat.
I had lived in Virginia for six months, and while I do think attitudes vary by state, America is still learning how to respect and understand trans people. Canada is also still learning.

Do you enjoy interacting with your fans on social media?

Generally, yes! I am very grateful to have my fan base and a loyal following. I enjoy having meaningful discussion and sharing parts of myself for them to see. It’s always neat to see the kind of connections that can be made!

Where would you like to see yourself in ten years?

I would like to have a partner (wouldn’t most?), and I’d like to be focused on creating more art- whether that is erotica, pornography, fashion photography, film, etc. I am interested in creating and disseminating beauty into the world. I feel like it is something of value.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I can be quick to tears, I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I prefer living in smaller spaces as I prefer not to own many possessions.

Jelana Vermilion Jelana Vermilion

When you’re not working, what activities do you enjoy in your free time?

I am an audiophile, so I listen to a lot of music at home on my record player or on-the-go in my car. I like dancing, going on road trips, exploring nature, trying new food, and spending time with friends.

Who inspires you?

So many of my friends! I’m also inspired of the musicians that I listen to, such as Stevie Nicks, Alysha Brilla, Grimes, or Crystal Castles. I get a lot of inspiration through beauty and exhibitions of beauty.

You have very good taste in music! Stevie Nicks is also someone who has inspired me for her sense of style and obviously her voice.

Thank you again Jelena!

To learn more about Jelena:

Twitter: @IsisIntrepid

Facebook: Isis Jelena Vermilion

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Remembering 2016 and what it means to you

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2016 has been quite a year, and as it comes to a close I thought it would be fun to look back and ask people what they will remember most from this year. I reached out to a bunch of folks and here are the replies I got back. A big thank you to all who took the time to participate and for the thoughtful answers you provided.

Steven Grooby

There has been a lot of confusion, anger and division in 2016 but what I remember most of the year is much different. I try to travel somewhere new each year and this year I was lucky enough to go to Panama, Cartagena (Colombia), Madrid and Kyoto and what I noticed was how warm and receptive people in all those places were, to a foreigner who spoke none of their language and often didn’t know his way round. People took the time to make sure I got what or where I wanted. Friendly, smiling people from all walks of life (when I travel, you’ll find me in the smallest neighborhood places as well as the higher end venues). I’ve seen an increase of friendliness in Los Angeles (which some find to be a city that is somewhat aloof) over the years and hosting our 20th Anniversary there, we were given so much love and attention from those attending as well as those that couldn’t make it.

So among all the problems we’ve had in 2016, and there are bridges that need mending and a lot of issues that need to be addressed, when asked what I personally remember most from 2016, it’s the warmth, the friendliness, the acceptance and the smiles from all over the world, and perhaps that is what we need to take forward and appreciate people as individuals instead of categorizing them.

Krissy Kyung

Whenever I get introspective about the past year, I try to remind myself to be optimistic about the future. This past year has been most memorable as a year of loss, unrest, and divisive politics here in the United States. Still, I have hope for a better future, not just for those groups that I identify closely with, but for all humanity.

I think what I will most remember from 2016; or perhaps it is less “remembering” and more a, “lessons learned” type of thing, is that division, hatred, and bigotry only serve one purpose – to spawn more division, more hatred, and more bigotry. This cycle of “I hate you because you hate them and your opinion doesn’t align perfectly with mine” … must stop. We must find common ground, or else we will destroy ourselves; and believe me, we’re well on our way to that end. So… 2016… I’d much rather forget 2016 and press on towards 2017 – a year of hope, healing, and a reclaiming of humanity. It starts with me and it starts with you.

Jacquie Blu

2016 has been a major year for me. This is the year where everything started to turn around for me. I have heard others complaining about this year, but it’s been one of the best years I’ve had in a long time. The last 12 months has been a whirlwind of activity, from launching my official website, to making an appearance in Transformation Magazine, to the Red Carpet at TEA 2016. Two months later, I began appearing as a weekly guest on the Dr. Susan Block Show, and two months after that I began working with her and quickly became her Associate Producer. I have been interviewed four times this year and I have been getting invited to events at The Sanctuary LAX as a VIP guest. I have shot a few scenes with Mistress Cyan, owner of The Sanctuary LAX and founder of DomCon and have been invited to attend DomCon 2017 as a Special VIP guest. I began shooting scenes with Paranormal Perversions, creating some of the highest quality content that I have ever seen in porn. In November, I became a sponsor for TEA 2017. This has been an exciting and productive year, with even more on the horizon for 2017. I had goals and high hopes for 2016, but there were a few events and occurrences that exceeded my expectations. There is a lot more for me to do, and I anticipate that the next year will be even more productive than this one.

Miran

That’d would be TEA that I won Best Non-US Performer 2 years in a row!!! It was unexpected and I hope I can win again!

Buddy Wood

2016 will always be the year the Cubs won the World Series for me. Those last few weeks of the playoffs and then the actual series were some of the most exciting and emotional times I’ve had in my entire life! You can’t really fully appreciate it unless you’re from Chicago but…it’s a big fucking deal. I recorded the victory parade and still haven’t watched the entire thing because I start crying. Lol I can’t get through it. I made an action/cop porno starring a bunch of my friends this year, shot tons of new models, got nominated for a hip-hop song I wrote and rapped and came out with my own adult website (ts-castingcouch.com)…but nothing beats the Cubs winning the World Series and the memories I will have of that in 2016.

Chelsea Marie

2016 was a very stressful year not only for African Americans and the LGBT community but for countries around the world facing wars against each other. 2016 was a troubling year but the one thing I will remember are those who lost their lives at the Pluse Night Club in Orlando; that used to be my place to go to every Wednesday and Saturday when I lived there, so my heart goes out to the families of that incident. Also my grandpa dying this year broke my heart because he called me beautiful on his death bed; I will always remember him as the fun Grandpa.

Krista Michaels

If I’m being honest, I must say that I most remember having to endure that awful election. I’d say that it was particularly one of the worst years of my life (not to sound completely negative, though!). lol. I’d give a better answer, but I’m slowly recovering from a terrible sickness. Trying to get everything back on track.

Brooke Myers-Zannell

When I look back on 2016, I remember being part of a porn company that turned into a lifestyle brand, being a Heritage Model, and attending the Grooby 20th Anniversary Party where we got another chance to hang and party together. I remember feeling shaded cause I don’t like to make lesbian porn with other tgirls, shaded cause I choose to keep my natural breasts and not have big implants on my chest. I reflect and remember myself on the back of Transformation Magazine. I reflect on myself I’ve hosted & danced at many clubs around the country this year, I’ve worked with Atomic Visuals and Sammy Mancini and Fran from Shemalestrokers. I reflect on all the girls who I helped get their first shoot with either Grooby or Shemalestrokers . Basically I come to this conclusion there are moments that haven’t seemed fun to go through but in one single act of kindness all that can change and the world doesn’t seem so bad. So here is to 2016 and I look forward to 2017!

Michelle Austin

This year has been a big change for myself and our company. We have worked to bring FTM porn to the mainstream audience. It is slowly growing and we have had tons of new guys shoot for us and produced some amazing scenes.

Also, after six years being in this industry not only is my company getting recognition from the industry with FTM.xxx being nominated for Xbiz, a lot of our scenes and models being nominated for TEA Awards and myself getting my first AVN Nomination for Trans Performer of Year. So, 2016 was a great year for our business and I can’t wait for 2017!

Jonelle Brooks

I will remember most my decision to move across the world to Thailand and my acceptance into LSU MBA program

Kylie Marie

I drove from Philadelphia to Vegas when I moved with my friend and my dog. Took about a week and 2 hours from Vegas to Cedar City Utah where I got into an accident on the highway. We came to a stop for an accident and the woman behind us was either drunk or texting or whatever but she drove straight into us and sent us flying into the medium. My car was totaled and my tv and computer were all destroyed. None of us were hurt seriously except my friend got a piece of metal rammed into his ankle. It was terrible, we had to stay overnight there and figure out everything. But we all survived which was the main thing and I made it to Vegas lol

Dave Naz

I found 2016 to be a fun and productive year. The only downer was the brutal Trump ending.

Tasha Jones

2016 has been a rollercoaster of eventful memories for me both personally and professionally! Both good & bad! Life changing and forgetful! The start of the year I was nominated for lots awards from both TEA & AVN more than ever before in my career! I finally did a shoot with the amazing Buddy Wood! I was so honored he wanted to shoot me. I finished my last DVD, something I had been working on for years. It was sad to know the curtain had finally went down and it was over. But that last shoot I did is nominated this year for best FTM scene! It is never about winning it is about being recognized for your hard work and dedication! I have never wanted to be the best I just wanted to be noticed.

