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Friday, June 28, 2013

Meet Courtney Trouble, the Queen of "Queer Porn"

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 12:51 PM

click to enlarge CARRIE ASLAN
  • Carrie Aslan

2013 is Courtney Trouble's year. The local pornographer, who started her first porn site more than a decade ago at 19, now operates several sites, runs her own production company, has directed 14 pornographic films, and racked up award nominations from both AVN and the Feminist Porn Awards. She coined the term "queer porn" at the start of her career, and has been paving the way for the new genre with her riot grrl attitude and DIY aesthetic.

But this year, Trouble is proving that she's only just getting started. Fresh off the launch of her new DVD series, "Lesbian Curves," she's crossing over into feature films, having recently directed a chapter of Michelle Tea's film adaptation of her memoir, Valencia.

She spoke with SF Weekly about her history as an indie pornographer, her experiences on the set of Valencia, and how what was once a party in her backyard has grown into one of Pride's most anticipated events.

SF Weekly: So what is queer porn, anyway?

Courtney Trouble: Queer porn is a different thing to everybody. For me, it's a radical art form of sex-positive activism and personal expression. It embodies openness, gender fluidity, sexual fluidity, body acceptance, anti-racism -- anything in other kinds of porn that is either left out of the picture or warped.

In porn there's a lot of stereotypes and boxes that performers get put into. Queer porn seeks to get people out of those boxes and focuses on the uniqueness of the performers.

Representation is a really huge part of the movement. Porn is a fantasy and a lot of young queer people who live outside of S.F. don't get to see queers loving each other very often. Seeing them having fulfilling sex and laughing and being at home in their own bodies is really important. Some of the most gratifying feedback I get from fans is, "I can't wait until that's a part of my life."

How has the queer porn industry changed since you started 11 years ago?

There wasn't a queer porn industry when I started! The term "queer porn" came from my first project, No Fauxxx, which is now called Indie Porn Revolution. There was queer porn being made, but it was called lesbian porn. They didn't know what else to call it. When I started in 2002, I was just making my stuff and having a day job. If I had started with it being a business, I'm sure it would have gone out of business!

There really wasn't an industry, so to speak, until 2007 when Good Vibrations started releasing the Reel Queer Productions DVD line -- they put out and funded and released 12 of my movies. Those movies got AVN nominations and the industry suddenly started paying attention to queer porn.

Now I can do whatever I want, but that's because I have my own money. I get to spend it on fat porn or trans porn and hopefully it will all pay for itself.

It seems like activism is always in the background of your work. Why is it important to have that political undercurrent?

The idea is not to think about the politics while you're watching it, but to enjoy it for what it is. But porn and politics are completely intrinsically connected. I started making porn from a political and emotional position. All of the jobs in the porn world were for skinny, straight-looking, straight-acting girls and I couldn't even pretend to be that. For me to get work in my industry, I had to create jobs for myself. I had to create new rules and new roles that work for me.

I have to remain active politically and use the attention paid to me as a platform for change. I have to make sure I represent trans women and people of color; people may be looking at me, but I want to use that power to direct attention to places I think are important.

Being rejected by their chosen industry might make some people start looking for a different profession. What made you determined enough to carve out a niche for yourself?

I grew up in riot grrl culture. Riot grrl was about wanting space and taking it. "Oh there's no room for us here? That's fine; we'll just push you over and make room for us."

I felt drawn to the industry. I didn't know if I was supposed to be there or if I would ever make it. Luckily the internet is gigantic and I didn't have to push anybody.

It's cool that I've been able to create space for other people, too. I didn't make a website that was just for fat queers. I've been able to create this place where all kinds of queer people can get work, express themselves sexually, be heard and seen.

You've also recently directed and starred in Michelle Tea's film, Valencia (which is based on her memoir and premiered June 21). What was that experience like?

It was pretty exciting because it was DIY, no budget. The seven minutes of footage only cost about $1000.

I was asked to direct the first chapter of the book, in which Tea meets a person in the bar and they have life-altering sex. I set out to cast it and of course I was going to have the sex scene be real sex. I'm not the kind of person to fake it. I couldn't think of anyone who wanted to get fisted, so I cast myself and played Petra, Tea's one-night stand.

We worked really hard for four or five days and then it hasn't gotten seen for two years. I've seen the film, it's amazing. Seeing so many different people being Michelle, and watching it unfold with so many different characters, evokes the feeling of "we've all had this experience." It's no longer Tea's memoir; it's all of our memoirs. It explores the queer community of the Mission, not just in the '90s but now. It embodies all of us.

Tell us a bit about Queerly Beloved, your Pride party.

It kind of started as an underground party, five years ago in my backyard. Back then, everybody was sneaking into the pool party at the Phoenix Inn. I decided to throw a party in my backyard with DJs and bands and a kiddie pool full of glitter instead. We made Jello shots.

The year after that, I was on the cover of the Guardian and they mentioned my party. El Rio offered to host it, and so that became my backyard. There were 100 people that year, and 200 people the next, and it just grew from there.

There are no corporate sponsorships, it's only $8, the drinks cost what they cost every day and there's usually a drink special. We have free food from Nick's Pizza. We have cool, underground performance artists. That's not the kind of thing you see during Pride.

What's up with Pride this year? There's been a lot of Bradley Manning drama, the nudity ban this year, and accusations that Pride is buttoning up and becoming more, well, straight.

I've been thinking that for a really long time, you know? I've had that problem since I was a kid.

I find the corporate sponsorships troubling; it seems like a lot of people trying to profit off the coolness of LGBT instead of moving back and letting queers celebrate themselves.

Our city is looked at as an example of pride. I think we owe it to ourselves to be on the forefront of change. There's retaliation against the Pride Board of Directors about who gets to represent the mecca of queer culture. Pvt. Manning opened up a communication about what it means to be queer in the military and what it means to challenge our government. He's a role model.

The Fifth Annual "Queerly Beloved," Courtney Trouble's queer pride Pink Sunday dance party, is June 30, 3-9 p.m., at El Rio. 3158 Mission St., S.F. $8 admission. Click here for more information and tickets.

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Kate Conger

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