Krissy Kyung on trans identity, acceptance, and the division within our own community


In Part 2 of my interview with Krissy Kyung we touch on some of the important issues in the trans community that have been controversial and have often led to divisiveness within our own community. I hope it gets people to think about these issues and leads to some discussion.



Last year you undertook the enormous challenge of teaching me html coding and how to build and manage WordPress sites, which has led to many good things happening in my career; I designed two sites of my own and will be designing a site for a friend in the music industry, so thank you for that. This is just one example of the many things you do for people in the community that aren’t publicized, and while I know you are private by nature, I want people to see that the perception many people have about sex workers and the adult entertainment industry is not always accurate. There are many in the industry who do a lot of work for the community behind the scenes and who make a positive impact in the many lives they touch. What are your thoughts about how the industry can reach out to mainstream society to help promote a more positive image of the industry?

You’re quite welcome for the help. This is a huge question and probably would take more time than we have here to discuss.

Perception really is a funny thing, right? The sad part about what you said is that you had to put the qualifier “… not always accurate” in there. As long as there is a “not always”, the few bad apples in the basket will always ruin the batch, in mainstream perception. I think anyone from within the porn industry wishing to impact mainstream culture has to realize that they’re already starting at a deficit in integrity, rightly or wrongly. Once you realize this, you can begin to understand your opposition and create conversations to draw attention to your particular issues.

I would probably disagree with the wording of “many in the industry” as well, sadly. I don’t think there are “many” in the industry working for the community at all. Using the term, “many” makes it sound like there is a current flowing in that direction, and that those not doing “…a lot of work for the community behind the scenes…”, are the exception. I think it is probably more accurate to reverse those roles. There are too few in the industry truly involved with having ANY positive outreach to mainstream society.

I have more thoughts on this subject for sure, but I’m probably just going to ramble on about philosophy and change and perceptions and everything else. Suffice to say, change needs to be happening on local levels first of all, and expanded from there.

You currently don’t live full-time as a woman, but have said that it’s something which is always in your thoughts. Can you tell us why you have not transitioned, and do you foresee yourself taking this step at some point?

First of all, I would reject the premise of the question. The premise of the question implies that there is such a thing as living “full-time as a woman”. This in and of itself is something that I reject, not because I’m ultra-liberal and reject the idea of gender, but because the very words “full-time woman”, carried to its logical conclusion, means that there is an opposite implied – that is, a “part-time woman”. I don’t believe this exists.

TRIGGER WARNING: GENDER SPECIFIC TALK COMING UP – just kidding – I hate those things.

Let’s break this down. The entire cornerstone of the “Trans” agenda is built around the idea of “identity”. That is to say, a person identifies as a specific gender (or in some cases absence of), regardless of exterior forces or appearance, which may or may not align with their given, physical appearance. Said person should be free to express such identity and enjoy the same freedoms, rights, protections, and privileges of other individuals (cis) in a free society who identify with a specific gender that aligns with their given, physical appearance. If you don’t believe in “identity” as the given characteristic of being “Transgender”, then I would challenge your belief structure as inherently bigoted, since you must thusly believe an external force or appearance governs your identity – i.e. – your very being. That is to say, you can change your identity by changing either external forces (society, cultural norms) or appearance (body shape, clothing, etc.). I don’t believe this is the case. You are who YOU say you are, and only YOU can determine whether your motives are pure or made up; at least until we have mind-readers available to us.

Now, the above paragraph has a lot contained in it that has to be thought through logically. I would argue that if you state emphatically that changing your appearance and appropriating societal norms (i.e. – “transitioning” – also a term that I hate) of what makes you a “woman” (i.e. – long hair, wearing makeup, dressing in female clothing, undergoing certain types of surgery, etc.), does indeed make you a woman, you have ultimately defeated your own argument for equality because if you can change those things in the first place, you can change them back again. Consequently, if they can be changed, then you’ve given license to the governing opinion at the time, by way of law, religious belief, or moral code, to, AND rightfully so I may add, demand that you conform, and enforce consequences if you do not do so. You cannot make laws that demand change of something that cannot be changed, and religiously, no deity demands moral laws of the same. I believe this is a subtle, yet key point that many fail to understand correctly.

If you state that you can “transition” – the opposite must be true, or at the very least, you must be able to “transition” to and from something else as well. And yet, the core of being “trans” is a statement of identity – I am a woman or I am a man, regardless of what others see, hear, feel, or think. It doesn’t leave space for a “transition” process. It is not a “feeling”. You either identify as a particular gender, or you don’t. The whole transition argument is being phrased inappropriately in my opinion. It is being phrased as a “must do” for people who identify on the “trans” spectrum. The question I always ask those who postulate this belief, is “Why?” It’s like that annoying five year old who just won’t stop asking “why?”, but who really makes you think about something that you haven’t given much thought to before, and you realize that you’re truly ignorant on the subject.