Personally, this has been a year of difficult decisions and unanswered questions medically. Facing my mortality. Seeing the world fall apart with disasters forcing me to see how insignificant our personally problems in life are. Trying to look at the bigger picture rather than the moments that test our strength!

2017 will be a new year and a new way I will have to live my life. Putting who I was and who I hoped to be to bed. Letting go of the past and trying to stay positive for my future. Medically, I have life changing events to focus on. Finding peace within myself, some form of happiness! Some people would crumble with what I have had to deal with over the last 3 years. I am sucking it dry of the strength I have had. I have held on this long and gave it my all to reach my dreams even through I was staring hell in the face daily! I made it, I have the scars to show for it and I will wear them with pride!

Love yourself, believe in yourself! Support one another. Remember if a unknown girl from Canada with a concrete wall to block her from reaching her dreams can do it, anyone can! Thank you everyone for the support!

Rusty Eldora

I have had a quite busy 2016 with both ups and downs. I finished fixing up my house of 31 years to a quite good place with it selling in June at a number I am happy with. The best part of this was that it was a real party house for 3 months with a number of friends staying there.

In the fall of 2015 I reached out to someone that was having dark times, even though it felt like an inconvenience. Fast forward a year and she is now my best friend. Please everyone, answer that cry of help, you can really make a difference.

The highlight of the year was my two week car trip to LA, with 5 days around the Awards. A total blast because I was surrounded by close friends. This was my 3rd year attending and clearly the best. Yes, I have nothing to do with the industry yet I feel like I have been adopted into a family. I am in a professional career and it shocks me that the quality of people in the industry are among the best anywhere, far, far above the stereotype.
Another year realizing how wonderful transgender women are. Not just the appearance, but the smart woman inside that is finally living as herself. Guys are really missing out on the best women around.

Kristel Penn

I am so glad that 2016 is coming to an end. It has felt like a year of tragedy and struggle met with a surprising response of hope. As I write this, I’m listening to George Michael in the background and reminiscing about how much his music meant to me as a misfit in high school. There are stories now circulating about his secret generosity and quiet charity. 2016 has felt like a call-and-response. Each time we were delivered a gut wrenching blow, we were met with some kind of unexpected kindness. The surge in post-election violence toward the LGBTQ community in particular has been met with wave of activism within our community and from our allies. I’m trying to stay positive in all of this with the hope that 2017 will be a phenomenal year to counterbalance the horrors of 2016.

Isabella Sorrenti

What I will remember most from 2016 is the hot summer. I think it gets hotter every year. I can’t stand the heat or sun for that matter so perhaps I should relocate somewhere that’s not so sunny. I established many connections and actually put myself out there to become a better me. The opportunity to travel because I’ve never flown as much as I did this year. I plan on topping that and then some for 2017. The world and it’s many cultures await me. I do intend on upping my vegan diet to raw vegan next year. It will be pricey and hard but I feel I’m determined enough to make this happen.

2017 will be about change and fulfillment. I’ve gained the fame and self-confidence I yearned for. Now it’s time for a new beginning. A change of pace and scenery. 2017 will be about health and fitness and achieving those goals. It will be about taking that giant leap into my transition and coming out in a more evolved state of being. And NO ONE will get in the way of what I want to accomplish.

Some great things are in store for me in the coming year and I’m happy for all the support every one of you has given me. Happy Holidays.

Becca Benz

2016 for me has been a roller-coaster, full of amazing highs and difficult lows. The most meaningful and special moments were the birth of my grandson and getting to spend time with him. And winning the TEA for Best Internet Personality was another magical moment. But this was also a year full of loss. My father passed away this summer, and my relationships with a couple of family members have become badly damaged. And we lost so many people this year, including Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, John Glenn, Jose Fernandez, Arnold Palmer, and most recently, George Michael and Carrie Fisher. But the one that hit me the hardest was the passing of Glenn Frey; I’ve loved the Eagles music since I was a kid, and it was like losing part of my youth, and showed how mortal we all are.

The other thing that stands out was the election and how ugly it was and the division it caused within our nation. The fallout over Trump being elected has been unprecedented, and those of us in the LGBTQ community are left to wonder what will happen to our rights over the next four years. It appears there are difficult times ahead for our country with many unanswered questions, and it will test the strength of the American people. I hope we are up to the challenge.

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Isabella Sorrenti: beauty, brains, and so much more!

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Hello Isabella, and thank you so much for doing this interview!

Isabella Sorrenti TEA 2017You’ve been nominated for multiple 2017 AVN awards including Favorite Trans Performer and several TEA awards including Best Solo Model and Ms. Unique. What does it mean to you to be recognized by the industry and fans for your work?

It means a lot to me. Receiving recognition and these accolades just sweetens the deal for me. It shows how much my fans appreciate not only my work but me as a whole. I try to keep in contact with a lot of them when they message me. I have some awesome fans, that’s for sure.

If I win then I win but if I don’t at least I was recognized for something and the experience on it’s own is enough for me.

When you were younger, what was your perception of sex workers and porn, and has it changed now that you’ve worked in industry?

When I was younger I guess I didn’t care much about porn or anyone who did sex work. In fact, I didn’t know that term until I began industry. Honestly, it was fun in the beginning but things aren’t so fun for me anymore. It’s a lot of personal stuff that I’d like to keep to myself.

Our stories are similar in that we both did a lot of research and blog reading before we applied to Grooby. What motivated you to enter the porn industry?

It was actually a dare from a few of my friends. They told me I couldn’t do it so I went ahead and decided to prove them wrong. It wasn’t anything I wanted to do long term. It was honestly all for fun but then things got serious I guess? At this point I’m deciding as to whether I should stay in the industry or leave. I guess we’ll see wont we?

Isabella Sorrenti TEA 2016

What was your childhood like growing up in Missouri? At what point did you realize you were trans?

My childhood in Missoura was great! We had a lot of woodland, ponds, long grassy fields, barns, horses, fruit trees, beautiful landscaping and privacy. I really miss a lot of that and wouldn’t mind settling down in a place similar to where I grew up one day. I realized I was a trans when I was about 4-5 years old I just didn’t know the term at that point. I was confused and wondering why I couldn’t dress like the girls in school. Why I had to dress up as a boy back then.

Has your family been accepting and supportive of you?

I do not speak to my family; it’s been 10 years since I last spoke to them. I’m on my own and have been since I was 15. With the history I have with them I would never allow them to be a part of my life now. They’re selfish and judgmental. Since they’re Catholic and Mormon I highly doubt they would be accepting of my career.

You have a degree in Neurobiology and at one point were planning to go to Med School. Why did you decide against that career path?

I decided not to fully pursue medicine because I wanted something different. I decided to transition instead of going to medical school. School is boring in general so I didn’t want to be stuck in it for another 8-10 years. By the time I had progressed in my transition I could no longer stomach blood so I definitely don’t wanna pursue that now. Would I pursue it in the future? Probably not.

Isabella Sorrenti

Can you tell us about your Twitter name, Goddess Persephone, and the meaning behind it?

That’s actually my domme name. It may seem like a pretty or beautiful name but there’s actually a dark meaning behind it. I wanted to choose a name that chose my personality as a domme.

I’m part Greek so it’s of Greek Origin, back to Ancient Greece actually. “Pertho” means “to destroy” and “phone” means “murder”. It just fit so well to my personality as a domme so I chose that name.

Brief History: Persephone was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus but was abducted by Hades. She was allowed to return after one year and her coming and going is why we supposedly have our change in seasons now.

Do you enjoy interacting with your fans on social media?

That depends. I used to be very responsive but I’m actually a lot more irritated with some of these “fans” now. Since this is going out to the public I’ll say what I need to say now. I am not seeking marriage or a relationship with clients. I like to keep my business professional. So when I get idiots messaging me things like that I get irritated. That’s why I either block or simply don’t respond anymore. I’m not so nice anymore. I do speak to a large amount of loyal fans who respect me though when I can. Some of these idiots should keep their tiny pricks in their pants. They’re making men look even worse than they already are.

Isabella Sorrenti Altomic Visuals

Does being a famous pornstar make it easier or more difficult to date?

It actually makes it very difficult. I thought it would have the opposite effect but many people are either intimidated by me or they change their tune and want to use me for fulfillment of their personal fetishes and to cross off having sex with a pornstar off their list. So I no longer date for those reasons. Besides the guys I’ve dated all had exponentially smaller pricks. I put them to shame. Do I want to date someone in the future? Highly doubtful. People are just disappointing.

What are your thoughts about Donald Trump winning the election and what concerns do you have about his upcoming presidency?

Please leave politics out of this interview. I cannot stand politics and some of the things people are doing are completely preposterous. There are better ways to cope.

