SEXING THE TRANSMAN, The Buck Angel Interview
Buck Angel is a 42-year old brawny muscular redheaded good-looking bearded hunk. With his heavily tattooed body, his twinkling eyes and his infectious smile, he is in fact one very hot man. But this wasn’t always the case, as in our label-fixated society Buck is actually a transsexual who is very much a man but one with a significant difference than most. He is, as he loves to describe himself so succinctly, ‘a man with a pussy’.
When Dan Knight’s compelling documentary ‘MR. ANGEL’ was released last December, we were happy to give this remarkable movie a five star review. It details Buck’s tough journey from biological female to porn star extraordinaire before ‘transitioning’ yet again into a gifted motivational speaker, educator, advocate and visionary filmmaker. What shines through the screen is the obvious fact that the man is disarmingly charming, totally fearless and with such a strong sense of purpose, and that he can beautifully articulate on many of the ‘gender-bender’ questions that perplex us. We therefore jumped at the opportunity to sit down and talk to the man in person when he took a brief stop on his world travels, and we found that he was very happy to bear all for THEGAYUK.
At 16-years-old you were a very pretty young woman who was incarcerated for your suicidal attempts/tendencies, then somehow you came through this dark period to end up being a top model.
Well, my luck changed when a talent scout ‘spotted me’ in the street, and I had some photos taken which they took to an agency who offered me work straightaway. And I was like ‘whatever, I’ll try it!’ It was the 80s and the whole androgyny look was getting very big and I fitted right into that. I was very popular and they even flew me to Europe to work. However I was doing this whole feminine thing, which wasn’t in anyway part of whom I was, and although they didn’t make me wear much make up, they dressed me in women’s clothes, which I hated. I could have been much more successful, but I was so very unhappy. The only saving grace was that there were a lot of drugs and drinking involved and I was up for that, and so I just went along with the whole thing for a while.
When did you first realise that the issues you were having were because you were a man trapped in a woman’s body?
A difficult question to answer as ever since I was a kid I always felt like a boy, and my parents treated me as a tomboy. I guess it was when I was in my mid-teens and with the onset of puberty I started getting breasts when as before I was flat and boyish. Then all the other ‘girl things’ started to happen and I thought ‘Oh Sh*t! What is going on. I’m not really a boy!’ That’s when I went ‘wow’ and everything started to become different for me. People started to treat me like a girl and not a boy.
What strikes me about seeing you as a young girl in your film ‘Mr. Angel’ is how pretty you were, which seems to make it harder for others to appreciate why you wanted to change your gender…
You know people say that to me all the time, ‘you were such a beautiful girl, why did you become a man?’ To me it’s not even about the outside; it’s about the insides and how you feel. Pretty is anyway a relative term. It didn’t matter to me how ‘pretty’ people perceived me to be as I couldn’t relate to it because my insides were telling me I was a man. If they had said ‘how handsome’, and ‘what a good-looking man’ as some people do now, I would have been very happy.
How can you be a man without a penis?
Being a man has nothing to do with your penis. It’s just that simple. What if your penis was cut off, or if you lost your penis in some horrible accident say? You would still be very much a man. To me the man thing is all in your head. It’s about how you feel, and your genitals are really not part of the equation. We are all sucked into believing that they are, and that’s why my view is considered so controversial as it is against everything we have ever been taught. People say to me now, you are a man BUT I don’t understand it!
I identify myself as a man and not as a transgender person. I went from being a woman to a man and that’s what I achieved and that’s why I am a transsexual person. People who are transgender are more fluid with their gender and don’t particularly identify with being either a male or female.
How did you make your second ‘transition’ then into a porn star?
I worked in the porn business behind the camera and then the idea just came to me in one of those light bulb flash moments when I was working with a transsexual woman, who still had her penis and was making a lot of money. I thought to myself that there is no man in porn like me, and I felt the need to represent myself in an industry that wasn’t representing me positively.
You were the first transsexual porn star to have sex with straight men, gay men and women too, and always playing the role of a man. Did you deliberately strive to be unique, and was that to satisfy a drive/ambition, or even a need to fulfil your sexual desires?
That’s a really great question and I would say yes to all of them. Mostly to show that difference is everywhere, and that to be a man means so much more than just your genitals. I needed to do that.