Why must a person “transition” to claim the lofty title of “Trans”? Why does a change in physical appearance and / or conformity to external pressures suddenly and instantaneously (I’m talking time lapse here) make you a gender you already claimed (identified as) that you were? Why does someone who is “Trans” care about someone else saying that they’re “Trans” when the original person is actually saying “I am female, and demand to be treated like that”? Why must I respect your right to step outside the box of societal norms when it comes to gender, but then I must be forced inside yours?

The ridiculous notion that I can live “as a man” one day, and the very next, be “Trans” just by living “as a woman” is an entirely self-defeating argument. I’ve probably read just about every opinion under the sun regarding the whole “full-time” vs “part-time” arguments and listened to just about every single line of logic to explain the sides. The arguments are as widely varied and vehemently argued as possible. You have to start at the beginning, and that’s where I think many arguments fail to make their point. The beginning of the argument is the enlightenment that “identity” governs “being” – “being” does not govern “identity”. If you go from there, you have no choice but to come to the conclusion that the M and F doesn’t really matter at all. We’re all HUMAN – trying to get by as best as we can, and as comfortably as we can in this mess of life, with some dignity intact in the fading days.

This is what I choose: Imma be me… and let you be you. Don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt anyone else. Try goodness. Be generous. Be kind. Lend a helping hand when you can… and a bunch of other sayings that belong on kitty posters.

Whew… to actually answer the question though – a full “transition” (as in completely surgery) is out of the question for me now. I’m much too old, and quite honestly, I want to live my later years in comfort with a steady income. I’ve worked hard to establish savings, and provide for my future, and someday I’ll enjoy it as I see fit. If that means I want the mind / body to match up, great… I’ll spend the money then. For now, I live comfortably, and in peace… I’d put that fact up against any “satisfaction” of being able to use the term “trans” any day of the week.

I don’t have a problem at all going out as “female” when I want to or need to, and do so regularly. I dress how I want to. I don’t hide it from my close friends, and those at my work already know that I consider myself Transgender. They don’t really care because I do my job well and I have enough respect for them not to suddenly show up to a client meeting in high heels and a dress and risk the company’s money. As I’ve already stated, I don’t believe in the term “transition” at all. It’s a stupid term that doesn’t mean a whole lot when you think it through. I get why it is needed, but disagree with its usage.

In the interview with Caramel you made the comment that you consider yourself transgender in the truest sense of the word. How do you respond to those who claim that unless you have transitioned and are living full-time that you aren’t really trans?

This is how I respond. Who really gives a shit? So, someone has a problem with me using the world “Trans” to describe myself, which I do not do, by the way. I’m fairly careful (with the exception of some marketing for my porn site) to say that I identify as “Transgender” (which covers a spectrum, clinically) or simply “female”. The word “Trans” has become so misused and “activist-ed to death” that I really don’t care for it at all anymore. I’ve learned a long time ago that arguing the above points with a person who believes that you have to go through the same hell that they’ve gone through in order to claim the title of “Trans” is an exercise in futility. I don’t even try anymore.

Look, people live different lives. Do you really think that it is an IMPOSSIBILITY that someone who, even though they identify as the opposite gender than their given body presents, can come to grips with that mentally and learn to exist in that body peacefully? In all of God’s green Earth, that possibility doesn’t even exist? If you talk to some so-called “activists” (I’m air-quoting here – you can just insert them yourself from this point) about this, you’d think that there is a better chance that Bigfoot is living next door to you. I know that I’ve come to grips with it and live my life accordingly, and know many other people who have as well.

You hear time and time again from activist to activist, that being Trans is hell itself – you face bigotry, violence, and hatred every single second of every single day… but then they demand that, hey – everyone else who wants to be “Trans” has to do this too (whoopee – what a life to look forward to having!) or else they’re the one being unreasonable, and definitely cannot use the term “Trans” to describe themselves. If you’re not spending your life savings on surgery, you cannot possibly be “Trans”. You must bankrupt your entire future in order to be “Trans”… because… Simon says. It’s like, “Hey – no fair – there shouldn’t be a checklist as to what male and female means… that’s transphobic! Psst… now here’s a checklist that you have to meet if you want to be Trans!” I mean, this is absolutely insane reasoning.