What do you feel are the biggest issues facing the transgender community right now?

I think the biggest issues are resources. It’s a bit easier to get things done here on the West Coast but after speaking to a lot of people from all over the US I learned how difficult it can for them not having the proper counseling, having difficulties getting their hormone therapy and help in getting surgery. I know too well how closed minded some states can be with their support for the LGBTQIA community. So acceptance and support seem to be the biggest issues.

Isabella Sorrenti

Being a pornstar seems like it would be a dream job. What’s your favorite part of the job and your least favorite part?

I kind of laughed a little. This is far from being a dream job. In fact I feel the longer you’re in this kind of career the harder it can get for that person mentally and physically. There are a lot of people out there who shame you for who you are and it makes you do things that are stupid and nonsensical. A lot of these girls can be brutal and mean so it’s hard to see how this would be considered a “dream job”.

My favorite part. It gave me the self-confidence I desired for so long and opened up a lot of doors. Least favorite part? I don’t really want to go there. Let’s just say certain people should calm down and realize this isn’t Hollywood, they’re not A-listers and they should be a lot nicer to others rather than showing they’re better than everyone. I’ve seen that kind of behavior too much in this industry. Rather than being connected to each other I feel it’s very much disconnected. Things need to change.

You mentioning being shamed for working in this industry, which is something I’ve written about before. What can we as an industry do to combat this shaming and present a more positive image of who we are and of the industry as a whole?

I think for starters people should keep their comments to themselves. They don’t realize they are committing an act of bullying when they stoop that low. It is demeaning and a completely irrelevant. You’re supposed to encourage each other not grab each other by the necks. This goes not only to the people outside the industry but also a lot of those who are in the industry.

We will never fully deplete the issue but we can try and suppress it as much as possible. We aren’t better than the next person because we are all in it for different reasons. Some of us want to save up for sexual reassignment surgery, others want to amplify their self-confidence and there are a few who see it as a career choice (typically the younger ones). So we can’t judge one person or another for the things we do. We’re all sex workers, either deal with or go away as far as you can from people who want to do something with themselves because you’re not helping.

What is the one thing you treasure the most from your time in the porn industry?

The support from fans. I’ve spoken to a lot of great people. I would never take that back.

What advice would you give to aspiring models who want to get into the industry?

Tread these waters carefully. It may seem glamorous and all but it’s not what it seems. They should consider doing extensive research and making a competent and sound decision before pursuing it. Not everyone is going to accept it. I’m not trying to discourage anyone but without the needed support it can be hard. Just make sure it’s something you want to do 100%.

Isabella Sorrenti    Isabella Sorrenti

When you’re not working, what activities do you enjoy in your free time?

I like to travel to national parks for the day, go out to the desert to stargaze, try new vegan restaurants, read romance novels, go hiking and watch Netflix.

What shows on Netflix have grabbed your attention lately?

I don’t have really have any shows that catch my attention. I usually watch a lot of the movies they have on there. White Christmas was something I enjoy watching every year so I indulged myself with that!

What’s a typical day in your life like?

The typical day in my life is like anyone else. I’m not some Hollywood celebrity who has paparazzi outside their house. I just live my life and that’s all.

How long have you been a vegan? Did you choose a vegan lifestyle just for health reasons or was it also a moral issue about eating animals?

2 years. I chose it because of the animals. Veganism to me is about making better choices to help animals and showing others how doable this lifestyle is. Ideally, the use of animal products and the exploitation that it involves should be eliminated. I support products, while not perfect, that will nevertheless help prevent the vast majority of animal suffering.

Where would you like to see yourself in ten years?

I’d like to hopefully be married to a billionaire. Have a kid. Live in Europe. Be traveling all over the world.

Who inspires you?

I think the main person who inspires me is my best friend. She’s very sick and dying. A lot of her words and encouragement has helped me become a better person. A better and stronger woman.

Isabella Sorrenti

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Honestly after doing so many other interviews I think everyone knows things about me. Like the fact I’m a US Marine, or that I was an MMA instructor, I speak 4 languages and I have an IQ of 145 (yes I took the Mensa IQ Test).

What was it like for you serving in the military as a trans person and having to hide who you really are?

Before joining the military I was very depressed and was trying to figure out any way to mask my femininity. I tried hanging out with the popular guys, who gladly made me an addition to their group, and even tried being an adrenaline junkie. After many fails to put up a facade I decided to join the military. Keep in mind, I had zero clue what I was getting myself into. Some of my friends were joining the Marines and so I decided to tag along during their pool functions. After some time I made the decision to sign all the paperwork and get sworn in at my local MEPS. I figured if I joined a bunch of meat heads I’d be just like them.

The struggle was very much real. Even during boot camp. It was hard to find guys I could relate to. Fortunately my battle buddy was really nice and understanding so I wasn’t alone. You realize really quick that the Marines take care of their own, no matter what. Its sorority and frat house for the elite. That doesn’t always apply to everyone though. After going through MOS school and being stationed with an artillery unit my gender dysphoria only got worse. After my third year of serving I confided in one of my fellow Marines about my deepest, darkest secret. They swore to keep it but that didn’t last long. After some psych evaluations and counseling they deemed me unfit for duty that my participation was unsatisfactory. Wasn’t up to par with the other Marines. I was pretty bummed, depressed but I didn’t realize I was given freedom once more. The freedom to be who I was truly meant to be. So I have no regrets for everything that happened.

Did being trans affect your ability to serve or your decision to reenlist or not?

I feel that identifying myself as trans caused a lot of issues during that time mainly because it was a gray area and considered taboo at that time. I was incapable of re-enlisting so there was no way for me to get back in. The Army approached me once saying they wanted to help me and could sign me up but I would have to choose infantry as my MOS. I really didn’t want to go through any more stress and pressure. I wanted to focus on school and learning more about myself. I think when you want to be identified as a man or a woman and your unit doesn’t accept that it can be difficult for anyone.

Were you involuntarily separated from the military because of being trans?

Yes I was. It was a very dark time in my journey but it was the beginning towards my freedom to be myself. I didn’t immediately come out to society about it. It took time and I had to muster a lot of courage. I’m glad it happened because there’s a chance I wouldn’t be here right now.

How do you feel now that trans people can serve openly in the military?

It took them long enough! Honestly, I’m very happy for my trans brothers and sisters. I know the third phase hasn’t really taken effect but once that happens I feel it’s gonna open a lot more doors for everyone. It’s gonna be hard to come to terms for a lot of individuals but they’ll soon realize that they’re all there to do the same thing. They’re all there to serve their country with honor and integrity.

What does Veteran’s Day mean to you?

To me Veteran’s Day is a tribute to all the women and men who have served their country and to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. It’s the day where all the communities come together in order to recognize this and to celebrate the sacrifices made. If it wasn’t for all the sacrifice we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today. We wouldn’t be breathing the air we breathe today and there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be here today or you’d be speaking another language. Next time you see a veteran go up to them and thank them. Not for being in the military but for making the decision to do something not everyone can. The Few. The Proud. The Marines 😉

Thank you so much for doing the interview Isabella, it was a real treat!

You can follow Isabella on Twitter here: @IsaSorrentiXXX

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The holiday spirit: Error 404. Page Not Found.

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I’m sitting here at 12:39 AM with my column due later today, and I cannot think of anything to write. Sounds odd to say that since there are an infinite number of subjects to write about, but I got nothing. I’m trying to avoid anything to do with politics since we’ve been deluged with politics for so long and I think most people are pretty burned out with anything remotely connected to politics at this point, but it’s hard to avoid since it’s so interconnected with everything in life these days.

I’ve been going through various news sites looking for anything to inspire me, perhaps even something cheerful to write about, but I’ve come up empty. And I’m reminded why I stopped going to all these news sites; because they are so depressing. There is never any good news, just bad news, which is analyzed over and over from every possible angle. I guess good news doesn’t sell, or there just isn’t any to report. When I googled “good news” I got “404 page not found.” Huh.

The obvious subject choice to write about would be the holidays, since we’re only a week and a half away from Christmas, but even that isn’t a happy subject for a lot of people. As with everything else in this nation, we seem to be divided about Christmas too. Not from the aspect of the political-correctness of Christmas, or whatever form of the holiday you choose to celebrate, but from the standpoint that there are two distinct groups of people who experience the holidays in vastly different ways.

For most people, the holidays are a time to gather with family and friends and to be happy and joyful and celebrate good tidings; to put a yule log on the fire and drink eggnog and kiss under the mistletoe. But for many others, the holidays are a difficult and painful time because they are alone and have no one to share the holiday joy with. It’s a struggle just to get through the holidays and make it to the new year, which we all hope will be better than the previous year. And I think we’re all ready for 2016 to be over with.

