For the past decade, I have struggled with my ‘schizophrenic’ Internet presence. On one hand, I have long ago started to blog about crossdressing and transgender/gender non-conforming issues, moving on to (allegedly) serious essays on those subjects. But on the other hand, the first encouragement and support — if I can use that word — came from the smoking fetishist community, and I feel that I ought to somehow also ‘give back something’ to them.
Unfortunately, that created a problem over the years: how can you take a ‘fetishist’ seriously?
Here is my dilemma: I’ve started, long ago, when YouTube was still relatively new, to develop a channel there aimed for the smoking fetishist community. And why? Because they were, back then, very tolerant towards the transgender community. In other words: they couldn’t care less if I was transgender or not, so long as I was a smoking fetishist as well.
Smoking fetishism, perhaps differently from some kinds of fetishism, is what I call a ‘two-way fetishism’, in the sense that smoking fetishists are both interested in the fetishist activity and in watching other fetishist engaging in the activity. I know that this should be obvious, but it isn’t! For instance, a lot of people constantly watch shemale porn without no intention of becoming a shemale themselves! Indeed, there are a lot of so-called ‘voyeur’ fetishisms, where the fetishism itself is in the watching activity. In the shemale porn example, for instance, shemale porn actresses just have sex on camera because, well, they are either paid for it (if they’re pros) or because they enjoy it (if they’re amateurs). In the latter example, they might be exhibicionists, which is the perfect kind of fetishism that ‘fits’ like a glove with voyeurism — they are like two pieces of a puzzle, and work best when they fit together. The same, as you can imagine, applies to a lot of examples.
Whereas with smoking fetishim, most of the people who watch smoking fetishim videos are smoking fetishists themselves, or, at the very least, smokers. There are naturally exceptions, and I’ve met a few — non-smokers (but tolerant towards smoking) who enjoy watching smoking fetishist videos.
There is a huge industry of smoking fetishism porn videos, but smoking fetishism by itself does not need to be pornographic, although almost certainly it can be described as ‘erotic’ — for other smoking fetishists. For non-fetishists, of course, smoking is just plainly disgusting, and making out of smoking an art is pure nonsense at best, or a devil-inspired perversity which ought to get their perpetrators burn in Hell for all eternity…
There are also ‘erotic’ smoking fetishism videos available all over the Internet. They have, however, a problem for true smoking fetishists: these videos are filmed by major professional pornography studios, catering for their customers, and hiring gorgeous-looking actresses to do those smoking fetishist videos, according to the tastes of their customers. The problem here is that, generally speaking, with few exceptions, those actresses are not smoking fetishists themselves. A few are not really even ‘smokers’ in the sense of being people who enjoy smoking; they are just paid to smoke on video, and, while they’re not exactly gagging and coughing, it’s quite noticeable that they are not really enjoying to smoke — they just do it because they are paid to do so.
Now, we all know that pornographic movies, like (almost) everything else in the movie industry, are just pretension — the scenes are not depicting ‘real sex’, but just a form of fantasy, performed by actors. They are nevertheless exciting 🙂 (or else they would not have an audience). But in some niche markets this is not enough: viewers demand more realism, and not merely ‘pretension’. We all know how good porn actresses are in faking orgasms, and many males (if not most of them) cannot tell the difference between a real orgasm and a fake one anyway, so, in the minds of the porn viewer, they are usually easily made to believe that the sex scenes are ‘real’. As for male orgasms on screen, well, they are much harder to ‘fake’, so porn movie directors just need to do additional takes until the actor gets an erection and ejaculates — or at least that’s what I assume they do, unless these days the porn industry uses much more sophisticated, CGI-based visual effects as well (it certainly is possible!).
With smoking fetishim, however, it’s very easy to see if an actress is just ‘pretending’ to enjoy smoking and is just being paid for looking sexy on a video with a cigarette in their hand; or if they are actual smoking fetishists and can convey the reality of the pleasure they have in smoking to their audience. True smoking fetishists are mostly interested in the smoking itself, not in how gorgeous the actress looks, even though, of course, the two combined is so much more erotic! This might sound strange for someone used to watch vanilla porn videos, but it has to be understood that fetishism, by definition, happens when the sexual erotism is diverted towards either an object or an action/behaviour which has nothing to do with sexual intercourse (although it might become part of it). Thus, feet fetishists get erotically excited by watching feet, and just the feet, the rest of the body (or what the person is doing while showing the feet) is completely irrelevant. High heels fetishists do not even need to see the foot, or the person; their erotic excitement is drawn towards the shoe as an object instead. Again, such fetishes are not rationally explainable to someone who simply does not have a fetish.
Indeed, smoking fetishism is very complicated to explain to those who are neither smokers (or, worse, anti-smokers) nor fetishists. I have explained before that there is an art of smoking, which, unfortunately, in these anti-smoker days we live in, is slowly disappearing — not totally so (because the dwindling number of smokers since the 1970s has stabilised, and, according to statistics, even gone up a bit, because even though the percentage of the population who smokes has been steadily going down, the world population is growing, and the net result is a slightly increase of the total amount of smokers out there — so, yes, Big Tobacco is still happily filling their coffers with gold and not in the risk of disappearing), but the number of people who see smoking as an art has certainly been much reduced.
And this is easily explainable due to the way how smoking is viewed by society. In the 1920s, way before any connection between smoking and decreasing health was established, smoking became a common sight among the fancy Bohemian parties, especially among women, who, until the turn of the 20th century, were disallowed to smoke (at least in public). Smoking was considered a ‘male’ pastime, for no particular reason except that males dominated society and therefore established the rules of what was supposed to be only enjoyable by males. There was a ritual attached to pipe smoking, dating from the 17th century at least, but even that ritual was a bit lost, as it implied mostly a need (in the sense of a sequence of steps that has to be performed in the right way to accomplish a result; just like, say, putting on some clothes) and not truly an art.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the concept of smoking as an art begins when women are starting to be ‘allowed’ to smoke in public, and this, of course, is reinforced by the emerging movie industry in the beginning of the 20th century. Women in the 1920s, indeed, turned smoking into something fashionable by starting to address smoking differently from men. It is to present-day society a bit baffling that smoking is a gendered activity, but it most certainly became one starting in the 1920s. Ironically, perhaps, as the global anti-smoking campaigns started in the 1970s — already half a century ago! — at about the same time of the great successes of the gender equality pushes by second-wave feminists, the way men and women smoke started to become much more similar. Not equal, but similar; and, nowadays, unlike what happened in, say, the 1950s, young girls will pick up smoking from their male friends and not from their mothers; smoking is, today, a borderline activity that happens outside established educational channels; and the consequence is that it begins to be done in secrecy, learned from others who also have picked the habit in secrecy as well, outside established social norms. In other words: women, these days, do not learn to smoke as a woman; they simply smoke as men smoke, because that is the only way they have seen people smoking.
As said, this is not entirely true, but it’s much more common to see women ‘smoking like men’ than before (meaning: half a century ago!), when smoking was clearly a gendered activity which had different norms and rituals for each gender role. And, of course, in the same way that women, from the 1920s onwards, have turned a lot of otherwise mundane activities into an art which inspires erotic undertones, smoking was not an exception.
