by Logan Lynn.
(Note: Contains graphic sexual language and content intended for a mature audience. Read at your own discretion. A condensed version of this article was originally published by The Huffington Post on 6/3/2013. Read that piece HERE or read the full version on QBlog below.)
I met a fascinating man named Buck Angel recently at a screening of “Mr. Angel“, a new documentary about his life, his gender transition, his successful career, and the powerful journey of love, acceptance, and forgiveness his family has been on together since he first landed on this planet.
Buck is probably best known for his work as a veteran powerhouse / powerbottom in the adult film world, rising to fame over the past decade as “The Man With A Pussy“. Interestingly enough, Buck’s fans are mostly made up of gay men and his adult film co-stars are beefy gay daddies just like him. Buck Angel (and his vagina) are full-blown gay porn stars, friends.
Is your mind blown? Well, good. That’s the point. Buck has been amassing a new fanbase in recent years (with his clothes on) blowing minds across the land as a motivational speaker on the subjects of sexuality and gender expression. Mr. Angel is on a grand, pornographic mission to change the way the world thinks about what it means to be a man. He is determined to challenge norms and push us all out of our comfort zone into a new world where we are not defined by our genitals.
Watch the official trailer for “Mr. Angel”, then read our chat below.
Logan Lynn: Hello, Sir. It was so fun having brunch with you while you were in Portland! You live in Mexico these days and I know you came down with a pretty gnarly cold after being on the road so much. Are you feeling better now?
Buck Angel: Oh yeah. I’m back in Mexico and I feel a lot better. It’s been about a week since I got sick and I still have a scratchy throat but am otherwise fine.
Lynn: Nice. You have a sexy rasp for our interview!
Lynn: So, you’ve been in adult films for many years and have also been a trans activist during that time. You have been quoted as saying that the two are one and the same. Could you speak to how porn, and specifically your porn, is activism?
Angel: Sure. The truth is, when I started to do my pornography work I really wasn’t thinking of it as activism. I wasn’t even in that headspace. I was just wanting to bring something really positive and new to the porn industry. While that is activism, I just wasn’t progressive enough to understand that I was doing that. My activism work didn’t come until about three or four years into it. Then I started to see how I was changing people’s attitudes toward gender and sexuality.
Once I started to have people writing me saying “I’m not really into your porn stuff, but what you’re doing is so amazing and you are really changing the way I feel about what it means to be a man or a woman” I sort of stepped back and realized “Gosh, I’m doing something that’s bigger than porn.” I was reluctant, but I took it on. I was not prepared to be an activist. I didn’t understand what that meant, and I wasn’t embracing that at the time. I would say “This isn’t a political statement. I’m just making porn.” But it evolved into activism.
Lynn: You say you were reluctant to take on this activist role, yet you took it on anyway. Do you think this came about because of other people projecting it onto you?
Angel: Yes, and because those people were projecting it onto me I woke up. I tend to be that way. I know that I don’t know everything. I’m very much into looking at things in all different kinds of ways. You do that by having an open mind, so when those letters started coming in I was like “Wow, my porn is powerful.”
Lynn: So you were open to the projection…
Angel: Totally. I never thought my porn was powerful in the beginning. When I first came up with this idea ten years ago I came to my wife and said “You know, Elayne, I have this idea to create this porn called “The Man With A Pussy” and she was like “Oh my God, Buck. You have to do it. You’re gonna change the world.” and I said “Elayne, I’m just making porn.” She totally got it though and thought it was amazing.
Lynn: Since you mention Elayne, who is also featured in the “Mr. Angel” documentary, I have to say I was struck by how she so quickly jumps in as educator for the world around you and your story wherever she is. What’s your favorite thing about Elayne Angel?
Angel: That’s a hard question because there are so many things. I think my number one favorite thing is that she has always been so open to me as a person. It wasn’t about me being a transsexual man or me being into fitness, it was just about me. I know it sounds all wingnut and crazy, but we are totally soul mates. She is so open-minded about everything.
Lynn: In the film you speak about growing up in a household where your family didn’t say “I love you”. Is that something that’s important to you now as an adult? I guess the flipside of that question is, do those words come easily now with the people that you love?
