Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Interview with Becca Benz


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Becca Benz, an American model, writer, blogger, adult movie actress, Army veteran, trans advocate, and columnist for Transformation Magazine and her weekly column Through The Benz on Grooby.com, and formally for TransGlobal Magazine. Becca also has her own blog at BeccaBenz.com Hello Becca! You look fantastic!
Becca: Hello Monika, and thank you! I was fortunate to be born with good genes and a fast metabolism! Healthy living has also helped, along with working out at the gym six days a week to keep this old body in decent shape!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Becca: People know me mainly for my modeling and writing under the name Becca Benz, but my real name is Rebecca Pell. The past several years have been full of amazing experiences, but I also led an interesting life before I ventured into modeling. I served in the United States Army, worked at a university managing a research center, managed environmental remediation projects for the federal government, worked as a seasonal wild-land firefighter during summer breaks while in college, and worked several summers for the National Park Service on a backcountry trail crew.
Along the way I got married, we had two sons, got divorced and I was a single parent raising my sons for most of their lives. Throughout my life I have struggled with gender dysphoria, trying to figure out who and what I was and where I fit into the world, along with severe depression. It’s been quite a journey but I have survived and am happy and feel more alive than ever!
2017 Transgender Erotica Awards, TEA Con, holding
Transformation Magazines - taken by Daily Celeb.
Monika: You are a lady of many talents. Which vocation do you regard as your main profession? Modelling, photographing or acting in adult movies?
Becca: I would have to say writing is my main profession now and for the foreseeable future. I’ve always loved to write and feel very privileged to be able to do it for a living, and to have a voice within the trans community and adult entertainment industry through my writing.
Photography has always been a hobby I enjoyed, and I generally prefer to be behind the camera rather than in front of it. I still do occasional modeling when it’s something that interests me, such as being a model in a recent bridal show and getting to walk the runway in a bridal gown, which was a special moment and a dream come true. I’d say my modeling career in the adult entertainment industry has run its course, although I might consider doing another shoot for Grooby if the opportunity arose. 
Monika: How did you come into the adult movies industry? Are you satisfied with your career?
Becca: I got into the adult entertainment industry as a model in a roundabout way. I had intended to contact porn companies in hopes of finding a job on the business/administrative side of things; it was only by accident that I happened to see a post on Steven Grooby’s blog about how to apply to be a model for Grooby Productions, and after seeing pictures of some of the models I thought maybe I’m pretty enough to be a model. But then reality kicked in and I thought there was no way they would ever want someone my age, which was 52 at the time, and that I didn’t have what it takes to be a model.
Photo shoot with Dave Naz, 2016.
So, I sent a cover letter along with my resume to Grooby Productions to inquire about jobs, and at the last minute decided to go ahead and apply to be a model, thinking if nothing else it would be a fun story to tell! I never would have dreamed that they would actually want to do a shoot with me, but then I received an email from Steven Grooby telling me they would like to do a shoot and that a photographer would be getting in touch with me.
I did the shoot in September of 2014 and the rest is history! lol That turned out to be the only porn shoot I ever did, but it opened a lot of doors that gave me the opportunity to work in various other positions within the industry, and eventually led to writing my weekly column “Through The Benz” on Grooby.com.
I had offers to do other shoots at various times but held off, waiting to see how things went in other areas of my life. I would have liked to have done another shoot with Grooby but it never worked out. And to be honest I enjoyed the bikini and lingerie shoots a lot more than the porn shoots.
So, to answer your question, yes, I’m very satisfied with my porn career, as brief as it was, because it was a means to an end, and I ended up doing something I’m passionate about: writing.
Monika: You were not afraid of some ramifications of your decision to be a porn actress? Some ladies that I interviewed indicated that once you get involved in the porn industry, you cross the line and you close forever other options that you can have in life … 
Becca: This was something which I spent a great deal of time thinking about, because I also felt once I did porn there would be no going back and I’d lose any chance of ever getting a “normal” job in mainstream society. I was also very concerned that the stigma from doing porn would take away any credibility I had in the trans community. I spent a long time thinking about this and considering the long-term implications not only to my life but also to my family. But I eventually decided to do it because I saw it as an opportunity that could lead to bigger and better things.
