TransEthics: What were you doing before you got into sex work?
Michelle Austin: I was a hair dresser. I spent over eight years working in a high-end salon in Chicago area. It was the best experience I ever had but after eight plus years the owner shut it down. We both went to work for another salon but I fell out of love for the industry. I think it had to do more so with I was depressed with the Chicago weather and having back and hand issues. Which comes from doing that kind of work. I also transitioned in that job. So, part of me misses it because it’s a big part of my life. I ran the salon the last two years which also helped me learn a lot of business skills I carry with me today.
TE: What attracted you to the sex industries?
MA: Well, back at 21, I was approached by Grooby to shoot for Shemale Yum. It was early in my transition that I was not comfortable in that line of work. I really wanted to live stealth, so by being in that world would have ruined that for me at the time. Then once again Grooby came knocking at my door at 30. I was already doing escorting work and thought it would be a great way to help market that work by appearing on porn sites. I had friends in the business who have worked for Grooby so I felt like it was right fit for me. At all stages of my life, for the most part I have loved and accepted my body. I grew up in a nudist kind of family so, being nude was never new to me.
TE: As a trans woman, I have body image issues out the wazoo. What advice would you give to people like myself who get dysphoric when looking at our own reflection?
MA: Wow, that’s a big question. I never got body dysphoria, so for me sometimes I don’t feel like I am the person to help in that department. But back in 2008 I had started teaching seminars called Finding Inner Beauty. Which in those seminars I told people no matter how many surgeries you do, you will always be the person you feel on the inside. People can’t take that away from you.
For a long time I never loved who I was. I let a man abuse me mentally for three years and one night he abused me physically in a club and that’s when things clicked in my brain. I had to change who I was, but it wasn’t that. I had to love who I was on the inside. As for weight issues I have dealt with that for so many years. The best advice I can give anyone is, when you look in the mirror, tell yourself “I love You!” You may want to change this or that but you can’t at that moment. So, accept and love who you are at that point in your life and work to fix what you need to fix.
In 2013 I was almost pushing three hundred pounds. Today I am around two hundred and twenty now, it has taken me a long way to get where I am right now. But I never got mad when I didn’t make a goal fast enough. Hard work takes time to see results. My advice would be, look at that reflection in the mirror and say “I love myself today!”
TE: Wow! That’s good advice. As a plus-size model and escort, do you feel that there’s a certain expectation in the industry as to what “beauty” should be?
MA: Oh, totally. When I came into this industry I never thought I was fat, or even what people called BBW (Big Beautiful Woman). When I googled BBW, women way bigger than me were pictured. So, I never got it, it kinda hurt my feelings that people thought I was fat. I was what I thought a normal size of women in America. After being slapped with that reality, I dealt with it and ran with it. I became the first BBW Transsexual, there were girls before me, but I was the first to make it a full-blown career. Many sites won’t shoot girls of a certain size.
In the beginning, they never told me it was my size, they said other things. I started to learn it’s because I wasn’t a size six and have a huge cock. To the viewer, you are nasty according to the industry. On many transsexual porn forums, I seen that first hand. The consumer didn’t want to see me. Then there were many fans who came to my defense and that is when I felt the courage to show trans people that size shouldn’t matter when it comes to beauty. I think in porn you have to be marketable. I get that totally, forming my company and now casting trans men, I am doing that very thing, looking for guys who are marketable. I know it sounds harsh but it is the reality of the business.
What helped me succeed was I wasn’t ugly. Well. to some I was but that was due to my size. I think you can be big and beautiful, for example look at BBW Pornstars April Flores and Kelly Shibari. Two women I admire and look up to, being fat can be beautiful too. I have lost out on so many great opportunities because I am the “Fat Tranny” of porn. Many people think my Tranny Award I had won a few years ago was created just for me, which is sad because for so many years I worked my ass off and created my own brand, with no one else’s help. It has made me a stronger person and business owner.
As far as escorting my phone doesn’t ring as much as the skinny girl in town but I have more than they can ever give. You know what that is? Charm, real and respect. Every man who has ever walked through my doors has been treated with respect, and I never treated them like money in my pocket. Why so many men do see me over and over. I wish I could charge the high rates some girls do but with that comes guys thinking you’re a cunt too.
TE: When you consider the fact that you are the first to break that barrier, did you ever think that you would become an inspiration to others?
MA: Before doing porn I always had people say I was an inspiration. I had a little dance album come out called Voluptuous Diva, which is where my tattoo on my chest came from. No matter how much weight I lose I will always be voluptuous, its in my bone structure. The album hit the Chicago dance charts and was a nice little success for me. Even Voluptuous Diva was on Chicago radio stations.