Angel: You know, I didn’t know that I needed that because when you don’t grow up with something you just don’t know it. When my dad hit me across the head, I felt like “Wow. My dad loves me” in a way. It felt affectionate to me at the time, which is really sick. It wasn’t until I got with Elayne that I started to understand the words “I love you”. We say those words every night before we go to sleep and have every night for ten years. They are very important words to me, and it is a very important feeling. Love is powerful. When you have love in your life it changes so much about everything. Love can empower you and change the way you live your whole life.
Lynn: Truth! Was that an adjustment to come into an affectionate, loving situation with Elayne?
Lynn: How was that to hear those words “I Love You” at first?
Angel: It was difficult, but because we meshed so well from the very beginning I eased into it pretty quickly. I was a little standoffish at first but I just sort of became that and the love between us is so strong it’s just a natural thing now.
Lynn: I like that story. Awwww…Love. So it seems like in many ways you’ve been embraced by folks in other countries more than in the states. How has the experience of being yourself been in the States versus elsewhere?
Angel: I’ll be honest, it’s tough sometimes for me to deal with the trans community in the U.S. because the trans community in the United States is so harsh. Look, I understand why. There’s a lot of stuff going on there for a lot of people, and people get a lot of hate, and then they project that back out. I am so out there and in the media, and have become a sort-of spokesperson, which I hate to call myself because I’m not, but a lot of people think I am…
Lynn: Involuntary Spokesperson Syndrome.
Angel: Exactly. So, I have to deal with the community and their…I hate using the word “hate”, but their animosity. They just have this thing for me where they are constantly pushing against me. Everything I say they are watching me and they take things out of context a lot of times. That has been very difficult for me because my intention has only ever been good, to further empower all of us. Not just LGBTQIAA. It’s for all of us as human beings.
My message is really about being human beings who are loving and understanding. It’s about knowing who you are. In other countries, they are just not like that to me. They have never been mean to me. They have always embraced me and my work. Maybe the trans community is more positive to me in Europe because Europe is more positive to the trans community than the United States is. They definitely don’t have as much negative feeling toward me that a lot of people do in the States.
Lynn: It seems like you’ve been embraced by gay men in the U.S., at least in the “Hot Porn Daddy Buck Angel” kind of way.
Angel: Yeah, the gay community really has always embraced me. They love everything that I do. Gay guys are the ones who buy my porn. Also, the straight community and feminist women’s communities, they have all embraced me. It seems to be that the trans men and trans women communities tend to be really hard on me. They also tend to be really hard on Chaz Bono and Lucas Silveira, who are also both out there in the media.
They don’t seem to understand that we don’t represent them. We represent ourselves. I never have said that I represent anybody but myself and my own message, which is to try and make the world a better place. I am not in any way a representation of any community. I think that’s what happens though when you become a voice, though. It doesn’t make sense to me, because you’d think the community would want you to be more powerful.
Lynn: Well, yes. You would think so. That’s not always the case.
Angel: I know you know exactly what I’m talking about, Logan, and it’s sad to me, so sometimes I have to separate myself from that. I just try not to take it personally. Everybody has their own stuff going on and it projects out in a lot of different ways.
Lynn: That can be really hard though, when your motives are so pure. To be really trying to do something for the greater good and then have people tear you apart for trying…that shit’s painful.
Angel: They don’t want to get it, man. They have taken stuff that I’ve said in an interview, obviously out of context, and have chewed me a new asshole for days. I saw the wildfire break out, you know how the internet can do that, like BANG! It’s really intense how they are not even seeing what they’re doing. The trans community is chewing its own feet off, eating themselves up instead of going after the people who really hate us.
Lynn: Well, that’s a novel concept.
Angel: It doesn’t make sense, but it’s part of what comes with deciding to be an activist or an advocate. It comes with the job I guess.
Lynn: I know you have been clean for many years. Am I wrong to think that the adult industry would have its fair share of chances to fuck everything up with cocaine and alcohol? How is the experience of being a sober porn star for you?
Angel: Well, people have a misconception of the adult industry that it’s all party time or drugs. The people that I work with are very professional. You’re performing, and you can’t be wasted when you’re performing. I shoot all my own stuff. I have my own company and drugs are not allowed on my set. I’ve never had to say that, though. Nobody’s ever showed up asking “Do you mind if I snort a line of coke before?” or “Hey dude, do you mind if we shoot some heroin?” It’s never happened because I project this professionalism in a way that people would not dare say that.