I never had any desire to be a pornstar, it was simply one step in a larger plan to get my life moving forward so I could find a job and feel productive again. And my plan actually worked! And the interesting thing is that all my fears about doing porn turned out to be completely unfounded. If anything, it allowed me to have a bigger voice in the trans community, and I finally gained the confidence to find my own way and to realize I no longer had to limit myself to trying to find the same type of work I did prior to transitioning. So for me porn didn’t close off options, it gave me more because I started believing in myself and realized I could do anything I set my mind to.
Photo shoot with Misty Mae DeChant
of Pink Bridge Photography, 2014.
Monika: You were 2016 Transgender Erotica Awards Best Internet Personality nominee. Is it possible to make both ends meet with being a transgender adult actress?
Becca: I was nominated in 2016 and 2017 and actually won the 2016 Transgender Erotica Award for Best Internet Personality, which is something I’m tremendously proud of. As a model and writer being active on social media is an important part of my job; it’s crucial to interact with followers and get feedback and generate more interest in my writing to increase readership.
So, to answer the question, yes, being active on social media is a vital part of being a model and a vital part of ensuring success. Plus, I love interacting with my friends and fans on social media! Ironically, I don’t actually post much about porn anymore, I mostly post about food or baseball or current events. My social media accounts started off as a way to promote my porn career, but have evolved over time and moved away from porn and expanded to other interests, which is why it surprises me that I continue to gain followers at the rate I have.
Monika: Some transgender activists say that transgender adult movies create a negative image of the whole transgender community. What would be your answer in this respect?
Becca: As I mentioned earlier I had similar thoughts about the stigma of being a porn model, but now that I’ve had the opportunity to work in the industry in a variety of capacities my views on that have changed.
There is still such a stigma attached to working in the porn industry, especially for trans women, because society still clings to the outdated stereotypes that anyone who works in the adult entertainment industry must be a bad person, which seems silly because as the name implies, it’s entertainment; we are simply providing a product for the entertainment of our customers. We are not corrupting society. If people choose to think porn is immoral then fine, that’s their prerogative, but what is not okay is to impose your views on others and to shame them because you don’t agree with their views or actions.
Photo shoot with Al Tom of Altomic Visuals, 2015.
And shame is something we cannot ignore or pretend doesn’t exist because unfortunately shame is all too prevalent in today’s society and is used as a means of taking away people’s dignity and sense of worth. And that must stop. Shame is something that many transgender people, including me, have struggled with; I felt ashamed and embarrassed about myself for most of my life because of being transgender, and have also been shamed for working in the porn industry and my association with people in the industry, which made me question everything about myself and who I was, and I let that bring me back down to the dark place I worked so hard to escape from. I let them make me feel ashamed, and that’s not okay. Shame kills. Shame eats away at the core of who we are and makes us question everything. It leads to depression. It leads to suicide. It leads to hate, especially the worst kind of hate; hating ourselves. I am still the same person I have always been, and I'd even say I’m a better person now because I’m happy.
In fact, I would say I’m a better person now because I’m happy. I’m still kind and caring, I still have the same morals and values, and I still treat people with respect. None of that has changed because I did porn. What has changed is that I’ve gained a ton of self-confidence, I learned how to love myself, I found happiness, and I found my passion in life; to be a strong voice for my community and my industry. None of those changes would have been possible if I hadn’t been welcomed into an industry that accepted me for who I am and shown me nothing but respect and support, and most of all, love.
So, to answer your question, no, I don’t feel working in porn creates a negative image of the trans community. Porn in all its forms has been around forever and is not going away anytime soon, and let’s not forget that it’s not just trans people who work in porn industry. 
In fact, I would venture to say the porn industry actually benefits many people within the trans community in a variety of ways. It provides a means of employment for many of us who have struggled to find work after coming out, and often leads to opportunities outside of the porn industry. And just as importantly, it allows us to gain self-confidence and to feel good about ourselves.
2017 Transgender Erotica Awards
Pre-party, taken by Daily Celeb.
Now, I’m sure many of you are thinking I must be very shallow if I let compliments about my looks or my body mean anything. But for most of my life I hated my body and how I looked, and doing porn was a major reason I was able to gain self-confidence and feel better about myself, which literally changed my life in so many ways. So, if the porn industry can help trans people to feel better about themselves and provide work, then I’d say that’s a win-win situation.