When did you start being the strong confident man that you are now?
When I decided that my vagina was not a bad thing. It was part of my body and powerful, because I am such a huge advocate for sex and sexuality. The thing that made me whole as a person was reclaiming my vagina and reclaiming my sexuality.
You went out of your way to be unique?
I didn’t have too, I was just that. I came up with the tag line ‘the man with the pussy’ specifically to go out of my way and shock, but also to make people understand that’s who I am. I am never going to be a man with a cock, that’s just the way it’s going to be. So if you think it’s shocking that’s OK, and if you think it it’s hot, that is also a good thing
I get the impression that whatever you set your hand to – you want to be the best?
Yes, I do have that problem (laughs)
How important was it to you to deliberately set out to provoke people into questioning gender identities and labels that society insists that we carry?
It was important to me in the porn business, but it wasn’t important to me in the outside world. I am going to be honest with you, I did not start out to do my porn work to be an advocate in any way. I did it solely because that was the industry I chose to be in, and frankly I wanted to make a million dollars by shocking people. Then I realised when people started writing to me saying, ‘OMG I’m a gay man and I feel attracted to you’. Or, ‘I’m not into your porn but what you are doing is mind-blowing’. Then a few people wrote, ‘you are changing the world’ and I said, ‘no I’m not’ and fought against it for a while, and kept repeating to myself ‘no I’m not, no I’m not!’ And then one day I just thought, ‘holy crap, I think I am!’ And then I realised that what I was doing was far bigger than just mere pornography.
Let’s talk about acceptance for a moment. The European porn industry seems to embrace you far more than in the US. Gay men and straight women love you, but the trans community doesn’t seemed to have warmed to you at all. Is that a fair assessment?
The US is still so closed minded around sex. Especially anything unique and out of the box. I’m pushing the envelope even though porn is not really the specific thing I do anymore. As my name is very firmly attached to sex and sexuality, I will never get to go on Oprah, or Katie Couric’s TV show because I am still this guy who is ‘the man with the pussy’ and who talks about my vagina. I do think as a transsexual person it is important to talk about my vagina. It’s not a view shared by everyone e.g. Laverne Cox doesn’t talk about it, nor does Janet Mock, and I think that is totally cool. For me however it’s very empowering and I don’t want to de-sexualise myself as a transsexual person because I believe that sexuality is powerful.
The trans community are for the main part becoming fans of my work, however there is still a small section of them who are extremely prudish. It also has to do with jealousy, and the basic reason they simply do not want people to be successful. The fact that I am out there being very loud about who I am makes others who prefer to hide away feel somewhat threatened by me.
How do you deal with this?
I just don’t in any way engage, because their negativity is so small compared to the positivity of the rest of the world.
And what about your parents?
I am very blessed with my parents. They accepted me completely as a man and as a porn star, but oddly enough the one thing they couldn’t get their head around was earlier on in my life, when I came out as a gay woman. That was too much for them. Go figure! (laughs)
On a personal level, you have been legally married twice to very strong women, one of whom was a dominatrix. Does that mean you identify as ‘straight’ or are you more fluid than that?
(Laughs) No, I am a bisexual person. Most definitely I have an emotional attachment to women, more than I do to men. However I think that I have a more sexual attraction to men in a way that I don’t have for women, partly because the sex is different with men then it is with women.
I know! (laughs) You’ve been quoted previously as saying that you like your men to be very masculine and rough and your women to be very soft and feminine. However watching you and Elayne your 2nd wife at close quarters in your movie, she appears anything but that.
I didn’t mean to be offensive…(laughs)
(Still laughing) You’re not rude, and you are perfectly right. But Elayne and I did more in the fetish world and BDSM, so our relationship was that I was her Master and she was my Slave. And then after some years that all dwindled and we lost our way with each other. It’s all-good and I am fine now.
Can you give me one of the highlights of your porn career?
