Tobi Hill-Meyer: Trans Positive Porn Trailblazer

Tobi at the Feminist Porn Awards Tobi at the Feminist Porn Awards
I met Tobi Hill-Meyer selling erotica and activist zines out of her backpack at San Francisco Pride and traded her some porn for her whole collection. I never got around to reading it, but about a year later I took photos of her on set for a queer porn production, and then soon after that in the tattered red velvet chairs of Toronto's Feminist Porn Awards Public. Provocative. Porn Screening the year that her film Doing It Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project was released. I hung out with her and future FPA Heart Throb Drew Deveaux that night, and went home and immediately read every word of every zine she had given me. This person is a fucking genius. Tobi is incredibly knowledgable in all things queer; creative, smart, compassionate, inspiring, positive, hilarious, open, and somehow manages to see The Whole Picture where others just see holes. She's also a genre-busting queer porn performer and porn maker who expertly, and sometimes even subversively, educates her audience while titillating them mercilessly. The last time she performed on one of my sets, she taught her co-star, and the world, how good muffing can feel. And now, I've got about a million questions for her and it's gonna take me two columns to introduce her to you, if you don't know her already. (Warning: all external links are NSFW, unless you work for a porn company!)
 
Tobi filming Jiz & KimberlyTobi filming Jiz & KimberlyCOURTNEY: Let’s start at the beginning. You are queer spawn and feminist spawn right? Were you raised with sex-positive, queer, feminist, activist values?
TOBI: Yep, that’s right. Feminism has always been a lens I’ve used to understand the world around me.
 
How have you rebelled from your parents or how do your queer politics differ from how you were raised?
The biggest point of contention was probably my coming out as trans. People often assume it must have been easier for me, having lesbian moms, but I wouldn’t compare it that way. It was just different. I was actually raised gender neutral - in the second wave meaning of the term. My parents firmly believed in opposing gender roles and stereotypes and encouraged me in all my behavior that didn’t fit with what boys were supposed to do. But they saw transition as something people only did because that was the only choice to escape the prison of gender expectations. They assumed that the freedom they gave me would mean that I wouldn’t need that. And when I did transition, I think the took it as if I were saying that they had failed me - out of this idea that people only transition because life is terrible. The result was a strain on our relationship a couple years. When it was repaired, though, we’ve become stronger together and they’ve been great allies on trans issues since.
Tobi, Reading in 2013 (Photo: Alexis Grinberg)Tobi, Reading in 2013 (Photo: Alexis Grinberg)
Porn was also a contentious issue, but only when it was an academic debate. Once I told them what I was doing, they just said “We trust that what you’re doing is good,” and since then they’ve only celebrated my success with me.
 
Can you quickly talk about your educational background, what did you study, do you relate it to porn work in any way? Did you think you’d be making porn when you went to college?
I got my degree in Women and Gender Studies. I did a lot of media analysis and we definitely read a lot of critical views on porn. Some of it I vehemently disagreed with - like the idea that bondage or sex toys automatically makes it harmful. Other criticisms I still believe in and endeavor not just to avoid in my work, but critically engage with. I didn’t think this is what I’d be doing with my degree, but it definitely gives me the tools to think through the wider impacts of an image, both positive and negative.
 
What are your current projects, what’s coming out next, what are you excited about?
As I wrap up the three volume series, Doing it Again, I’m beginning to launch a regularly updating membership website, Doing it Online. Between the two projects, I’ve really increased my workload. This past year I’ve shot twice as many scenes as all the rest of my work put together. It’s given me the chance to show a wide diversity of experiences. That’s important to me because whenever people are underrepresented, it’s tempting to look at each representation as needing to cover everybody and that’s not possible. There is no one trans woman story that can cover us all. So instead of telling one story, I’m telling a dozen. Then a dozen more.  Even that is not enough, but it’s getting closer.
 
Tobi on set in 2013Tobi on set in 2013Oh cool, a website! That is a decidedly more commercial effort than artsy indie DVDs. Do you hope to some day be considered a large porn company on your own, or continue to do work where it’s most needed on a creatively driven, artistic, or activist basis? 
I find I’m always driven to try new things, challenge myself, and learn new mediums. Even now, I’m poking around at creating a text based video game and talking with folks about doing a trans focused HIV education campaign. My hope is that this website will give me the freedom to engage some of that creativity, but you’re right, we’ve all gotta pay the bills somehow. I was lucky to have a part time day job for that, but I don’t right now. If I’m going to continue putting in the time and energy I hope to, I’ll need to have a regular income from this work.  But being a large porn company? That’s hard for me to imagine. I won’t consider it anything but small until it can employ several people on living wages, and right now the dream is just to get it to provide a living wage for myself.
 
