James Darling, despite holding several day jobs, is probably best known as an award-winning FTM porn director, performer, and sex educator, as well as the man behind FTMFucker.com. James will be visiting Seattle this week to judge the Mr. Trans Seattle pageant at Kremwerk.

I sat down with James for a phone interview to ask him about being a porn star, trans visibility, and what it was like to be a contestant in the Original Plumbing Trans Man pageant in San Francisco last year.

According to your interview on Original Plumbing (a trans culture magazine), you’re from Atlanta, right?

James Darling: Yeah, that’s where I grew up and spent most of my life before moving out to the West Coast.

What were your hobbies growing up out there?

JD: I played guitar. I did a lot of art. I used to play soccer for a while. I grew up in a really religious family, so a lot of our time was spent doing church-related things.

Religious family. No kidding? So how is living in Oakland now?

JD: I love Oakland. California is really great. It’s February, but I can still go hiking and stuff. Oakland is wonderful. There’s a really strong queer community and radical community out here, which I really appreciate. There’s a lot of things I miss about the South, but there are a lot of resources for queer and trans people in California, especially in San Francisco.

How do you identify, and what does that identity mean to you?

JD: I identify as queer and a trans man. For me, queer means I’m attracted to a very wide range of people and I incorporate a lot of my politics and beliefs in the way I live my life. Queer is one of the better terms for the way I conceptualize my sexuality.

I have some questions about your porn career. Please know you can choose to answer or not answer any of them. Let’s practice some good consent for this interview. Do you like performing or directing more?

JD: That’s a tough call. I’ve been a performer for six years. I’ve only been directing for three. They’re both really wonderful paths with their own challenges and benefits.

What’s your favorite part of doing porn?

JD: I’ve been enjoying directing more lately. I like to be able to breathe life into my ideas and use a medium not everyone gets to use. Being able to use pornography as a visual medium to facilitate performers’ fantasies and dreams is really awesome. One of the benefits of running my own site is I don’t have to wait for a company to make it happen for me. Also, lately, I’ve been working with a lot of trans women who are new to queer porn, so that’s really cool.

Your profile picture on Facebook is with trans woman performer Venus Lux at an awards show. Did she win that night?

JD: Yeah, Venus is amazing. We met at an awards show last year, where she won. She mentioned that she really liked my stuff and wanted to work with me. She’s really professional and runs all her own stuff. She’s really young. It’s really impressive that she doesn’t go through a larger company to run her website. We were both up for Transsexual Performer of the Year at the porn “Oscars.” It was really an honor to walk with her down the red carpet.

I’m a pretty shy person in real life. A lot of people find it really surprising that I get naked professionally and I’m so socially awkward.”

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on set?

JD: (laughing) There was this one time, performing with a real life partner of mine for the Crash Pad series, and she was going to fist me. She was reaching for the lube and had all this stuff on her hand. Seconds before she was going to fuck me, I realized she had used hand sanitizer and everyone did a slow-motion “Noooooooo!” Be careful around unlabeled bottles of clear substances.

Yikes! Close call. Let me know if this is invasive, but did you ever do porn before you transitioned? Are there porn stars who have done porn on “both” sides of the gender binary, so to speak?

JD: That’s a tricky question because not everybody is out about that. I had the unusual experience of starting to perform in porn early in my transition, so I sort of documented my transition through porn.

There are definitely performers who identify as trans or genderqueer in porn who have performed as different genders. I did shoot once as a lady for a very small, low-budget thing I don’t show anybody. They put me in a wig and I had the same voice that I do now. It was for a large clit fetish site. It didn’t work very well.

Jiz Lee is probably the most famous, out, genderqueer performer. They are really adamant about going by “they” pronouns and have had difficulties with larger mainstream companies not respecting that. Jacques LaFemme, who shoots for my site, is another genderqueer performer.

Have you been recognized anywhere surprising?

JD: Some people are surprised when they see me out in the world and I’m not naked or looking SUPER hot. When I was visiting my family in Georgia, I got recognized on the street by this guy who saw me on Alternadudes, this alt tattooed guy porn site. I would encourage anybody who does recognize someone in porn out in the world to be careful.