That said, it does happen. Of course it does. It completely happens, but not on my watch. There are lots of big parties in the sex industry and of course there’s drugs there. For myself, I never have an issue with it. I’ve seen people do coke right in front of me. That was my drug of choice, and now because I’ve been sober for so long and my life is so amazing, I just don’t even think about it. It doesn’t bother me now. What bothers me more than someone snorting a line of coke is someone getting really drunk. I find that really offensive and gross. At least when you’re on coke you can talk and have a conversation, right?
Lynn: Right. I mean, I actually think both drugs and alcohol are totally hideous and make people act gross. I’m sure that has a lot to do with my not enjoying the experience of interacting with glimpses of my former self, though…but still. No thank you. Enough about me, though. At what point did your life mission switch from wanting to change the adult film business to wanting to change the world? Was there a catalyst?
Angel: It was over time. I started to get a little more noticed by “mainstream” media, and I am using air quotes when I say that, but I would get a television show here and there in Europe and then I started getting asked to be on talk shows in the states, but I wasn’t getting asked to be on talk shows like Oprah or some of the bigger ones, and that was because of my porn work. I knew I had to figure out a way for my message to be on Oprah or reach a bigger audience, so that’s when I needed to move myself from ‘the man with a pussy’ porn star into an inspirational speaker. I was asked to speak at an event called IdeaCity in Canada, which is like Ted Talks but in Canada. I spoke at that and I became the biggest speaker of that venue, which blew everybody away. They had these major scientists and astronauts and I was the most popular speaker!
Lynn: That’s so awesome.
Angel: The guy who runs IdeaCity said I was gifted and asked if I had ever considered public speaking and I was like “Me? Are you kidding?” and he said “Trust me.” so I looked into it, and as I started getting asked to speak at schools and events I decided that maybe I should try it. Straight people were coming to me crying after I talked saying that it was the most profound thing they had ever heard. I think the change came because I felt it.
Lynn: So if I were to go to one of these events where you are speaking, what would that ride be like?
Angel: Well, I don’t have a set thing that I talk about, a lot of times I just feel the crowd. I’m a storyteller. I share certain pieces of my life and how that’s gotten me to where I am today. Last year I was on a television show in Ireland where my grandparents are from, and I called my parents who had seen it on TV and my dad said “You know, from this little shy girl who used to hate everybody and hate the world to someone who’s a public speaker around the world is just shocking.” and it is shocking even for me that I can go and stand in front of a group of people and talk to them about my life.
Lynn: You mention your father, and in “Mr. Angel” there is one part where it seemed to me like he feels remorse for how he treated you while you were growing up. I’m wondering how your relationship is with him these days?
Angel: That moment in the film was a breakthrough point for our relationship. When we were filming it, I was in the other room, and I heard my dad break down. You have to understand, I had never heard my dad cry in my whole life, and when I heard it my stomach dropped. I remember running into the other room, looking at the cameraman and making the cut sign to stop filming. I asked my dad if he wanted them to stop shooting and he said “yes”. I said “Dad, you know what you’re doing right now is huge. I know it’s really difficult for you but you are going to help other families not have to go through what we went through.” and after that day everything changed like magic. We bonded in some weird way. I’m his son now. He says that I’m his son now. I don’t see him having a hard time with it. My dad will Skype me out of nowhere nowjust to say hi. He has never done that in my whole life! It’s evolved into an amazing father/son relationship now and it’s fucking awesome.
Lynn: Speaking of the world changing…
Angel: Totally. That’s what I’m hoping for. I want other parents to see “Mr. Angel”. It’s an important film to have in our queer film festivals, but like one person said at a Q&A, we need to get it into the straight film festivals. They are scared of it and won’t touch it for some reason. I don’t know if it’s the porn stuff or the gay stuff, but they seem to be so disconnected from it. It has such a powerful message that has nothing to do with anything but family, and bonding with your family.
Lynn: That’s part of the work you’re doing now though, right? You are on the difficult journey of actively trying to get people to experience you and your story in a new way. In my experience, this type of total rebranding takes time, but I would love to see the film on HBO or somewhere where its reach goes past the queer choir.