Look, I get it. People identifying as “Trans” don’t want to be mixed up with the CD/TV crowd. I get it, ewwweee… those people have cooties and give us all a bad name. We want our own special label… I think. No wait, I mean, we want to be only known as female… I mean, transwomen. I mean… WTF do I mean again?? We seem to think that everyone but us are totally stupid and can’t distinguish between the guy wearing panties because he likes it when his wee-wee gets hard and squirts in them, and truly Trans individuals. I think people are generally smarter than that, and especially with the younger generation, much more educated on the topic of being Trans and what that entails. People can spot phonies, and your deeds really do speak louder than your words.

I truly do get all the arguments and all I’d really say in response to your question is, name me the exact moment when you become “Trans” – the exact moment. The answer 99% of the time is, “I can’t – you just know”, to which the reply is – “Exactly – now think that through – you’ve just proven my entire point – it is a point of identity, not a factor of external changes”.

Is it just me, or do you also find it sadly ironic that some within the trans community are bickering over what qualifies someone to be considered trans? This just further labels and divides our own community, which is the last thing we need when we have so many more important issues to focus on such as the lack of acceptance and the discrimination and violence we face.

I don’t really find it sad or ironic. I think “sad” implies an act beyond control. It’s sad that a kitten falls out of a tree and dies. The Transgender community has nobody else to blame for its problems besides itself – period, end of story. Those people who are CD/TV do stupid shit like try to throw sex into the argument. Those people who are “Trans” do stupid shit like intentionally alienate people. It makes me angry – not sad. I hate bigotry in any form, whether you’re straight, gay, cis, Trans… whatever. If you cannot face your fellow human being and give them the same dignity that you desire – I don’t have time for you in my life.

The internal bickering is most certainly not ironic either. Irony contains an element of humor, and I don’t really see anything humorous about what is happening within (and has happened for many years now) the Trans community. We often complain about not being taken seriously by society, but as I read on a post at Fetlife recently from an individual who was explaining why she was leaving the Trans community – (I can’t remember who it was who authored it, or else I’d attribute – I think it was someone… Sparkles), we then go and argue about whether it should be “transwoman” or “trans woman”… Seriously, that was a real argument this person had seen between two activists. Or, we can’t put on big girl pants and put up with a slur or two – we have to sue immediately. Guess what, companies like Kroger and Target are doing their very best to help, and yet all I see in FB conversations about them are,

“OMG – I’m Trans and I worked there, and I had to put up with teasing on the job. I was so embarrassed”
“OMG – you should sue!”

“OMG – I’m Trans and other employees looked at me funny all the time.”
“OMG – They’re probably Transphobes – you should sue!”

“OMG – I’m Trans and they were good enough to hire me in the first place and provide me a job but the manager was mean to me… because by the looks of my pictures and me bragging about it on my timeline, I’m a weed-smoking, lazy ass employee who probably sat around and expected things based upon my Trans-status!” (seriously, this was a person complaining on FB about Kroger – so I looked on her public timeline which was full of pictures of weed and her bragging about smoking and getting high on the job, and even at one point saying how she had basically stolen product… and etc. – yet the Manager is the one who deserves to get fired for being “mean” – *massive eyeroll*)
“OMG – your manager was definitely Transphobic… you should SUE!”

FUCKING GET OVER IT. My first job, I was the only Asian in a sea of Hispanics in California. I was teased mercilessly. What did I do? I fucking got better at my job than them, and earned their respect. How about we take that tactic – let’s be grateful for the jobs we’re given and be the very best at them without complaining. I get that some situations become untenable and legal action is sometimes the only recourse – but good lord… no wonder mainstream society really doesn’t take the Trans community seriously.

I think we too often jump to defend anyone or anything “Trans” simply, because. We’ve got to stop doing this. Defending bad behavior on the basis of “greater good” has never worked out, and this community can’t expect to flout history.

How is it for you living in such an open and accepting city like Portland, Oregon, especially when you see the struggles Trans people are facing in other parts of the country?

Portland, Oregon is an amazing city, but not without its little pockets of bigotry. On the whole it is pretty accepting of individuals’ lifestyles though, and I’ve grown to love it. Still, when I go out and about in town, I am fairly careful as to where I go. I mean, you have to be careful regardless of what city you live in, honestly. You never know what kind of person is going to walk around the corner and how they’re going to react.

You seem to be a very private person in most respects. Why do you prefer to stay out of the limelight?

It’s amazing what having one stalker-y type experience can do for solidifying that fame is not all that it is hyped up to be. I really don’t discuss it, but after a fairly bad experience, I’ve learned that you’ve got to keep a friendly distance from the public. It is pretty incredible what kind of information, from so little information, can be dug up by someone when they really try these days.