I think the message to be careful when you recognize someone in porn is really important because you don’t want to accidentally out a sex worker.

JD: Yeah, even though you’re excited and you want to say something, it’s important to be aware of your environment and have some tact.

This is kind of personal. Does getting naked in front of a camera still feel vulnerable or does it feel pretty normal now?

JD: I’m a pretty shy person in real life. A lot of people find it really surprising that I get naked professionally and I’m so socially awkward. I definitely get nervous working with a new company, or with someone I’ve never met before. Now that I’m branching out, and working with more mainstream porn performers, most of them have never knowingly met a trans guy, let alone worked with one. It’s interesting to navigate the “how do you have sex with my body” questions. I haven’t had any particularly negative experiences around that. I still get nervous. I still get excited. It’s still a job, but it hasn’t lost its fun for me yet.

What’s it like to make a living off porn?

JD: Unfortunately the porn mansions of the 90’s are long gone. I don’t make a million dollars doing porn. Because living in the Bay area is so expensive, I actually have multiple day jobs. I’m starting to make more, but it’s really rare to make a living just from doing porn. For a trans guy, you’re lucky to do a shoot once a year with a company that shoots trans guys. It’s not a sustainable income source for most people, so even most of the big name people have other jobs.

How long has the site been up?

JD: I started FTMFucker.com in 2012. It will be three years old this summer.

James Darling

Photo by Courtney Trouble. Courtesy of FTMFucker.com

How do you feel about trans visibility in 2015?

JD: We’re seeing a huge influx of trans people in mass media thanks to people like LaVerne Cox and Janet Mock. Shows like Orange is the New Black and Transparent bring more trans issues to light for people who would otherwise never think about it or come across it. There’s definitely more happening.

Any thoughts on trans health coverage?

JD: When I did my surgery I had to come up with the money myself. I know some people in California are able to get their top or bottom surgery covered now, which was certainly not the case in Georgia when I came out. It’s such a necessary medical thing. I don’t really understand why so many insurance companies and employers don’t really understand that it is important to trans health to have things like hormones and surgeries covered. I hope that with increased visibility and Obamacare that people will start paying attention to the needs of trans people.

I have a question from our emcee for the pageant (The Lady B). What are your hopes and dreams?

JD: I just want to live a life where I’m happy and fulfilled and doing things that help other people. For trans people, I want more visibility in a way that means we’ll be treated like anybody else and have our needs met, like health and housing and employment. You know, stuff that is way bigger than porn will ever be able to address.

Awwwww. So what’s next for you? Any future projects?

JD: You can follow me on Twitter and Tumblr as James Darling XXX, and of course on my website FTMfucker.com. This week I’m releasing my newest film ’T-Boys and T-Girls’ through Trouble Films. FTM Fucker Vol. 1 was my last release. More hot trans sex stuff on the way!

How is it working with Courtney Trouble?

JD: Courtney’s great. We’ve been colleagues and friends for a long time. They’re the reason FTMfucker was able to happen.

How is the dating scene for you?

JD: I’m pretty spoiled in the Bay. It attracts a lot of queer folks and queer-minded people. It’s easier to find people who have a basic understanding of my body and my identity. That was harder to come by in the South. My trans-ness is not as much of a factor in my dating nowadays, which is refreshing.

Were you part of the Original Plumbing trans man pageant in San Francisco?

JD: Yeah. Original Plumbing had me compete in the pageant. I’d never been part of a pageant before so it was definitely a learning experience. There are photos around somewhere.

Thank you so much for agreeing to be a judge for the pageant. I’m so grateful to have you be a part of this event.

JD: Thanks for having me! I’m really grateful y’all are bringing me up to Seattle. I love the Pacific Northwest, I don’t get to visit as often as I want to. I’m really excited to be a part of the Mr. Trans Seattle pageant. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.

James Darling will be judging the Mr. Trans Seattle pageant this Thursday, February 12, 2015 at Kremwerk, along with local musician Alicia Amiri of Nightmare Fortress, and queer and trans business owner Nicole Stone. Get tickets and event info here.



Comments