In a world where fetishism is mostly a male activity (again, we cannot generalise, and there are certainly a lot of exceptions; for instance, many women have an uniform fetishism, i.e. being attracted to males in uniforms, such as uniforms from the armed forces or the police, etc.; women are as attracted to bondage and its paraphernalia as men are; and so forth), it is therefore not surprising that women, roughly in the past century, have turned so many mundane activities into mildly erotic acts. Consider how women put on gloves, or, better, how they put on their stockings; if you have watched porn videos where the actresses use such props, you can easily see how they have become sexualised! And while porn movies were certainly not so widespread in the past as today (mostly because having access to movies was not that easy), you can see how the glorious pin-ups in the 1940s and 1950s are so often depicted putting on their stockings and/or gloves, in deliberately erotic poses. In other words: while putting on underwear or even accessories were just seen as ‘utilitarian’ during the Victorian era (and in pre-Puritan times they had not thought about the issue at all), the roaring 1920s started to mildly sexualise, or at least eroticise, a lot of female actions and behaviour, which is not surprising, since this coincides with evolving notions about female sexuality and the role women play in society. Thus, while the bra was invented as a purely utilitarian piece of underwear by the end of the 19th century (when corsets were slowly being faded out, even if every once in a while they would make a comeback), we can see how the bra became strongly sexualised between, say, the 1940s and the 1960s, when the ‘bullet bra’ was specifically designed to enhance breast projection to an extent that we today would call ‘unnatural’; but voluptuous, curvy women were the image of feminine beauty in the 1940-1960 period, and that meant the bullet bra and a (partial) return to corsets (much more comfortable than the ones used in the Edwardian or the Victorian era) to accentuate the curviness of the female body. Today, as we have gone back to the notion of slimness as the ideal of feminine beauty (just as it was in the 1920s), the ‘bullet bra’ or the corset have dropped out of mainstream fashion — but both are still employed among niche markets where such heavy sexualised feminine items of underwear or shapewear have acquired fetishist overtones.
In other words: there has always been fetishism, and there always will be, but fetishism varies from culture to culture, and from time to time. Interestingly enough, from my limited perspective and understanding, what is considered fetishim in a specific time period seems to have been merely ‘erotic’ in the period immediately preceding it. To give two examples: in the 1940-1960 period, wearing bullet bras, perhaps a corset, and always using fake eyelashes was considered erotic and commonplace — it was expected that all women would wear that, and they knew that such a way of dressing/putting on makeup was considered attractive, even erotic, by all men. When feminists started to burn their bras in the late 1970s, and the fashion switched towards different designs in dress and overall attire, so that bullet bras and corsets did not fit any more in the feminine image of those days, women wearing bullet bras and corsets became a rarity, and images depicting such women quickly became fetishes for men still attracted to the ‘old’ image of female attractiveness. We moved on to things like the reintroduction of the push-up WonderBra in the early 1990s, when big breasts in skinny bodies became the new image of female beauty — and because such a combination is not very natural, unless one did breast augmentation, the alternative was the push-up bra to create the illusion of much bigger breasts. Today, at least in some social environments, having ‘too big’ breasts is seen as being ‘slutty’ and something that only the lower classes (or the porn actresses!) will deliberately ‘show off’ — of course, again, this varies from society to society, and from groups inside that society as well, but, generally speaking, we could say that porn actresses are mandatorily big-breasted and use whatever kind of bras that will enhance their cleavage even more because fetishism towards big-breasted women in skinny bodies — the image of female beauty in the 1990s — continues to be appreciated by a considerable number of men who are drawn to that image.
I do not want to be exhaustive in the list of changes in the feminine image — both in dressing but also in behaviour — but just attempt to explain that, before smoking as an habit became demonised, it was effectively used as an erotic tool by women, at least between the 1920s and the 1960s; smoking is a gendered activity, also starting from the 1920s, and there is much more to it than simply destroying your health by inhaling toxic, carcinogenic chemicals; even from a perspective of someone who enjoys smoking, they might not even be sensitive to the art of smoking as an aesthetic discipline, with its behaviour rules, and an intent that is designed to produce allure and eroticism — they might just see as something with an enjoyable, pleasurable taste, to which they are addicted, as they are addicted to coffee, chocolate, or even alcohol; there is not much to it.
And, objectively speaking, such people are right. Smoking in itself is supposed just to be a ‘taste experience’. However, we cannot simply ignore the historic context: smoking, when it was discovered by Portuguese and Spanish explorers in the 1500s, and brought to Europe, was contextually linked to ritualistic behaviour. Shamans, or medicine-men, would smoke in a religious context; we can still see the remains on that throughout the 19th century, when some tribes of Native Americans would smoke the ‘peace pipe’ to seal agreements to terminate a war. While the West mostly abolished such ritualistic behaviour associated to smoking, we nevertheless still keep a few remains of that — to this very day, smoking expensive cigars may still be part of, say, a wedding, or a very special occasion (like the signing of a big business contract), at least among those who are not radical anti-smokers. It’s not the issue of smoking cigars being a luxury that is truly important; since there are other luxuries (like drinking French champagne, for example) which are associated to very special occasions; it’s the actual act of smoking such cigars that is also important, and reminiscent of the way Native Americans also ‘sealed’ pacts or agreements by smoking a pipe together.
Such ancient memes linking smoking behaviour as a ritual to be performed in ‘special’ events have also been pegged to other situations and environments; the parties in the roaring 1920s were full of women freely allowed to smoke with their incredibly long cigarette holders made sometimes of precious substances, such as ivory, or tipped with encrusted gems and noble metals. Smoking, for almost half a century, was part of a glamorous lifestyle which turned the cigarette into a fashion accessory, and smoking paraphernalia (such as cigarette cases, lighters, or holders) became objects of jewellery.
Intellectuals, Bohemians, all sorts of artists, politicians, and the financial and aristocratic elite of the recent past were frequently (heavy!) smokers, in a world where up to 60% of all males did smoke habitually. What would be Einstein without his pipe or Churchill (or Fidel Castro!) without their huge Havana cigars? Until the fraud perpetuated by the tobacco companies was discovered in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and society finally got to learn the truth about tobacco products and their links to major diseases and forms of cancer, tobacco smoking was a habit that crossed all classes and (later) both genders, just like coffee, tea or alcohol. As such, being simultaneously a smoker and a free thinker was not only unusual, it was the norm.
But this is 2017. Things have changed.
At some point in the past years, my YouTube channel surpassed the million views. This would be surprising today, when only very rare videos become viral enough to reach such an astonishing number of views. But when I started that channel, there were very few videos for smoking fetishism; in fact, smoking fetishists tended to gather around our own online communities, in the form of text-only forums, with the sporadic link to a video download. With social media such as Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook, everything changed – people moved from their more obscure and feature-limited online social tools to the ‘mainstream’ social media, used by everybody else. In fact, the big advantage of those ‘mainstream’ social media are not only the extra features, but the notion that they cater to all tastes and all kinds of people.
However, there is a flip side to this, and the media is now constantly warning us about it: because what we put online stays online ‘forever’, people will be shadowed by their online presence, and judged by it. Nothing could show the dramatic effect of social media better than President Trump’s incessant twittering – once the message is ‘out there’, even if it gets deleted, someone will have made a copy, and come back to accuse us.
The ‘mainstream’ social media, because they have a business model based on profiling their users in order to sell that data to potential advertisers, have also got ridden of the concept of Internet anonymity. This had some profound consequences for those who were not so keen to publicly discuss their private life online with similar-minded people: such discussions now take place on different social media which do not care in the least about privacy issues, and force users to create profiles with their real data. Naturally enough, many don’t, and such profiles get deleted over and over again. It’s almost impossible to, say, openly and frankly discuss sex online among adults without getting banned by some company or another; I remember that when I first hosted this blog I had to ask the hosting provider if they were fine with having content which could be considered ‘erotic’ by some people; they answered that they were located in San Francisco, California, where everything is allowed; but of course this is not the case on many other places.
