Trans Orgasmic: Evie Eliot on Imagining a New Kind of Porn, Liberation, and Magic

evie

Trans Ethics: How did you get into the sex industry?

Evie Eliot: The very short version is that I just sort of woke up one morning and said “I’m going to make porn”. The longer version is that about seven years ago, I saw a film called the Third and the Seventh, by Alex Roman. It was the first time I’d ever seen something that fit the description “fine art cinema” for me, and at the end of it, the first thing I thought was, “I want to make porn that looks like this.” Back then though it was just “something I’d like to do”, in the same way as I wanted to say, travel South America. If someone had offered me an all expenses trip then I’d take it, but I wasn’t actually very serious about turning the idea into reality.

Fast forward five and a bit years: I was early in transition, and I had started documenting my body in a series of nude shoots –purely artistic stuff, not erotic at all. I found that I was really enjoying modeling. I know a lot of photographers from when I worked in fashion, so I decided to do some pin-up style shoots and fashion shoots with people –which started getting more and more exhibitionistic– until I woke up one morning and said “I’m going to make porn.” I’m the sort of person who’ll just let an idea percolate for a while and then at a certain point, I just commit 100% to it.

TE: There are some who would say that artsy nudes are the most erotic and arguably the most beautiful. Did you use any of your early pictures as part of a portfolio to get started?

EE: Yeah, I mean those were the photo’s I had on hand when I started contacting companies about shooting with them. I also took some more porn oriented shots as I needed full body shots. Those are actually the very first post on my Tumblr.

TE: Tell me about Clever Girl Pictures. Is that how you’re trying to fulfill your original vision of porn?

EE: Yes, Clever Girl is my artistic vision. The type of porn I want to watch, and create, needs to have a certain meditative quality to it. Not that it needs to be calm or peaceful, but it needs to keep the viewer fully present in the moment. It struck me that most porn is so formulaic: there are definite spots which are almost labeled “You can orgasm now” and that always really bothered me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that our attitude towards sex in America is extremely goal oriented, to the point where arousal is almost seen as an inconvenience to be overcome through orgasm. I know this is true for men. It’s something that’s part and parcel of the way patriarchy controls men through sex: that the idea of arousal without resolution is abhorrent (and if you can’t get off, blame a woman), as female sexuality is commercialized and sold back to us. I fear this is becoming the case for women too. I want to create porn that allows people to fully, consciously, inhabit a state of sexual arousal and to feel comfortable in that place.

TE: Perpetual sexual arousal without focusing on orgasms is something that is quite original given the nature of the Industry. Do you find this being an overall hard-sell?

EE: I’m not sure I’d call it “perpetual arousal” — I just want to get away from destination (orgasm) focused sex. Of course, my feelings about this have been influenced by having to entirely re-learn my own erotic stimuli since I started transition. It took a good year to relearn how to have an orgasm, and that gave me a lot of time to learn how to enjoy things I’d not previously focused on. I can say without a doubt, the best sex I’ve ever had would have passed muster for a PG13 rating, and my partner and I never even took our clothes off. It was completely fucking sublime. I want to show that experience in porn, and still have the viewer walk away feeling breathless. As to whether it’s a hard sell? I honestly have no idea. I’m doing this because I have to. The porn I make for myself is always a labor of love. I’ve never cared about whether it will be popular or not.

TE: Considering some of the health issues surrounding being a trans woman, and that spironolactone can cause renal failure when used long-term, do you think the Industry as a whole should be focused less on ejaculation when it comes to trans women?

EE: I’m so bored with ejaculation. Not just in trans porn, but in any porn. My feelings about the porn industry as a whole is that 99% of what’s being made is fast food. It tastes good in the moment, satisfies the appetite, but it’s not nutritious. I think there should be less focus on ejaculation for everyone’s well-being.

