James Darling EXTENDED interview

James Darling is the dreamy boy next door you wished you had kissed behind the shed. James is a trans queer porn actor and sex educator. Jez met up with James in San Francisco and amongst the tom foolery there was just enough time for a quickie.

Jez: How did you get into the porn industry?

James: When I moved to San Francisco I got an opportunity to do a scene with a person I was dating at the time for Crash Pad. What could be better? I just moved to a new city and I’m going to get paid to fuck my lover! That was my first taste of queer porn and I loved it.

If Buck Angel didn’t exist, I would not have gotten as far as I have with porn. I think there would still be indy productions happening, like XX Boys by Kael T Block and Body Alchemy by Loren Cameron for example. Those are some of the first things that put trans men out there as sexual beings.

Is the queer porn scene diverse?

There is absolutely way more diversity in queer porn but there definitely needs to be more people of colour and more people of size in queer porn because it is predominantly white thin bodies, but I know the producers are trying really hard to do that and a lot of it has do with who turns up for auditions. These films are coming out of the producers pockets, they aren’t huge productions like what you see in LA.

We have the same issue with achieving diversity with DUDE MAGAZINE, we rely on the submissions to help us maintain diversity and we actively seek that out. Why do you think this happens in our community?

I think a lot of it has to do with how society values different bodies. I hear this a lot with queer play parties like ‘oh we have trans women show up’ and I think a lot of it is about creating an environment where these people will feel comfortable coming and if you are getting messages from everywhere in society telling you that you are not as desirable then it is harder to apply or send out a photo because then you get rejected and you don’t want to be rejected by people in your community or people within your queer family. It’s a really complicated issue to try and have diverse representation but to do it in a way that is not tokenising.

by James Darling. Courtesy of the artist.

People who have been in the lime light for years like Buck Angel and Loren Cameron, they obviously work hard in the gym, they are muscular men and in the eye of the public it might click with them to see a ‘typical’ man and this further cements a stereotype of what’s ‘hot’. This makes it harder for trans guys who don’t want to be in the gym 7 days a week, people who are still beautiful and attractive, like yourself who has more of the boyish look going on. What is that like for you?

It has been interesting, the ways I get received. I am so amazed at how many messages I get from people who are so happy to see a different kind of body. I mean my body is still very privileged in the western world, I am thin and I am white and I pass almost all the time, but I am also kinda feminine and sometimes butch it up. I am pretty sparkly and fabulous and gay and some people don’t know how to handle that.

I certainly could have used more empowering images of transexuality when I was younger and I am very honoured to be a part of that [now].

How would you describe yourself behind the scenes?

Oh I am totally shy and awkward! Some people when they meet me are really surprised, in my day to day life I am a pretty quiet dude.

We were just at the Folsom Street Fair Fetish Festival like two days ago, how was your time there?

I feel really lucky when I’m in SF because a lot of men have some knowledge of trans guys and some random men can fondle me on the dance floor and it’s fun, but I have to let them know at some point that I’m trans and guys out here mostly respond really positively. Guys will be respectful and be either ‘That’s hot’ or ‘Sorry that’s not my thing’.

Most trans guys fall into two categories, some won’t care and just wanna fuck and some don’t want their trans status to be a part of the equation. For me I would rather it not be an issue. I do want people to be hot for my body but I don’t want intense gender theory 101 discussions when I’m trying to get laid!

Yeah totally! Especially I think it can be hard when you are first exploring your homosexuality or queerness during or after transition. James, how do you go about cruising for sex? I basically just trust my instincts and know my boundaries, but what do you do?

I know for a lot of trans guys – myself included – often it’s easier to find guys for casual sex online. As much as it’s really exciting to be out in a public space and to be cruised, it’s risky. It’s easier to spell it out online.

I think it’s important to know what you want to get out of an experience and what your boundaries are. Be really assertive about that and if someone is pushing your boundaries then that person isn’t worth your time and you should get out of there. Before you go and have casual sex (with somebody you don’t know) it’s probably a good idea to let a friend know where you are going to be and when you expect to be back and what to do if you aren’t back. Make sure you have a safety net and know what safer sex is to you.

There are a lot of misconceptions that trans guys only bottom!

