Porn and Trans Rights in America

Porn scenes featuring male-to-female transgender talent are surging in popularity in porn’s mainstream at the same time as three out of five Americans are more supportive of trans rights than they previously were. In the center of a Venn diagram between hot sex, sociology, and an unexpected political shift, a time in America where the country’s transgender citizens could experience increased civil rights now exists. If there were ever a time to explore if there was a four-alarm blaze of revolutionary change apparent in the metaphorical (and yes, literal) smoke show surrounding female transgender performers in the world of mainstream adult film, it’d be right now.

In examining—alongside veteran performer/director Aiden Starr and leading transgender adult star Natassia Dreams—if a fascinating trickle-down scenario has potentially developed where mainstream porn can potentially influence America’s sociopolitical norms at large, three notions emerge. First, a sex-and-gender defined civil rights movement has always existed. Moreover, pop culture in America can be best illustrated by how history, sociology, and intensely hot sex blend together. Lastly, because of the presence of the first two ideas, the potential for America’s sociosexual and sociopolitical worlds to collide in a way that allows for a necessary civil rights evolution for trans people and trans culture in America emerges.

Adult entertainment and the LGBTQ civil rights movement are linked by how politics forces them into the pop-cultural spotlight, notes Aiden Starr:

“LGBTQ culture has always been a form of political expression. Trans women were present at the Stonewall riots, which were significant in popular culture. So, trans people have always—since the beginning of the movement’s connection with the media—been at the forefront.”

Linking this to sex work, she continues,

“Sex work is a progressive political expression, too. Because we’re constantly interfered with by the government, those of us in this line of work have no other choice but to be politically active.”

Aiden Starr
Aiden Starr

In the midst of what has been a breakthrough moment for trans female performers, Starr’s work as a director with Evil Angel Films has produced some of the best of what is a growing collection of 2020’s top overall shoots for the company. Her frank take on working with transgender talent is essential to consider in regarding how transgender rights evolve in America’s mainstream:

“The othering of people is bad, weird, frustrating, and gross. Trans women are women to me. I think women, in general, are beautiful, and I love glorifying women’s sexuality.”

Feeling that a more “pansexual” space where personalities, connections, and chemistry matter more than an emphasis on gender and the negativity associated with othering has always been a part of Starr’s life and work.

“In the 2000s, I did shoots with trans women for Joey Silvera because there was not a lot of cisgender woman/trans woman porn in the marketplace. There was a heavy stigma against it. I’d dated trans women—who were not performers—since I was a teenager, so I was already having that kind of sex off-camera. Thus, doing it on camera, with performers, made sense.”

Comparatively, a conversation with Natassia Dreams about the past, present, and future of transgender performers is fascinating. She, likely moreso than most any other trans performer—or arguably trans person—is at the forefront of how trans people can be initially best accepted, plus have their civil rights validated in America.

A 2019-published scholarly report entitled “Americans’ Perceptions of Transgender People’s Sex: Evidence from a National Survey Experiment from the American Sociological Association” highlights why Dreams’ existence and success in adult entertainment is such an essential bridge for trans people and trans rights in America.

“Gender scholars contend that gender performance is a determining factor in shaping attitudes toward transgender people. The salience of gender conformity, or a person’s ability to ‘pass’ consistent with their gender identity, highlights conforming commonalities that impact how people think about a transgender person in the abstract.”

Natassia Dreams
Natassia Dreams

At present, Natassia Dreams is not just a regularly booked female transgender adult entertainer. She’s also a runway and print model who has appeared on billboards in Times Square and appeared on FX’s Pose program. Plus, she will soon be able to add Playboy to the list of magazines in which she’s appeared. Also, Dreams has recently been nominated (alongside BBW performer Estella Bathory) for a 2020 XBIZ Europa Award for “Super Femmes,” a recent superheroine-themed release from director Erika Lust‘s XConfessions studios. This honor is significant because it’s the first time a BBW performer or trans performer has “crossed over” to being nominated in a non-genre specific category.

Ultimately, Dreams’ success identifies a porn marketplace growing in female trans talent (AVN Magazine’s recent cover girl Natalie Mars, for instance) no longer demanding, but achieving visibility. Couple this with recent movements to more deeply accept racial, social, and cultural integration into adult entertainment, and we’re at the precipice of a trend in porn that offers fantastic potential.

Says Natassia Dreams,

“This new generation [of trans female performers] is pushing the movement forward harder than ever. They have passion and drive, plus they probably have studied the careers of performers like me and my transgender female colleagues. They’re hot—you can feel their heat onscreen—they’re sexy and into what they do.”

While excited, Dreams also notes that the crossover success and commercial acclaim are slightly problematic—but notes a silver lining:

“I go on set now and am sometimes misgendered. Back in the day, that didn’t happen. Because there were so few of us, people were shaking to work with us on set and never make that mistake. Now, because we’re popular, and working in [places trans performers have never significantly been in great numbers], people try to project their insecurities about transgender people onto us. However, they’re still very attracted to us and understand our value and importance.”

Regarding the next steps, the idea that it’s not so much what is said as what is done becomes essential. Menlo College Political Science professor Melissa Michaelson tells Mother Jones,

“People answer favorably to questions about lofty ideals. They know that supporting transgender rights is the right thing to say.”

More than anything else, if looking for an example of how to succeed more at doing than saying, the dogged determination with now-proven success present showcased by Natassia Dreams and Aiden Starr offer a sustainable blueprint for America’s mainstream to consider.

Dreams states with an air of pride in her voice,

“My femininity, sexuality, and comfort in my body allow people to accept the importance of sexuality in their lives.”

A correlation certainly exists between sociopolitical movements’ success and people feeling seen and accepted for how they individually value their gender and sex.

In final, Aiden Starr’s note about the course her professional career has taken offers the best comprehensive idea regarding the best possible future for a sex-inspired trans rights movement:

“Working the way that I work, in the fields that I work, forced me to take a social and monetary hit for years. In the end, though, it paid off. Because I didn’t fit mainstream expectations, I had to keep pushing for acceptance. Even if it takes you 20 years, you will get it.”

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