About three years ago, I got in touch with a porn crush of mine: the super handsome and very sexy James Darling, then a budding new star on the queer porn scene. I sent him some interview questions, but James got super-busy being super-awesome and getting more famous, and didn’t have time to respond. And then time passed, and the interview was forgotten. Luckily, however, I ran into James recently at the Feminist Porn Awards and Convention in Toronto, and we both remembered that old interview! So here it is, my lovelies, with three-year-old questions and brand new answers!
You’ve been called the “Prince of Queer Porn.” That is a pretty frickin’ awesome title. How did you nab it before anyone else did?
I actually got that title from a group of hot stripper friends at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco. They claimed I was the prince charming of queer porn and it stuck around. I think it also stems from the way I present myself, since I’m not as big and butch as some other male performers and my masculinity is more gentlemanly and dandy, like a prince.
Is it better to be a prince than a king? Which would you prefer?
Princes are cuter with less responsibility and better wardrobes; personally I think that’s a much better deal.
Which of the two English princes do you prefer?
I’m a little partial to William but Harry seems like quite the party animal!
Ok enough with the stupid questions. You’re a very influential person in the queer porn world. As queer porn continues to grow and evolve, where do you see yourself in it? Do you have any aspirations to direct or start your own company or somesuch?
When you first asked me this I started to answer that I felt like a sponge, trying to listen to and absorb as much information as possible from various companies and directors I admire. And I still largely feel this way even though now I do have my own porn company, FTMFUCKER.com, which is a porn site dedicated to trans men. I’m still evolving and finding my place in this industry. Being a better pornographer is something I strive to learn more about every day.
How did you make the leap into performing in porn after you’d wanted to for a long time? What held you back before that?
There isn’t exactly a thriving queer porn scene in the South where I’m from the way there is in the Bay Area, so moving here really helped. I also wasn’t ready to show myself off in such a visible, permanent way until I became more comfortable with my body, and by the time I moved here I was ready to take it all off and show the world how hot guys like me could be.
You’ve worked with college courses on sex and law and are seen as something of an expert, which is great. Do you consider yourself an academic/expert through life experience or study?
I’m only an expert on my own experiences, but I do consider myself an educator. I’ve always been one of those people that learns best by example, and I would hope that my creative visual pursuits in porn help educate all kinds of people about the possibilities of their bodies and broaden their horizons of sexuality. I’ve taught classes at colleges and conferences, and I still find it really surreal that multiple people have written papers and theses and even [taught] classes based on performances and scenes I’ve done. Though to be fair, if I were in academia, I don’t think there would be anything I would enjoy studying more than porn. I think it’s really cool that there is push for the legitimacy of the study of porn. I think porn is a really important part of our culture.
To me it seems that the queer porn scene is a good place for young people like yourself to distinguish themselves by virtue of the field being so new and small. Do you get the feeling you are at the forefront of a huge new wave of philosophy?
I think queer porn is opening a lot of doors for people and helping to expand the sexual boundaries of all kinds of people. I think it’s really important to show different kinds of bodies, safer sex methods, consent, treating performers like people, etc.
I would like to say that I do not consider the porn that I make to necessarily be queer; though many of my performers identify that way, some don’t. I do think there is a way to make porn that features trans people that can be well produced, respectful, and ultimately get you off! That’s my ultimate goal, anyways.
You discuss your exhibitionism and sex very dispassionately sometimes, but still deliver killer performances dripping with chemistry. Have you always found it easy to talk about your likes and turn-ons and so forth, or has being so deeply involved in the queer and sex-positive world made it as easy to discuss as, say, your coffee preference?
I think being queer and trans has forced me to be a lot more aware of my body and what I like to do with it than if I were straight and not trans. Being able to speak about it casually and openly is partially a product of living in the Bay Area, where being sex-positive is largely the norm and people talk about sex a lot more openly than in other areas of the country. I think being in this environment has enabled me to become a lot more self-actualized as a sexual being.