But this year the holiday spirit seems to be missing for a lot of people. I’ve seen so many people who just want the holidays to be over with and to get on with new year, or who are taking breaks from social media because they’re so tired of all the negativity and bickering. Or it could be that I’m just not seeing the holiday spirit from where I’m at. I suppose it’s just a matter of perspective, and which group you fall into. This is a rough time to get through when you’re alone, and calls to suicide crisis lines always go up during the holidays.

So I guess my message is that if you’re one of the fortunate ones to be celebrating the holidays with your family and friends, to be thankful that you have the opportunity to do that, and to not forget those who are alone. Reach out to your friends and say hello and let them know you care. A simple phone call or card or email can make all the difference in the world. And if you are alone during the holidays and struggling to get through this, please know that you are not alone and there are people who care about you and are there to support you. And to have faith that you will get through this and that things will get better. This has been a rough year for all of us and we’re sort of limping to the end of 2016 and looking with hope to 2017.

Here are numbers to call if you’re feeling down and need someone to talk with. You aren’t alone.

Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

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Post-election thoughts on how to navigate through these unsettling times

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It’s been a month since the election and we’ve had a chance to take a deep breath and calm down after what has been one of the most acrimonious and hate-filled elections in history. Unfortunately there has been little calm; many people are feeling angry and frustrated, as evidenced by the numerous protests and demonstrations by people who fear for their rights and safety. And on the other side, Trump is preparing for his presidency and his supporters are busy mounting boycotts against any and all companies which dare to speak out against Trump or voice their support for human rights. The nation is as divided as ever, with no end in sight.

Along with the majority of American voters, I voted for Clinton, yet she lost and we are faced with the prospect of four years of a Trump Administration which has been very vocal against the LGBTQ community and promised to revoke the rights and protections we’ve gained during the Obama Administration. But the reality is that it’s not even certain whether Trump will actually take office next month due to numerous recounts and questions about his many businesses which create a conflict of interest that many deem unconstitutional. I can easily see a scenario in which many states will do recounts, along with lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results, with the end result being that this will be tied up in the court system for a long time.

But in the meantime, Trump is assembling his staff and so far his choices have done nothing to ease our fears. He is putting together a staff of people who have been very vocal in their opposition against the LGBTQ community and their voting records show a history of voting for legislation which takes away our rights and protections against discrimination. This is a scary and troubling time for many of us, but even though the situation may appear pretty grim right now let’s not lose hope. While it’s easier said than done, we should try to keep an open mind and give Trump a chance. History has shown that many of the promises made during an election campaign are never carried out. But having said that, we need to be proactive and do what we can to ensure our wellbeing before he takes office. We should hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

One of the main things to get done as soon as possible is to get all your identification documents such as birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security card, and passport updated with your correct name and gender. There is already a backlog of requests for these services so the sooner you can get started the better. Getting a name change is a simple legal procedure that should not be affected by the new administration’s policies. Below are a few resources with information for getting your identification updated:

http://www.lambdalegal.org/
http://www.transequality.org/
https://transrelief.com/

One of the main issues a lot of people are concerned about is Trump’s promise that that the first thing he will do when he takes office is to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which many of us depend on for our healthcare. Thankfully he seems to be backing down from this threat and is taking a more cautious approach, partly because there are some within the GOP who question the wisdom of doing this without having a new plan to replace it. As Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina stated, “The flaws in Obamacare are obvious to me. The solutions are much harder.”

Even with all the criticism about the Affordable Care Act, the fact remains that the majority of Americans overwhelmingly support most of Obamacare’s key provisions. A survey released last Thursday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that only about one in four Americans wants President-elect Trump to entirely repeal the Affordable Care Act that extends coverage to millions. So contrary to what you may hear, there is not overwhelming support for a repeal. And even if Obamacare is repealed, it is likely that it won’t take effect immediately. GOP leaders are working on a plan to vote to repeal the law in early 2017, but delay the effective date for that repeal for as long as three years. So the likelihood that we would lose our coverage anytime soon is very slim.

The bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act is a complex set of laws which are interconnected with other laws and provisions, and to repeal it would not be a simple matter. Repealing the law could create an imminent solvency problem for Medicare, which many Senate Republicans say is something they’re not ready to deal with, as well as destabilizing the healthcare industry and the insurance industry. There is a great deal at stake, and Trump has a lot to lose if he rushes into this and screws it up.

Another issue we need to be prepared for is a surge of legislation at the state level aimed at taking away our rights and protections against discrimination. We’re already seeing this in Texas with the announcement by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that Texas plans to introduce a bill similar to North Carolina’s controversial HB 2. Stay informed about what’s happening in your state and just as importantly, voice your opinions to your legislators.

And lastly, please be safe. Since the election there has been an increase in attacks against the LGBTQ community. It almost feels like the conservative haters now feel empowered to come out and be more aggressive now that their guy has been elected. It’s sad that we as a community feel such fear for our safety, but this is the reality of our life in America now. We can’t afford to not be vigilant and proactive.

  • Be aware of where you are and your surroundings. Know where Safe Spaces are located.
  • If something doesn’t seem right then it probably isn’t. Trust your gut instincts.
  • Be aware of the people around you.
  • Don’t go out alone if you can help it, and let people know if you are going out.
  • Consider carrying Pepper Spray or other devices to ward off an attacker.
  • Take a self-defense class to learn how to defend yourself.
  • Check in with the people you care about and make sure they are okay. We need to be as supportive as we can for each other.

And lastly, try to remain positive and not lose hope. Even though there is ample reason to be concerned, nothing bad has happened yet. We need to see how all this plays out and then act accordingly. We as a community are here and we aren’t going away. We can’t be pushed aside and made to feel irrelevant. We have many allies and many strong people who are voices for our community. We may be in for a struggle, but it’s nothing we can’t overcome if we continue to work together to fight for what is right.

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A very special interview with my oldest son J

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This is an interview I have been working on for several months and is very special to me for obvious reasons. I initially came up with the idea of interviewing my oldest son J because he’s had the unique perspective of knowing me before my transition as his dad, and after transitioning as I became Rebecca, and also because he knows about my career in the Adult Entertainment Industry as Becca Benz. As the interview progressed and we talked about our lives and shared experiences we discovered that it allowed us to see things in a different perspective, and it ended up being a really enlightening experience for both of us and something we really enjoyed.

My son JJ and I have been through some very difficult times together that severely tested our relationship. At one point I made the decision that he was no longer welcome to live at home because his behavior was too disruptive for our family. Another time his brother and I sat handcuffed for over six hours while various law enforcement agencies searched our house because of him. Yet we survived and are closer because of it. He and I talk almost every day and he is the one I reach out to when I need someone to talk with or need an opinion on something, and I am the one he calls when he needs to talk or vent. He can get me to talk when I don’t feel like it, and no one makes me laugh like he does. We have a special bond because not only is he my son, he’s also my friend and one of the people I trust most and respect.

There have been numerous transgender themed articles written about parent-child relationships, but it’s usually the child who is transgender, not the parent, so this column is distinctive in that respect. But what really makes this interview unique is that I suspect there have been very few, if any, interviews of a son whose father is now a transgender woman working in adult entertainment industry.

J is 26 years old and lives in the mid-west working as a sub-contractor in the construction industry.

How would you describe me when I lived as a male?

This question brings a flood of memories to mind, but it seems like another lifetime ago. When I think of you before your transition I think of a man who did typical “manly” things. You enjoyed playing and watching sports, and you were great at coaching me and my brother. I always enjoyed hearing you talk about all the cool jobs you held over the years that seemed so much cooler than the jobs my friend’s dads had; and for some reason they all thought you were in law enforcement. The demolition work you did and your love of woodworking played a huge role in the career path I have chosen.

I also remember you were very reserved and kept to yourself; you never went out for a beer with the guys or did social things like that. It seemed like you were never really comfortable in social settings. You also didn’t smile very much and seemed unhappy, like there was some underlying issue that you were struggling with. But you were very family oriented which in many ways made it easier for me to adjust to your transition since we were so close as a family.

Geo and sonFor the first 20 years of your life you knew me as dad. Did you ever suspect that I was transgender?

I noticed you started growing your hair out when I was 16 or so and I remember you getting your ears pierced a few years before that, but I never looked at those things individually as signs that you were transgender.

How would you describe me as a parent, both pre- and post-transition?

Supportive. Very supportive of any and every off the wall scheme I can come up with, and there are many. We are a small family but we are very close with one another even when we haven’t seen each other in a long time. We have had many things that we have had to deal with from very early on, things that they don’t tell you how to handle in a book. You have not only managed to raise us to be respectable young men, you did all that while trying to figure out what was going on inside of you. That is something that makes me proud to call you my dad. I have been a handful, even at 26 years old and I know I can call you and vent over something stupid, or bounce an idea off you and you will always be there to listen and never judged me for it. You have been a great parent, better than most get the privilege to have.

