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Viewing Horror Through a Transgender Lens: A Conversation With Bailey Jay

Viewing Horror Through a Transgender Lens: A Conversation With Bailey Jay:

Transgender porn star/activist Bailey Jay is one of the most fascinating crossover media personalities working today. After co-hosting The Jim Norton Show for Vice, acting in Return To Nuke ‘Em High Part II, and being interviewed on the season three premiere of Inside Amy Schumer, Bailey Jay is combining her talents and love of horror films with a new podcast entitled Blood Lust. Bailey will interview horror’s best and bloodiest while bringing a unique perspective into the genre as a transgender woman. I was recently fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with Bailey to discuss everything from trans representation to slapping actors across the face.


I would love to hear your perspective on horror’s relationship with transgender individuals, in particular, with trans women. It seems that they’re almost always shown as evil, mentally ill, or that their being trans is the source of their desire to kill people. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the subject?
I have two minds about it. I don’t go to horror movies for moral lessons, you know what I mean? I feel like horror movies are notoriously unfair to women in general, with how they punish women that have “loose morals,” almost immediately as if it’s some sort of poetic justice for a woman having a libido.

Oh, totally. It’s pretty messed up.
I mean, I don’t want to turn on the news and hear “trans people are mentally ill.” That’s a problem. With horror, it’s not real. It’s not really an issue in newer horror films, and we only really saw it in the ’80s. I almost find it endearing. Sleepaway Camp is one of my favorite movies, and I make fun of it all the time. I’ll say to people, “Oh, she has a penis. That’s why she’s killing everyone. That explains it!” I love the film, and I love that she’s not just trans, she also has this sort of lycan-esque vibe about her towards the end of it all. In all honesty, horror’s relationship with trans women really doesn’t bother me.

That’s really relieving to hear, just because it’s such a weird kind of line for filmmakers to walk. Are filmmakers morally responsible for their art, or can they just make art?
Totally. I’m aware that I don’t have the most popular view in my community, because I’m not puritanical at all. If I don’t like something, I don’t watch it, and I don’t assume that everyone is going to jump to conclusions. I’m not the kind of person who will see a trans person as a villain and think, “Oh! Now everyone is going to think we’re evil!” No one has ever assumed I’m a murderer, so apparently it’s not working if that’s what horror filmmakers are trying to do.

Because the trans community is gaining so much more exposure, do you think you have an added pressure to “speak for the trans community” considering you’re such a prominent figure?
Definitely, but I’ve made it a point very publicly to tell people it’s not my job to speak for everyone. I find it more dehumanizing to assume all transgender people have the same opinions and stories than if someone were to say something that could be offensive. Like, I’m more offended by the idea that I’m supposed to be the exact same way as every other trans person. That “triggers” me, if you will. We’re not all the same, and to imply that is really gross.

I’m glad that someone is finally saying it! Now that we’ve gotten the heavy stuff out of the way, how about something more fun?
This has been fun, so far!

Let’s talk about your horror podcast. If you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be?
That’s so hard! It’s almost easier to pick the dead ones. I know I want Ruth Gordon. That’s the top. If I could talk to Ruth Gordon, I would just die. Vincent Price is another one that I will forever love. Bela Lugosi would be great, but I’d want old Bela Lugosi. As far as people who are alive, I’d love to talk to Brad Dourif — I’ve heard that he’s a really interesting person to interview and has great stories. I would love to pull those stories out of him.

Horror tends to go in waves, like zombies, found footage, etc. What kind of horror films are really into now?
I’ve actually gotten won over recently with some newer stuff thanks to the podcast and talking to so many other people. I was always really pessimistic about newer horror. I love the older stuff because it’s familiar and comfortable and has practical effects, but I was so against newer stuff. I was comparing what I love to the really shiny remakes they do now. But then I saw the remake of Maniac with Elijah Wood and it like, ruined my life. I don’t do well with films that are super-realistic, but everything was done with such passion and intention, and it was clearly made by people that absorb and love horror.

I’ve really started to love the films released by Blumhouse, like Oculus. Ken Hanley [of Fangoria] sat me down and said, “I know you don’t like new horror movies, especially ones that hit the theaters, but you have to sit and watch this.” And I was so impressed. I love seeing people that actually care about horror making horror movies, being successful, making money, and sort of keeping the whole franchise alive in the process. So, I think I’m finally now pro-new horror.

I’m usually pretty hesitant about theatrically released horror. Occasionally, we’ll get thrown an It Follows but usually it’s remakes.
The last few months I saw The Babadook and We Are Still Here and I was super impressed.

Yeah! Director Ted Geoghegan came through Cleveland and did a Q&A about *We Are Still Here and it was exciting to see that there are people still making horror because they love it, not necessarily just to make a profit.
Exactly! That’s part of it for me too. I want to feel like it’s something that inspires me to do things. So when I see these shiny and perfect movies that are chock full of money and no heart, I lose interest.

Before I forget, congratulations on Return to Nuke ‘Em High Part II meeting its crowdfunding goal!
I am so, so happy for them. Troma people are insane, but they are so dedicated and I love when things go their way.

I’m pretty ride-or-die for Troma, so I cannot wait to see this next installment. What can we expect from the second one?
It exists in a vacuum for me, because I only know about the parts that I shot. So what I can guarantee is that you will see me slap the shit out of Zac Amico. We shot the scene probably 45 times. His skin was so red from slapping him and I felt bad but he was like, “No. You can hit me. This is my jam.”

Did the experience make you want pursue a career in horror films in front of the camera?
It’s funny, I would love to be in a horror movie but I do porn, and there’s minimal acting. So whenever people ask me if I act I usually say, “Maybe I’m good enough to be in a super-small and shitty horror film,” but I’m always really honest about not being the best actor in the world.


B.J. Colangelo is a filmmaker, performer and contributor to Icons Of Fright, Bitch Flicks, Day of the Woman and others. She tweets at @bjcolangelo.


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