Tobi Hill-Meyer is a diamond in the rough. Self-identified as “just about your average multiracial, pansexual, transracially inseminated queerspawn, genderqueer, transdyke, colonized mestiza, pornographer, activist, writer,” Hill-Meyer is not your typical porn director/performer. And she doesn’t make typical porn! Seeing the lack of authentic trans-feminine desire and sexin’ in porn, Tobi grabbed her camera and created the awesomely hot Doing It Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project.
And with only one movie under her directing belt, Hill-Meyer has already taken home an award for her work – the Good Releasing Emerging Filmmaker Award at The Feminist Porn Awards! We can’t wait to see what comes next! But luckily we got to ask Tobi our 20 questions before she gets way too busy bringing us even more amazing porn!
(Picture courtesy of CrashPad)
1. How (and when) did you get started in the industry?
I was working a barely paying job as a tutor and being supported by my partner. It was spring of 2007, I needed extra money to get across the country for Camp Trans and a lover hooked me up with a “shemale” porn website. After two shoots, it was clear that it wasn’t a good match. When those shoots confirmed that I couldn’t ejaculate (I did tell them up front) they didn’t want me back, and I was never very stoked on the fact that they used the word “shemale” or having to play to a straight audience.
I had always had a strong appreciation for feminist/queer porn, and had made a few connections into that sub-industry, so I sought out advice and support and began working on my own film, picking up a few feminist/queer gigs along the way.
2. If you weren’t in the adult industry, what would you be doing?
My major talent and inspiration has always been in writing. I haven’t stopped, but working on a porn film and distribution has made it really hard to find time to write. I have a half finished erotic fiction zine series that I would definitely be trying to finish. And despite the time drain, I’ve still got into three anthologies last year: “Best Lesbian Erotica 2010,” “Who’s Your Daddy: And Other Writings on Queer Parenting,” and “And Baby Makes More: Queer Parents, Known Donors, and Our Unexpected Families.”
3. What’s the best thing you’ve learned or best advice you’ve received from the industry?
I learned to identify what I want in my life and go for it. Seriously, doing this kind of work has been a major dream of mine. It’s been a lot of work over the past few years and when all the original footage was lost and the backup footage had data errors in it I very well could have given up. I scaled back my goals when necessary, but I was always dedicated to creating something. Now that Doing it Ourselves is finished and I’ve even won an award for my work on it, it feels odd to realize that I’ve accomplished one of my life’s dreams. Now I guess it’s time to envision something new to make come true – like making back the money I spent on producing the film.
4. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened while filming?
It wasn’t so funny at the time, but we laughed about it afterward. Over my first two shoots for Doing it Ourselves there were three injuries, two of them mine. Gina slipped and banged her knee pretty bad, I majorly aggravated an ongoing receptive stress injury in my foot and wasn’t able to walk for a couple days, and when we shot in the woods I fell off a log skinning my knees and breaking half a dozen fingernails. If you watch the credits you’ll notice that my partner Ronan was the on-site medic. For a while I worried there might have been a curse or something, but now I figure it was just an unfortunate series of coincidences and I’m glad to say we’ve been injury free since July 2008.
5. What do you think is the biggest misconception about trans folks and trans identity in the industry?
The folks I worked with in the industry actually understood a lot more about trans folks than most people I meet. However, they made it their business to perpetuate certain myths. Rather than allow trans women to be sexual on their own terms, they put in place certain requirements around glorifying pre-op genitals, getting and staying hard, ejaculating, and so on. For example, in my second mainstream shoot I actually had a pretty strong orgasm – and it was difficult for me to be orgasmic at the time so it meant a lot – but they interrupted me mid-orgasm and set the camera down so that they could set up a fake ejaculation shot by squirting my stomach with lube. I just rolled my eyes that they’d rather have a 3 second faked shot of my body doing something it doesn’t do rather than a full 30+ seconds of ecstatic writhing in genuine orgasmic pleasure.
Of course there are some trans women who fit with the industry’s expectations, but there are at least as many who are triggered by them. Being on a decent hormone regimen will make some of it difficult or impossible, and getting genital surgery will often mean the end of your career – forcing you to choose between your transition and your job. The industry knows all this and so does a good portion of their audience. But they still build fantasies around these myths. And so long as employment discrimination is rampant in trans populations, there will be a constant stream of trans women ready to play out those fantasies even when doing so is uncomfortable for them. There are comparable issues that cis (non-trans) women face in the industry, but I get the sense that the gap between mainstream and feminist/queer porn is a lot larger for trans women.
