Interview: Chelsea Poe – Fighting to Transform the Trans Narrative

December 20, 2014
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Interview: Chelsea Poe - Fighting to Transform the Trans Narrative

Defining what the “other” is in this day and age becomes more difficult as time goes by. As the human race evolves and adapts to become more varied and tolerant, so too do our perceptions of the differences between us.

One of the biggest areas of ‘difference’ that society has made positive progress in accepting is our transgendered brothers and sisters. Once a subject deemed beyond taboo, not even that long ago, we now live in an age where people such as Alexis Arquette, Chaz Bono and Lana Wachowski can reveal their true selves and become accepted by the majority of right-minded people.

Of course, things are never totally simple. There are always further steps to be taken and longer paths to be travelled. This brings us to Chelsea Poe, the transgender alt porn star already with a 2015 AVN Nomination to her name, and her mission to change not just the view of transgender sex workers but the entire semantic discourse surrounding her and other transgendered workers and colleagues.

Chelsea has initiated a wide-reaching petition to attempt to coerce and convince the owners of transgender porn sites/companies to relent from using such terms as “shemale”, “tranny”, “he/she” and other derogatory and damaging titles in their output.

‘What’s the problem?’ you might be asking. After all, aren’t these terms widely accepted and used online and in the physical world? We know what we’re getting, right?

Well, no… and that’s the entire crux of Chelsea’s campaign. Just as mainstream heterosexual porn has the propensity to offer a hyper-realized form of sex and inter-gender interaction, the same is true of transgender porn.

“This has been an issue I’ve cared about since before I got into porn” explains Chelsea. “I’ve spoken about this since day one of my first shoot but at the time no-one really cared because I was just another queer performer with views that go against mainstream porn.

“Within the last two months this has really become an active topic because of my visibility. This is a word that has affected me in all walks of life, be it on dating sites, work or even walking down the street.

“This is a word all trans women are subjected to whether they are sex workers or not. A huge majority of trans women would never identify as a shemale but rather it’s a creation of porn that is being propped up by mainly cis men who are profiting from it.”

Interview: Chelsea Poe - Fighting to Transform the Trans Narrative

While there has long been consternation in the community, there has been a distinct lack of strong voices or powerful campaigners to push this agenda. That is, until now… and the movement is beginning to gain some real momentum.

“[The community’s reaction] has been extremely positive. Most trans women have an issue with this term and never really have been given a voice to speak to these companies thus being completely powerless in this issue. I think it has shown the community if we come together we can really try to make positive change happen.

“My view is one shared by a huge majority of the trans community. I have yet to talk to one trans woman who doesn’t work for these companies who supports keeping the term. Some performers are siding with the people who are paying their bills and I fully understand the reasoning but to paint this as tons of trans women identifying as shemale is completely false.

“Clearly there are some but its an extreme minority. We are all for trans women calling themselves whatever they want but what we oppose is non-trans run sites profiting off of a slur that is having real world negative effects on the trans community.”

So there is Chelsea’s campaign in a nutshell. What may mean big business to some, means perpetuation of discriminatory tropes to the trans community who walk the streets outside of the porn bubble every day, who deal with real-life situations and the ever-present threat of intimidation or violence.

Chelsea feels the overall response from transgender porn sites has been dismissive and or conducive to the path of progress. While some have listened to her argument and edited their sites and moral philosophies to encompass this new ideal, the majority refuse to acknowledge this call to arms.

“I think for us to really advance in our society we need to remove this whole “freak show” marketing of trans porn. Trans performers should be marketed and treated the same as any other performer. The people who watch trans porn are there because they are attracted to trans bodies not because of some slur used for marketing.”

But Chelsea isn’t simply campaigning to change a couple of words; it ultimately runs a lot deeper than that. Trans performers who become stuck in a loop of “shemale” fantasy, much as we see on any trans site, are undertaking major health risks, physically and mentally. Chelsea believes, above all else, that it is really important to give an alternative view of a trans woman’s sexuality that is usually absent from mainstream porn. But what exactly does that constitute?

“I think it’s important to actually start showing trans porn where it’s based upon how the trans woman actually has sex in her real life. Most performers have to go on and off their hormone replacement therapy to perform up to mainstream trans porn standards and doing so destroys their endocrine system which can lead to a lot of major health issues down the road.

“If these producers really care about the health of their models then that needs to come to a stop and really be addressed. I think showing porn where trans women really get to explore their fantasies is what I and most trans people actually want to watch. I have a huge forced straight fantasy that I got to do in a scene and it was a super great scene but I feel like most mainstream trans porn values quantity over quality.”

So there we have it, a chance to do something for the greater good. The trans community is one that, by the very nature of its existence, stands out and attracts negativity from those too narrow minded to consider the broad spectrum of life.

Consider what Chelsea has just told you about performers putting their lives at risk with their hormone replacement therapy simply to conform to an unrealistic standard. You wouldn’t let this happen to an animal, so don’t let it happen to people.

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