It’s clear that fetishism, as well as erotic content, must be part of the so-called ‘adult’ content. Unfortunately for the human population all around the world, it’s the US with its puritan, backwards, conservative rules which define what is supposed to be ‘adult content’ and what is not; in the minds of conservative, religious parents, sex is something kids are only allowed to be told about when they come of age, and, even then, in homeopathic doses. Needless to say that this is hardly the truth; teenagers, and even pre-teens, have always got access to so-called ‘adult content’ in secrecy, no matter what their parents did about it. There would always be a liberal parent allowing one friend to have some soft porn videos at home, or of having pin-ups showing off their gorgeous naked bodies on huge posters behind one’s beds. In any case, it’s not my place to discuss morality in the US and how puritan thought has shaped the way we use so-called ‘mainstream’ social media. The point here is that puritan thought still strongly shapes the attitude towards sex and eroticism; and that’s why it is more likely that a US President gets impeached because he may or may not have touched one intern in an inappropriate way, while other US Presidents can run amok creating turmoil and launching tens of millions of Americans into utter poverty, while abusing their power position, and nothing is done; so long as Trump keeps to having sex with his wife (and, ideally, not even with her…), he’ll be firmly in the Oval Office, no matter what he does.
But let’s get back to the whole point of this article.
Transgender issues, or gender issues in general (if we wish to include feminism, non-gender conformism, crossdressing, intersex issues, and so forth), are serious stuff. They are at the forefront of what might very well be the last battle for human rights — the remaining groups which still are ostracised by society, even among the most advanced, liberal, and open-minded societies in our planet. The battle is very slowly being won, but a lot of blood has been spilt in the long road to what we enjoy today. Naturally enough, those who have suffered or even given their lives so that the current generation of transgender people can enjoy a little freedom and some recognition by the law do take these issues very, very seriously. The fact that the transgender population is one of the smallest minorities among the Western world — when compared to, say, women, who are actually in the majority; or non-white people living in Europe and North America (and Australia); or even non-heterosexuals, who are at least 10% of the population — also means that there are few people to choose from to pick up the torch of freedom and bring light to these issues. It means that there are few transgender people who are thinkers, or philosophers, or academics in the field; or even doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists; not to mention being politically engaged and active, with a voice that can be heard. Think for a moment: how many transgender people do you know that are either news anchors or who are pundits or opinion-makers invited by mainstream TV to share their thoughts? How often did you see a transgender person on Stephen Colbert’s or Trevor Noah’s shows? Oh, sure enough, there are many transgender people politically engaged; some even get elected to office and, during their campaigns, they are able to make their voices heard. But such people are exceptions; the point is that they are very few.
As a consequence, if we wish those very few who fight and give their faces on behalf of the rest of us to have success with their endeavours (which are our own), then at the very least we should just humbly recognise their efforts and give them some moral (if not vocal!) support. But if we cannot even do that, well, then at the lowest end of the scale, what is expected is that we take them seriously, do not mock them, and, most especially, do not make their lives harder.
The LGBTIQ+ crowd faces a stigma which is very, very hard to shake off: they are, unfortunately, linked to sexual desire. This comes mostly from a perception, which is true to a degree in certain societies and environments, that male homosexuals have a lot more sex than male heterosexuals, especially those male heterosexuals who are firm believers in monogamy and already married — the kind that is conservative, puritan, and unfortunately hold the keys to law-making and opinion-making. They are also full of envy simply because, due to stupid self-imposed constraints, they force themselves into sexual frustration. Well… I’m of course adding my own explanation, but I have heard that argument over and over again, that even if it is not true, at least it is being repeated as a meme that is thought to be true. It does ring true: envy, after all, is a very powerful emotion, one that (unfortunately) leads whole countries to declare wars against others just because others have what they don’t.
But the LGBTIQ+ crowd is first and foremost as human as everybody else. Just pointing at and cherry-picking at their sexuality to stop respecting them and their opinions (and their fight for their rights!) is a very rude way of ignoring what they have to say, by simply claiming ‘it’s just about sex and therefore not serious’. John Oliver, precisely three years ago, interviewed on his show transgender Ugandan activist Pepe Julian Onziema, where, for me, the most shocking aspect of the interview was not knowing about the persecution that LGBT people face in Uganda because homosexuality (and also transexuality) became criminal offenses, punished by life sentences (the original bill mentioned the death penalty); but the way an interview in Uganda was conducted by the mainstream media where Pepe was asked ‘why are you gay?’ (subsequently reformulated as ‘why did you chose to become gay?’) and was faced with the ‘recruitment of youth to join the gay movement’, undermining the ‘core values’ of Ugandan society. It just happens that homosexuality is traditionally viewed with a certain indifference, if not outright tolerance, in most African societies; it is mostly due to Western anti-gay movements, infiltrated in Africa via certain ultra-conservative religious organisations, that a new concept – that of homophobia — was introduced in Africa! And it spread like wildfire: most African countries have now some form of anti-homosexuality laws (note: at least the Ugandan law was overturned by their Constitutional Court, because it was passed without a quorum, so the pressure on Ugandan LGBT people lifted a little bit), and, of course, it’s not hard to see how homosexuals are quickly blamed for the HIV epidemic, since ‘everyone knows how much sex they have’ (even though HIV in Africa spreads mostly among male heterosexuals who are culturally very promiscuous — but neglect basic protection, sometimes simply because they cannot afford it, or because it’s not easily available).
I’m just giving a few extreme examples, but it’s not fair to say that ‘the problem is only in Africa’. Of course not: from the US to Russia (say, Georgia), LGBT people are risking their lives when ‘coming out’, and even if the West has strong laws in place to fight homophobia and transphobia, that means little to a LGBT person who was beaten or shot to death. Sure, the perpetrators of such atrocities are judged and punished for their crimes, and sometimes the trial even appears on mainstream media, but for the victim, the knowledge that the judiciary system works, is of little use if they’re already dead. And this happens in the West, too, even, as said, in the most liberal countries (or US states); it’s just that most of those crimes of homophobia or transphobia are not given enough attention by the media. They might be all over the LGBT media, of course, but nobody but the LGBT crowd and their allies reads that. Once in a while, they get picked by the mainstream media; sometimes, however, that mainstream media simply gets it all wrong (as it happened in my own country eleven years ago), even though nowadays if they care to report similar news, it’s likely that they are a bit more informed…
So… yes, transphobia (and of course homophobia too) kills. People lose their lives even though the law is supposed to protect them. We can have good anti-transphobia laws, but enforcing them and educating society to at least understand that it’s not a question about hypersexuality, much less about a choice that someone makes — well, that is a challenge that is still ahead of us. I’m naturally an optimist and I can see that things are much, much better these days; it’s much more easier to ‘come out’ and transition, and much more tolerated, at least in many environments; but there is still a lot of ground to cover.
