A lot has changed since James Darling started performing in adult movies in 2009. At that point in time, there were less than a handful of studios producing porn with female-to-male trans performers, and even fewer were producing content with wide distribution. When thinking about the development of James’s career, it’s important to realize how big of a leap it must have taken him to leave the place he grew up and travel West to perform in porn. Not only has James become a celebrated performer, he has become known as a director, an advocate, and a stand-up guy in a business that is often polarizing. As a director, James has curated a bevy of performers who have worked together on several different projects, blurring the industry categories of straight, gay, or trans porn in order to make hot scenes with interesting characters who know how to have good sex on camera. James’s scenes are not easily pigeonholed, and that is what makes them so refreshing. As a viewer, you are not going to see the same tropes. You are going to see people enjoying themselves–really enjoying themselves–and this enthusiasm comes through in all of the scenes James has performed in and shot. We had the opportunity to ask James a few questions about his experience in the porn business, and what his life was like before he began filming.
HMFH: 2015 has been a big year for you. You were nominated for Transsexual Performer of the Year at the AVN Awards, and you were named as one of the TRANS 100. You have created a strong brand with your website FTMFucker.com, and you have been instrumental in changing the name of the Transgender Erotica Awards. These are huge accomplishments. Did you think you would be able to have this kind of impact? What goals did you have in mind when you started performing?
James Darling: Thank you! 2015 has been a pretty big year for me. I never thought that I would impact people on this level by making porn, and I’m still pretty surprised that I have been able to go as far as I have with my work in the porn industry. When I started performing there were only three companies that would shoot a trans male performer and they were all independently produced companies based out of the Bay Area creating visibility for queer bodies and desire. I never thought it would be possible to make a career out of porn, and for the most part making a living performing is still something that’s not possible for most porn performers, especially performers who are trans men. I am very grateful and it’s been an amazing experience.
I’m very honored to be included on the Trans 100. There are so many trans people whose work I admire on that list and even more trans people doing important and necessary work who should also be recognized. I think sometimes lists and awards can create hierarchies and a sense of scarcity where it shouldn’t exist, especially when it comes to the work that trans people are doing to better our communities. That shouldn’t feel like a competition and I wish there was a better way to honor the work that people are doing. I do think it is important to see and celebrate trans people thriving and creating change, though, however big or small.
What were you doing on the day you decided to start working in the adult industry? What was your life like at that point in time?
At the time I was living in Georgia working for minimum wage at coffee shops and sleeping on friends’ couches. I had very little resources at the time and wanted more from my life. I knew that I would be able to get healthcare and be around more queer and trans people if I moved to the Bay Area, and I also knew that was where queer porn was being made. My friend showed me the original Crash Pad film by Shine Louise Houston and I thought it was really amazing to see queer people having the kind of sex that I was interested in, which was something that I didn’t see reflected much at the time in porn. Many people fantasize about being in porn, but I knew I wanted to make it a reality. So one day, I had enough of dreaming of a different life and I bought a ticket for a Greyhound bus. Two and half days later I was in San Francisco, and a month later I shot my first scene.
I had very limited performing opportunities as a transsexual man and knew if I wanted to make more porn, I was going to have to do it myself. I most often shoot whatever I’m interested in at the time, but I have a pretty diverse audience. Some people really enjoy my scenes with men and some people really enjoy my scenes with women, and some people like all of it. I just really enjoy working with people I’m attracted to and I like filming interesting dynamics and try to keep things pretty fun and casual.
When I first started performing, I had shot a number of amateur porn videos for myself and with friends, and was eventually invited to be a part of Shine Louise Houston’s Point of Contact project, where she gave flip cams and a small budget to a handful of performers to create their own porn. It was a really rewarding and inspiring experience that helped influence me into thinking more about directing. The biggest moment for me actually making my own films a reality was when I discussed creating a porn membership site about trans men with Courtney Trouble at the 2012 AVN Awards. They offered to help me build a site and get it off the ground. Once FTMFucker launched, I had free reign to create whatever filthy amazing smut I wanted, and to my surprise people really loved it and the site became very successful!