But the impact I have had on trans women and men since doing porn has blown my mind. When a girl tells me I want to be just like you. Or thank you for showing me that I am beautiful too. Makes my heart flutter, it makes me feel like what I have done has meant something. Who would have thought being a porn star would make you a role model as well? When I won my Tranny Award for Voluptuous Diva (the name even makes people think…but it was named by another girl nominated.) I was emotional on stage and had an amazing speech that people talk about to this day. You can see it on tgirls.com if you look up 2014 Tranny Awards part 2 video.
To me it was more than an award it was a validation that I too matter in this business! To many people they need to see that, because it gives them the courage to accept and move on with themselves. I am happy I can inspire, or make someone feel better about themselves by seeing me on film. Reason, I have never wanted airbrushed photos or ever covered my body in clothes. I wanted people to see all of me. the real me!
TE: What was your reaction when the name was changed from “The Tranny Awards” to “The Transgender Erotica Awards”?
MA: Hated it at first, because I felt like we were selling out to a community that wanted it changed. I later found out that wasn’t the case, and in some strange way I was part of the ball rolling on the change. The change needed to happen so they could include more categories, and bringing trans men into the mix was a big part of that. It was also more marketable to society. A certain few people in the queer community think they are the reason it was changed, but it never was changed for them. Last year being the first with the change, you could feel it and see it being there. It had grown so much. I was a part of the 3rd annual Tranny Awards as the host. It was in a small bar in North Hollywood, so to see it become what it has become is amazing. I have been a part of it ever since, and if they ask me again I will be a part of it until they stop asking me. I believe in it that much!
TE: When you started this journey into TS porn, did it ever occur to you how much sex work and activism would become intertwined within the trans sex industry?
MA: No I never did. Nor am I a politically correct person. For me I never felt like I was doing porn to become an activist. I believe in labels and believe porn should be separate from resources. [Some] people are in an uproar over labels but love taking money from this industry [and] want to fight them for change. We don’t need change, porn shouldn’t be political, it’s for people to enjoy! If people look at trans people in porn as a role model then that is up to them, but I don’t want what I say and do be what all trans people should be or do. I don’t think I am an activist because I feel like there are bigger issues in our own community we need to work on, like homeless teens, and suicides.
TE: How would you address the issue of homeless trans teens?
MA: Creating shelters in communities where they feel safe and can be guided in things like finishing school, finding a job and working on becoming an adult. I don’t know how that will work but I feel like the fight needs to be more focused on things like than that then what terms can be used or not used.
TE: And trans suicides?
MA: We need more things in our schools. We need resources for trans people to go to. I think people do so much for the LGB community but don’t do anything for trans. They need to know they are not alone and that it gets better.
TE: Do you think trans people will be accepted by society in our lifetime?
MA: Yes and I think it has come a long way in the fifteen years I have lived fulltime. We have a long way to go but I believe with the way trans people are being seen in media it’s a plus for us.
TE: Speaking of media, do you think the Bruce Jenner interview helped or hurt trans women?
MA: Oh my god, I think it helped a lot. I loved everything he said, I felt his struggle. I felt like it was real, too many people it thinks it’s a joke. I really think he changed the dialogue in America. I am so happy with the way they addressed it and helped educate the viewer at the same time.
TE: What do you say to critics who say that being trans is a “fad”, and the mainstream media is just capitalizing on it?
MA: It’s not a fad its been around way before now. If you look in Buddhist cultures, Greek mythology there was trans people. So, I don’t think its a fad, and I think mainstream media is just helping show the world there is another gender out there.
TE: Just one more question: What is the next step for you and your business?
MA: Revolutionizing FTM Trans porn. I have launched FTM.XXX in March and we have also launched two solo FTM (Female-to-Male) sites DickyJohnson.com and EddieWoodXXX.com. We are launching a few more solo sites and about to change the game at end of summer by launching another FTM multi site.
We also have released three DVDs already this year Trans Men Adventures 2: Men At Work, Oral Sensation and 50 Shades of A Tranny. We have about five more to release this year and we are only half way there. As for me I just launched my new solo site TSMichelle.XXX which has all my archived scenes of the last three years of my old solo site but also will feature tons of new content with me. My other site Michelle-Austin.com is now an archived site, it will no longer be updated but people can still join it. I want to change the game for trans people, and I think being trans that I have a different view on things. Eventually I am retiring from in front of camera and just direct and produce. People can buy my DVDs at KennstonStore.com or watch on Video On Demand at KennstonVOD.com.
TE: Best of luck with that. Thank you for your time Michelle.
MA: Thank you!