How did you perceive trans people before I came out?

I had limited knowledge and experience with trans people so I didn’t really have an opinion one way or another, along with the LGBT community as a whole. If you hadn’t come out I wouldn’t be as passionate as I am now about the treatment of LGBT community and about people in general. It’s made me a lot more open minded.

Coming out to you and your brother in May of 2010 was a huge step for me. Even though we’ve always been close as a family and I knew there was nothing that would ever make you stop loving me, I was still scared. I wrote letters to you and your brother because knew I would be really nervous and have a difficult time focusing. I had you over for dinner, and after we ate we went into the living room where I assured you it wasn’t an illness or anything bad, and then I gave you each the letters. What were your thoughts as I handed you the letter?

It’s almost like the tone of the meeting was very somber, which made me nervous. Our family had a history of not-so-fun discussions after dinner and I knew the signs by that point. I was slightly relieved when you said it wasn’t an illness or anything like that, but that left me very confused about what it was actually about. And that was not a fun thought given how crazy our family is!

What was your reaction after you had read enough to realize what I was telling you?

I was thinking “that’s it?” I felt relief, that this wasn’t a problem, just something new to adjust to. This was going to be a big change in our lives and I was thinking about how we could make the transition for you as easy as possible and what I could do to help.

It was agonizing for me while you and your brother were reading the letters, praying you would accept me for who I was. You and I were sitting next to each other on the couch and you reached over and held my hand, which brought out a flood of emotions and lots of tears. Even after all these years it still brings tears to my eyes. That simple gesture meant more to me than you’ll ever know and made me realize that things were going to be okay. What prompted you to reach over and take my hand?

I don’t know the specific thoughts going through my head, there were many, but I do know that it never crossed my mind to be anything other than supportive and as helpful as I could be throughout this process. As you said earlier I have put you and my brother through some shit and made some interesting choices in life and you never left me standing alone, and I never worried that I didn’t have your love or support. That’s why I have strength and support tattooed on my chest, these are things you taught us growing up and it wasn’t going to change just because you are a transgender woman.

The whole coming out thing was almost anti-climactic after I’d stressed about it for so long. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. But mostly I felt thankful that we have such a strong relationship and that I didn’t lose you or your brother. After you went home and had time to think about it, what were your thoughts?

I wanted to know as much as I could about being transgender and transitioning. I knew next to nothing about it so I spent that night reading all the packets of information you gave to us, which was very helpful for anyone wanting to come out to family who may not know much about trans people. I talked with my girlfriend and she also had a lot questions about it, even more than I did.

Rebecca and sonAfter I came out you were very protective of me, to the point where you would not hesitate to confront someone if they were rude or disrespectful to me. Was it difficult for you to witness the way trans people get treated?

Very much so. I am not religious and I’m a firm believer that this is my one shot at life, so I want it to be the best it can be. I think everyone deserves that opportunity and I get very angry when I see people treat others like they are less than human.

I really had no idea how trans people were treated and the discrimination they faced. I’m very protective of my family and I don’t hesitate to get in someone’s face if they’re not being respectful to me or my family, like correcting someone if they called you sir. I remember the time we were at the grocery store when you first started your transition and there was some guy openly staring at you with a look of disgust, so I went over and asked him he’s ever seen a trans woman before and told him he better be more respectful and to stop staring. I have no patience for rude people like that, especially when it concerns my family.

Can you tell us how your view of trans people has evolved over the past six years?

I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be transgender. I get to see from the inside the struggles of being a transgender woman in today’s society, and that has made me much more open and understanding of others facing similar treatment from people. I have also gotten a chance to see the things that you don’t necessarily see yourself; I get to see you learning who you truly are in life for the first time. Not many kids get to see their parents find themselves, it’s a cool thing to see.

Were you uncomfortable about your friends knowing I was trans, and did you try to make sure they didn’t find out? Has it ever caused an issue between you and your friends?

At first I was a little uncomfortable, but I’m not sure why. I never went out of my way to hide it. It would sometimes come up over time and now most of the people I am close with know about it. It has never been an issue that anyone has made me aware of. If my friends have questions I see it as an opportunity to help them understand about trans issues, so I always answer questions. I haven’t had any negative experience with any of my friends, it’s been very positive and enlightening. I just tell people this is my dad who is trans and if you don’t like it, fuck you.

I avoid telling the people I work with because they can sometimes be kind of close-minded, so it’s easier to just not talk about it or elaborate if it does come up. Which is sad that I feel that way.

Because we have always been close and talk so often, you knew all about my struggles with depression in the years following the loss of my job at the university. What was it like for you seeing me so depressed and struggling so much?

It was hard. You were the one who helped me when it was difficult for me to deal with mom’s mental health issues, so when things got hard for you I didn’t feel like it would be fair to put my stresses on you, so I ended up getting more reclusive for short periods of time, something I still do. It also motivated me to press harder for success any way I could. You had just gotten to start out as your true self and I didn’t want you to not be able to enjoy it. I wanted you to know that if you couldn’t get a job because of it I could cover you. I hated that you had to deal with depression at the same time you were starting out as Rebecca and trying figure out who Rebecca was. That was the worst part for me.

Given how badly I struggled in the years following my transition, did you ever wish I hadn’t transitioned?

Never once. I feel like you struggled and got depressed because you couldn’t find a job. That was made difficult by the fact that you are trans, and that’s a problem with the businesses hiring people and society, not you.

Geo and son       J

You and your brother were the reason I kept going when I felt hopeless and wanted to end my life. Did you ever fear I would give up and attempt to kill myself?

I had moments when I wasn’t sure what you would do; I saw how bad things got but I also knew how it had been hard before and we have always pulled through. But I could understand why you would think that was an option and the only way out. And I also figured that you wouldn’t kill yourself after having seen how mom’s struggle with her depression affected me and my brother.

My mom recently made the comment that she occasionally misses the male me, which I completely understand because in some ways she lost her son. Do you ever miss having me as your dad, the way I used to be, before I transitioned?

Sometimes, but in all honesty I feel selfish when I do and I feel like my relationship with you now is stronger than it was when you were male. You transitioning has been something we have connected over and it helped give me a better understanding of the male you were before. As George you were a strange individual and no one knew why. There was nothing to explain it until you came out and then everything made sense.

When you transitioned to Rebecca I had to relearn who you were, and that gave us a good foundation to build on after some difficult times. It was a new start. I don’t see it as you being gone; you’re not really gone, just different. So no, I don’t think I miss him.

At the beginning I was a little worried because mom has her issues and needs us to parent her, which I’m fine with doing. But I was concerned about having two completely insane parents. I didn’t want to lose the one stable parent I had.

So no, there has never been a time that I wished you hadn’t transitioned.

Geo and son

You still call me dad, which probably seems odd to most people. I’m fine with it because in my mind I will always be your dad, regardless of what gender I am. But can you talk about why you still call me dad? Was it just being uncomfortable with using my female name, or is there more to it?

Part of it started out being a little uncomfortable calling you anything other than dad, because you were always dad to me. But more than that, I have a mom and I have a dad, and when I think of my mom she pops into my head. When I hear the word dad I think of you. And calling you dad never seemed like it bothered you. If it had I absolutely would have called you Rebecca. This is the thing I get asked about the most by people when they first learn about you.

And basically, I can call you whatever the fuck I want and if anyone has a problem with it then oh well.

Another part of it was that being able to call you dad was the one thing that was consistent and I wanted to hold onto that. It was like still being able to hold onto a piece of my dad. Dads are a very important part of a boy’s life and I didn’t want to lose that.

You raised us and I know you better. The connection with mom was distant because it was mostly through phone calls and letters; the connection we had was close because you were there with us every day. It would have been easier to call mom dad if she was the one who transitioned, but calling you mom just didn’t seem right. I have a shit ton of many memories of us with you as my dad. Calling you mom would have meant all those memories were associated with a whole different person. Like thinking of memories of someone who passed. Calling you dad was the string holding the two people together and I don’t want to lose that, it was a way to keep the two parts of you together.

And I’ve always thought it was disrespectful for kids to call parents by the first name, and I never would have called you George, you were just dad.

You were the first person in our family I told about my porn career. I made the decision to tell you about it early on because I needed your support and to be able to talk with you about it, and I knew you would be okay with it because you trusted my judgment. But it still must have been a shock to you when I told you. Prior to that revelation from me, what was your perception of the adult entertainment industry?