Absolutely! I have gained a lot of respect for editors and directors. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes of a porn shoot that I had no idea about as a performer, and a lot of stuff that would bore most porn fans to tears that they thankfully don’t have to witness. I also have gained a lot of insight into how to make sets better for the performers because I’ve been one for so long and know what it’s like and I want performers to be comfortable and have a good time on my sets. I wish sometimes that more directors and performers got to experience both sides of the camera, because I think it creates a more compassionate and informed experience for everyone involved.
I mostly work with people who come to me, who like my films and want to be a part of them. I feel conflicted about poaching performers, especially if they have not shot porn before. I prefer to work with people who have given working in the adult industry some thought and are ok with the associated risks involved with performing in porn. Besides the obvious legal requirements, I mostly cast based on my budget, where the performers are based, their fantasies and interests, and the needs of whatever projects I’m currently working on at the time. But sometimes I meet someone special who really inspires me to try something new or different, and that’s always fun too.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you had a difficult time finding resources for the trans community in the South where you are from. Have you learned of any new resources that might be available in that area since you left? Is there a national program you might suggest that would help with outreach?
A lot has changed since I moved to the West Coast! Atlanta is definitely a hub for LGBT people in the south. A support group that made a huge difference for me when I lived there is Trans & Friends, which still meets at Charis Books & More, one of the last surviving feminist bookstores in the country. There is also Alphabet Soup, which is a support group for trans and gender variant people. Lost n Found is a nonprofit and drop in center that serves LGBT homeless youth in Atlanta. There is also the Health Initiative which helps LGBTQ people access healthcare in Georgia.
What do you think media, mainstream and industry media, can do to help be allies for trans performers?
I think it’s imperative to have more trans people speaking for themselves and telling their own stories. I’d like to see more trans actors placed in trans roles in mainstream media. I’d also like to see more discussion of decriminalizing sex work when we are talking about how to make the world better for trans people because so many trans people are in the sex industry and I think decriminalization is vital towards creating a safer and more just world for trans people. It’s also important to listen to trans people, to honor the words we ask non-trans people to use for us and to respect our names and pronouns.
Jace is awesome! He’s a super sweet and handsome guy. We knew each other from when he lived in the Bay Area and I just happened to get booked with him the last time I shot for Alternadudes. He has a huge and truly magical cock and was able to cum twice in our scene! I’m always very impressed when I meet men who can cum more than once; even I find it challenging to have more than one orgasm and I don’t ejaculate! Working with performers who have not hooked up with a trans guy before can sometimes be challenging and it’s always great to work with someone who can be both professional and super sexy.
If you’re in a position when someone asks what you do for a living, and you don’t want to talk about porn, what’s your cover story?
I’ve been pretty lucky to rarely find myself in environments where it is not safe or OK for me to talk about my work in the adult industry, which I recognize is a huge privilege. I’m out to most people about what I do, but sometimes I tell people I am a video editor for experimental documentaries or shoot corporate training videos or some other more mundane sounding things. Speaking of disclosing my work to people, I talk about coming out to my dad in Jiz Lee’s new anthology Coming Out Like a Porn Star through ThreeL Media, it’s a really great resource for anyone looking for more stories about coming out as an adult performer to friends and family.
The screen shots pictured above, and here, are
from the movie Tboys+Tgirls. The couples in this film are evenly matched, meaning their chemistry works and does not seem contrived in any way. Rebeka Refuse has this great attitude, a feisty persona, and Jacques LeFemme is the extremely dapper escort who fills in for Rebeka’s no-show hook up. The second scene features Jacqueline Woods and Ramses Rodstein, and is especially erotic because of the genuine kissing, which is often missing in porn. These two really had a good time and it’s evident in the way they treat each other after they have both gotten off a few times. Chelsea Poe and Puck Goodfellow fuck for Jesus–you really have to watch this scene to understand. Finally, James and Venus Lux provide us with before and after interviews, sandwiching a sex scene that is as compelling as the previous scenes, yet this scene conveys more intimacy because of the interviews. There is a definite suspense due to James and Venus going from talking about wanting to work together and then straight into kissing, and feeling each other out sexually. James and Venus move from being colleagues to lovers as the viewer has the pleasure of watching their relationship transform in real time. That’s pretty cool. Yes, this scenario has happened in other films, but because of who James and Venus are, two larger-than-life personalities, their scene is unique because they come together in an honest and sincere attempt to please one another. It’s not only good porn, but it’s an impressive display of respect and desire.