I know! I have a cis male lover and I top him. What’s not to love about being able to choose the size, length and width of your cock and it never goes soft! Cis guys can’t do that!

And reciprocation! Some trans guys find themselves in situations where you play in a power dynamic because it’s a new experience and end up just giving pleasure without receiving.

Yeah I know. A lot of the trans chaser guys here are really fixated on the changes that happen with testosterone and are really into oral on trans guy cocks. I am picky though and I am one of those guys when having casual sex with men, I prefer to be used and fucked and don’t always need reciprocation, but I do appreciate it. A lot of trans guys are fans of blowjobs, who doesn’t like a blowjob!

You can do it!

Max talks to his mate Art about their experiences obtaining chest surgery with no intention of taking testosterone. Max is a 26 year old boyish PhD student in Cultural Studies, who also works as a journalist and is suspicious of authority and institutions. Art is a fifty year old butch builder.

Max: I think we were in different situations because I ‘played the game’ a little more: saying I ‘identified as a guy’ and wanted chest surgery ‘first’, neither of which is necessarily true. I just wanted chest surgery and not to take testosterone. But regardless I was pressured by practically everyone to start taking hormones. Like, they couldn’t understand why someone with breasts wouldn’t want them, unless they were quintessentially and essentially male, and therefore wanted body hair and all that. What was it like for you?

Art: From the day they sprouted I always thought they were wrong on me. I saw the results of a lot of ftm mates and thought that is finally what I want. I never wanted pert little boobies that a massive reduction would provide, so I started the process in January 2011. By March I had the interview and the all clear by the psychiatrist that I wasn’t mad to want what others had got, without it necessarily being a ‘gender issue’.

Except for my boobs — and how a lot of the outside, uneducated queer world respond to me — I’m actually very comfortable with who I am. I’m not on T. I have underlying health issues and don’t have a massive drive to go on it at this stage. To me it was about body dysmorphia, like a big nose or big ears. I had the op[eration] in October and had a very good recovery. I could dress myself et cetera straight away and took panadol only for a week or so… I had full nipple sensation and this nearly drove me through the roof while they were healing!

I am very happy with my results and have started back at the gym and my regular life a couple of weeks ago. I was out of pocket about $9K, as I did not do it through a private health fund. For me it has been worth everything. I would only encourage those that want/need/desire the surgery to investigate it further and see if it’s for you.

Good work man that’s awesome. I remember you saying that you wished you’d been able to do it twenty years ago — and that was quite inspiring for me to just do it now, thinking it pretty likely I would just spend the next twenty years wanting it — so thanks! I think our age difference was pretty affective in the ways we were received by medical professionals. I think younger people have to do more convincing docs in terms of not wanting to reproduce. I certainly felt that way. Not that I don’t think it was hard for you in other ways of course. Can you tell me about refusing to ‘trans identify’? I find that really interesting and brave. Like, you just went in and said “I’m butch. I’ve always lived an androgynous ‘lifestyle’ and this is what I want.” Is that right? And what was the reaction to that?

Sure, I do trans identify but not totally and I did not feel that this was anyone’s business when it came to this particular procedure. I don’t think that any particular gender ‘own boobs’ and it does not make sense to me that only if you are on T can you have this procedure… I felt like a new avenue needed to be opened up for butch id[entified] bio women that just simply hate having boobs. I often feel I swing in between and along side trans/butch. I used it to do this: only the first 15-20 min of my assessment was talking about this, the rest was standard questions to test my frame of mind, etc.

I know what you mean. For me it was a cosmetic procedure I was happy to pay for. And I would’ve gladly refused the medicare rebate (about $1000) in order to avoid the assessment process: I found it really humiliating. As someone who works in universities and other places that are awesome — where people are judged by how they think not how they look — I found it pretty offensive that I got a lot of ‘You’re not man enough for this!’ I really like your attitude. I just hope more people who thought they didn’t have access to ‘trans procedures,’ and maybe have more diverse ideas about gender, go through this process, and hopefully the docs will see it’s totally legitimate. It wasn’t easy; I was really pressured to go on T, and forced to see two psychiatrists because of my ‘unusual desires.’ So I would want people to know you do need to be steadfast and assertive about what you want. But you can do it!

max gets his stitches out


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