A while ago I’ve mentioned that I ‘came out’ to my best university friend — someone who is quite open-minded, being bisexual, polyamorous, and into swinging. By sheer chance, he had just met a trans woman at work (at the beginning, he had no idea she was trans, until she told him) who eventually became one of his girlfriends, so he was naturally a bit more informed about what trans people have to go through to get accepted. Nevertheless, one thing immediately caught my attention while he was talking about her, contrasting her to other girlfriends of his: that she was into very kinky stuff and, besides all the rest of her attractiveness as a person (being clever, witty, a good talker and listener, a good companion, and so forth), it was also clear that what she did in bed clearly outperformed all her other girlfriends, most of which were ‘plain vanilla’ and not interested in experimenting with ‘new stuff’.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong in a trans woman enjoying her sexuality like anyone else! The issue here is this immediate link that springs into people’s minds, even in the minds of those who are very open-minded and tolerant: transgenderity means (somehow) better sex (or at least more sex). In other words: trans people are kinky. They might not have transitioned because of sexual issues, but once they have transitioned, they’re quite cool as sexual partners!
While I had encountered this association at several levels, it is still shocking when it surfaces within the context of real people (and not merely abstractions or hypothetical cases). There are fetishists who have an intense desire of having sex with trans people, because they are viewed as being ‘special’ or somehow ‘better’ in bed. They become sexually attractive because they are trans. There is naturally the curiosity of ‘experimenting’, in the sense that trans people are a rarity, and there is this knowledge that they were ‘different persons’ (even from a purely sexual perspective) before transition, and now they are ‘something else’. Heterosexual males, for instance, may see trans women as a dream coming true: a person who is physically female in all regards, often making a strong effort to look pretty and attractive (unlike so many cisgender women who simply don’t care about that any more), but who is wrongly believed to have somehow a ‘male’ mind of some sort which drives their sexual desire, and, as a bonus, there will never be the risk of having an unwanted pregnancy with them. Now, taking this description out of context, we can see how sexist it actually is, while at the same time incredibly offensive towards trans women, who are seen as a new, special kind of ‘sex toy’, perfectly adapted to fulfill all desires and wishes of a heterosexual, cisgender male.
Indeed, and although I’m very well aware that anecdotal evidence does not make a case, I have personally met a few cisgender males who, in search of more sexual partners (without fearing the unwanted consequences of a possible pregnancy), turned first to other males, but, not entirely satisfied with that preference of sexual partner, found out about transgender people, who were much more aligned to their own preferences. In other words: such males, while eventually labelling themselves as bisexual or at least bi-curious, have a clear preference for a partner with a female body; but they are also aware that the number of available women with similar sexual enthusiasm might not be that accessible as they wished; on the other hand, due to a lot of social conditioning, males share certain mindsets – even if stereotypically so – especially regarding sex, a mindset which women may or may not agree with. Trans women are therefore seen as the ‘perfect’ choice, since they have also been socially conditioned to think as men for a large part of their lives, and even if they identify as women, that social conditioning left its traces – or at least that is what those men assume – but they have a physical body of a woman and are able to please men as a woman can please them.
I know that this is not only complex, but wrong in many aspects, and in any case politically incorrect. Trans women are, for all purposes, women, and that is especially true in terms of their mind. Now, one thing is to state the factual truth, which, in the case of trans women who went through a medical-assisted transition, was established by a team (or teams) of professional clinical sexologists. The other thing is to deal with perceptions of others, which will have nothing to do with the factual truth.
In other words: we, as community members, can claim as much as we wish that trans women are women in all aspects (except for the sad truth of having been born with a body which is not aligned with their gender identity). Such claims, of course, are part of scientific truth and have been established beyond a shadow of doubt, and this knowledge has been asserted a few decades ago. But beyond the realm of science and political activism, people have their own perceptions of the truth. It is still very hard to shake off the idea that trans people go through transition for sexual reasons; if you have a few minutes to watch the video below, at least from the 2m10s mark onwards, you will see how hard it is for transgender people to explain why they want to go through genital surgery, and making very clear that it is not because of sex:
Put in a different way: society, somehow, expects that ‘serious’ transgender people give up on their sexuality… or they will not be seen as ‘serious’. Of course we know that this is particularly true in more conservative environments (where people are against the existence of LGBTQI+ anyway!), but such a conservative stance ‘spills over’ to the rest of society.
I’m not speaking as a hypothetical case; I’m actually speaking from personal experience! Among the dozens of fans that faithfully watch my videos and/or the stream of pictures posted on Flickr, it’s just a very small handful who understands that there are other reasons besides sexual fetishism involved in crossdressing. When faced with that issue, they will be baffled and ask honestly: ‘If you are not into sex, why do you publish videos such as yours?’ And that question, of course, haunts me, and will continue to haunt me for as long as I keep a presence on YouTube and Flickr (and some other places as well).
It is painful for me to admit, but I cannot be publicly and openly a smoking fetishist, having joined their community decades ago (not formally, of course, there is no such thing as a formal association of world-wide smoking fetishists), while at the same time pretending that my crossdressing is not sexual in nature. Any form of fetishism is, by definition, sexual in nature. While most people who crossdress and ‘show themselves off’ on YouTube and/or other social media are interested in transvestic fetishism (and that’s also the kind of audience they attract), there are exceptions that might cater for a niche market, such as what I do (and yes, I’m very well aware of a handful of MtF crossdressers, sometimes even transgender people under transition, who are also smoking fetishists and publish their videos online for the same target audience that I do). Even though the act of publishing erotic or adult content to a specific audience does not mean that one is interested in engaging in sexual intercourse with the audience, that is what is automatically assumed by everybody else.
I’m naïve enough to admit that such a link was not immediately obvious for me in, say, 2005 or so, when my first videos and images were made public. Consider the porn video industry as an example. Just because someone is a director of porn movies, that doesn’t mean that they want to have sex with all the actresses. They might want that, but if they are all pros, this will simply not happen. At the same time, the audience knows that — or at least most of the audience! — the scenes depicted in a porn movie are fantasy. They are not real; in fact, in recent times, some of the more ‘unnatural’ sex scenes are not even performed with an actress at all, but rather with a silicone doll (acquired from SFX people such as RealDoll); but porn actresses also have (human) doubles as well; so it’s all pretty much fantasy coming from the movie industry.
We turn back to what I explained at the very beginning. Smoking fetishists naturally enjoy watching (porn) actresses pretending to smoke. However, they are frustrated if the ‘pretense’ is not convincing. Here we get an effect that is also present on porn movies, and which is the rise of the amateur videos.
Consumers of porn know that videos are just ‘pretense’. The actors and actresses may be good enough to perform very convincing sex scenes, and the degree of realism that they portray will have an impact in how big their audience is. Some, of course, are not worried about the ‘pretense’ — i.e. that the actor is not really having intercourse with a human actress, or that the actress is just pretending to have orgasms anyway — if the scenes are convincing enough. However, for some people, this is not enough — they expect an even higher degree of realism. And here is where amateurs can actually ‘outperform’ professional actors, in the sense that home movies have today enough quality (thanks to the development of affordable high-quality video cameras, such as the ones present in high-end mobile phones, for instance) to show satisfactory images. Amateurs doing their own porn videos may lack the studio quality of a professional production, but they show real people having real sex, and for a certain kind of audience, this is much more interesting than having actors and actresses in a studio (no matter how good the directing may be). While porn stars are hand-picked for their stereotypical looks, the truth is that there are far more good-looking people these days, plastic surgery is relatively accessible, and amateurs get access to better cameras, better editing tools, and reach an audience on the Internet which the porn industry cannot beat (since even the cheapest porn video has much higher costs than an amateur video posted on xTube or similar amateur porn websites).
