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The Challenges of Being a Transgender Porn Star

Jun 21 2016 5:50 PM
The Challenges of Being a Transgender Porn Star

All photos by Ben Sklar

After leaving Nevada's legal brothel, the Love Ranch, following Lamar Odom's overdose, Madison Montag is going back to porn. We talked to the performer about what it's like to be trans in the industry.

Madison Montag is a trans porn pioneer. In 2012, her first year in the industry, she was in the running for Adult Video Network's (AVN) Transsexual Performer of the Year. At 19, she became the youngest porn star to be nominated for the award, which she counts as "a big accomplishment."

"Within a few months of being in the industry, I was nominated for Best Up and Comer at what's now called the Transgender Erotica Awards," she told Broadly over the phone. That the awards gala used to be called the Tranny Awards signals the strides all transgender performers have made in the adult entertainment industry in recent years, though there's still a long way to go.

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Montag has yet to win any awards, but to her fans she is officially an icon. In 2014, she was nominated again at AVN for the Fan's Choice award. Then, a year later, she stepped away from on-screen performances to become the first legally licensed transgender prostitute in the country at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. However, her time there was fraught. According to reports, and Montag's own account, she was working at the ranch when Lamar Odom overdosed. The former Los Angeles Laker and then-husband of Khloe Kardashian had come to the Love Ranch to meet Montag, but he ended up with two other girls. Even though Odom didn't "pick her," Montag wrote in an open letter to the Kardashian family that she "felt responsible" for what happened because "she would have never provided Lamar with drugs."

Over the phone, Montag hesitated to discuss that time in her life. She prefers to focus on the future. The 24-year-old recently returned to her hometown in Texas—four hours away from any major city. We talked about her childhood and how she plans to return to her passion, working in adult film.

BROADLY: Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
Madison Montag: I grew up in a really small, rural town in West Texas. It's very conservative and very much in the Bible Belt. Everyone is very religious. It was very difficult to grow up there, being trans. I started transitioning when I was 15 so it was very hard. Everyone is closed-minded and judgmental.

Did your parents support your transition?
I started it independently. My parents weren't supportive at first, but as I got older they grew to be more accepting and more supportive. Now they're very supportive of everything that I do, including adult work.

How did you start working in porn?
I got into the adult industry at the tender age of 18. I was really young. I needed money for my transition. Growing up in a small town I was discriminated against when it came to jobs. I couldn't even get a normal job, like at Burger King. I wanted to transition, so I thought about it and decided to start working in the industry as soon as I turned 18. I had a friend that got a girl a shoot with [the transgender porn production company] Grooby. I was already pondering porn at this point so I asked him to help me get a shoot. He sent my pictures and my info to one of the webmasters there and [they booked me]. The next thing I knew I was heading to Austin to do my first porn shoot. I was nervous but still confident I could perform. I ended up doing two solo videos and then I had a bunch of directors from LA calling to shoot me.

Is porn something that you enjoy?
I do enjoy it. Looking back on it, I don't think I'd be the same person now if I hadn't done it. It opened my mind to so many new things. It's been almost a year since I did a film but I'm excited to start doing it again. I want to create interesting and new content. Trans porn is sometimes really limited; there aren't often gangbangs or bukakkes and I would totally do stuff like that. Trans porn is often just one-on-one. I definitely want to open it up more and broaden the horizons.

What's dating like in the porn industry?
Dating is complex at times. When I tell a guy I'm interested in that I've done porn they either freak out or they tend to view me solely as a sex object. In past relationships there were no issues with me doing adult work. My exes realized it was an actual job and that I was a professional. I arrive to my shoot, shoot the content, get paid, then leave. Nothing more to it. I keep my work and private life separate. I've always been like that. I never wanted to be involved in the porn lifestyle. I have other interests besides adult work. At the end of the day it's a job, it's what I do. Not who I am. No one should be defined by their job.

Is there anything else that you wish was different about the porn industry?
The politics. There's a lot of politics in porn, believe it or not. It can be a very shady industry. I think if you surround yourself with positive people it's a good industry to be in, but other than that there's a lot of gossip. It can be like high school. A lot of minority performers don't get recognized in porn. My high school was predominantly white—there were no black students at my school. We didn't observe Martin Luther King Day. I saw racism growing up, and then entering the porn industry felt like going back to high school [in that regard]. People [also] look down on transsexuals in the industry. A male performer who does straight porn can lose work if there's a rumor that he's been messing around with a trans person off camera. It's messed up. That's their personal life. As long as they're being responsible and getting tested regularly then they aren't hurting anybody.

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You seemed really careful about how you proceeded with this interview. Where does that worry stem from?
That worry stems from personal experience, but also from being trans. The media definitely likes to portray [trans people] as the bad guys or as sexual deviants. It's 2016. It's time to get with the times, people! After Caitlyn Jenner and everything, I just think it's time for trans people to really be accepted. It shouldn't be portrayed as something negative and being a sex worker shouldn't be portrayed as something negative. It's a personal choice; it doesn't mean you're some crazy sexual person. I do sex work and I was raised in a conservative Catholic military family. I don't let my work define who I am.

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