At first I thought it was a hoax. When the email hit my inbox, my initial thought wasn’t “Wow! This will make a great story!” It was, “Holy Shit! Is this the real Ta’Leon Goffney?” If you follow the gay porn blogosphere, that name probably rings vaguely familiar. Goffney emerged as a semi-star in 2004 when he and his identical twin brother Keyontyli began appearing in a series of films under the names Teyon and Keyon. The pair had booked a smattering of legit modelling jobs but were struggling financially when they agreed to some nude photos for Blackmen.net.
When the shoot turned out to be a jerk-off video, Ta’Leon was reticent but his brother (who identifies as gay) pressed him, using the timeworn excuse that’s launched many a porn career; I need the money and nobody’s going to see it. The slope from nude snaps to full-on fuck flicks was, apparently, short and slippery. And though they only made a handful of films, occupying the intersection of twincest and homo thug in the Venn diagram of gay porn, they quickly amassed a substantial following.
Keyontyli hoped to ease back into the world of sans-semen modelling, successfully scoring a Nike ad, as well as background work on a handful of TV shows. But in 2008 when he failed to turn up for a gig with Barclays and Ralph Lauren, things began to unravel. He had indeed been in front of a camera that February morning. But it wasn’t to show off some designer duds. He was getting his mug shot taken. The pair had been arrested the night before, caught in middle of a rooftop burglary at a South Philly beauty shop. Nabbing the brothers in action was a coup for police. They were suspected in dozens of similar robberies across three states.
Though Ta’Leon had experience in the system (having previously served time for robbery) Keyontyli quickly caved, turning on his brother in exchange for a plea deal. This time, Ta’Leon was sentenced to eight years. Predictably, both the gay and straight media pounced on the story. Twin brothers who go from a life in porn to a life of crime has the kind of hook that could just as easily be an A&E documentary as a John Waters movie.
So when the aforementioned email from Ta’Leon arrived about an autobiography he’d just inked, I was skeptical.
But it turned out to be the real deal. Free after serving six years of his sentence, Goffney is trying to move forward and put the pieces of his life back together, starting with reclaiming his narrative from the media. Penned mostly during his time inside, the book tells his life story starting with he and his brother being born to 15-year-old single mother in Camden, New Jersey — a town of about 77,000 that consistently ranks as one of the poorest and most violent in the country.
“I wanted to set the record straight and clear some things up about my family,” he says. “We’re not bad people. We just never truly had any help. We’re from one of the poorest cities in the country and when you grow up drowning in poverty, you’ll do almost anything to escape it, even if it’s the most unethical and immoral thing imaginable. I wanted to let that be known and understood.”
Though he identifies as straight, Goffney credits the gay community as a huge part of the reason he was able to survive his sentence. Due to the notoriety of his case, he did much of his time in solitary — a means of protecting him from other inmates. Betrayed by his brother, cut off from much of his family, and ostracized within the prison population, his support came largely in the form of letters from fans of his porn films.
“Mail started pouring in,” he says. “I realized that even though I felt completely alone, the gay community was actually rooting for me. They sent money, cards of support, magazines and books. It put new life in me to be viewed as a figure of change and an advocate. On the days when life got too harsh, I would stay up at night and re-read their letters for the motivation to press on.”
It has the air of a cautionary tale, but Goffney’s book actually serves more as an examination of the problems with the criminal justice system. Reading it, it becomes clear how easy it is to fall into criminal activity when you come from a world of poverty with next to no hope for a positive future. And even when it’s the result of a momentary lapse in judgment, once you end up in the system you’re boxed in for life.
“When you make a public mistake, the world turns its back on you,” he says. “How do people expect the demographic of ex-cons to survive without support? No one will hire us or even take the time to hear us out. So most of us aren’t left with much of a choice and we resort back to what we know best. That’s reason why the recidivism rate is so high. Because I’ve been through the system but I also have a public profile beyond that, I feel like I’m in a position to make a massive difference when it comes informing people about these problems, and hopefully making some kind of change.”
Free for nearly a year, Goffney is putting the pieces of his life back together. Along with publishing his book, he’s studying to be an HVAC technician, and doing his best to stay on the right side of the law. In the meantime, his brother’s plea deal got him back on the street much more quickly and he’s gone on with his modelling career. Though they haven’t spoken since Ta’Leon went away, he’s hopeful that will change.
“It’s true he testified against me, but he was just scared,” he says. “He didn’t have any experience in the system and he didn’t really understand what he was doing. I know it broke his heart after the fact when he realized that he couldn’t take it back. It broke my heart too because I loved him so much. Twins are supposed to ride together or die together. I was still inside when I wrote the book, so my anger and resentment is clearly evident throughout. But when we were kids he was my best friend, so I hope someday we can find our way back to that again.”
Find On My Search For A Better Life, This is How I Became Infamous!!! online, wherever you buy books.