There is a whole industry of amateur porn as well; websites compile the ‘best stuff’ out there and redistribute it to an eager audience for a fee. In many cases, amateurs who are able to attract an interesting audience will be able to make a living out of it — either through ads or by having agreements with online redistributors. In essence, such people cannot be called ‘amateurs’ any longer, and for at least a decade or so, many porn webcam chat sites have included ‘models’ who are professional porn stars doing some ‘amateur stuff’ on their webcams and earning an interesting income even when they are between movie productions. Some might even abandoned the professional porn movie industry in favour of doing ‘amateur stunts’ on the web; others use their web presence, doing ‘spontaneous’ online shows for free, to promote their own professionally-edited porn videos. And these days it’s not totally uncommon to have porn stars to be live on adult webcam chatrooms, interacting with their audience directly; last but not least, both amateurs and pros are more than willing to do private shows to an audience for a price, something that is very appealing to those who are voyeurs, or, not being voyeurs, rather prefer to watch their favourite actress to do whatever they ask her to do on camera, than to pay for a flesh-and-blood prostitute to do the same, with the difficulties that entails (namely, eventual laws forbidding prostitution; and having the required time and place to engage in such activities). ‘Digital porn’ is a huge market, and it’s always claimed that up to 20% of all traffic on the Internet is porn of some sort, although there are no real serious studies about that. Nevertheless it certainly is a big market, and one that never fails to have consumers.
Thus, the two industries — that of amateurs and professionals — have pretty much merged into one, at least to a certain degree, and this should not be that surprising. Outside the porn market, we have YouTube celebrities which, after reaching a certain status (and millions of followers), might get their own TV show on cable network. This has certainly happened and will continue to happen; the same is true for musicians who become famous netcelebrities and then attempt to make a career in ‘the real world’, sometimes using a platform such as The Voice or similar, popular TV contests to perform on TV for even larger audiences. I keep forgetting which show actually demands that contestants have a YouTube channel, which is evaluated by the show’s organisers before the contestant is even allowed to appear on an audition. Such things will become more and more commonplace.
The porn industry is far more advanced in that scenario (which is not surprising; they normally are one step ahead of the rest of the world; we cannot ever forget that the first social website, predating Facebook for a decade, was designed for adults to set up sexual encounters), and the two realities have blended. Porn distributors began their own websites to ship DVDs to potential customers; but soon it was obvious that the Internet is one of the best distribution mechanisms ever invented, and it became much easier to stream DVD-quality video through the Internet to eager customers than to deal with the logistics of actual manufacturing of the DVDs, having enough storage, and people to deal with the handling and shipping. Instead, after a movie is produced, it can immediately be released online; there is no need to actually burn DVDs any more. But the reverse side of the coin is that if professional distributors and professional porn movie studios can do this, so can amateurs. Eventually, an amateur that becomes successful in attracting a large audience gets invited to be part of the ‘big distributors’ portfolio or even to have their videos professionally edited by a movie studio; and, reversely, as said, porn stars start to get encouraged to do free online shows to their fans on webcam chatrooms, in order to promote their own videos; and, finally, webcam chatrooms, although they are in a different business model than distributors or movie producers, are nevertheless willing to pay people to perform on ‘premium’ channels, which help them to pay the costs of bandwidth and software —giving amateurs a potential regular stream of income, effectively turning them into professionals; reversely, professional sex workers are often willing to earn some extra money in their spare time by offering their own premium channels to their fans, showing themselves off in real-time on such webcam chatrooms. On top of that all, consumers become producers, and producers become consumers: people interested in watching porn through the Internet may also become interested in producing their own porn, as amateurs, for others to see.
And here is where things become confusing. Because the barrier of who is an amateur and who is a pro, or who is a consumer and who is a producer, have been shattered by the age of Internet video, common assumptions simply do not work any more. How can a viewer of a premium real-time video channel know that the person in front of the camera is really enjoying masturbating for an audience, or if she or he is just doing that as part of a show, a pretense, just as it is done in porn movies? Porn stars ‘pass’ as amateurs, in order to attract the crowd which is keen on amateur videos because it is ‘real’ (and done in real-time too); while amateurs with extraordinary skills become regularly paid and dedicate a chunk of their time in online ‘pretense’ as well, just to please their audience and guarantee their paycheck from the webcam chatroom owners at the end of the month. So, from the perspective of an outsider, what is real, what is not; who are the amateurs, who are the pros; and who is ‘just a consumer’ and who is ‘just a producer’?
Naturally, this dilemma has affected my own YouTube channel. On one hand, back in 2005 or so, it was much clearer who were the amateurs, and who were the pros; but professional porn studios started to have a problem with smoking fetishism. Smoking fetishism is more akin to an art such as, say, ice skating or ballroom dancing (really!): there is a certain amount of techniques that smoking fetishists are supposed to be able to perform — and prove that they can do it! — and ingeniously build them into a choreography that is erotic and interesting, captivating an audience. Smoking fetishism is therefore a performance, and actually a rather formalised one, even if it does not seem to be the case; and this is mostly because smoking itself also has its rituals (the way a cigarette is lighted up, how ashes are disposed of, how cigarettes are stored in cases, and so forth). Smoking fetishists, therefore, do not merely enjoy the act of smoking itself, but the whole ritualised, formalised approach to smoking with an erotic undertone as a specific intent (for those who appreciate it, of course). In this context, it’s not enough for an actress (or a good amateur!) to simply light up and blow some smoke into the camera; there is so much more to it; and the audience knows that and demands that. This is what makes it difficult for professional studios: there is just a limited amount of professional porn stars who are also smoking fetishists themselves and who are knowledgeable enough in the art of smoking to pull off convincing scenes that are acceptable for the audience; and while this is a small niche market, nevertheless there is far more demand than supply.
One might ask why this is the case (since it clearly is not the case with other kinds of erotic content!), and the answer is simply that the percentage of smokers is slowly dwindling. Connoisseurs of the art of smoking will watch delighted old movies from the 1940s and 1950s, when the directors would tell the actresses exactly what was demanded of them when they smoked on the silver screen; the art of smoking was well established and well known, and this is why those movies, even though they are meant to be PG, are exceptionally erotic for smoking fetishists: they reflect a time when women were aware of smoking as an art which could be performed in an enticing, erotic way, and when movie directors knew this very well, and knew exactly how to direct their actresses to produce those results (of course, it also helped that most of those actresses were actually real smokers as well, and thus familiar with the whole codification of the art of smoking).
When reviewing some professionally-shot contemporary smoking fetishist movies, it’s often evident for the audience that the movie director is aware of the tricks used by their predecessors in the 1940s/1950s in terms of camera positioning and lighting (cigarette smoke, for example, needs backlighting, or it will become almost invisible and thus uninteresting); however, they often have to work with models and actresses who are either not smokers, or causal smokers, or, even if they are regular smokers (which is rare these days), they are certainly not familiar with the full codification of the art of smoking — and thus their videos always lack realism and credibility, and are therefore very disappointing for potential viewers. Also, some porn movie directors misinterpret the point of smoking fetishism: it’s not a way to ‘show off’ the nice attributes of the models, but what true fetishists appreciate is the technique. If the woman is attractive or not, well, that is just a bonus, of course, but true fetishists will be enthralled by the technique, not the size of the breasts — they can watch gorgeous female bodies elsewhere. Obviously a combination of both will work best, but it’s not necessary; and the professional porn movie industry, lacking realistic and convincing smokers, try to compensate by offering good-looking actresses instead. Smoking fetishists feel that they are somehow cheated by that.
