Transgender people have historically been marginalised in porn. But with its direct-to-consumer model, OnlyFans is giving trans performers the opportunity for authentic representation.

Transgender people have historically been marginalised and fetishised in porn. But with its direct-to-consumer model, the adult platform is giving trans performers the opportunity for authentic representation, reports Jake Hall.

When Jordan* decided to launch his OnlyFans early last year, there were two motivating factors: to piss off his ex, and to create the trans male representation that he had rarely, if ever, seen in mainstream porn.

“My personality really comes across in my content,” he says, explaining that he had never seen much representation of guys like himself – a self-described ‘ftm [female to male] roadman’ with a wardrobe full of Adidas and an innate, cheeky charm – on-screen. “I’m really into sportswear and streetwear, so I get to put that across in everything I upload. It’s all got my own spin on it; I’ve always felt that real sense of control.”

It was this autonomy over his on-screen portrayal that kept Jordan interested in the app. He started first by sharing SFW selfies and then, as his confidence grew, more hardcore photos and videos, which helped him rebuild the confidence shaken by his past relationship. This creative control is particularly crucial for trans communities, who exist at the intersection of marginalisation and fetishisation.

Trans people are generally over-represented in sex work for multiple reasons, one of the biggest being the prohibitive cost of surgeries and even hormones, which often have to be sourced privately due to years-long NHS waiting lists. Yet despite this fetishisation, we’re routinely subjected to online harassment – the recent #superstraight TikTok trend is exemplary, transphobia dressed in a new hashtag.

Independent studios are leading the charge in creating stellar trans representation, with the likes of Trouble Films and Pink & White shooting steamy queer porn. There have even been some landmark ‘first’ castings of trans stars in otherwise cis porn studios, but largely the mainstream still relies on limited type-casting (trans guys bottom, trans women top) and offensive, outdated labels, which disproportionately impact trans creators of colour navigating the industry’s deep-rooted, racist history.

Jordan is among a growing number of sex workers choosing to bypass these hoops by taking their image into their own hands. This is something made possible by OnlyFans’ direct-to-consumer model, which circumvents the old-fashioned pornography studio set up and allows performers to take full control of what their subscribers see – or don’t see.

When 23-year-old Caulay* first decided to set up an OnlyFans, she didn’t have much of a blueprint to follow. “I wasn’t really aware of many trans sex workers or content creators before I started,” she tells me via DM. “I mainly saw big, busty ‘convincing’ or ‘passable’ trans women, which I struggled with at first. I would always be comparing myself to them.”

It wasn’t long before Caulay carved out her own lane as a self-described ‘British baddie’, amassing a small army of loyal subscribers, who regularly fill her inbox with affirmation. In return, she’s happy to satisfy most of their requests, checking her analytics frequently to see what really gets them off.

Not all creators aim solely for raunchy shots – some, like US creator Roshaante Anderson – share their sex lives as much for educational purposes as anything else. His YouTube channel is a mixture of sexed-up OnlyFans teasers and in-depth conversations about his phalloplasty. If subscribers are curious to see more, they can pay for the privilege.

UK-based Kaleb* took a similar approach, starting his OnlyFans after seeing a lack of representation of bodies like his own. “I decided to focus more of my content around [the differences of] my body – I’ve had lower surgery, which you don’t often see in trans-specific porn,” he says. By focusing and playing up the factors that excluded him from the studio norm, Kaleb has built up a fanbase who celebrate his physique.

Transition, of course, looks different for everyone. There is no ‘right’ way to be trans, and despite right-wing media spreading the myth that ‘sex changes’ are being passed out like condoms in a free clinic, gender confirmation surgeries are by no means easy to attain – especially if they’re being paid for privately. Not all trans people opt for hormones or confirmation surgery, but outside of surgeon’s websites and Reddit threads, there’s not much information or research based on real experiences for those who do.

“I always set out to be an educational sex worker,” Kaleb continues. Trans women wanting to see a trans guy top, for example, may never find it in mainstream porn – but you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for on OnlyFans. There’s also a growing community of creators sharing their experiences online, both on YouTube – Jazlynn Westbrook, Dawn Marie and Ariana Anderson are all exemplary – and in private mentorship groups for other trans creators.

“I was really fortunate to have a few creators take me under their wing when I first started,” says Jordan, who says his inbox is also open to trans sex workers looking for tips and tricks. “They told me what would work and what wouldn’t work, and I do that sort of thing with new starters, too. It’s a specific bubble of only trans creators, and we share ideas and feedback.”

In the US, in particular, some of these collaborative communities exist IRL, sharing houses and filming scenes together on a regular basis. In the UK, these networks are more difficult to form. “It’s something that I’m working on for sure,” Jordan continues. “I sort of want to start a community.”

Slowly, some studios are reaching to OnlyFans stars for consultancy – Jordan tells me he’s worked with a cis gay studio interested in developing a trans sub-section – but he’s keen to downplay sensationalised headlines that vastly overstate the amount of money creators are making. “People start with this misconception of ‘Oh, I’ll start an OnlyFans to pay for my surgery’, but that just doesn’t happen,” he explains.

He’s also realistic about the risks: from the hatred of anonymous TERFs to the threat of being outed and the never-ending stigma around sex work, which risks being worsened by yet more calls for criminalisation, nobody I speak to argues that life as a trans creator is easy. With a small handful of exceptions, the vast majority of OnlyFans creators – trans and cis alike – make spare cash, not a full-time living.

“The important thing to remember is that we’re not being forced into this,” concludes Jordan. “We’re doing this by choice, and I think plenty of media representation doesn’t acknowledge that; it boxes us into these negative stereotypes instead.” It might not be the ticket to surgery that it’s sometimes framed as, but everyone I speak to has their own reasons: Caulay enjoys the freedom and would rather grow her own fanbase than go through the studio system, whereas Kaleb explores his kinks and gets to save up for new toys.

For Jordan, what started as a mixture of wanting to irritate his ex and a mission to see guys like himself on-screen soon snowballed, earning him a fanbase, a handful of awards and a community of trans siblings willing to share their wisdom. Together, they share the thrill of thriving in a world which so often stamps down trans people for merely existing, as well as the knowledge that they’re building truly authentic representation on their own terms.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Follow Jake Hall on Twitter.

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