PROFILE: Ceyenne Doroshow by Luna Malbroux
Meeting Miss Ceyenne.
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When Ana Foxx appeared at the 2017 AVN awards with her beautiful natural Afro hair and a stylish African print dress, I reflected on how rarely I’ve seen that image of a Black woman portrayed in porn. Within all media, there is a narrow lane Black women are directed to in how we are represented. We are typically relegated to one of a few tropes- the ‘Angry Black Woman’, the ‘Jezebel’, the ‘Welfare Queen’, being the most popular.
Only in the past few years have we started to see representation that is a little more dynamic. With much thanks to the combination of Michelle Obama and Shonda Rhimes (with the popularity of shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder), people are starting to understand the return on investment regarding Black women in the media. But what about in porn? How far do we still have to go?’
In full honesty, when I first asked myself the question of ‘How far do we still have to go?’, I did not imagine Black trans women in the ‘we’. It was an afterthought. That’s how bias works.
The universal ‘we’ isn’t always so universal. One can see those exclusions of women and people of color in the ‘We the people’ of the preamble to the Constitution and the ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’ of the Declaration of Independence. What is outside of ‘we’ is an afterthought. It’s easy to point fingers at old, rich white men wielding the power to weave injustice in the very fabric of society. It’s harder to recognize when you’re guilty of it too.
As innocent as intentions may be, that trap of excluding others from a ‘we’ has unintended consequences. That sort of tunnel vision leads to the constant search for things that confirm what you already know and believe. I’m privy to the plight of cisgender Black women. Despite how unique each Black woman is, I am more intimately acquainted with the various obstacles, projections, stereotypes, and limitations any given Black woman may face- whether I’ve faced them or not. But Black trans women have a different burden to bare. A burden, despite my empathy, I can’t imagine. So what is it you do in that situation? You listen. And lucky for me, Ceyenne Doroshow, had plenty to say to me.
Good luck putting Ms. Doroshow in a box. Want a good recipe? Or be inspired by a non-profit? Or re-imagine roles for transgender women in porn? Then Ceyenne (pronounced like the pepper) Doroshow is the person for you. It couldn’t be more fitting that when I caught up with Ceyenne Doroshow, a sex worker, performance artist, and food enthusiast, she was on her way to the “Sister Song: Let’s Talk About Sex” conference, a gathering of Women of Color who work for reproductive justice and sexual freedom.
This year’s conference had the following goal: “We must resist the systems of oppression that plague our daily lives, reclaim our human right to bodily autonomy, and redefine our futures.”
Resist, reclaim and redefine is something that Ceyenne has learned to do out of a necessity. A skill she perfected in her 2012 memoir and cookbook, Cooking in Heels. A book that reclaims her relationships to food by using recipes as a way to examine her life growing up in Brooklyn, NY. For Doroshow, cooking has been a way to not only express herself but connect with family, something that is very important to her.
I can’t say that I have personally tried any of her cooking, but if she seasons her food the way she peppers her language, I have no doubts it’s nothing less than delicious.
Talking to Doroshow is so easy- this Brooklynite has the directness and warmth of a Southern woman. Perhaps its because as the subject of a few documentaries, Ceyenne is used to her share of the spotlight.
When I raised my questions about what she faces as a Black woman in porn, Ceyenne shared that she faces getting commonly boxed into stereotypes. While the tropes of the ‘Angry Black woman’ and the “ghetto queen” are still present, Ceyenne stressed that Black transgender women face an additional thing- invisibility. A kind of invisibility that differs from that of their white counterparts. Something that Ceyenne immediately reflects on:
“When it comes to porn for Black transwomen, it’s never the upscale version of what porn is for a white trans woman. It’s definitely that kind… of dirty, big earing raining, lip-stick with the black liner (which we never do). It’s that image…they want to portray that really takes away [from] the history of what real black woman [are] in sex work. That old image we shared a long time ago.”
Outside of film, Ceyenne works to continue to evolve that image in the media, her personal memoir was just one way. The other? She raised the bar even higher through founding a non-profit, GLITS. Created not only to address the health and rights crisis faced by transgender sex workers, but also their visibility, GLITS approaches support of trans persons through multiple methods. It’s created media projects like Transparency: The Gender Identity Project, facilitated the arrival and support of trans asylum seekers worldwide, and even works on housing advocacy.
Perhaps her adeptness at advocacy is what shapes her vision of what is truly necessary for Black transgender women in the adult film industry: more representation and leadership behind the camera.
“We need to not only be in the films, we need to be the writers, directors, the grip people- we need to be involved [in] every aspect of it”
It goes back to who is telling the story. That typically translates to ‘whose bias is showing?’. With more Black and trans women behind the scenes, we can see more creativity in general. And who they are portraying would more closely mirror their complex, rich, and diverse reality.
“Life is an evolving thing, so as for roles for Black women in film, they should also evolve,” Doroshow explained.
Part of that evolution is portraying the full beauty of all Black women. Ceyenne was quick to point out that the non-porn industry, was just catching up to that. Darker skin actresses like Viola Davis are just starting to play parts that portray them as desirable and beautiful.
In porn, Black trans women face similar beauty scrutiny with the added pressure of meeting different physical standards.
Doroshow stressed this idea, “Can I not be just depicted as this person with a giant cock? Because that’s usually what they are looking for in the industry. You don’t really have to be pretty, just have a big cock, and be trans and you’re in the film. What does that say for the black trans woman who doesn’t have a big cock? What does that say for her?”
I don’t mind looking at a good sword fight, but is that what it’s all about? Where is the beauty in the skin, in the color that goes in a certain notoriety now where trans women are so empowered?”
That lack of imagination continues to come with restricted limitations. A very narrow road of possible roles in films. Something Doroshow thinks about a lot.
“I would love to be a college professor. I would love to be a corporate liaison. But that’s never the rolls we get. It’s usually that down and trodden crackhead, which is not reality.”
Doroshow is still wrestling with how much agency she has as a performer. To say the least, it can be hard navigating limited types of roles while playing the typical politics of appeasing the gate-keepers. Doroshow expressed that she often wonders where is the line in challenging and questions roles once on set.
“Do you get the job if you stand up for yourself on those things? Or do you get labeled as the bitch because you want to stand up for yourself, and you don’t want to take that role?” she asks, rhetorically.
For Doroshow, the answer is clear. Creativity should be a part of the process for trans women in film. Include them in your ‘we’ and be ready to incorporate some much-needed new ideas.
Ceyenne Doroshow, for one, has many.