Aug 092012
 

Some of you who frequent this blog may notice a slight change in the sidebar: I’ve removed all of the affiliate links! Word got back to me that many of you preferred the pictures that Scott and I have taken at the venues around town, as well as the special events we attend. I understand that; that’s why I originally started this blog in the first place.

However, due to our day jobs we aren’t able to head out to said venues as much as we used to; also, with the closing of a few of the, there are actually less places to go. That was why I posted the thumbnail galleries…to keep the blog active AND to show support to the girls and their sites.

In no way am I no longer supporting the girls’ sites. In fact, I’ve created a NEW blog specifically for that. I call it TransGalleria. Since I do get links to the various sites quite often it was only fitting that I put them to good use. Hence the new blog.

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Ever so often, I’ll still post a gallery here…especially if it’s one that I want everyone to see. I might also post sample pictures from a site along with a picture of the same girl either Scott or I took ( as I did August 8th with Chanel Couture). So I’m not COMPLETELY abandoning the galleries. There will just be less here; more there.

I plan on updating that blog on a daily basis; Sundays and Mondays may be empty though. I’ll most likely start a Twitter page for that blog as well. So check it out and support the girls…just as we support them here!

Aug 052012
 

This article about the recent Queen USA pageant originally ran in the Los Angeles Times. It was written by Kate Linthicum August 4, 2012; the original article can be found here.


Feminism in an unlikely place — a transgender beauty pageant
Ranking women on their looks seems like a step back for feminism. But for Los Angeles’ transgender community, pageants can be a sign of progress.

I had come to check out rehearsals for a beauty pageant being staged that night at Circus Disco, a kitschy bar tucked back from the street on an unglamorous stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard.

The idea of ranking women on their looks had always seemed objectionable, like a step backward from feminism. But this pageant sounded special. The Queen USA contest is billed as “the premier transgender beauty pageant in the United States.”

Past a portico topped with a statue of a dancing tiger, a side door led into a cavernous dance hall. A flock of women in workout clothes and heels were moving in formation. “Hips, hips, hips, hips!” a choreographer yelled. “I know it’s lunch time, but I want to see some energy!”

As the routine took shape, a slim woman with long blond hair looked on approvingly. Karina Samala is the reigning “Empress” of the Imperial Court of Los Angeles and Hollywood, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group that puts on the pageant every year.

Samala was born a boy in the Philippines, but says she always felt like a girl inside. As a kid, she used to sneak into her sisters’ dresses.

After immigrating to the United States in her 20s, she found a community of people like her at the drag clubs of West Hollywood, where she would do impersonations on stage (she was best as Cher).

“But I was trying to live a double life,” she said. “I had to go to work in a suit and tie and at night I would go back to being Karina, performing in gay bars.”

Samala began her medical transition to becoming a woman a decade ago, around the time she retired from her job as a senior engineer at Northrop Grumman.

She’s now involved with half a dozen advocacy groups and advisory boards, including one that helped establish transgender-only cells in Los Angeles city jails earlier this year. She’s trying to implement similar changes at Los Angeles County jails, and is also working with a nonprofit to create a free medical clinic to meet the specific health needs of transgender women.

When she’s not shuttling between meetings, Samala is checking in with the dozens of young people around Los Angeles who call her a mentor, or simply “Mother Karina.”

She pushes them to compete in pageants, which she says helps boost the confidence of a population that doesn’t often get a lot of support.

Samala knows what winning a pageant can do for self-esteem. She is a former Queen Universe.

::

The pageant was about to begin. In the dressing room backstage, it felt like prom night.

Contestant Bramyla Wilson, looking glamorous with thick curls and a sparkly red dress, was still mulling which heels to wear.

“The silver ones?” Wilson asked.

“The silver ones,” her friend, Kimora Belisle, agreed.

Wilson moved here from Alabama a few years ago. When I asked her how the transgender community in L.A. compares to the one back home, she looked at me like I was crazy. “There is no community in Alabama,” she said.

Before taking the stage, Wilson clasped hands with her rivals in a circle. Each was at a different stage of their transition. Some had had plastic surgery, others had not. Many were immigrants, from Asia or Latin America.

“By the grace of God we are still here,” Wilson prayed. “We are still standing strong.”

Then they strutted on stage. The crowd went wild as they flipped their hair, pursed their lips and batted their eyelashes. A panel of judges — including a plastic surgeon and two West Hollywood city councilmen — took note.

“They put some women to shame,” a man in the crowd said to me during the swimsuit competition.

I was taken aback.

Sure, the women on stage were good. Some were Miss America good, and had the cliched gestures of femininity down pat.

But isn’t there more to being a woman?

Backstage, Juliana Giessel was celebrating her win in the swimsuit contest. During opening introductions onstage, she had pumped a fist in the air and declared, “I am a woman!”

Giessel said few women who are born women feel they can be “overtly feminine” these days because they’re expected to compete with men in school and in the workplace.

In simpler terms, she was saying feminism killed femininity.

But that misses the point.

What the women’s movement has done is open up opportunities. Just look at Carmen Hinayon, who won the Queen USA crown in 2009. This fall, Hinayon will start at UCLA law school so she can take her fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights to the courts.