And one final thought; it’s been my experience that those who are the most critical and vocal about the evils of porn usually have very little actual knowledge of the industry and haven’t spent time with people who work in the industry, so their claims are usually baseless. And really, aren’t there more pressing issues to worry about than porn?
Monika: Do you take part in transgender beauty pageants? What do you think about such contests?
Becca: I’ve never participated in a transgender beauty pageant, mainly because I never knew they existed until a few years ago. I think it in some ways it would be a fun experience, but I also know there can be a lot of stress involved in beauty pageants and I’m not sure I’d want to deal with that. I hadn’t seriously considered it until you asked this question, so maybe I just might enter a pageant! I know many view beauty pageants as being degrading to women by objectifying them, and I suppose there might be some truth to that, but they can also be viewed as something which is empowering by celebrating the beauty of women. I suppose it’s all in how you view it.
Monika: At what age did you transition? Was it a difficult process?
Becca: I began HRT in 2010 but didn’t start living full-time as a woman until 2012. I made the decision to wait to transition until my youngest son had graduated high school, but I ended up starting shortly before he graduated because I just couldn’t hold off any longer. But I was always very conscious of making sure I only was only seen with him out in public in male mode because I never wanted to cause him any embarrassment by his friends finding out I was transgender.
Prior to transitioning, firefighter, 1982.
In some ways transitioning seemed easier than I expected, especially early on, and in other ways it was more difficult than I had anticipated. We’ve all heard too many stories of trans people who lose family and friends and jobs when they come out, but initially I felt very lucky because the people in my family who mattered fully supported and accepted me, and I had a great job at a university working with wonderful people who accepted me. So I thought I was going to transition and be one of the lucky ones who didn’t lose too much.
But that quickly changed when my job at the university was unexpectedly reclassified soon after I began living as a woman full-time and I found myself unemployed. Having worked at the university for 11 years I was confident I’d be able to get another job there, but it proved to be more difficult than I thought and as the months went on I had a difficult time dealing with the unemployment and the constant rejection of never getting any job offers, and my depression got worse, which of course made it harder to interview well.
After two and a half years of trying to get a job in Missouri but not getting any offers, I made the decision to move to Oregon to get a fresh start in a state which was more open and accepting of transgender people. I didn’t fare much better in Oregon; the only job I could get there was detailing cars. So eventually I realized I had to try a new approach in trying to find work before I ended up killing myself. I decided to focus on industries in which being trans was not viewed as a negative thing, and the adult entertainment industry was an obvious choice, which is what led to my career in the adult entertainment industry.
The early stages of transitioning were tough while I was learning who I was and gaining confidence the more I ventured out as Rebecca. The stares and comments and getting called sir were painful, but I learned to develop a thick skin out of necessity. As time went on I grew more comfortable with myself, and the modeling helped me gain a ton of much needed self-confidence, which changed my life. As difficult as transitioning was at times, it was worth it to get to the point where I could live my life and be my authentic self and to find happiness and peace of mind.
In the army.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Becca: I wouldn’t say I had role models in the traditional sense, but I had a lot of friends I found online from reading blogs who I looked up to and who were a huge source of support and information. When I began my transition in 2010 there was not anywhere close to the amount of information and resources available as there are now.
I knew about Christine Jorgensen and Rene Richards and other pioneers of the transgender movement, but I had nobody like Janet Mock or Jen Richards or Kristin Beck to look at as an example and inspiration. We’ve come a long way in the past five years, and it’s heartening to see that today’s generation of trans people are finding more acceptance, and an infinite amount of information and support is available to them.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Becca: Kristin Beck was an early inspiration because I saw a lot of similarities between our lives, and obviously for her military service as a Navy SEAL and for what she has done after she retired, including working towards getting the ban repealed so trans people can serve openly in the United States military.
Shane Ortega is another person I have a great deal of respect for, being the first openly trans person to serve, and all he has done and sacrificed for not only for his country but for the trans community.
But in all honesty, the trans people I admire most are not the ones who are famous; they are the trans people who lives their lives in anonymity struggling to get by, dealing with things like the loss of family support and employment, yet making the effort every day to keep going.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Becca: The scariest part of coming out was coming out to my sons. I raised them by myself for most of their lives and we’d always been very close, and I knew in my heart they would always love me, but there was still that doubt lingering in the back of mind, after knowing so many people who had been disowned by their families when they came out. But they completely accepting and supportive of me and just wanted me to be happy. 