OMG, there are so many! (roars) I was in a Titan Media Movie and they are an extremely macho studio and had never worked with a man like me, and I did a three-way with these two very hot men. We were in the middle of this very steamy scene when one of them who was eating me out looks up between my legs and says, ‘Wow Buck, they did an amazing job. IT looks so real!’ And I said, ‘It is REAL!” Even though they had been told all about me, when push came to shove and we were hard at it they just couldn’t get their head around it at all. (laughs). Trust me it’s a HUGE compliment when someone is down on you and they still cannot grasp the fact that I was born a woman.
(n.b. the movie is Cirque Noir)
And the highlight of your porn career?
Without a doubt winning the AVN Award (Adult Video News Awards) in 2007 as the first ever-transsexual performer in the history of the pornography world.
That night is in your movie and you bawled your eyes out when you won.
(Laughs) I’m a very emotional guy. The community who had ignored me for years, and had labeled me as a freak finally acknowledged me. The reason that I started to produce my own porn was because everybody else wanted to make me part of some sort of freakfest. I wanted to make porn that people could enjoy. I might be a fetish but I am NOT a freak.
So how did you then transform yourself from the infamous man with a pussy to being a successful motivational speaker and educator?
I just decided one day that people outside of the porn business were not taking me seriously at all, and that I had something important to say on many aspects of life and not just about sexuality and transgender but as a human being too. Nobody would let me go into their schools and speak because I was a porn star. So I decided to reinvent myself and established a sparkling new website and re-branded myself as a motivational speaker. I then contacted these people again and reintroduced myself and I just kept pestering them until they relented and I slowly started getting booked. Now that gender and women’s studies are both big issues in schools, you will be surprised how many classes are taught where I am actually the subject of discussion. Instructors are using me to talk about gender and sexuality.
So do you really think the world’s attitude on all this is changing?
100% it’s changing rapidly and yet still so many people in the trans community remain angry, as they still don’t think it is fast enough. People are talking about it as a normal thing regularly on television, it’s covered often in the print media, trans politicians are getting elected to public office, children are able to take hormone blockers etc , etc. In my opinion transgender has moved faster than any other movement that I have seen. It’s a huge topic right now. My own movie is one of the most downloaded movies on Netflix these days.
Tell me about your new movie ‘Sexing The Transman’ (that we have reviewed in this issue).
I had this idea to make a documentary as no one was talking about trans men and sexuality except in porn. I wanted to reach a much bigger audience, although the movie does have sex in it. I threw it out there and everyone pounced on it enthusiastically and it is playing in many Film Festivals. I’m hoping for a distribution deal but that maybe tough because of the sex scenes.
Do you feel that you are making a difference? And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
Every day I wake up, and say in complete amazement to myself ‘Wow this is my life!’ I’m supposed to be dead. I’m not supposed to even be here. I tried to kill myself three times. Every single day I look in the mirror at my body and say did I really physically achieve this? I’m so grateful to be this man, and be this person that people perceive me to be. No one ever questions me. I am a guy. Even when I am naked in the locker room in some gym men don’t even say a word to me. Unless they are trying to hook up with me (laughs)…
And you have your own dating website too?
It’s buckangeldating.com and I started it because many trans people don’t think that they can ever find partners. So I created this website for people who feel intimidated to go out to bars, and this way they do not have to ‘out’ themselves, and in a safe and secure environment they can successfully find someone to share their lives with.
Sitting here and sharing this time with you and seeing you as this confident and hugely successful man so comfortable in your own skin, it’s hard to imagine the dark and difficult past that you overcame in the early days. What would you would say now to frightened kids trapped in the wrong bodies today?
Our journeys are all different but nowadays there is always help for you: there are centres, there is the Internet, and there are Psychologists. Find a support group in your local community or in your school, talk to a counsellor, talk to your parents and if they seemed removed from it, ask them if you can go see a therapist or a psychologist. Go search transgender resources on the web: it’s all out there for you and there is no reason that you have to suffer.
You’ve enlightened me on a great many things today, and asides from all the serious issues you have given me answers for, we have to ask just one more…
How do you go to the bathroom?
The bathroom question always cracks me up. Can you imagine if I went to the women’s room I would get arrested. So how do I go to the bathroom? I usually use the stall as I’m lazy and just want to sit down, but I can stand up and pee!
Sometimes I just stand at the urinal and pull my pants all the way down like a four-year-old boy. I like that best.
WORDS: Roger Walker-Dack