Industry spotlight

Industry Spotlight: Courtney Trouble

Gifted with a Polaroid instant camera at age 8, Courtney Trouble was destined to be an artist. As a teenager in Washington, they spent their days in their high school’s dark room — and their nights running in grunge and riot grrrl circles.

Trouble attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, where they continued pursuing print and digital photography. They snagged publishing, entertainment journalism, and photography gigs for a while, then started working as a phone sex operator. Phone sex was lucrative and allowed them to be their own boss, but it was exhausting catering to clients’ fantasies all the time. Trouble was itching to explore their own rebellious queer desires.

So in 2002, at just 19 years old, Trouble founded, a little website offering up “subversive smut.” In the beginning, Trouble shot erotic photos of friends, lovers, classmates, and themself with a bulky Nikon CoolPix — 600 pixels max — and no light set, studio props, or a video camera. Just, as Trouble puts it, “that good old Olympia DIY magic.”

NoFauxxx was a fun, creative hobby at first, something to balance out Trouble’s fantasy-based phone sex work with the documentation of real queer sexuality — but over the years, it grew into a community and a movement. The queer porn movement.

In 2007, Trouble began filming their first full-length DVD. With no formal training in film or video editing and very little money, it took them two years to finish. But the result, Roulette, solidified their trajectory toward queer porn notoriety.

Courtney Trouble is now known as a sassy and unapologetic champion of authentic, queer, body-positive, binary-breaking feminist porn. They strive for inclusivity, casting performers who run the gamut of gender, sexual orientation, size, and race. They like to shoot performers in their own homes, using their personalities as inspiration for scenes. Queer porn, Trouble admits, is a genre defined by its lack of structure:

Queer porn is a little bit undefinable, because the “point” of queer porn is to show the vast diversity of queer desire, and performers “queering” sex more as a verb than an adjective. Queer porn is a collaborative, open-communication-centric, intimate art that is as much the performer’s concept as well as the director or producer. Queer porn removes the various niches, stereotypes, and misconceptions that the dominant adult industry places on people based on how they look or how they fuck, and allows the performers and producers to make authentic, meaningful, sex-positive imagery that reflects our true sexual natures.

After that first film, Trouble helped build Reel Queer Productions, a video line for which they directed and edited 11 more movies, both plot-based and gonzo, including Roulette TorontoSeven Minutes in Heaven 3: Fuck Yeah!, and Billy Castro Does the Mission.

Trouble is a performer as well. They love being in front of the camera, using their body and sexuality (as a genderqueer fat feminist femme switch) to make a political statement. As a performer, Trouble has starred in their own films, as well as The Wild Search, and in scenes on Shine Louise Houston’s website and Madison Young’s website Madison Bound. Performing, Trouble firmly believes, makes them a better director.

Taking everything they learned from the trial-and-error development of NoFauxxx, Trouble collaborated with queer pornstar Tina Horn in November 2010 to launch QueerPorn.TV, a community-based porn site featuring exclusive content and interviews with performers. Trouble also runs QueerPornTube, the first ever free, user-generated queer tube site, which hosts the work of both amateurs and professionals.

In 2011 Trouble established their own porn production company, TROUBLEfilms, through which they have released several films: Fuckstyles of the Queer and FamousLive Sex Show, Trans Grrls, Fucking Mystic, and Lesbian Curves (which just won a Feminist Porn Award for “Hottest Dyke Film”)TROUBLEfilms also distributes Tobi Hill-Meyer’s Doing It Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project and The Genderfellator.

By taking complete control of content distribution, Trouble is able to release scenes featuring fisting, knife play, squirting, and other sex acts that distributors usually don’t allow due to obscenity laws. These often nonsensical laws are what inspired Trouble, along with genderqueer porn icon Jiz Lee, to create International Fisting Day to educate and dispel myths about fisting.

Ten years after its initial launch, NoFauxxx changed its name to Indie Porn Revolution, and subsequently received an AVN nomination for “Best Alternative Website.” It is now the longest-running queer porn website on the internet, with a unique genre- and gender-less navigation structure that encourages the viewer to explore its breadth of erotic imagery without choosing a familiar category marker first.

When asked what keeps them passionate about queer porn, Trouble said:

The effect that my work has had on other queer folks . . . I get letters all the time that queer porn has changed, and sometimes even saved, a life. It saved mine 10 years ago, and the fact that it’s still relevant and even more so now, is why my passion thrives. Sometimes people use my art as a survival tool. Not very many pornographers get to say that their porn is that essential.

Courtney Trouble loves animals (especially her chihuahua, Cookie Party), the njoy Eleven and Hitachi Magic Wand, and cheeseburgers. They are working on a film called Come Find Me, which follows a woman on a bike-powered scavenger hunt to her real-life lover. It will be Trouble’s first full-length movie starring a heterosexual couple.

Check out this fun interview with Trouble from this year’s Feminist Porn Awards:

Courtney Trouble can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, and on her blog.