Stockroom University, Grooby Host 'Trans Talk'
LOS ANGELES — Adult film star Buck Angel feels a sense of responsibility to make the most of any opportunity he gets to discuss transgender topics.
Whether it’s at a conference, on the street or in the checkout line at the grocery store, Angel is always willing to have a conversation.
“I’m an engager, because that’s how we educate,” Angel said. “We have to engage. I don’t care about what you think about me, what I care about is changing the world.”
Angel made his comments Saturday afternoon at the Stockroom headquarters in Silver Lake, where Stockroom and Grooby Productions hosted an enlightening panel called “Trans Talk.” The lively seminar and Q&A, inspired in part due to the worldwide sensation caused by Bruce Jenner’s announcement that he would be transitioning from Bruce to Caitlyn, was part of Stockroom University’s ongoing educational series.
Angel was joined on stage by Michelle Austin, an award-winning performer, director, and producer; Morgan Bailey, a popular performer who has been the red carpet hostess at the Transgender Erotica Awards for the past four years; and Tori Mayes, a performer who was the first-ever recipient of the Transcendence Award at the 2015 TEAs, which recognized her as an industry ambassador and positive influence in the community.
The panel shared candid stories about their lives both inside and outside the industry, their paths through porn and current issues in the trans community for almost three hours at Stockroom Hall, located next door to Stockroom’s famous retail boutique.
Hudsy Hawn, the head mistress at Stockroom Hall, led the quartet through a series of subjects that included their porn vs. real-life persona; respectful use of gender pronouns; the use of labels in and out of the industry; and of course, each of the performers' personal journeys.
Tori Mayes, who called her fellow panelists “my heroes,” told the audience she struggled with accepting her “authentic self” until she transitioned.
“Tori Mayes was born around the same time I finally got to fully be myself,” Mayes said. “My porn persona is 99 percent of who I am.”
The 32-year-old Morgan Bailey said she’s been involved with the adult industry for eight years and been living happily as a trans person for the past 17.
“Lots of people are coming out now as trans and it does my heart good to see that happening,” Bailey said. “I think all the trans in the media now is a very wonderful thing. I’m proud to be trans.”
Michelle Austin, raised as the oldest of three boys, related that she was from a small Baptist town outside of Houston and when she came out as gay at 15, “it was the first time anybody had done that in my hometown.”
Even though the group touched on serious topics, there was no shortage of lighter moments during the exchanges.
“I knew I was going to transition but I didn’t know how I was going to do it, so my mom started going through menopause and I started stealing her hormone pills,” Austin said, prompting a roar of laughter in the room. “It didn’t work.”
A graduate of cosmetology school who worked at salons in Chicago before porn, Austin said her family still calls her by her “boy name,” which she is fine with.
She and Morgan Bailey became friends while in Chicago and they also dated the same person at different times.
When Austin decided she wanted to do porn, it was Bailey who encouraged her. Austin said at first being referred to as a BBW wasn’t what she wanted, but that Steven Grooby, the president of Grooby, gave her some great advice.
“He said to embrace it and run with it and your business will be good,” Austin recalled.
So she did, and now she’s a well-known advocate for changing the way people look at body image and affectionately known as the BBW transsexual of adult entertainment.
“I’m happy to be trans,” Austin said. “Being a trans person is very beautiful.”
The charismatic 53-year-old Buck Angel showed the audience why he’s been an in-demand speaker all over the world for several years. The pioneering FTM performer is on a mission to educate the public about transgender people, using his work as a platform.
“When I transitioned 20-something years ago there wasn’t any of this,” Angel said. “There wasn’t even the Internet.”
The lack of resources and emotional support led Angel to a dark place at the time; he openly admits he overcame alcohol and drug abuse, a suicide attempt and a stint in a mental hospital to get to where he is today. Now an industry leader whose message transcends adult, Angel said he’s passionate about self-empowerment through self-acceptance. His work led to an entirely new genre of porn.
“I was always worried about what people thought about me, but it’s empowering to say ‘fuck you,’” Angel said, leading to one of several applauses during the session. “It’s about empowering yourself first.”
Angel added, “I’m a huge advocate for learning to love your body and your own sexuality. Love yourself first and everything else will come from that.”
Angel, who regularly speaks at universities and conferences in the mental health and wellness field, said that “people all over the world come up to me to say, ‘Thank you.’ I feel very accomplished for that.”
He said he considers his porn “educational.”
“Universities stock my movies in their libraries,” Angel noted. “How is that a bad thing?”
Bailey and Austin both teased a couple upcoming projects before the session concluded. Bailey said she is working on something related to a staffing agency for trans people, while Austin revealed she is poised to team with a major cam site to create a new FTM category.
When the session was over, Hawn thanked Kristel Penn, the marketing and editorial director for Grooby, for helping to orchestrate the panel. Then each of the speakers drew a raffle ticket for attendees to receive a Stockroom gift bag.
In addition to the gift bags, Bailey offered an evening out on the town with her, and Austin included a one-year membership to her FTM.xxx site.