Transgender or gender non-conforming people are one of the most at-risk and disadvantaged groups in society. Alarmingly, most Transgender people have experienced discrimination, harassment and even violence because their gender identity or gender expression is different from their birth-assigned sex.
Danica Rain is by far the emotional heart of our documentary Balls. She was so courageous to share her life journey with us; everything from the separation from her wife and daughter, to living homeless, to being drug addicted and to all the mental and physical abuse she has had to endure while transitioning gender.
There was many a time during our interview with her that the “fourth wall” of the “subjective” camera was broken. We cried with Danica as she revealed and relived her most violent and heart wrenching memories. Though Danica has suffered a lot of pain and heartache, her story ends on a very positive note. Like a fairytale princess, she is in a committed relationship with a devoted man that has swept her off her feet. Not only has she reconnected with her daughter but she has also fully transitioned.
At the time of filming, Danica was researching and preparing to have her confirmation surgery realized. Though we were not able to document it, that dream finally came true late last year in Bangkok, Thailand.
Danica is warm and beautiful person who not only transitioned her gender but also evolved her sexuality. Once a heterosexual man, she is now a straight identified woman. The transgender experience, in all its fluidity, continues to show us that love, life, sex and sexuality are not rigid and inflexible truths. There is hope for humanity yet. Thank you Danica.
As much as the Balls documentary was a testicular “tell-all”, everything from testicular cancer to testicular art and everything in between, this doc was also an exploration of masculinity and it’s ever-changing face. The new masculinity for this new millennium is a softer beast that has a vulnerable side and is not afraid to show it. Whether you have two, one or no testicles at all, “having balls is just being sure about yourself and also being kind and generous to the people in your path and the people in your life”. (Carey Gray)
Explore more stories of Gender Confirmation with Farra N. Hyte and Angel from our series Drag Heals.
I’m a Porn Star is a feature documentary exploring the lives of men working in the gay adult entertainment industry.
There are an estimated 370 million pornographic websites online. Porn is now a thirteen BILLION dollar business. So who’s doing all this moonlighting? Turns out – probably some people you know. I’m a Porn Star is a documentary revealing the inner workings of the gay adult industry.
I like to make films about sexuality – how we as a society embrace or are repulsed by it, what some see as artistic expression and others view as pornography, and where the seeds for these often very visceral reactions begin.
I’m a Porn Staris entertainment but it also delves into a provocative new era of sexual liberation and expression. Living in a domestic post gay liberation era we are now bombarded with the male form undressed for pleasure, for provocation, and as a catalyst in advertising and media. I wanted to explore how young men are being conditioned to perceive their own bodies, their constructs of masculinity, and the disintegration of labels around sexuality.
A decade ago we consumed pornography in magazines or buying DVDs and VHS tapes. Today the studio giants in the adult industry have been gutted by the Internet auteur and are struggling to reinvent themselves before it’s too late.
A millennial gay porn star could make a living with film and was truly the star of the community in a time when Hollywood was still afraid to come out of the closet. Today a gay porn star likely has another job to pay the rent, which usually includes ‘club appearances’ or online hustling.
At the turn of the century we were still shocked by the AIDS epidemic and many studios began routinely testing their stars and only filming safe sex. Today in spite of rapidly rising rates of HIV transmission in youth – bareback scenes are in vogue and receive special promotion on many websites.
In 2000 it was risky business getting into adult entertainment. Today in a volatile economy, more and more young people are using it to ‘put themselves through school’ or because like the new Queen of Pop they’ve also been bitten by the Fame Monster.
‘Boys will be boys’ as the saying goes and we were invited onto a pleasure island while filming I’m a Porn Star. As a young twenty-something, I witnessed several handsome friends suddenly working in the adult industry – either as strippers or in adult video. I always wondered how much was enough for them to say yes to that world and the lifestyle that went with it.
To what extent will a young person push their body, their will, or their sexual preference in order to grab some quick cash? The answer of course is not easy and each subject we worked with presented their own set of motivations – everything from lust for dollars, an addiction to attention, or simply loving to have sex!