"Studio-selfie" I took in 2015.
My mom, who raised my sister and I after our parents divorced, is very conservative and Republican, and it took her a little time to accept it, but she has also fully supported and accepted me.
My father never accepted me, which I expected since we’d never been close, but it still hurt. And most difficult of all is that my youngest son and my sister, who initially accepted me, no longer speak to me now and have made it clear they no longer want me in their lives, which is a pain I deal with every single day.
I think we all go into transitioning knowing we’re likely going to lose a lot, but I don’t think you can ever fully prepare for it or understand the depth of the pain you feel when people who once cared about you and were a big part of your life no longer want anything to do with you.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBTQ communities. Being the penultimate letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBTQ group? 
Becca: There has been a lot of debate here in America about whether the trans community has been fairly represented and supported within the overall LGBTQ community and whether it would be beneficial to remove ourselves and move forward on our own. There are arguments to be made for either side of the argument, but at this point in time with the political climate so volatile for trans people I personally feel we need to continue to ally ourselves with the LGBTQ community because there is strength in numbers, and now more than ever we need to stand together and support one another, whether you’re an L,G,B, T, or a Q.
There is too much at stake to waste time bickering amongst ourselves, which only weakens us and plays right into what the conservatives want; for us to implode from within. But having said that, it would be nice to get more support than we’ve gotten in the past since trans people are the one group being specifically target by the Trump Administration.
Too old to transition? NEVER!!!
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Becca: In the past trans people have always been portrayed by the media and in movies or TV as the stereotypical “guy in a dress” or the flamboyant drag queen type, which is not representative of who we really are. For so many years the majority of Americans based their perception of transgender people on what they saw on “talk shows” like the infamous Jerry Springer Show, which again, only showed the worst of the worst.
But this has gotten much better in the past several years, especially with shows like Orange is the New Black and Transparent, and especially the ground-breaking web series Her Story, which was written by and starred actual trans women. Society is now getting a more realistic representation of who we are as trans people.
As far as coverage in the news media, we owe Caitlyn Jenner a huge debt of gratitude for generating much needed coverage from mainstream media about trans people and the issues we face. Regardless of whether or not you agree with her political views or her many controversial statements, she has arguably done more than any single person to bring trans issues into the forefront of mainstream news and society in general.
Books have always been a wonderful source of information as well as first-hand accounts of what it’s like to be transgender and to transition, such as Jennifer Finney Boylan’s “She’s Not There” and there continues to no shortage of books which are enlightening and well worth reading.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Becca: I have never been politically active aside from being politically aware and informed on the issues, and making sure I voted intelligently; I never had any desire to do anything beyond that, such as being involved in political campaigning. But with the political situation such as it is I don’t think trans people can afford not to become involved. To do nothing is to condone to policies which are clearly designed to legislate trans people out of existence.
With hat and glasses.
I have done things such as contacting my elected representatives to voice my opinion about various pieces of legislation, and posting current information and news stories on my social media accounts which are relevant to the trans community. I think we in the trans community need to realize we do have a voice and we need to speak up and let those in power know we will not sit idly by while our rights are systematically taken away from us.
Thankfully I live in Oregon which is a very open and accepting state and has long been at the forefront of making sure the LGBTQ community has the same rights and protection as every other citizen, and to prevent discrimination against us based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Becca: It took me a while to understand fashion and figure out what styles looked good on my body type, but after lots of trial and error I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it now. Most of the time when I’m home I’m more concerned with comfort than style so I just wear shorts or yoga pants and a top.
I do love to dress up and wear my nice dresses and heels and go out for a night on the town, but unfortunately those opportunities seem to be fewer and fewer. I wear classic cuts that never go out of style and I generally avoid trendy clothing. I’m not really into labels or particular store brands; I just buy what I like and what looks good on me. I always try to maintain a sense of class and elegance and stick with simple lines and styles which I know look good on my build.