As to the specific health concerns of trans performers, I’m not a doctor. Most people don’t stay in the industry that long anyway, so I’m not convinced that being on T-blockers constitutes a huge health risk, although clearly going on and off them repeatedly is not going to be good for you.

I went off spiro for the first ever shoot I did. I hated it, and I’ve been back on blockers ever since. All my pop shots are faked (sorry folks), and I’d rather they didn’t have to be a part of my scenes at all because they are a misrepresentation of my sexuality. I think more harmful than being on or off blockers is how mainstream trans porn portrays trans women in general. It perpetuates stereotypes of trans women as over sexed predators, which has much more serious real world health consequences.

TE: How would you like to see the depictions of trans women evolve in the industry?

EE: I don’t think it’s my place to say really. But from my perspective as a producer, I want the performers in my films to be able to answer that question for themselves. In Queer porn, and feminist porn, that’s kind of the standard now. We let people have sex the way they want to.

The porn industry as a whole is incredibly conservative. It’s totally focused on “male sexuality” and I use scare-quotes because that concept itself is a lie. Men’s sexual expression is incredibly boxed in. –again, this is how patriarchy controls men– it denies men any expression of their sexuality other than a few narrowly prescribed options. It shames men who venture outside of those socially sanctioned norms. It’s a failure of the imagination.

I think the conversation that you’re seeing about how trans women’s sexuality is presented is happening because when our sexuality is only presented as a fetish, and when that fetish feeds into existing stereotypes and prejudice, it is literally killing us. If you listen to the dialogue amongst sex workers, you realize that whorephobia is a major cause of violence against women. People of color are treated as a fetish in porn too. That plays into cycles of violence, especially for women of color, and trans women of color most of all. Look at the places where we are dying and this conversation is going on. It’s been going on for a while, but for some reason there are voices coming out of queer trans porn right now that are getting attention from the Industry. I’m not sure exactly why this is the case, but it’s happening, and I think it’s a very good thing.

TE: Do you think terms like “tranny” and “shemale” are on their way out where the Industry is concerned?

EE: Yes, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

TE: How do you feel when trans women use those terms to market themselves in the Industry?

EE: There is still a definite financial incentive to use those terms, and if people are comfortable with those terms, or identify in that way, that’s fine. I think a lot of the rhetoric surrounding the use of those words is less about the words themselves, and more about long-standing divides within the LGBTQ community. Trans women are perhaps the least cohesive group imaginable so I’m [reluctant] to generalize, but straight-identified and queer-identified trans women tend to be two different communities politically speaking. So I try not to look at the conversation as being so much about those words as it is about broader views about business practices in general. If you don’t think business should have any particular social responsibility, then using those words will appear harmless to you. Or if not harmless, then justifiable in the pursuit of market advantage.

TE: Let’s let that topic simmer, as that issue isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. So, shifting gears a bit, tell me about how being in porn is liberating for you.

EE: If you’ve listened to Brene Brown’s talks on shame and vulnerability, doing porn has been instrumental for me in addressing my own sense of shame around being trans. It’s also helped me a lot with my dysphoria, and while there’s a lot of things I’d change if I could afford it, I’m a lot more comfortable with my body now than I was before I started doing porn. The other way it’s been liberating is in the doors it’s closed. Maybe I don’t trust myself, but I’ve always been drawn to do things that I can’t back out from once I commit. I never want to work in a cube again. I don’t even want the option. Doing porn has been a way for me to burn bridges behind me. No retreat!

TE: Would you say you’re more content now?

EE: No, but I actually exist at the center of myself for the first time in my life. I’m not so foolish as to claim I know who or what I am, but I do know where I am. I have a foundation now that I never had before. That’s been huge for me. For the first time I feel that I have direction. I still get lost, but know it’s actually possible for me to get unlost! I still get scared, but for the first time I actually know how to be brave. I’m not sure contentment is on the cards for me. I’ll settle for not being in constant pain.