It was definitely a shock. I told you for years and years to think outside the box, and when you did you went way outside the box, much further than I expected! I hadn’t thought much about the porn industry other than the occasional conversations with friends about how that would be the best job ever.

I’m not judgmental, especially since I’ve made some interesting career choices, and any job is better than no job. I was surprised, but happy you had work. You’re an adult and are capable of making your own decisions and I trust you. You seemed excited so I was happy

I have friends who know you’re in the porn industry but they don’t know who you are exactly or what you do. It doesn’t come up too often since it’s kind of awkward conversation for them to talk to me about. And some know you have an adult themed blog, but not like it’s something they’ll ever read.

If someone asked me if that was your dad, I’d just say why yes it is and it’s none of your fucking concern.

Has your understanding of the porn industry changed since we’ve talked so much about it?

Absolutely. I have a deeper understanding of how business-like it really is. It’s an interesting industry for sure.

This is another one of those times where my prior work history and your acceptance of it doesn’t really allow me to be upset or embarrassed about it. A job is a job and I’m very proud of the fact that you have finally started to use what I have tried to show you for years and made it work for you.

It’s easy to slam people who do porn and to be judgmental, but the industry is driven by demand and a lot of the people who are doing the judging are the same people who fuel the industry.

Now I look at people as just regular people and not just as pornstars. It’s much easier to see them and realize they are also parents, someone’s kids, brothers and sisters, instead of just thinking of them as objects. People are people.

I look at you and how empowering it has been for you to feel good about your body and your sexuality. Too often people get beaten down because of who they are, and porn is a way to take the power back. And look at all the doors it has opened for you; you have your own column and blog, and you’re doing something you like. It’s cool to see how quickly things blossomed from you working in porn industry.

GeoWhat is the major difference you see in me now compared to when I was living as a male?

You are a million times more social than I remember you being. You go do things and have a group of friends as well as a handful of what seem like really good close friends.

It’s also empowered you in the workforce. You have the confidence in your ability to land a job and now you try for more out of the box type jobs. You have so much more confidence now in all aspects of life. You’re still not on my level, but you’re getting there! Haha

It’s like once you transitioned it took you a while to get comfortable in your own skin, and it got worse before it got better. We had many, many talks about your voice and not worrying about what others think. I know you still have some issues with your voice from time to time but it doesn’t come up near as often now.

You’re also more open to listening to my opinion. You used to tell me all the time “I know more because I’ve lived longer” which drove me fucking nuts, but you don’t do that nearly as often now. It’s cool that it’s a two way street and you take my advice and listen, and seeing you change into who you’re becoming.

We can both relate to finding ourselves and becoming someone different. Because of Drug Court I couldn’t be “J the drug dealer” so I had to figure out how to be someone different and how to make it work. We had lots and lots of conversations about figuring out who we were.

Lots of these little things have bonded us closer together. I don’t think we’d be as close if you weren’t trans. You and my brother had so many common interests and were always doing things together, but we just butted heads. Things got better after you transitioned and it made us much closer. No one should transition alone; it’s a huge life changing thing that will make or break a relationship. You have two sons and you’ve had to experience both ends of the spectrum on that.

What is something you think people would be surprised to know about me?

The wide variety of jobs you have had over the years. Talking to people about your job history is like me talking about my criminal history; people find that very intriguing. Always a good story!

And how much more your sense of humor shines through now. Back then people just thought of you as that quiet guy and didn’t expect the sense of humor.

Geo and son

Given my life now and how much different I look, is it odd for you when you look at family photos that show me as a male?

I have a couple of pictures right here of when I was a baby, and one of me with you and mom. It is weird, but not in a bad way. It is strange to think that the same person in the picture is the same person you are now, that two totally separate people are the same person.

I store most of the photos at my house but I never look at them. It has nothing to do with it being weird that you aren’t the same person pictured in them and everything to do with the fact that I’m not the same person. Like I said earlier I’ve lived two lifetimes already I feel like and I’m too excited to see what the future holds to dwell in the past.

Geo and son    Becca Benz

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview and for being so open and honest with your answers. I always love taking with you and this gave us a chance to talk more in depth about my transitioning and things we hadn’t really touched on too often. It was interesting to hear your perspective and I learned a lot more about you, and about myself. It made me think a lot about myself and you and about our relationship. I think our discussion about why you still call me dad helped us both to understand that a lot better than we had before. I was deeply moved by many of the things you said and I love you even more.

J

I couldn’t finish the interview without including this picture!

Thanks, I’m really glad we did this interview too, because talking about all these questions made me think about a lot about myself and why I’ve handled things the way I have. Not just about you being trans but about everything. But I’m still stuck on the dad thing so I have to give that more thought.

These are really good questions and I can’t wait to see the responses from people who read it. I’m curious what else they want to know, and I’ve love to do another interview.

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It’s time to end the shaming of the Porn Industry and those who work in it.

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This is a subject I’ve written about before, but due to recent events I feel the need to address it again. Shame is something we cannot ignore or pretend doesn’t exist. Unfortunately shame is all too prevalent in today’s society and is used as a means of taking away people’s dignity and sense of worth. And that must stop. Now. Shame is something that many transgender people, including me, have struggled with; I felt ashamed and embarrassed about myself for most of my life. But I had finally, finally moved past that and felt good about myself and my life. Unfortunately someone recently tried to make me feel ashamed because I work in the Porn Industry, and the sad part is that it was my own son and his wife. I was made to feel ashamed because I did porn and because of my association with people in the industry and the people who enjoy porn. I struggled with what they said about me and I questioned everything about myself and who I was, and let that bring me back down to the dark place I worked so hard to escape from. I let them make me feel ashamed. And that is not okay. Shame kills. Shame eats away at the core of who we are and makes us question everything. It leads to depression. It leads to suicide. It leads to hate, especially the worst kind of hate; hating ourselves.

I am still the same person I have always been; in fact, I would say I’m a better person now because I’m happy. I’m still kind and caring, I still have the same morals and values, and I still treat people with respect. None of that has changed because I did porn. What has changed is that I’ve gained a ton of self-confidence, I learned how to love myself, I found happiness, and I found my passion in life; to be a strong voice for my community and my industry. None of those changes would have been possible if I hadn’t been welcomed into an industry that accepted me for who I am and shown me nothing but respect and support, and most of all, love.

Society still clings to the outdated stereotypes about people who work in the Adult Entertainment Industry. Please take note of the word ENTERTAINMENT; we are providing a product for the entertainment of our customers. Period. We are not corrupting society. Pornography involving consenting adults is legal, and in the eyes of this country’s judicial system it has not been deemed immoral. If people choose to think porn is immoral then fine, that’s their prerogative; this is America and we’re all entitled to our beliefs and opinions. But what is wrong is trying to impose your views on others and to shame them because you don’t agree with their views or actions. Prop 60 in California gave us a glaring example of what shame looks like when it’s used to push a personal agenda against a certain group of people. It was not pretty. Thankfully the citizens of California weren’t swayed by all the misinformation and propaganda and voted to defeat the measure. And really, aren’t there more pressing issues to worry about than porn?

So let’s talk about stereotypes. Working in the Porn Industry does not make us perverts. I’m pretty sure there are way more politicians and priests than pornstars who are in prison for molesting children. Just because we feel good about our bodies and about sex and we choose to make a living in the porn industry does not make us bad people; that says more about your lack of tolerance and understanding than it does about our character. The human body is a beautiful thing which has been celebrated in art and culture for centuries, and sex is a natural and enjoyable part of life; if you choose to view those as dirty or perverted then it’s your loss.

Working in porn does not mean we are unintelligent, ignorant, or unmotivated. I have friends in the industry who have graduate degrees and successful careers working in Corporate America. Many of us are Veterans. I also have friends who didn’t graduate from high school, but that does not diminish their value as a person or their ability to be successful. Porn is like any other job; you get out of it what you put in. And I have met many people in this industry who have become very successful through hard work and determination, and they have earned my respect. We are artists, photographers, models, writers, cartoonists, business owners, web designers, musicians, system administrators, public speakers, activists, actors, nurses, educators, and a million other things beyond what you choose to see.

Working in porn does not make someone a slut. We all have varying attitudes about sex, just like any other group of people. I personally am pretty old-fashioned when it comes to sex; I don’t jump into bed with just anyone, and truth be told, I can’t honestly remember the last time I had sex. I still have the same morals and values I had before I did porn. And not to be redundant, but once again, porn is a business. The fact that someone has sex in front of a camera is in no way reflective of who they as a person or their sexual habits or their morals. We’re in the 21st century; haven’t we figured out by now that sex is okay and that there’s nothing wrong with being open about the fact that you enjoy it?

