“I always knew [my twin brother] was gay,” 34-year-old, one-time gay-for-pay adult film performer Ta’Leon Goffney tells Queerty in an exclusive interview, “but to witness him being bottomed right before my very eyes as I had to play along was just too close for comfort.”
In 2004, Goffney, who identifies as straight, and his gay twin brother, Keyontyli, appeared in a gay adult film together. It was a one-time thing that he immediately regretted and that would later come back to haunt him time and time again.
In 2008, Goffney was sentenced to three to eight years in prison for his part in the robbery of a Philadelphia beauty salon. When the production company got wind of his arrest, they sent out a press release alerting the media of his past that included a free link to the video. As a result, Goffney’s life became “a living hell.”
Today, he is a free man. Since being released from prison in June 2014, he has obtained a professional certificate as an HVAC technician and launched a modeling career. He also published a memoir called Infamous and is working on its sequel titled Life After Infamy. And in May of last year, he and his long-time girlfriend welcomed a son into the world.
We had an opportunity to chat with Goffney about his adult film past, surviving prison with his reputation and how fatherhood has helped him cope with the traumas he has suffered.
Check out what he had to say…
QUEERTY: You’ve come a long way in just a few years, going from adult films and prison to obtaining a professional certificate and becoming a father. How has your outlook on the world shifted?
GOFFNEY: My son being born gave me automatic clarity on what had to be done. Either I step things up for him or he will suffer the same fate as I did. And for me that is unacceptable. When you spend a total of 11 years of your life incarcerated you tend to value time more than the average person. Freedom becomes the most precious commodity because it offers possibilities, and to do without it so long makes you maximize every day.
For people who may not be familiar with your story, you’re straight, but in 2004 you flew to Vegas to shoot a gay-for-pay film alongside your gay twin brother. Looking back, how did that experience change you?
In retrospect, that experience damaged our brotherhood. I always knew he was gay and sexually active, but to witness him being bottomed right before my very eyes as I had to play along was just too close for comfort. Although we never did anything sexual to one another it still ruined the family line between us because it obliterated any possible boundaries that he and I could ever have again. It’s been 12 years since it happened and it’s still vivid in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I regret it to the fullest. Because that played a part in me losing the one person who was closest to me.
What was it like performing alongside him?
Performing with him gave us both the twisted motivation to actually get through a scene of twin brothers. The producers really pressured us during the shoot, which made the process all the more difficult. We both felt like prostitutes because we were being filmed doing sex acts for money. And we are twins, so telepathically we both felt the degradation growing inside of us. It ruined our bond because we really took it too far. There’s just certain lines that siblings should never cross.
You’ve said in the past that you were struggling financially at the time, and that is why you went through with it. Do you feel like, in a way, you were coerced?
To a degree. I was under the impression that it was just an upscale modeling gig, but when I got to Vegas it was a completely different story. But at the end of the day, I decided to go through with it anyway. In retrospect, the producers took advantage of two naive, poverty-stricken kids from Camden, New Jersey. And when I was arrested in 2008, they sent out a press release with a free link to the video so the views are now in the millions. They capitalized off my misfortune in the fullest way.
Did the film ever come up when you were in prison?
Because that free link was released, it was impossible for anyone not to know who I was in 2008. Nancy Grace, Details Magazine, Perez Hilton, Bossip, Philladelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Saturday Night Live Weekend Update, and countless other media outlets had exactly what they needed to make my 75-month prison sentence a living hell. I was ostracized, attacked and harassed by inmates and prison guards all the way up until my release date.
How did you protect yourself?
I spent a third of my sentence in solitary confinement due to the notoriety of my case. I was all over the television. When I was finally allowed to serve the remainder of my time in General Population the other inmates avoided me at all costs. Even though I identify as a heterosexual male, I was ridiculed for being a “gay porn star.” I ate by myself, watched television by myself. They would even vacate the shower room when they saw me coming. They treated me like I had a terminal illness that was highly contagious.
Did that sort of treatment change your perspective on the daily struggles of LGBTQ people?
That treatment heightened my empathy for the LGBTQ community. It made me realize that society gives them hell for something they have no control over. You have no control over who you love. They made me feel less than human when I was in prison. I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on my worst enemy. That experience changed my entire perspective.
What is your relationship with your brother like today?
As to date, we haven’t physically spoken in almost two years. Some other events took place to culminate the divide between us, but the gay film era definitely was the snowflake that caused the avalanche in our lives.
And what about your son? Do you ever worry about the day he finds out about your past?
Every day. Because there’s a lot of petty people in my family, so I’m sure he’s going to find out one way or another. And besides I published a book about it all and the Google search on me is ridiculous. So I couldn’t hide it from him if I wanted to. I’m just going to keep it one thousand percent honest with him and tell him why I did it, and then let him know that it gave me the strength to be a true father to him. My dad never saved me, but I’m going to save him. And he will undeniably see the difference my presence in his life presents versus me not having my father in mine.
What if your father had been around?
Honestly, I used to think about that everyday. I always imagined life would’ve been greater if he was around to protect me from the pitfalls of life. I had to learn the hard way through trial and error of what it meant to be a man. I would’ve never saw the porn industry or spend a total of 11 years of my life in prison if he was around to give me the proper guidance. But now that I’m a father myself, I’m fully aware of the peril that awaits my son if I don’t remain a constant presence in his life. I don’t think about my father anymore.
If you could go back and tell the old Ta’Leon one thing, what would it be?
First, I would tell him that his self-respect is priceless and to never let go of it. Then I would remind him of what Grandmom tried to tell him when he was a child. Grandmom took me to the park in Magnolia, New Jersey and she looked me dead in the eye and said, “When you get older you are going to learn that a lot of people aren’t worthy of your company.” And I would warn him that if he doesn’t take heed to her advice he’s about to find out the hard way of exactly what she meant.
After everything, do you ever think you’ll ever be able to find closure?
I’ve done things that I can’t take back or erase from my memory, but my son helps me to live with it. He’s making me a better man by the day. Because my twin brother and I never had a father. And I may never know why he abandoned us. But at least, through my son, I know why he should’ve stayed. He is my closure.