Directing the I’m a Porn Star documentary was such an adventure because I was able to immerse myself outside my comfort zone, grow and be challenged by the experience. There were many times while interviewing when I had to keep my fist planted firmly under my jaw so it wouldn’t fall to the floor. These guys are shocking, competitive, profane, relatable and endearing. Perhaps they’ve made choices that there’s no turning back from or perhaps they’re brave enough to live the sexually liberated lives we all secretly fantasize about.
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR CHARLIE DAVID, Director of I’m a Porn Star documentary
What was the genesis for I’m A Porn Star? Was this your brainchild or were you approached by someone else to take part?
I was approached by OutTV Canada to create a film that somehow reflected a change in the queer experience over the past few decades. I decided to look a little beyond the obvious political landscape and explore adult entertainment and how it’s been impacted by technological, social and consumption advances and new norms.
Porn is ubiquitous now – creation and engagement are high across all social classes and so a deeper look at the people who make it their career despite it still being a taboo fascinated me.
This isn’t your first documentary, but it’s the first with people who are fairly well known, at least in the porn world. Did you have an easier or harder time getting them to open up for the camera?
I’ve been really fortunate with my documentaries that my subjects have been extremely comfortable and forthcoming with me. I also do interviews in the casting and vetting process so I won’t work with someone if I think they’ll be flat or problematic in a show.
For this project, there are many great looking guys who take awesome photos or make great sex videos but in an interview situation or to follow them around in real life with a camera would be a terribly boring experience both for me and for an audience. Those early interviews and doing some research before considering production is very important. It’s casting essentially and a dynamic story line and compelling characters are tantamount to having any entertainment experience succeed.
Working as a host on the travel show Bump for 6 years really cut my teeth as an interviewer. We filmed 120 episodes all around the world and there were some great interviews and some that were painful teeth pulling experiences. I think that process of learning how to get a person comfortable with me and asking the right questions so they share freely and openly was like boot camp for becoming a film director – especially of documentaries.
Were there any revelations you had while making this or any moments that really stood out to you as being eye-opening?
I went to some shoots with various companies prior to filming and seeing the use of injectables like Caverject to get erections for filming was certainly eye-opening. There really are a disproportionate number of straight identifying men working in gay pornography. Some of the feedback on my doc and on blogs I’ve read, the comments seem to obsess with who’s straight, who’s gay, is it subconsciously homophobic that we have so many straight guys doing gay work, etc.
Honestly I don’t understand the obsession with these questions or lines of thinking. It seems so old-school to me to be labeling sexuality so rigidly. There’s a continuum of sexuality and these guys along with all humanity fall somewhere on the spectrum. However, because of the obvious fascination, I decided to do a follow up documentary, I’m a Porn Star: Gay4Pay which explores this.
Coming from a fairly liberal place like Canada to the US, do you find that there’s a more puritanical view of sex here in the US than there is in Canada or is the opposite true?
While we may vary on other norms in terms of sex within culture my experience living in Canada and the USA has been that we’re fairly similar. Our countries are geographically immense and there are plenty of pockets of conservatives, progressives and moderates in both.
You wear a lot of hats, but where are you most at home? Is it performing, producing, writing, directing, or something else?
At this point on my journey I love directing and producing. The documentaries are really fun but I’m looking forward to directing some scripted films & TV as well. I’m certainly open to being contacted by studios or independents to direct.
You said in an interview with Out Visions that your work resides in “a little niche within a niche,” but do you see the audience for what you do expanding more rapidly now than it was even a year ago?
Yes, I think there’s a growing hunger for content and the type of sexy, off-beat, gay-centric shows and films I make. There are emerging markets and growing populations that want to watch compelling films about the gay experience and that’s what I do.
You also mentioned in that interview that you have received communications from people whose lives were impacted by your work. Would you care to share any one of those with us?
Most of the emails and letters I receive come from either a Dante’s Cove fan or from someone who has just watched my film Mulligans. I think with Mulligans the inter-generational relationship between the father and his son’s best friend is compelling, arousing or relatable in some way to a lot of people. It’s also a story about a family man who comes out in his forties and for a lot of men living in those more conservative pockets of the country I think this also strikes a chord.
Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet that you’re dying to work with?
Of course, there’s a huge list here! We’re actually preparing I’m a Porn Star: Gay4Pay, which will dive deeper into the lives of the straight dudes who work in gay porn since that seems to be such a fractious topic. So in the adult world we’re starting to compile a wish list and are certainly open to your readers input.
In the mainstream I’m a huge fan of Xavier Dolan’s work as director, writer and actor.
Anything else you’d like your fans to know or perhaps anyone that’s discovering you for the first time?
I love when an audience interacts with a film. So I invite your readers to watch our work and rate it, review it, share it, comment on it and discuss it. My documentaries are meant to be kindling and I hope they start a conversation.
After losing a testicle (or two), due to cancer, infection, injury or torsion, do you consider getting testicle implants? What if you are a trans-man? According to our documentary subjects, the opinions vary and are split down the middle.
To replace, or not to replace. This is the question.
In the case of Matt Perry, who lost his testicle to testicular torsion, he has no interest in replacing the excided ball with a testicle implants. Now in his fifties, Matt had his ball removed in his early twenties because the twisted testicle had cut off all blood supply to his left nut rendering it dead. Not only is testicular torsion a medical emergency but it is also very difficult to diagnose. If the diagnosis and “un-twisting” is not made within the first 8 hours, the testicle will likely be lost.
Matt’s trauma of undergoing an orchiectomy over 25 years ago is so great, that the thought of having to undergo surgery once again to have testicle implants is even further traumatizing. Besides, he is much older now and in a long-term committed relationship with a partner who is comfortable and supportive of Matt’s body. Matt jokes, “If you could click your fingers and have testicle implants with no effort required, I would probably do that”. Sadly, it is not that simple.
Siavash, on the other hand, who also lost a testicle to torsion in more recent years, is definitely considering re-balancing his body with testicle implants. As a younger man in his late twenties, he would like his body to look more symmetrical. At the moment, he is researching clinics and doctors.
For Peter Bovolaneas, who lost both testicles to cancer, it was a no brainer. He was thankful for the modern day medical technology and elected to get 2 prosthetic testicle implants. Peter is a remarkable human being who has such a great sense of humor and amazing coping skills.
Sometimes when he is out at the bars, he will approach acquaintances (who do not know his testicular history) and ask them to flick his balls. If he doesn’t flinch, they buy him a drink; if Peter flinches, he buys the drink. It’s a win-win situation for tipsy Peter, leaving the “flicker” scratching his or her head.
It should also be noted that Peter, who presents as a VERY masculine/muscular man, can no longer produce testosterone because both testicles were removed due to cancer. Because of this fact, Peter must inject himself with testosterone every 2 weeks to maintain sex drive, bone mass, muscle mass and mental health. He humorously accepts this shot in the buttocks as his “pain in the ass”.
The decision to get testicle implants after the required removal of one or both balls really comes down to choice and comfort. And as Maggie Cassella jokes, “I’m not going to judge a guy for getting a fake ball any more than I’m going to judge a woman for getting a fake boob. It’s your choice and we have the technology!”
Different sizes of testicle implants are measured against the patient’s real testicles to get as close a match as possible.
There are different types of prosthetic testicle implants. The ultimate goal is to match the prosthetic as much as possible to the remaining, natural testicle. Testicular prostheses are made of silicone gel or saline (salt water) with a silicone rubber covering. The surgeon makes a small incision in the lower groin where the prosthesis is inserted and then placed in the empty scrotum and secured with a stitch, or suture. You can usually go home the same day of the surgery. Often testicular prosthesis surgery can be done at the same time as the orchiectomy, or during a later surgery. It all depends on what the patient wants.
As a trans-man, Carey is not interested in getting prosthetic testicle implants. His genitals do not define his masculinity, though he jokingly claims to have “psychic balls”. Interestingly enough, once Carey started to take testosterone, his genitals started to change. His clitoris and labia started to grow, so much so that he often feels as though he has a penis and balls.