Fifty years ago, law school was rare for any woman, transgender or not.

There are countless expressions of womanhood now, from female Olympic gymnasts to women cops to moms who decide to stay home with their kids.

And those who choose to compete in beauty pageants, Queen USA included — well, that’s an authentic expression, too.

But are we ready to accept them for who they are?

Later that night, during a question-and-answer session, the contestants ticked off harrowing incidents of violence and discrimination they have faced simply for being themselves.

“We are existing,” one contestant said.

“We will be a part of your world whether you like it or not,” vowed another.

Beyond the flashy lashes and shiny lips, strength and determination shone through. And it was clear that those are qualities of womanhood, too.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com


Given what the article was about, I was NOT surprised with the negative comments. People are and will continue to be closed-minded when it comes to subjects such as this. It will take a LOT to change those folks’ opinion about the community. Really…an article that sheds a positive lit on the individual’s involved STILL gets met with assholes who are set in their ways. That’s America for you…

Regardless of what those tosses said in the comments, I’m proud of everyone evolved with putting on such an event, and I’ll be there to help as much as I can.

Feb 232012
 

I’ve been following Krissy4u’s site for a while now. Her site is obviously a labor of love; there’s a personal touch to it unlike other solo sites. Plus, being an independent means she pays even closer to feedback and such.

I first saw her in person at the Tranny Awards two years ago at Club Cobra; unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to speak to her. The next year I did get to meet her when the awards were at Blue Moon Nights. I asked her if she’d like me to do a photoshoot with her since she usually snaps her own pics. Unfortunately I was too late; she was on her way back to Portland. Because of this, I made it a point to get in touch with her earlier to do something together.

Flash forward to the present. Since she was a sponsor at the Tranny Awards yet again, I knew she’d be in Los Angeles. My equipment has also changed for the better. So we set up a date when we can shoot some pics. The Saturday before the awards was perfect since she didn’t have anything schedules AND I was actually off work for a change. So we did a shoot…nothing hardcore though; sorry fellas! A sample picture is below.

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I like the outcome, but I do have one regret…there was not enough light! I’ve since then made a promise to myself that I’d get a lighting set before I take on another similar project. When I take pictures – especially if they’re going to be on someone’s pay site that they take care in running – I want them to be as perfect as possible. I’ve had an offer to shoot for another site, but I turned it down because I didn’t feel I was ready…and the site in question is another labor of love for the owner Why did I shoot with Krissy then? Because she lives in Portland; who KNOWS when she’ll be back down here…or me up there!

I don’t know when she’ll post he rest of the pics, but join her site so that you can see the rest of her content…and trust me, you’ll love what you see.

To Krissy: thank you for giving me a chance to contribute to your site. When you’re back down in Los Angeles, look me up!

Feb 082012
 

The words below were taken straight from AVN.com.

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—Last Thursday representatives from the transsexual performer community met with AVN to air their grievances that emanated from the AVN Awards show last month.

A small but vocal number of performers in the transsexual genre had voiced displeasure over their experiences at the AVN Awards and the preceding red carpet—as well as, in the big picture, how they were dissatisfied with the recognition given to the transsexual genre as a whole.

Performer and long-time TS rights activist Brittany St. Jordan had authored a handful of message board threads airing her complaints. St. Jordan, along with Amy Daly in person, and Wendy Williams by phone—all three were nominees for Transsexual Performer of the Year—met with AVN.

Since there were a number of factually incorrect statements in St. Jordan’s posts, but also because there were legitimate complaints, AVN sought to set the record straight, to listen, and to proactively address any issues going forward.

AVN has long recognized the transsexual niche as an important and lucrative market segment and if there was more to be done to support the community, we wanted to hear directly from the performers how we could recognize their efforts on a bigger stage.

To that end, AVN agreed to present Transsexual Performer of the Year on stage at future awards shows. St. Jordan, Daly and Williams were correct to point out that this award is the most prestigious given by AVN to transsexual performers, and it wasn’t receiving the same visibility as its male and female equivalents.

As for the awards nominations and voting, AVN also agreed to cast its net wider and seek out prominent reviewers and observers of transsexual fare to participate in the process for a more comprehensive review of its performers and movies.

Also, AVN will take steps to make sure that transsexual performers are included as presenters in future awards shows, and that more attention is paid to red carpet interviews with TS performers.

As for the red carpet process, which was called into question, AVN sought to clear up some confusion. Priority access goes to presenters, nominees whose awards will be presented on stage, mainstream celebrities and some other very well-known adult stars, with the rest of the adult community following after that.

Unfortunately, with hundreds of people waiting in line to walk the carpet, inevitably there will be a considerable waiting time for most. This year, the wait was longer than anticipated, and AVN apologizes to all who waited and thanks them for their participation and patience. AVN is looking into streamlining the process for next year to cut down on the wait time. We know it’s aggravating to stand in line for so long—we hear you!—and we’re going to make it more reasonable.

The meeting lasted nearly 90 minutes; many issues were aired and discussed, and St. Jordan, Daly and Williams left the meeting apparently hopeful that transsexual performers will be given higher visibility in both AVN magazine and at the AEE and AVN Awards.