Also, I think avoiding the public eye is just sort of an “Asian-thing”. I just prefer to work in a behind-the-scenes capacity. I’ve never really been one that needs to chase public adoration. I’m known in the circles that I’d like to be known in, and that’s plenty enough for me.

What do you attribute the increase in legislation specifically targeting trans people, such as HB2 in North Carolina and all the “bathroom bills” that seem so prevalent lately?

OK, this is going to be a wildly unpopular view, but I could really care less about legislation on a state-by-state level. I get the arguments from the Right, which are completely illogical bullshit when you get down to it, but legislation is legislation. Sometimes it goes in your favor and sometimes it doesn’t. I still believe in the power of “We The People”… call me naive. I’ve talked to plenty of people here in Portland about it and I always ask them, when the last time they voted was. About 70% of the time, the answer is, “Oh, I don’t vote for [insert reason]”. Go figure.

As to the increase of targeted legislation – I’m not really that worried about it. If the people reject it, those people will be voted out of office. Living in a free society comes with pluses and minuses. The minus is usually that you have to put up with the cycles of history – conservative thought and legislation has always existed in some form, and will always exist in the future. It’s really up to the people to decide what kind of country they want to live in and if you’ve got the numbers, you’re going to win your right to have your way. That’s called a representative democratic republic. If you don’t like it, go live elsewhere – sorry to be harsh, but that’s just how I feel. I traveled the world extensively between 1994 and 2004, and I can tell you, this is by far, the place where I’ve felt safest to live my life the way that I want to without fear of reprisal. It only takes one trip overseas to almost any other country around to understand how good we have it here in the United States – despite all the negative stuff.

Personally, I’m much, much more concerned about the statistics involving the Trans community and living-wage employment, education, and standards of living than I am about bathroom issues at the moment. But that’s just me. I suppose if it actually affected me more I would probably have more to say on the subject but I’ve never had any problem using the bathroom of my choice here in Oregon, regardless of my appearance at the time.

Can you tell us about some of the advocacy work you do that people might not be aware of?

I really am more of a “behind the scenes” type of person. I try to walk my talk, which means I get involved in issues on a local level. Currently I’m looking for a live / work space in Portland that I can afford and that could serve as a home base for Transgender individuals trying to figure out how to navigate getting a well-paying job, working with technology, and furthering their educations. These are the types of things that I think are sadly lacking – or most existing resources go towards the LGBQ portion without the T.

The other thing that I believe strongly in is supporting Trans persons who have artistic talent. This is probably my #1 current gripe with the Trans community. We don’t support our own, which I think is a tragedy. Ideally I’d like to set up scholarships for individuals who are truly pursuing careers outside of the industry – and have a legitimate shot. I think it is a shame that a talented Trans artist can put up a GoFundMe type project which gets very limited response, when it could have been funded by just a few hundred people giving $10-$15 each. We should be the first to donate whatever can be afforded to such projects. It is more of an encouragement thing rather than a monetary thing to me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Trans persons funding surgeries, and those types of things, but truly life-changing projects from girls and guys with integrity who want to start a career and who have great ideas, should be a no-brainer to fund successfully. Setting this up as a non-profit has proven to be a challenge that has taken a year longer than I had planned for, but I’m still not giving up!

Those are my top two projects at the moment. Besides those, I also donate funds, time, and energy to local groups that advocate for Transgender equality and I try to actively partake in supporting things like truly Trans-inclusive events (read: not just tolerated). I suppose if I were to win the lottery tomorrow, I’d start with those two things and then start a restaurant that heavily employed Transgender individuals, like a Hooters-type thing. I don’t know legally if that would work, but it would be fun to try, and like I said, I love eating so it would have to be quality. I wish Asia SF would open up a restaurant up here in Oregon :). Get to it!

Krissy Kyung and Becca Benz at TEA 2016

Thanks again for doing this interview Krissy, and for being so open and candid with your responses.

You’re welcome. It was a pleasure to sit down and write some of these thoughts out. I hope it is helpful to some, challenging to others, and angers a few. I wish there were more interviewers out there promoting voices from all walks of life – and more people being truly honest about who they are and what they believe. We cannot have meaningful conversations that have the capacity to truly bring about change when all we can see is our own narrow-minded viewpoints. My hope is that humanity can grow to be more inclusive in its diversity because without that, we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of generations past… and passed.

Well said. It’s always my hope when I write that it will lead to discussion and get people to think and talk, and as you said, bring about change.

Share This