What are the biggest differences between your work, and the work put forth by large businesses in the trans porn industry?
The biggest difference is the formula. All the mainstream porn I see is driven by formula. It’s a business model developed decades ago, with minor adjustments for technology and genre. This cookie cutter model requires that everything tells the same story again and again. The same body types. The same sex acts. The same beginning, middle, and end. I could point to any number of specific details I try to do differently, but the main one is that I try to avoid being formulaic. I want to be able to surprise my audience, show people things they haven’t seen before (like muffing), and give my performers the freedom to surprise me now and then.
 (Photo: Alexis Grinberg)(Photo: Alexis Grinberg)
In your new short film, which congrats on your FPA nomination for by the way, Money Shot Blues and How to Fake an Ejaculation, we get what’s probably the first real candid video about how big-biz straight trans porn is made from a performer’s point of view. What effect do you think those practices (fake ejaculation, the pressure to perform a certain way in the first place) have on the audience? And more importantly, the performers? 
There’s a powerful reality that for a very large number of cis men, porn is where they first learn about trans women. In many cases it’s the only place they learn about trans women. I can’t tell you how many stories I hear from trans women approached by guys who thought it was safe to assume they’d act like trans women in porn because they just didn’t know better. And that can be a pretty shitty experience for all involved. Again it’s because they are only telling one story that allows some guys to believe that’s the only story that exists. The trans woman who’s hypersexual, always available, “fully functional,” cums buckets, has zero dysphoria, and is never in a relationship.
 
 
But I want to be careful not to conflate my criticism here with judgment. It’s become a self-perpetuating cycle. Mainstream audiences are only ever shown one thing, so that’s what they demand. Producers meet that demand because they get blowback whenever they deviate. For example, I noticed a scene on Kink.com’s trans woman / cis woman focused site that was a threesome with a trans woman and a cis woman with a strap on both fucking another cis woman. The first comment posted to it was complaining along the lines of “This is a TS scene not a lesbian scene, get that strap on out of there.”
 
Everything is so compartmentalized and formulaic, there’s a strong possibility of losing customers if they change anything. Still, change has to start somewhere. And I think mainstream porn producers often underestimate their audience and how many people would be really excited to see a departure from the same old same old.
 Quinn and TobiQuinn and Tobi
I know this is a never-ending question but in SHORT, what do you think the main problems of corporate trans porn are? What does it really boil down to?
It’s that dedication to formula. There’s a huge amount of content being created every year, and some producers might even feel they are doing something different, yet there is always a dedication to certain requirements that are so ubiquitous they aren’t even thought of. They are always focused on oral sex and penetration. There’s always a “money shot.” A prioritization of one style of hot over all others. It locks in problematic or harmful practices and it cuts off what I find to be really interesting questions. Then there’s a whole set of conventions that it’s okay to break as long as it’s only one at a time and segregated by itself. There’s BBW porn, inked porn, trans porn, hairy porn, Asian porn, Latina porn, and dozens of other genres, but if you are any of those things you have to be segregated.  Heaven forbid a trans woman performs in girl-on-girl or a woman with tattoos perform in BBW porn. If you’re lucky you can get away with having two of those qualities, but three or more and there’s practically no chance you’ll ever find work. This approach treats people as interchangeable and disposable and loses touch with what’s unique about each performer and the powerful connections that I believe sex is all about.
 
This inability to experiment shuts down imagination. For example, mainstream porn is always fantasy fulfillment. Flirting always leads straight to sex. How would it be to see porn where a woman gets hit on inappropriately and she tells the guy off for being a douchebag before she goes home and fucks her partner. What would it look like for there to be porn with characters and a story that makes you cry. As a medium, the potential is endless, but the industry is more interested in Backdoor Gangbangs #72 than it is creating something new.
 
 
Stay tuned for Part Two, where we discuss the finer points of queer porn and the launch of Tobi's brand new website, DoingItOnline.Com. In the meantime, watch Doing It Again Vol.1: Playful Awakenings and feel the love!

 

Courtney Trouble

Courtney Trouble is a queer pornographer, performer, and photographer. They are genderqueer, fat, femme, feminist, and full of hope.

Website: www.CourtneyTrouble.Com

Social Profiles

YouTube

Leave a comment

To create a positive atmosphere for sharing, critical discussion and comments are welcome but hateful comments personally attacking bloggers or general hate speech will be removed.
For a more personalized commenting, please use a Gravatar.


Anti-spam: complete the task

OP14-latest                                     

Events

Original Plumbing Online serves as the ultimate go-to for the latest and most pertinent info on trans* culture and experience. Original Plumbingʼs purpose is to create visibility and community for transgender people and their allies from across the LGBTIQA spectrum and beyond. Sign up for the newsletter. Subscribe to the print magazine.
 
Disclaimer: All first person personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Original Plumbing or its editors, nor do any first person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves.

Copyright © 2014 originalplumbing.com. All rights reserved.

Login