I obviously cannot generalise — like all fields of human nature, no two smoking fetishists are the same! — but I can speak for an average audience of smoking fetishists. There are not many, and the few that follow my YouTube channel, know exactly what they are interested in. They couldn’t care less if I am a crossdresser, transgender, gender non-conforming, or simply a guy who dresses up as a woman to make a few videos. Instead, they are just interested in the smoking. And while they are a very tolerant and open-minded group (namely, not caring about what ‘gender’ I identify with), they are also very demanding that the art of smoking is performed correctly according to the canon. I’m obviously aware that I’m far below the threshold of what would be considered a ‘good’ smoking fetishist — I’m ok with a holder, but not without one; my dangling (holding the holder or cigarette in the mouth by clenching the teeth on the mouthpiece) is not convincing; and I’m very bad at doing smoke rings. If the art of smoking were an Olympic discipline, I would just score around 70% or so — well below what would be necessary for joining the Games 🙂 But — and that’s the important point — my audience knows that I enjoy smoking, that I’m a ‘real’ smoker and not merely an actress pretending to be one, and that I even do some of the techniques in public and not only on video — this is, by the way, how the art of smoking was actually meant to be used: in public, not just as a performance behind a camera.
Unfortunately, there is a catch: on public, open channels such as YouTube (and this is also true of many webcam chatrooms, of course) it’s hard to select your audience. In other words, it’s a free market: you put your videos out there expecting to attract some people who will like them; while, on the reverse side of the coin, people attracted by a specific kind of videos will try to find them through searches. Sometimes there is a match — which can be rare when we’re talking about very small communities! The problem here is that, on one hand, to keep that audience happy, I have no choice but to make my videos public, so that they can find them; on the other hand, because they are public, they will almost immediately be misunderstood by watchers who are not smoking fetishists.
And those — clearly the majority! — are mostly of two types. Some, of course, do not understand the purpose of ‘transgender smoking fetishism’ and will either insult me in the comments or simply skip the video and jump elsewhere. Others, however, come from webcam chatrooms, where they are used to get others to do ‘shows’ for them, and eventually even arrange a few encounters in ‘real life’. In other words, because I’m crossdressing, I’m automatically labeled as a ‘fetishist’ of some sort; and because the videos are public, it ‘means’ (for them) that I’m available, in the sense of being potentially interested in having sex with whomever writes on the comments. This is merely a reflection of what happens elsewhere, and people coming from environments where this is clearly the case — for instance, where escorts are available online as a ‘preview’ of what they can offer; or where women willing to have intercourse are actively looking for partners by ‘showing themselves off’ on webcam. Those visitors are by far the majority, or perhaps I should say were the majority, because thankfully most moved on to people who were aligned with what they had in mind.
The public in general, however, considers those that engage in any sort of erotic activity to be ‘lesser humans’ than the rest of the world, which is assumed that is ‘sexually inactive’, or, more precisely, which keeps ‘sexual things’ outside the public sphere. Naturally enough, this will depend on the context, as well as on the country and the specific society, but, in general, those who are open and public with their sexuality, or at least with what they consider erotic, are viewed with suspicion, disdain, or contempt. They are not taken seriously. And this offers a challenge, one that I had to reflect upon for several months.
Let me give you a very interesting example. One of my online acquaintances, which I have met over a decade ago, is one of the most formidably intelligent women I have met. She has a PhD in philosophy, teaches at some university in the US, and — online, via the social 3D virtual world of Second Life — she gives weekly conferences on a lot of deep philosophical subjects, which I tremendously enjoy, and of course I’m not the only one. Her conferences, lectures or debates are usually attended by an audience of several dozen people online, which is possibly more than what she gets ‘in real life’, most of which have been eager followers and fans of her for many, many years.
This woman, however, has an interesting background story. Besides her obvious intelligence, which is immediately noticed after just a few seconds of conversation, she was also a beauty queen in her university days. Now, I cannot really confirm or deny such claim, because I have just seen a few — very few! — of her pictures in her 30s, and while they are artistic photographies (and not porn shots!), it is clear for anyone that she had a gorgeous body and overall looks. But her artistic photos have a different intention than merely ‘showing off’ her body: instead, they are images about the beauty of the human body, where she poses in the nude as an example. The difference between ‘nude’ and ‘naked’ is a subtle one, and I have long ago learned the difference (my own language, Portuguese, just has one word for both), which may or not be correct — I’m just repeating what I was taught: when English speakers talk about ‘nude’, they are talking mostly about an artistic representation of the human body, where the focus is not in the lack of clothes per se, but rather in the harmonious, aesthetically pleasing ratios present in the human body (and which, to an extent, are replicated on all artistic creations, but that is a discussion for another place…); while someone is ‘naked’ when they drop off their clothes in the attempt to entice or excite viewers by showing off their uncovered bodies. Nakedness has sexual undertones, while nudeness has artistic ones.
Now, this particular PhD philosophy professor was scared of remaining in debt forever while going through university; she knew that even if she got a regular job flipping burgers and cleaning tables, she would not be able to pay her tuition fees, and she would have no choice but to get a loan from a bank — which she was reluctant to do (as I understand the story, she might not even qualify for such a loan). So what did she do? Well, she sold her body: she would earn far more that way, have plenty of spare time to do her studies (unlike what would happen with a full-time job), and, instead of being broke and having to repay a loan, she did actually make a good enough profit that secured her immediate years after university. She was already very uninhibited about her body and had no problem posing in the nude for art and photography students as a model; the step of starting to work as an escort and later as a prostitute was not too big for her to take. And, as easily as she slipped in that role when it was necessary, once she got her tenure and a secure job at a university, of course she could drop her activities as a sex worker (while still continuing to pose as a nude model for some artists and photographers).
Did her colleagues and teachers know about that? And if so, did they approve? I have no idea, and I feel it’s rude to ask her so — either she’s willing to talk about the subject, or not. It’s part of her personal, private life, and nobody has anything to do with it. I also have no idea where in the US this happens, and if it was in a state where prostitution is allowed or not (in my own country, for instance, she would have had absolutely no problem in doing so — she could even give her customers valid receipts, charge them VAT, pay taxes and the welfare fees, and enjoy an early retirement thanks to being labeled as a ‘fast burnout job’). But it’s only natural that she wouldn’t want to wildly advertise the way she paid her tuition fees during her student days. Not because she is somehow ashamed of it — nothing could be further from the truth! — but simply because it’s not socially acceptable for a professor at a university to have been a prostitute. In other words, having in your CV (or resumée) listed as former job ‘prostitute’ will not open you doors.
So, she very carefully kept her daily life separated from her past. To this very day, even though it’s very easy to see that she has a vast and thorough academic knowledge in the field of philosophy — which you immediately get by sitting through one of her philosophy lectures and debates done online in Second Life — I have no idea of her real name. The very few nude pictures she has on her profile are not good enough for Google images to track her down (and she knows that perfectly, or else she wouldn’t post them). But, of course, in the privacy of Second Life, she is quite open about her past (at least with people she has met and talked to for a long time) — no one there would be able to ‘leak’ details about her past life to her current employers, since nobody knows her real name, the institution she currently works from, or has any proof (like pictures or videos!) of her former activities as a prostitute.
By keeping her private past separate from her academic present, she is able to be taken very seriously in her job. And this is how it ought to be: there is no written rule that a prostitute cannot finish a PhD in philosophy and become a professor at a university (or vice-versa!), but, unfortunately, in the society we currently live in, the two situations are somehow viewed as incompatible — as if her sexuality has anything to do with her intelligence, education, and academic training.
