Transsexual pornographic film actress Yasmin Lee, who played the role of transsexual stripper-hooker Kimmy in The Hangover: Part II, has caused a bit of a stir about whether or not her character was a positive portrayal or a symptom of American transphobia (and I certainly had a few concerns of my own to reconcile).
The ongoing debate at Queerty was eventually participated in by none other than Ms. Lee herself, and I decided to take her up on her gracious offer: If you need further help in understanding this complicated world you can always look me up on facebook.
How did you get involved in the Hangover: Part II, and how respectful were they of your identity?
The studio found me on IMDb as the lead for an indie horror flick, Red Ice, where I played the Succubus. They sent me a message asking if I would be interested in coming in to audition. [By the third round of auditions,] they were flying in girls from all over the world just to read for the part, and I got pretty nervous. I realized that this scene must be really important if they’re going to invest all that money just for the audition. I went in thinking Okay, just be me. When I went in and saw the director, Todd Phillips, sitting on the leather couch in his casual plaid shirt, shorts and sandals, I was thinking Wow, he’s really hot. He also had his golden retriever in the room which made me feel like I was in a Ralph Lauren ad. After various readings from comic pacing to different accents, he and the casting director assured me I did an amazing job. Todd Phillips asked me if I acted full time, what I did for a living. Without hesitation, I said “I’m one of the top transsexual porn stars in the entire universe, specializing in spanking naughty boys.” I don’t know what was going through my head.
He kinda said wow and thanked me right away for telling the truth, and that they weren’t expecting that. The whole process was very much a fish out of water experience for me, but they made me feel very comfortable. Though after revealing what I do for a living I thought that there’s no way I would get the part. As I was walking out, I jokingly said “This reading would have been a lot easier if the director wasn’t hot, it’s such a distraction. I don’t appreciate it,” and smiled. Weeks later, the director himself called me and said that I got the part, but to act surprised when casting called to tell me officially. We had a very intimate talk about the TS community and our struggles. I could tell he sincerely cares.
Millions are going to see your performance. Do you feel the character Kimmy was a fair portrayal of transsexuals? And as a follow-up, you’ve mentioned in the past that 9 out of 10 transwomen are in the sex industry. Could you clarify that? I think there are many people in Western nations who find that hard to understand.
In my personal opinion, and by the way I was born in Thailand, I think that Kimmy is a very fair portrayal of a transsexual woman. Does she represent all transgender people of the world? No. Anyone that has gone to Thailand would agree that among the 300,000 transsexuals living in Bangkok, there are many who are working in the mainstream and are more accepted there than anywhere else in the world. But the majority of Thai transsexuals are sex workers. There are clubs after clubs of Go-Go dancing transgender women. Actually, it’s a very big part of Thailand’s economy, and these girls are loved, accepted and acknowledged by the people, the government, and the media.
What do you have to say to people who accuse you of being a man or a transvestite because you have a penis?
Anyone who accuses me of being a man or transvestite because of my genitals do so out of hatefulness, or in most cases pure ignorance. They’re simply not educated about our community. We are not the norm and people don’t run into TS women on a regular basis. People fear stuff that they don’t relate to or understand, but I find that most people will at least listen. This is the opportunity for you to engage and change someone’s opinion. Maybe they will learn and maybe they won’t just yet, but they never will if the opportunity doesn’t present itself. I know sometimes we feel rage and anger when we feel we are misrepresented or mistreated, but lashing back is never a good way to represent ourselves. I, too, have made this mistake in the past. We really have to take the opportunity to be educators.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
In final thoughts, I had an amazing time hanging with all the boys and the crew. Everyone from the lighting guy to my people for hair, make-up, and wardrobe assistance, to the studio big fish treated me with love and respect. As a matter of fact, though I’m a very proud transsexual woman I didn’t feel like I was one on-set. I was there simply as an actress and they treated me as such. Not for one second did my gender become an issue. Can’t say the same for Crystal the monkey. She had to play the part as a male monkey but did so fiercely.
I feel that this movie has done a great deal for the GLBT community in terms of exposure. The role of Kimmy was never meant to be a role model, or someone that represents the community as a whole. For me it was a means of income as well as an opportunity to shed light on who I am, and more importantly our community and our struggle for equality. With all the hype and talk about my controversial scene, it will lead to open discussion and then even more opportunities to educate.
Photos courtesy of Ms. Lee and F&G Photography.