Recently, we had the chance to catch up with Buck Angel – porn star, trans activist, health educator and entrepreneur are just a few hats he wears. He candidly shared with us his background and thoughts on everything from trannies to entrepreneurship to lube. It was great fun and I hope we get to do more projects together in the future.
When did you feel things were different?
I had a great childhood. I guess I was a tomboy, which my parents had no problem with and I was just Buck. Occasionally, there were social events where I was supposed to “dress like a girl” but they were rare, and for the most part my parents just let me be who I was.
Of course, this all changed with the onset of puberty. My body began to change, I developed breasts and this conflicted with the male identity that I had. I felt betrayed. This was not me.
I was devastated, confused and angry. And I became depressed, I attempted suicide, I drank, I did drugs. I acted out in every way imaginable and I became self-destructive.
During this phase, I saw many therapists who simply assumed I was a lesbian. And this is key. Being trans is about gender identity, not sexual orientation. Trans folks can cover the whole spectrum of sexual orientation, but that is not what makes them trans. Think of it this way, a person of color can be straight, gay or bisexual. Their sexual identity does not define the fact they are a person of color, it is a different component of their overall identity.
As a trans person, I identified as a different gender than that of my physical body.
When did things change for you?
This was the 70s, people did not understand what it meant to be transgender and there were no role models. I would tell therapists that I was a man and they assumed I was simply denying being a lesbian. I was attracted to girls at that time, but I felt like a guy that was attracted to women. I did not identify as a woman.
Fortunately, when I was 28 I had a lesbian therapist who believed me. She acknowledged my male identity and said: “I believe you, what do we need to do to make this happen?” (my notes indicate the therapist was Casey Whitman, Founder of the Gender Center – but I can’t find any reference to that name, can you confirm?)
As a result, I had a sex change. We call it now transitioning. I didn’t transition until my late twenties. Despite the sex change, I never felt the need to conform to society’s definition of a man, and thus I didn’t feel the need for a penis.
Tell us about Buck Angel
It’s simple, I came out as a man with a vagina. 17 year ago, I created Buck Angel – a man challenging gender. A man has to conform to certain ideals, ie have a penis. That was not my personal barometer of masculinity. With or without a dick, I am and have always been male.
In part of my challenging social norms and just my general non-conforming nature, I started exploring and expanding my sexuality. I had been only interested in women prior to the transition but afterward began exploring sex with men as a man. While many people explore their sexuality or identify as bisexual, I did it on film.
Doing porn was another form of activism for me. I was not doing any old porn, but porn as a man with a vagina. I was challenging gender norms, sexual identities, gender roles, etc. Some people (gay men mostly) loved it. And many folks hated it. I scared them, I didn’t fit into traditional norms. I was threatened, I received death threats, but through it all, I was simply being true to myself in a very public way.
I often get asked if I regret doing porn. I don’t. It made me who I am today. It created a brand, it opened doors that many people preferred remained shut and it opened up a dialogue and being transgender, gender identity versus sexual identity way before it was socially acceptable.
It further challenged people’ notions about porn. While many of us are happy to watch it, there is still a level of shame associated with porn. We still look down on the porn industry. Sure like any industry, there are bad players, but porn serves a purpose. It can be educational. We have to stop shaming performers.
The Internet is an amazing thing. If can think it, it there is probably someone out there doing it and sharing it online. It further let’s folks know they are not alone.
There are people like me and like you.
While I am still involved in the industry, these days I tend to be more behind the scenes. I produce an educational series called “Sexing the Trans Man” – this lead to workshops and further speaking opportunities.
Speaking of activism – what do you think of the term “Tranny”?
I know I am going to get shit for this, but I love it. Of course, I use it as a trans person loving with my trans friends. I think it is important we reclaim derogatory terms and make them our own. There are gate keepers who look down on this a not being politically correct, but I disagree. It is empowering to take back control. To challenge and confront societal norms. Yes, it is offensive if a non-trans person uses it as an insult. And just because we use it don’t give you the right to use it.
When using the word Tranny it is all about intent and context just as using the word queer can be offensive if used derogatory and if you can reclaim queer you can reclaim tranny.
What do you think of Caitlyn?
I love her. But I love her for being Caitlyn. She a reality star. She has her own views. She’s allowed to have a voice. Her voice reaches a group that I could never reach, which is important. As more and more people get to know trans people, they realize we are all just struggling, loving, growing and living day to day like anyone else.
We all have a voice, we all have a message. She doesn’t represent the trans community, she represents her own views.
What do you think of passing?
It used to be passing was our ultimate goal. I aspired to Tom of Finland, GI Joe. But I soon came to realize, it about being authentic, being true to who you are. If you are looking outside and comparing yourself to others, you will never be happy.
As an entrepreneur, what are your thoughts on the trans community?
Unfortunately, the trans community struggles with career opportunities. Maybe we don’t fit in. Maybe, middle American isn’t ready to deal with us. But, we are not victims. If we don’t fit it, find another way. Start a business, take a job at McDonald’s, whatever it takes to improve your situation.
And if you are successful, help those behind you. Hire from the community, be a mentor, give back in honor of those who helped pave the way for your success.
I am proud of my accomplishments. I developed a successful brand, I have been a motivational speaker, an educator to queer youth, and I developed the first trans sex toy.
Furthermore, I developed a lube specifically to meet the needs of trans men that emulate one’s own natural lubrication. This lube is the conduit to educating the medical community to needs of trans men and opening a dialogue about trans health issues. The lube is called Buck Angel’s T-Lube by Sliquid.
And most recently, I have launched a Cannabis Company – Pride Cannabis. Pride Cannabis was founded by two trans men, Buck Angel and Leon Mostovoy. The company was created to promote natural alternatives to prescribed narcotics, as well as supporting general community health and well-being. Both founders, like many of us in the community, have struggled with anxiety, depression, addiction, and insomnia. With these issues in mind, we have developed a line of products to share with our community.