I know this is a rather extreme case, of course. But it shows my point rather nicely. By insisting to keep some online videos and pictures which had the smoking fetishist community in mind, and which are merely a ‘fantasy’ and understood as such by my fellow smoking fetishist community members, unfortunately the ‘rest of the world’ doesn’t see it as such. In fact, even non-smokers find some of my videos strangely attractive to them; they can ‘forget’ the smoking bit which bothers them and focus instead on what they perceive to be an erotic undercurrent emanating from those videos. In effect, they just see me as a ‘soft porn’ amateur actress; and, as such, they put me in the same box as all other people engaged in porn (soft or otherwise). In other words, I’m not really taken seriously.
Now, one may argue that ‘being taken seriously’ is overrated (Buddhists certainly think that way!). But we strangely live in an age when conservatives are becoming more and more extreme, and even liberals are shaking on their foundations and wondering if we have not gone too far — whatever is meant by that, of course. In particular, in this age of social media, it’s a bad idea to mix one’s private life with the public one. Before the Internet, you could buy porn VHS tapes, subscribe to porn magazines, have your own BDSM dungeon in the cellar of your Beverly Hills mansion, entertain group sex parties, and still maintain the image of the perfect gentleman or lady in public — simply because it would be highly unlikely that anything of your private life would ‘leak out’. We didn’t even have smartphones, and mobile phones lacked trackability, so we would use landlines to get in touch with the members of the group sex parties — and since those were with consenting adults, the likelihood of anyone listening in to one’s telephone conversation would be next to zero. Also, all parties involved would be interested in securing their privacy as well; sex toys and porn magazines would be delivered plainly packaged, etc. And of course not everybody would have easy access to cameras; we would not make selfies of ourselves inside a BDSM dungeon, and, if we did, we would have to bring them to a friend’s developing lab, because we most certainly wouldn’t want a random guy working at the photo lab to see what we were about. All these precautions were natural, but it was also much easier to keep them off the public eye (unless, of course, anything illegal would happen; in that case, it would be certain that the police would step in!).
These days, however, ‘privacy’ is a forgotten word. Our own watches can take high resolution pictures easily — and without anyone really noticing — as well as whole movies. Home appliances built in China have Wi-Fi sniffers built in. Smart TVs are able to be used by hackers to view what’s going on in your living room — some have cameras which the manufacturer never told you about. Google, Apple, and all major smartphone manufacturers track you down via GPS, and they can pinpoint you with increasing precision (soon, new generations of smartphones will use Europe’s own Galileo global satellite-based navigation system, which surpasses the US non-military GPS system in precision — and of course smartphones will use both). We communicate via a plethora of technologies, of websites, of protocols — sometimes even not realising what we’re doing. Companies track down our browser usage — as well as what TV channels we watch on cable — and profile us to give us better ads. Drones with 4K video cameras hover by our windows — even on high-rise buildings! — and can see exactly what we’re doing, even by night, since they can easily use infrared cameras. Technology that once was in the hands of the military or the security forces is now available to the common person; in seconds, or at least minutes, we can grab a part of a picture, identify a face on it, and see on which social networks they are registered — thus easily figuring out their name, and possibly even their address. Stalkers live in paradise, as they can easily figure out where their victims are, and track them by their phones; and the same applies to burglars which need to know when someone has logged off from home and is travelling to work (hint: they can look at the check-in messages on Facebook!). Fortunately for us, crime prevention also uses the same tools, and they have professionals using them, so things didn’t totally get out of hand — at least from the perspective of criminality!
But nevertheless we lost this ability of separating our private from our public lives. Both are now open for anyone to see on the Internet. Of course, we can take precautions: we can have different profiles, different online persona, each with its own set of configurations, logins, passwords, names, and so forth; only more sophisticated computer users will be able to draw a connection between both. Some people are paranoid enough to change not only their passwords, but even their email addresses and social profiles, twice a year or so; sometimes this happens because they are blocked, of course, but there are people who are aware of their lack of privacy and therefore are always eager to change everything — making it even hard for their own real friends to track down!
While a little precaution is certainly more than advised, often we cannot plan what will happen in the future, and it might be too late to correct a serious mistake one has carelessly made in the past. 15 years ago or so, I had no intention to ever meet anyone in public, dressed like a woman; so I thought it would be more than ‘safe’ to register myself in all sorts of ‘borderline’ social sites out there. While it was fun, for a while, to see some of my YouTube videos reaching hundreds of thousands of views (!!!), now I regret how easy that allowed some people to capture those videos on their hard disks and upload them to porn sites (yes, that actually happened). I mean, this is the kind of thing that we all heard about; we know it does happen; so it should not be a surprise. In fact, a decade ago, I would actually be very happy if someone was redistributing my content! That would have been awesome!
But now…? Well, now I have made contacts, reached out to new friends and acquaintances, and tried to establish myself as a voice in my (tiny) community. This is incompatible with the kind of ‘fun’ videos (or pictures) I made over a decade ago. Not for me personally — I’m not ashamed of those videos and pics, I actually enjoyed doing them, and I know that there are plenty of friends out there who enjoyed watching them as all — but rather for the community as a whole. When transgender people are so adamantly defending that gender identity has nothing to do with ‘sexual deviation’ (although of course sexuality is an inherent part of every human being!), people raise a few eyebrows when they see the sort of content that transgender people actually post of themselves online. Sure, that is actually very unfair: cisgender people post far more erotic content (involving themselves!) than transgender people, simply because they outnumber us 30,000 to 1 — and therefore produce oodles of more content. But it’s always a question of perception. If a cisgender heterosexual male or female post images of themselves doing a sexy pose on Instagram, they’re cool, or sexy, or perhaps just labeled as attention-getters, but, in any case, it’s always socially acceptable behaviour (for the norms that we have in this decade!). Whilst when a transgender person does the same… well, then it’s just a ‘confirmation’ that, deep down, all transgenderism is about sex.
This is naturally a form of discrimination. In other words, cisgender people are allowed to have a perfectly normal and healthy sexuality, and even if they ‘show off’ on social media, this is not considered a major catastrophe. Even former presidents of the US can get a picture of themselves hugging their wives on the beach — it might raise a few smiles, a comment or two, but… even presidents have their sexuality, right? So we shrug it off — unless, of course, some ‘red lines’ are crossed. But transgender people are encircled by red lines. Whatever they do, even if they just do a nose job and post a picture of themselves showing how well it went… well, it’s just about sex. Everyone knows that transgender people are obsessed with sex, to the point of even wanting those warts removed from their noses…
Grumbling and complaining is not worth much; after all, we didn’t make those rules. We just have to adapt ourselves and try to ‘fit in’ as much as we can. Now, I’m not a rebel in the sense of believing that the best form of changing society and its (stupid) rules is by overthrowing the social order — although I know several transgender people who fit into that label perfectly. Rather, I think it’s better to work ‘within the system’ and slowly establish certain rights mostly by setting an example for others (even cisgender people!) to follow. Cisgender women, of course, know exactly what I’m talking about: they know that if they want respect and acceptance from their male peers at work, they have to work harder and better than all of them (and therefore earning the fame of being ruthless, emotionally detached, and distant and aloof…). Males respect the toughest, meanest, hardest women out there — barely so — even though they do not apply the same demands on themselves. Men can be lazy and stupid and still earn the respect and admiration of other men, but women have no such privilege. And the same applies to transgender people as well: we need to be perfect angels, without the slightest hint of even having a ‘sexuality’ — we must be pure, asexual, living in the ivory towers of the most sacrosanct celibacy — and only then we might get a few cisgender people to ‘believe’ that ‘being trans’ is not ‘a sexual thing’.