The Adult Entertainment Industry is a business which provides jobs to many people and produces a product for our customers. And judging by the popularity of porn in its various forms and the revenue it generates, I’d say there are a whole lot of people who enjoy their porn, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Porn is not going away, and neither are we, the people who work hard to provide you with a quality product for your entertainment. So deal with it.

And finally, and most importantly, what gives you the right to judge me or anyone else? Let me answer that: you DO NOT have the right to judge or to shame anyone. Period. I am proud of who I am and feel privileged to be part of the transgender community and the Adult Entertainment Industry. As with any industry or group of people there is both good and bad; we aren’t perfect, but we are genuine and don’t pretend to something we’re not. We are people who care, who are active in our communities, who volunteer, and who work to make our world a better place. If you can’t see me for who I am and get past your stereotypes and your narrow-minded views, then it’s your loss. I refuse to be shamed. I refuse to let anyone make me feel bad about myself or what I do. Becca Benz may have a good-sized following on social media but that is only one small part of who I am as a person. I am still and will always be Rebecca Pell. I am still the same father who has loved my sons every single day of their lives. I am still the same grandma who loves her beautiful grandson. I am still my mom’s daughter. I am still ME.

I will forever struggle with losing my son’s love and knowing he is ashamed of me; I still love him and his opinion will always matter to me. But I know who I am. I know I’m a good person. And I will continue to be a voice for my community and my industry. So, what happened to me now serves as my motivation to speak out and try to prevent others from being shamed and losing the love of people they care about. I will be focusing on working to educate society about the adult entertainment industry in hopes of breaking down the stereotypes and helping people to see who we really are. We are people. We matter. And we should not be shamed because of the industry we work in. Like me or don’t like me for who I am as a person, not because of my job.

I reject shame and hate; I choose love.

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Chatting with Ms. Unique, Chelsea Marie!

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Chelsea Marie is one of biggest names in trans porn and definitely a fan favorite! Known for her colorful hair and many tattoos, Chelsea is the 2016 Transgender Erotica Award winner for Ms. Unique and looks to be a strong contender again in 2017! I had the pleasure of getting to hang out with Chelsea while I was living in Los Angeles earlier this year and really enjoyed getting to know her. I’d always seen her around but I have to admit I was a little shy about approaching someone as famous as she is, but Chelsea is a really sweet and down to earth lady and I’m happy to be able to call her a friend. This was a really fun interview for me because there were lots of messages and chatting going on between us, with me pestering her about the questions and asking her to answer just one or two more, and she was always very gracious and accommodating to my many requests! So thank you Chelsea, I owe you a drink next time I see you! I think we did a really great interview and I hope you like it as much as I do!

You were the winner of the 2016 Transgender Erotica Award for Ms. Unique. Can you tell us what it is about you that makes you so unique?

I think what makes me unique is my personality, I am down to earth and very giving to people. My looks also make me unique; I am always changing hairstyles and covering up tattoos or getting more tattoos. At 5’9” I’m tall and slim but I am trying to change that, so I asked my doctor to give me curves so he upped my hormone dose and told me to do squats with weights, so that’s what I am doing.

Chelsea Marie TEA 2015

What color hair can we look forward to seeing next March at the 2017 Transgender Erotica Awards?

I am thinking all black with a bright color or I really want to back to blonde, but I guess you all will have to wait find out at the TEA show in March!

Chelsea MarieYou have quite a few tattoos, do they have special meaning?

I have always been into tattoo art and fashion, so when I turned 17 I got my first tattoo, which is now covered up by my angel wings. To be honest they don’t really have meaning, I just always wanted to have colorful art on my body as my way of expressing myself. Sometimes I will be in the mood to go get tatted and feel brand new, sort of like cleansing my soul. People may love my tattoos or they won’t, but they are mine and I am proud to walk around covered in ink. Most people will stop me and ask about them, and that always puts a smile on my face.

What was your childhood like and when did you realize you were transgender?

I realized I was trans at a young age, around 8 years old, when I used to play with my brothers and sisters and cousins. I always played with them and I would wear their clothes and they would put makeup on me, and I even had my step-dad at the time paint my toes. But I did boy stuff too; we all used to play football and basketball together but I got picked on by my brothers when I didn’t want to play football; they would say I was a sissy or a girl so I guess in a way they all always knew I was transgender.

When you were that young did you understand what being transgender meant and was it something you accepted right away?

When I was a young boy, girl stuff didn’t matter to me because I played with both girl and boy toys. I didn’t understand what it meant to be transgender until I was about 13 years old when I came across a picture on the internet of a transgender porn model. I didn’t know about hormone replacement until I was older when I saw a doctor for hormones and began therapy to make sure this going to be my life.

Once you realized you were transgender was the process of transitioning difficult to reach the point where you could live full-time as Chelsea?

Transitioning is hard for everyone in our own way since we all have unique lives. What was hard for my transition was just starting hormones and throwing all my boy clothes out, and starting out new and learning how to wear makeup and being confident in public and not being clocked and called sir. But as the years went by and the hormones took effect I learned how to look good and become passable. I was happy and felt this is who I am supposed to be in my life and felt good to be looked at as female and getting called female pronouns. Surgery helped out a lot to and I am wanting to have more surgery, but that will come in time.

Is your family supporting and accepting of you?

My family is very accepting of me; they took it kind of hard when I came out to them, but they got over it. My family is really close and they all live in the same town and I stay with them from time to time when I want a break from California life. Like right now I am staying in my room at my brother’s house taking a break, so I guess you can say this is my family time because I don’t want to have regrets in life and family is a big part of my life. I love them all even if we have our issues, but every family does. It’s how you overcome them to be a good person to others, at least that’s how I was raised. Family comes first.

Chelsea Marie Shemale YumDoes your family know you work in the porn industry and if so, how do they feel about it?

Yes, my family knows I work in the adult industry. I don’t tell them about the movies I’ve done; I’m not like ‘hey Mom I just got fucked on set today by a big dick.” Even though my Mom and I are close I tell my family everything and we talk about sex, but not my scenes. My Father tells me he’s proud of me and how good I am doing. I am happy the way my life turned out even if I am not married or have children. One day Mom!

How did you get started in the porn industry? Was it something you ever thought you’d do?

I didn’t think I could get in to the industry but it’s actually pretty easy to do porn these days, but to be a pornstar you have to work at it and always try to improve the quality of your porn. I was actually going to be in gay porn before but it didn’t happen because I couldn’t make it to the shoot. But when I transitioned I was told by one of my friends I knew from Florida who said I should try trans porn and I did my first shoot for Grooby for Shemale Yum. I was so shy because it was my first time being in front of a camera, but I enjoyed it and it took off from there and here I am today still making films for everyone to enjoy! I am looking forward to working with more pornstars and to be in a gangbang by a bunch of men and them destroying me haha I can dream!

What does Grooby and the people who work there mean to you?

Grooby to me has been my second family; everyone behind the scenes, working on editing videos, the photographers who make us models look like Goddess in pictures and videos, everyone has a part. I was a Grooby fan before I became a model, so I love when we all come together for events and the TEA Show. I don’t always get to chat with everyone at Grooby, but I love you and all the hard work you do!

So what’s it like being a famous pornstar? Is it as exciting and glamorous as people would think?

I never really think I am famous because if I was I would get stopped all the time by people saying “are you Chelsea Marie?” I won’t lie, it has happened, but not that often. I would love to have famous people with money sign me up. For me, people are fun; I always have a good time and have enjoyed getting to know other pornstars and photographers over the years. But porn is work and you have to know your angles and where the lighting are and the camera; that’s why if you ever watch porn we are always flipping our hair out of our face or giving head a certain way. In real life we aren’t worried where the camera is or if the lighting is okay; you just fuck or make love.

What’s the difference for you between fucking and making love?

Fucking is just sex with no strings attached; getting my orgasm and saying bye or just being friends with benefits. Making love is when you love being with that person, you’re not just out for sex. It means more because when I make love I end up falling in love and I want that person to be close with me and share secrets and to have a future with each other. That’s making love.

What’s your favorite part of being a pornstar and your least favorite part?

My favorite part of being a pornstar is getting booked with other pornstars that I like watching because I know I’m going to have a good day and make an amazing film. I also love having fans give me feedback on how they like the work I do or what they would like to see me doing in my next film. What I don’t like about being a pornstar is that some people judge me for it when I work just as hard as anyone else, if not harder.

Chelsea Marie TEA 2015    Chelsea Marie Grooby 20

Do you enjoy being on social media and interacting with your fans?

I love being able to reach out to my fans, because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have even become really good friends with some of them over the years. I have fans say to me that I am their favorite pornstar and that makes me feel like this was supposed to happen in my life. So I wanna say thank you to everyone out there for showing me love and voting for me over the years and to those who joined my website and bought my movies. To be honest, I love you all!