TE: Your Tumblr profile mentions magic. Care to expand a little on that topic?

EE: As a child I grew up in a profoundly magical environment, and I felt very strongly connected to the world around me. My parents were agnostic pagan Buddhists I suppose, and my sister and I never had any formal religious upbringing. We grew up with folktales and fantasy stories, and I think we developed out own sort of spirituality. I spent a whole summer inventing a religion with a friend when I was like 7…  holy scriptures, rituals, the whole lot.

I also never had strongly enforced gender roles growing up, so it wasn’t until I hit puberty that being trans ever really felt like a problem. Once I did hit puberty I began to realize that I wasn’t just going to wake up in the right body one day, and ended up doing a lot of drugs to cope with that. There was no LGBT community in rural Southwest Wales, so I really didn’t have the language to know what was going on. Eventually that disillusionment killed my sense of magic in the world. I became firmly atheist, and spent the next 17 years trying to “fix” my brain through intellectualizing all my problems away. That really didn’t work. I was diagnosed bipolar, had alcohol and drug abuse problems, developed chronic pain, and was often suicidal.

When I finally came out as trans (actually, it was the 6th time I’d come out, but apparently each time I’d told someone previously, I’d then get blackout-drunk and couldn’t remember ever having done so) and started on HRT, for the fist time in probably twenty years I started to feel that sense of magical connection to the world again. I’d always felt a little sour that science seemed to rob the world of magic, but since I embraced science, and science allowed me to embrace myself, that part of me that I’d been missing for so long started to come back.

Since I switched over to an Estrogen based OS my bipolar episodes have stopped, 90% of my chronic pain has gone, I can think more clearly (my short-term memory is demonstrably better, it’s almost scary), and most importantly I have my emotions back. So when I talk about magic, that’s what I’m talking about. For me it’s that sense of connection to the universe: it’s not metaphysical. It’s very real, it’s measurable, it’s profound, it is magical.

TE: Wow. That’s powerful. With that in mind, what advice would you give to a trans woman who is –for whatever reason(s)– still in the closet?

EE: Oh goodness, don’t ask me that! I couldn’t possibly know what to say. Our lives, our circumstances, we’re all so different. I never want to offer advice without having some idea of a persons situation, and even then I don’t feel I’m qualified to weigh in on another’s situation. I can speak to my own experience, and if some of that rings true to someone else then I’m happy, but shit.

I guess all I really have to say is do whatever you have to survive. So long as we’re alive, we still have options. Don’t come out if you don’t feel safe, but do everything you can to get yourself to a safe space. The world can be really shit to trans people, but it’s getting better and there are places where you will be able to thrive. You just have to do everything you can to keep yourself alive long enough to get there.

What I would like to say, more generally, is that some of the oppressions I experienced a year ago I don’t experience now because I stopped looking for them. I think when we first come out, we’re looking for identity, we’re looking for a narrative. Oppression, injustice, and discrimination are all part of the trans experience, but they don’t need to be a part of our narrative. Being trans is not the most interesting thing about you.

When I feel isolated, or I feel that some aspect of my experience is so unique to being trans that my cis friends could never understand, I make a point of challenging that assumption in myself. I always try to reach out to my friends with the assumption that they may have experienced something very similar. I truly believe that for it to do us any good, empathy must be a dialogue. I take it as my personal responsibility to extend trust to people when I need emotional help, and what I’ve found is that nothing I have experienced as a trans woman was so wholly unique as to be unrelatable to my cis friends.

We need community, because we will always have a greater interest in our own needs than our cisgender friends and family, but I see too many people depending wholly on the trans community for their emotional support and I think that leads to an isolationist and tribal mentality. We’ve got to learn to give others the benefit of the doubt, because if we don’t it not them who suffer, it’s us.

TE: That was fantastic! Thank you Evie.

EE: You’re welcome! thanks for asking such thoughtful questions!

Follow Evie Eliot on Twitter.

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