But having said that, I also love to go out clubbing and have no problem wearing short skirts and tops that show a lot of skin lol I had to wait fifty years to be able to wear clothes that are fun and fit who I am and I make the most of that! Guy clothes were boring so I really enjoy the freedom to express myself through my clothes and to have fun with it!
2015 Transgender Erotica Awards After-party.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Becca: I’m actually working on my memoir right now and have interest from a publisher. I’ve always enjoyed writing and kept journals since I was a kid and blogged since I began transitioning, so a lot of the material is already written; it’s just a matter of filling in the rest and getting it organized so it flows properly. 
And I have to admit the idea of writing a memoir has always intrigued me and is something I’ve thought about for a while, and now with the support and encouragement of the people in my life it looks like it’s going to happen!
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Becca: Love is a basic human need that we all seek. For most people they seek the love of others to have a meaningful relationship and fall in love, but for a lot of trans people the focus of what we seek is to learn to love ourselves. Growing up feeling embarrassed about who we are and hating ourselves can make it difficult to love ourselves.
I was married for 16 years and have been in love, for which I feel very blessed. But since transitioning I’ve been alone, which has been difficult. I’ve always felt I need to get my own life in order before I can be ready to be in a relationship, but I can’t seem to ever reach that point. I enjoy having time to myself and being alone, but I am tired of feeling lonely and not having anyone special to share my life with. I try to believe that I’ll meet someone when the time is right, but at this point I’m starting to lose hope.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Becca: My main focus at the moment is getting my memoir done, and of course writing my weekly column “Through The Benz” and working on ways to improve it. I’ve also started the process to have Gender Reassignment Surgery next year, so there is a lot to do getting prepared for that.
Selfie, in bed, 2017.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Becca: To reach out to others for support and to know that support is available; to realize they are not alone and there are others going through the same thing. Transitioning is not easy, but having a strong support network is so important and makes getting through the difficult times much more bearable. Don’t try to do this by yourself; being trans means you are part of the trans community, and we are there for each other. And most of all, believe in yourself that you can do this; never lose sight of the big picture and your goals because when you finally get to where you want to be it makes it all the struggles worth it.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transsexuals and transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Becca: Absolutely; that is a powerful statement. Being transgender is not easy, but it’s who we are and we can either accept it as a positive thing and as motivation to work towards our dreams, or to view it as a negative thing and use it as an excuse to hold ourselves back. But self-acceptance can be difficult for some and it takes time.
As for the second part of the statement, about dreams not ending on an operating table, I just want to add that having reassignment surgery is not for everyone, and choosing not to have the surgery does not make you any less trans. So many in the trans community seem to think there is a right way to transition and be trans, and a wrong way, and if you don’t do it how they perceive to be the “right way” then you’re not really trans and many trans people will look down on you, which I find infuriating.
I think we all agree that gender is a spectrum, so it seems highly hypocritical for one trans person to judge another and decide they don’t meet the right criteria to be trans. There is no right way or wrong way to be trans, just as there is no right or wrong way to be human; we just need to be ourselves. We as a community are not doing ourselves any favors by wasting precious time and effort with this petty bickering amongst ourselves when there are other issues which are much more important. 
Monika: Becca, thank you for the interview! 
Becca: I’m flattered to be interviewed by you and feel honored to be included in your blog with so many accomplished women! Thanks Monika! 😊

My blog: beccabenz.com
Through The Benz: through-the-benz 
NOTE: there is graphic nudity displayed in ads alongside my column. 
TransGlobal Columns: transglobalmagazine.com.

All the photos: courtesy of Becca Benz. 
Done on 19 July 2017
© 2017 - Monika 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Monika,

    My name is Anuj Agarwal. I'm Founder of Feedspot.

    I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog The Heroines of My Life has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 100 Transgender Blogs on the web.

    http://blog.feedspot.com/transgender_blogs/

    I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 100 Transgender Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

    Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.

    Best,
    Anuj

    ReplyDelete

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