When I got into porn it was a way for me to model and work on my beauty and to help people be okay with their sexual desires and know that it’s okay to be sexually attracted to transsexual women. As for me I am gender open; I have always seen the beauty in people no matter what gender they are.

Does being a pornstar make it more difficult to date?

I want to say yes and no because I have had both good relationships and bad relationships; some lasting a few years and others just a few months. It’s all about honesty; if you are honest with your partner and love them and trust them shouldn’t be a problem. You’re not making love to your costar, it’s just work and then you go home to your loved one. If you have an understanding with your partner then I don’t see it as a problem, at least for me anyway. But, I am single and probably going to stay that way. I am going to focus on myself for 2017; I want a few more surgeries so when I am older I won’t have to worry about my looks. I want 1990’s Pamela Anderson’s boobs and a big ass like Nikki Minaj.

Personally, I love your boobs and butt just the way they are, but that’s just me 🙂

Skin City Chelsea Marie

What was it like working with Al Tom on his Skin City shoot?

Al Tom and I have been friends over the years but finding time around our busy lives was hard, but we made it happen. When I saw Brooke Zanell and Holly Parker in their Skin City shoot I knew I had to be in it so I got in touch with Al Tom and begged him to put me in it! haha No, I didn’t really beg, but Al is so much fun and so down to earth to work with. I love seeing his work on the internet

Where would you like to see yourself in ten years?

I would love to see myself still being part of the adult industry; we are a family and I am sticking around for a long time. I am healthy and on top of my career, and the fans seem to love me and enjoy watching me in films, so let’s keep on making porn magic!

Chelsea Marie and Honey Foxxx   Chelsea Marie TEA 2016

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Wow what a question! Probably that I am really awesome at playing pool and playing video games. Or that I have a sick sense of humor; some people take it the wrong way because I love playing jokes on people, but it’s all in good fun. I get messed with a lot too by friends and family members; my father and I always text funny things to each other.

What is a typical day in your life like?

I would say getting a lot of sleep and then waking up to check emails and texts. I’ll get out of bed and shower and get ready with coffee and do my makeup and then have lunch with a friend or by myself. I’ll do some shopping and then come home and play video games, do some webcaming, and then plan out my next trip. My days aren’t really that exciting and I know my life is slow and boring. Just kidding! I love my life and can’t wait to see what is to come!

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the transgender community right now?

I think since Trump is going to be our new president I don’t see a change for the better. I think he’s going to make it hard, not just for the LGBT community, but for the hard working people out here. He’s probably going to take a lot of our rights away that President Obama gave us. All this hate in our community and always seeing another trans sister getting murdered needs to stop. I think as trans women we should help each other because we don’t have many options like getting a job or having somewhere to live. When I was just starting to transition I never thought I could get a real job, but now transgender women have achieved their own success and careers, so I think some of these girls including me should always help support our brothers and sisters. Life isn’t always easy, but if you have people who support you then we can stay positive and go for our dreams.

Thank you again for doing the interview Chelsea, it was a pleasure!

Visit Chelsea’s website here

You can follow Chelsea on Twitter at @XXXChelseaMarie

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What Veterans Day means to this trans veteran

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I had my Veterans Day column all written and ready to go, but after the events of the past 24 hours I decided to trash it because what I’d written no longer seemed relevant. The landscape of our country has suddenly undergone a seismic shift and my view of this country, and what Veterans Day means to me as a transgender veteran, has changed. First and foremost, I am proud to be a veteran and to have had the honor of serving my county, but right now I feel a bit betrayed by my country, and that is something I never thought I’d say.

The transgender community has always had a strong presence in the military; studies shown the rate of military service for transgender people is roughly twice that of the cis population. Our community has done more than its share in defending the rights and freedoms that so many people in this country take for granted, in spite of the long-standing policy that bans trans people from openly serving. Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated people such as retired Army Sergeant Shane Ortega, the first trans person to openly serve in the military, and retired Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, the Pentagon announced in July of 2015 that it would allow transgender members of the military to serve openly, putting an end to the long-standing ban. The policies are now being implemented to make this happen, but now we must ask ourselves if by this time next year, the ban will once again be back in place and transgender people will again be banned from serving. Future Vice President Mike Pence is on record as saying he supports the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, so that may also be in our future, again.

I’m old enough to know better than to give much credence to the naysayers of doom and gloom, and to avoid making knee-jerk reactions, especially when there is a lot of emotion involved. But I am scared. Donald Trump will be president and have a Republican controlled House and Senate, and I fear that he will have the power to make the changes he has promised, which include taking away the rights and protections that the LGBTQ community has worked so hard to get. Add to that the appointments Trump will make to the Supreme Court, and the conservatives will be fully in control of this country, which is a scary thought. I know that Trump should be given a fair opportunity to show what kind of a leader he will be for this country before we judge him. Time will tell. But to me the thing which alarms me the most is not so much who won and lost, but the message that the American people sent when they voted to elect Trump. And that message is that not everyone is deserving of the same rights, that discrimination and oppression are acceptable, that the rights of women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and pretty much anyone who is not white don’t matter. I thought this country was better than that. Are those the ideals which our country was founded upon and that so many have fought to protect and given their lives for? I think not.

I have always been proud of being an American and proud of our country, but tonight I’m struggling with how I feel now that Trump has been elected. As a trans veteran, I served to help protect our nations rights and freedoms, and yet we have just elected a man who has promised to take away the rights and freedoms that have been enacted to protect the LGBTQ community. My community. I would have a very tough time voluntarily joining the military now when our supposed Commander-In-Chief has openly vowed to take away my rights. And that is a sad commentary on the state of this country.

Politics should not take away from the meaning of Veterans Day, which will always be a day that is very special to me and has deep meaning. My youngest son is a veteran and I could not be more proud of him for his service.

Thank you to all who serve or have served; you have my deepest respect and gratitude.

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Through The Benz: Six months and counting!

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I just realized it was six months ago this week that I began writing Through The Benz on Grooby.com, so I thought I’d write a short column looking back over the past half year and share my thoughts about what it’s been like for me to write the column and try to assess how I’ve done so far.

Having a weekly column is a dream come true and I want to thank Kristel and Steven for giving me the opportunity; it’s a privilege being able to write for Grooby and I hope I’ve lived up to your faith in me. Six months doesn’t seem that long, but it’s been quite a learning experience in that short amount of time! Writing has always come fairly easily to me but it’s been challenging at times having to come up with something new every week. One column a week doesn’t sound like much, but it can be surprisingly difficult!

I try to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world and write about current events and things relevant to the trans community or the adult entertainment industry. I’ve also written a lot of personal stuff, such as my personal struggles, along with some kind of off-the-wall stuff, but I’m never sure if people enjoy those or find them boring. I try to keep a balance of what I write about, but I feel like I may be writing too much about myself, so I think I’ll devote more time to other topics. The more feedback I get from people letting me know what they like or don’t like the better, so don’t be shy about sharing your opinions with me!

I feel like writing this column has helped improve my writing skills and I’ve learned more about the craft of writing, especially when it comes to interviews. I’d never really done any interviews on my own so this has been a new experience for me, and it’s been a bumpy road at times. My biggest issue has been time management in planning far enough ahead to make sure I had the interviews done on time; I hate to admit it but I sometimes have a tendency to procrastinate. I’ve also had to learn how to deal with delays in getting the answers back from my interview subjects, and how to handle that tactfully. I feel like I do a good job at researching the topic I’m writing about or the person I’m interviewing and coming up with good questions. I’ve tried to focus on asking unique questions which help to show a different side of the people I interview instead of asking the same general questions that routinely get asked during interviews, but I’m not sure how well people like that. This column is a work in progress and I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t. I hope that as time goes on I’ll get more feedback as far as what things people like about my column or what they don’t like. The interviews have been something I’ve really enjoyed because it’s given me the opportunity to get to better know the people I interview, which has been nice. Up to this point I’ve focused on interviewing people who I find interesting and have personally wanted to interview, but I need to do better at finding interview subjects who might not necessarily be on my radar, so I’d love to hear from all of you if there are people you’d like me to interview.

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Scott from PornOCD who has been a big source of inspiration and support; the quality of his work gives me the motivation to keep working harder at becoming a better writer. I’ve learned so much from reading his interviews and how he goes about his business, and he’s been a good friend when I’ve needed encouragement or advice. And thanks also to Caramel of Caramel’s TGirls for all her support and friendship. Those two have set the bar pretty high and given me a good example to follow. And finally, thank you to my readers who take the time to read my column and for all the positive feedback; that means more to me than you can possibly know.

These first six months have been quite an adventure, but I survived and I’m excited to see where the next six months will lead!

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