I truly love sex, and can’t fake anything in life very well. I’m not good at lying to people or kissing asses (unless those asses are on camera! I give a great rimjob), and authenticity in my performances and the porn that I produce [is] very important to me. I don’t find anything hot about someone not ultimately enjoying what they’re doing.
Speaking of which, do you drink coffee?
I was a barista once upon a time and still consume a lot of caffeine. Especially when I’m on an editing deadline, you might see my desk strewn with coffee cups and empty cans of Red Bull.
I’ve been known to imbibe. I’m rather fond of whiskey. You can take the boy out of the South but…
Delicious. My favorite is one called “Camano Brothers.” Very tasty.
Isn’t that word ridiculous to look at when it’s spelled out?
A little bit, but at least it sounds exciting and almost sexy, instead of awkward and uncomfortable like “moist”
You’ve spoken about the financial obstacles to transitioning in America. Have you found it difficult to support your own transition financially?
Currently there are efforts in some places in America to assist trans people seeking hormones and surgery with their medical costs through state programs. California is one of those places. Where I was from, there are no such resources and everything came out of pocket, which when you’re surviving off of minimum wage is a pretty insurmountable task. At the time, there were also no doctors in my area who had seen someone as young as myself (I was 18 at the time) who didn’t 100% fit the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (the standards used in psychiatry to diagnose and treat transsexualism), so many professionals refused to treat me out of fear of legal prosecution. Eventually I did find the help I needed, but the whole process of getting a letter and hormones and my name changed took me about 2 or 3 years. When I came to the Bay Area I was floored to go to a clinic and have a doctor write me a letter for chest surgery after only meeting me once. There is a pretty big disconnect in the distribution of resources in this country, and of course, this disproportionally affects trans people along lines of race, class, ability, etc. Frankly, looking back I’m amazed that I made it. I wish it didn’t have to be that way for so many other trans people.
What do you think can be done to make transitioning easier for those who need access to it?
In my dream world where everything is powered by dreams and rainbows, there would be universal healthcare that would also include therapy, hormones, and surgery for trans people interested in those things with minimal amounts of bullshit. I think it’s critical for medical and mental health professionals to educate themselves on the needs of trans communities, especially for those outside of major metropolitan areas.
You grew up in the South where there’s not much in the way of community or support for queer and trans people. What do you think you could do, as a queer star, might be able to do to help others now or in the future?
The internet has really changed what is available for a lot of people outside of major metropolitan or more politically progressive areas. I mean thank god that around the time I realized I was trans in 2004 or whatever that there were email groups and LiveJournal and the Southern Comfort Conference. I’m sure YouTube channels and Original Plumbing magazine and Tumblr are really useful tools for younger guys (or even older guys figuring their stuff out) to find other people like them and information on the resources they need. I think that’s incredible.
But I hope that [for] people who find me, whether it be through my porn performances, my sex advice column on originalplumbing.com, or Facebook or tumblr or wherever, that I’m a voice among many of what it can mean to be a trans person and a sexual being. I’ve received a lot of messages from guys telling me how my images and videos have helped them in their own sex lives and their own journeys. I want to add to the conversation about the radical possibilities of pleasure. That maybe it doesn’t always “get better” but that another life is possible and you can be who you are and have good sex and live a life worth living in this crazy mess of a world.
After watching some of your videos about these topics, I’ve been thinking… maybe one of the things that fascinates cis people about the experience of trans people comes down to the concept of intentionality. For most people, the way they are born matches well enough with the way they feel about their identities that the choices they make in expressing their gender and sexuality are far less problematic—more taken for granted. For people like yourself, conscious decisions about how to express oneself are made at many different stages of life—the way in which you express yourself was not just a given. What do you think trans people like yourself can teach others about intentionally performing their personalities and sexualities? Should we all spend a little more time thinking about this stuff, or less?