That way we can avoid stupid questions like ‘so, when did you start being trans?’ asked in the same tone as one cisgender person would ask another when they started attending group sex orgies. It’s not the same thing, but the mainstream population still thinks it is. In a way, and perhaps thanks to the efforts of the LGB crowd in the past decades, the cisgender heteronormative society is starting to accept that whatever happens in the privacy of your bedroom is the concern of nobody except you and your consenting partner(s). This is obviously not universally held, but there is a certain degree of more tolerance; and perhaps the way social sites have been mostly used for dating purposes — even if journalists, media pundits, computer experts, etc. vehemently claim the total opposite — has softened or mellowed the approach to sexuality. I don’t know, it’s just my perception — in a sense, the kind of comments I sometimes get (or got) on my videos and photos tended to show just that, i.e. that people are ‘fine’ that I get sexual pleasure from dressing as a woman. In other words, fetishism becomes acceptable, and people do not need to be so ‘ashamed’ of their fetishes and fantasies any longer. The question of ‘when did you become trans’ is not meant to be offensive, but rather an expression of curiosity, a certain degree of tolerance towards an ‘exotic fetish’ which may be incomprehensible for the common individual, but nevertheless they are more favourable to the whole concept of ‘transgenderity as a sexual fantasy’ and accept it more. While in Uganda people might resent ‘gay people recruiting others for their organisation’ (!!!), in the West, we start having less issues about that, because we’re slightly more open to sexuality.
So long, of course, that it remains outside the public arena. Electing a transgender person — a ‘sexual pervert’ — for office is still something which isvery confusing for many people. While homosexuals already get regularly elected to important offices — far, far below the actual percentage of non-heterosexuals in the overall population, but it’s a start — transgenderity is still too confusing for a general audience. Yes, it’s fine to have ‘strange tastes’, but ‘choosing to be transgender’ and chopping bits off your body and adding others is really ‘too radical’ for the mainstream population…
There is still a long, long way to go to make people understand that transgenderity has nothing to do with ‘sexual’ issues, but gender ones; and it’s equally hard to accept that transgender people, just like cisgender people, also have a healthy sexuality. But one thing has nothing to do with the other — and this is the hardest issue to explain to others. It’s far easier to get accepted for having a ‘strange and unusual fetish’ than to make people understand that transgender people have no ‘strange and unusual fetishes’ when they express their gender identity — although, of course, they may also have other ‘strange and unusual fetishes’, just like everybody else, because we are all humans, and we all have our sexual fantasies.
Even very open-minded people like my bisexual, polyamorous friend are slightly confused about the two issues (but to give him credit, he’s quite willing to learn more — most people simply make up their opinion and are impossible to convince otherwise). He does understand that there is a difference between ‘gender identity & presentation’ and ‘sexuality’. Nevertheless, he thinks that there is no coincidence that his transgender girlfriend is into very kinky stuff (as he so graphically puts it, without getting into details, of course — what he does with her is shrouded in their privacy!). In other words… he might accept that transgender people have, or had, gender issues; but he cannot deny that they’re awesome sexual partners, and that somehow the two things must be connected.
To be perfectly honest, I have often thought the same. While it’s quite clear that among the crossdresser and transgender communities there is an extraordinarily large amount of asexual individuals — or as close to asexual as possible, without any disrespect meant towards true asexual individuals! — there is also a much larger group that is into… ‘very kinky stuff’. In fact, I have seen some anti-transgender ‘studies’ (not peer-reviewed articles, of course) which deem to have established strong correlations between an above-average amount of hypersexuality, fetishism, and a high degree of sexual fantasies (with a lot of imagination!) among the crossdressing and transgender communities. While such ‘studies’ must always be questioned — some correlations are virtually worthless, such as the decrease of pirates linked to global warming 😉 — what matters here is the perception by the general public that such a correlation actually exists. And it’s certainly true for many cases; such as it is true for many cases of cisgender heterosexual people, of course. Some humans simply are more inclined towards one extreme, others to the opposite extreme, but the average guy is somewhere in the middle — and the same holds true for transgender people as well, of course.
Nevertheless, it’s the perception that counts. And because of that, I have made a difficult decision.
Originally, I have posted on my website links to all my pictures and videos. The idea was to attract more visitors to them — and to my site as well — thanks to the many searches made by people on Google and other search engines. There was some sort of ‘cross-marketing’ going on, if you wish: some people might be searching for ‘serious’ discussions about transgender issues and find my blog, but also find some of my videos or pictures amusing; while others, who are fans of those silly videos and photos, might have found my blog ‘by mistake’ and therefore also take an interest in the kind of things I write about. I have, in fact, found a few scattered cases where this actually happened. But here’s the problem: they’re just few. In fact, very few — a handful of exceptions to the norm!
So it became increasingly obvious that linking both things together wasn’t a good idea, after all. I know it’s ‘too late’ to unlink them. Also, in recent months, the plugins I used to retrieve the pictures from Picasa and post them here started to fail — thanks to the deliberate changes that Google is making all the time, until they finally break everything they did, and nothing works any more as it should (if you ever wondered why Google never really overtook Facebook and other social media, in spite of offering the same technology, now you know: the main reason is that Google keeps breaking stuff, and that means that developers get tired of always having to keep up with the constant and deliberate changes introduced by Google… anyway, I digress). On top of all that, I have a huge backlog of material that needs to be processed — almost half a year, in fact — and, mostly because my depression is getting much better and I’m able to work more and have less time free for ‘other things’, and because I’m also doing far more pictures and far more videos because I dress as a woman so more often than before… I cannot keep up easily with all that! What a perfect excuse, therefore, to deliberately introduce a dramatic change on my website!
From now on, I will have the links for my videos and pictures on a protected area of my website. And yes, that means that you need to be a registered user in order to see those images and movies on the website – although they will continue to be freely available (for now) elsewhere on YouTube, Picasa, Google Photos, Flickr, OneDrive, etc. (each of these sites has different ways of access and permission levels). And I won’t simply let anyone get registered; I will only accept my old acquaintances (and fans!) that have been patiently following me online for the past decade and half (or so). Of course you can ‘become’ a new fan/acquaintance, and that means looking me up on the many social websites out there where I’m registered and chat a bit with me. That’s all that is needed 🙂
It’s possible that I might change my policies again in the future: I might, at some point in time, make all my images and movies completely inaccessible. Well, what I mean is that I will remove public access to them; but some people obviously have already made copies of them and uploaded them elsewhere (a friend of mine pointed out to one social site which has parts of one of my movies; and I’ve managed to track down that very same movie to another site…), so it’s not as if they will disappear ‘forever’ from the Internet: they will just be less visible. But I will nevertheless have proof of having created them in the first place and be able to track them down, one by one, and ask for their removal… even though I’m very well that this will take ages!
The point is just to make them harder to find; the smoking fetishist community, which is tiny anyway, knows very well where to find them, since they have been following me for quite a while. But those who do not understand the canons of smoking fetishism as an art form – one that involves a performance, a fantasy, which is just imaginary, not real – are always assuming that by publishing my images I’m showing my willingness to engage in sexual intercourse with anyone in the world. Over the years, this became wearing. It’s time to stop, or at least to start making some progress towards stopping that.
So, dear reader, if you have read to the end… welcome! You know that the changes will not affect you, and that you will continue to have these unthinkably long, endlessly boring essays to read — I won’t go anywhere, and I’ll see you again on the next article, where you’ll watch how deeply I’ll drag (no pun intended) you down the complexities of trans* taxonomy. Cheers and a kiss! 💋