6. What did you do today?
I talked with my editor, Missa, about the planning of my next film, worked on the script for it, rehearsed a performance piece about sex work I’m doing this weekend at a benefit show for the Trans and Women’s Action Camp, researched a new camera I want to buy, and beat Assassin’s Creed 2.
7. What would you rather have done today?
Pretty much just that. It might be nice to be slightly less busy sometime soon, I’ve got some other responsibilities that are sliding a bit. Also, it’d be nice to see more people rather than spend so much time in my home office.
8. If you could do a movie with anyone (living or brought back from the dead) who would it be?
I can think of quite a few people. On the impossible level, it would be lovely to work with Silvia Rivera or Jesus – I could change the world if he did a film with me. On the possible level, April Flores or Jiz Lee – I’ve talked with them both, like them a lot, and get the sense they’d be great to work with. On the improbably level, I’d have to say Lana Wachowski (You wouldn’t have to be in front of the camera, Lana, you could write me a script, direct me, or whatever you want).
9. Who is your favorite adult performer?
There’s so many who have been influences on me. Jiz Lee is definitely one of my favorites. I love their passion, compassion, and heart. It’s awesome to see a genderqueer performer like them doing so much great work and getting well deserved recognition.
10. You’ve got 20 bucks left to your name; what would you do with it?
Buy beautiful and thoughtful gifts for my two partners who would presumably be supporting me until I get back on my feet.
11. If you were president, what’s the first thing you’d change?
Instruct law enforcement not to enforce any anti-sex laws while I work to repeal them, institute major civilian oversight of law enforcement with representation from the most disadvantaged populations, and socialize all public services with funding from majorly slashing the military budget focusing on conventional weaponry.
12. What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?
When I was a teenager I got caught playing strip poker in my friend’s church. It doesn’t seem like much, but at the time I was mortified.
13. Which is your favorite project you’ve worked on?
Well, that would be Doing it Ourselves, of course. It’s been hard work but a lot of fun. The best part, though, is how much everyone who worked on it cared about the project. Having so many folks with such passion for the concept, message, and structure made it a lot easier to dedicate myself so wholly to it.
14. If you could have 1 superpower what would it be?
Teleportation – I’ve got too many people geographically dispersed that I want to see/spend time with/work with. A close runner up would be shapeshifting.
15. Meat or veggie?
Major preference for vegetarian food, but I’m not actually vegetarian. I wanted to be when I was younger but I never turned down food put in front of me, and now I approach the meat industry with a harm-reduction model rather than one of abstinence.
16. What is your favorite book?
Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano. It changed the landscape of how trans feminism is seen and discussed. It’s not perfect and there are some very legitimate criticisms and complaints, but that book sparked thousands of conversations that have become an awakening of trans women’s empowerment.
17. What is your biggest pet peeve?
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being attracted to trans people – I heartedly encourage it. But some people really get caught up in the fantasy of a trans person and somehow imagine that every trans person they meet will fit that stereotypical fantasy image. Nothing bugs me more than when someone comes up to me on the street and starts hitting on my like I’m a heteronormative bimbo so desperate for validation that I’d fuck anyone who tells me I’m beautiful no matter how many boundaries they cross in the process.
18. What is your best piece of sex advice for women?
I find confidence is about the sexiest quality a person can have. Know that you can be sexy regardless of your body type or other such factors. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, and don’t be afraid to look silly. It may seem simple or common sense, but for many those can be hard lessons to learn.
19. What is your favorite adult movie?
Champion – I love how you can see character development in the way the main character has sex. It makes the sex part of the plot rather than something inserted next to it. I don’t know if it was the intention or not, but as someone who has struggled with disassociation during sex and still does sometimes I can see it as a strong example of that experience.
20. Tell me one thing you’ve never told anyone else.
All the interesting true things about myself I’ve probably told someone at some point, so to answer this question I’ll have to resort to something mundane. Um, I ate fresh potatoes and eggs for breakfast yesterday.
Check Tobi out at her site No Designation.