I think one of the biggest reasons I’m grateful to be a trans person is because it has forced me to question my reality, my body, the identity handed to me at birth, and the expectations around that. I have no idea what my life would look like if I wasn’t trans, and I really wouldn’t want it any other way. This journey has saved my life. I think I would be incredibly bored and uninspired if I just assumed that there was nothing more in life than being the property of another man and procreating. Not to say those aren’t worthwhile if you want them, but I’m eternally grateful for the life I have now. I do think everyone should spend more time thinking about what it means to be a woman or man in this world, to question what you’re told to do and ask yourself if that’s something you actually want. To experiment with lots of different ways of presenting yourself and pleasuring yourself. I think the world would be a lot better of a place for it.
So… did you name yourself after the football player?
Nope! There’s even a bodybuilder and jazz musician with the same name too!
I originally was a burlesque performer named Mr. James Fancy and decided to change my last name for porn. I wanted to remain true to my southern roots, and Darling is a common term of endearment, like honey or sweetie, and I find it charming. Darling also has a long history as a last name in the porn and transsexual communities, with performers I’ve looked up to like Gia Darling (who jokingly claims to be my porn mother) and Candy Darling.
Are you a sports fan?
Not really, I once played on a soccer team as a goalkeeper because I didn’t like to run and didn’t mind getting hit in the face by balls. I suppose not much has changed there!
I do enjoy watching Ultimate Surrender! and I also really enjoy men’s gymnastics and figure skating. I’m a big fan of Johnny Weir.
What do you like to read?
I don’t read as much as I used to because I am so busy, but some of my favorite authors are Margaret Atwood, Dorothy Allison, Audre Lorde, David Wojnarowicz, and Oscar Wilde.
Who are your heroes, in porn or elsewhere?
My heroes are the queer and trans elders who came before me and made it possible for me to live my life the way I do. Some of them I will never know, but some of them I do. I look up to people past and present like Sylvia Rivera, Lou Sullivan, Jamison Green, and I really admire the work that Amos and Rocco of Original Plumbing are currently doing for the trans community.
In porn I’ve looked up to people who are changing the game like Tristan Taormino, Shine Louise Houston, and Courtney Trouble, and if it wasn’t for Buck Angel I don’t think it’d be possible for me to do what I’m doing today.
Any performer who risks their job to say no to racist and transphobic agents. The adult industry is a surprisingly very conservative place and it’s hard to stick to your politics and convictions when your job is on the line.
What do you think is the hottest scene you’ve done to date in porn?
This is always a hard question because everything thing I’ve done has been a hot educational and experience.
My scene with Wolf Hudson for QueerPorn.tv is probably the most well-known scene I’ve done, and was a really hot experience. I am very sexually attracted to cis men and at the time we shot that scene in 2010 there were not a lot of cis men featured in queer porn scenes. I think a lot of people had never really seen something that hot, hardcore, and beautifully shot.
And nothing can compare to the birthday Unicorn Gangbang that I shot for my site Ftmfucker.com. No matter what else happens, that will always be a major highlight of my porn career.
What would you like to do that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?
Its hard to top a unicorn gangbang (the shoot I organized for my birthday last year) but I would really like to work with more trans women, and eventually to do more big-budget productions.
As an exhibitionist, and someone working in an industry you couldn’t possibly fit into better, I hope your orgasms on film are all authentic…?
Of course, that’s one reason I love independently produced queer porn, the focus is on the real sexualities of queers and trans folks and the sex is usually far more authentic than you might find in other types of porn.
What are you working on now, and where can I send people online and in real life to find out more about you?
I started my own website last summer of FTM porn called www.FTMFUCKER.com, which won Honored Website at the Feminist Porn Awards this year. I’m also working on releasing DVDs in the near future and a couple other film projects. You can also follow me for the latest info on my current adventures at JamesDarlingxxx on Twitter and tumblr!