Angel: They won’t do it. We’ve approached HBO like three or four times. I have seen way more hardcore stuff on HBO, so I don’t know what it is about the story that people are not feeling is worthwhile to show on television. Anyway, I am used to it. Are you kidding me? I’m a fighter. You know that.
Lynn: Yeah, but it sucks to have to always be fighting for your dreams. I think part of what you’re doing that may be difficult for some people to pick up, is your story is really universal, and you yourself are a figure that people can really relate to. That makes people have to examine who they are, which can make some people shut down and get all transphobic or homophobic or whatever they get. I honestly think in that moment where you have pushed those people to their edge and made them think about these things they might otherwise have never thought about, you are living out your mission. Even if people are saying no to you, you have pushed them down the rabbit hole a little bit just by making them aware of your existence. Change happens over time and every “no” counts.
Lynn: The documentary captures a bit of a health scare you had which led to a hysterectomy as a result of long-term use of testosterone. You say something along the lines of “No one told me this was going to happen if I took testosterone.” I’m wondering what advice you would give to trans-identified youth who are looking to hormone therapy right now?
Angel: The youth are going to their doctors and they are having to rely on them because that’s what we do in America. We rely on our doctors and we almost feel like they are God, but doctors only know so much. A doctor is never fully educated. Things are always changing with the trans community. So right now I want to speak more to the medical field and say we need to do more research on long-term use of testosterone to find out what the effects on reproductive systems are and all kinds of things.
I’m not a doctor so I don’t know everything. All I know is what happened to me after long-term use of testosterone. My doctors were telling me “Oh, don’t worry about it. Nothing’s going to happen.” so it was shocking. Trans youth need to talk to their doctors about it. Like, what does it actually mean when you start to take testosterone for the rest of your life, because you have to shoot it for the rest of your life. You don’t get to not take it anymore. I mean, you can choose not to take it anymore but that’s a whole other story.
Lynn: Do you think the reason you didn’t know back then is that doctors were largely unaware of trans issues or trans people?
Angel: Oh my god, dude. I did it twenty years ago! My hormone doctor had never treated a man like me ever. He had only treated transsexual women. With my surgeon I was a guinea pig. Every single one of the people who worked on me in the medical field had never previously touched a man like me. My hormone doctor basically said that we would just have to figure it out on our own.
Lynn: So there were definitely some warning signals in there…
Angel: Yep. I have always said it doesn’t matter to me. I would still continue to take testosterone even if I were going to die. It is that important to me. I knew the risk I was taking, but that said, five years into it they were still telling me “It’s okay, you don’t have to have a hysterectomy” so they didn’t even know until twenty years later when I dropped out.
Lynn: Well, you’re doing activist work through your body in that sense too I suppose. You’ve really crawled up there on that cross, Buck Angel.
Lynn: While we are on the topic of crucifixion, what do you say to critics who think porn is inherently misogynistic, or to people who accuse you of perpetuating rape culture with some of your films?
Angel: I really believe pornography is educational. Dan Savage is interviewed in “Mr. Angel” and he says that everyone watches porn, everyone loves porn, they use it when they’re horny, but the minute they cum we’re the bad people. It’s something to do with the hatred about sex and our bodies, you know? It’s this weird sort-of love/hate thing that people have, mostly in the United States by the way, and they are just so disconnected with the positivity in sex. We have been taught that sex is only for certain things and you’re not supposed to have pleasure with, that it’s dirty, or that two men aren’t supposed to do it…or two women can’t do it…or they can…but only if there’s a man in the room watching…
Angel: So many rules to make themselves feel better about it, but to me the bottom line is that my work has changed so many people’s way of thinking about sex, about their bodies. People have learned to love themselves through my movies, to learn to celebrate their bodies. I celebrate my body sexually. My porn work does that. So, those people who say that are just disconnected from what sex is really about. Sex is about loving yourself, really, and enjoying yourself.
Lynn: Well, that doesn’t sound dirty at all. If you could change three things about the world with the snap of your finger, what would they be?
Angel: More love in the world, more education in the world, and more nutritious, awesome, organic food in the world.
Lynn: My kind of party!
Angel: All across the board there is no education. It’s crazy.
Lynn: Yeah. I’m guessing those three changes would bring about a chain reaction of change that just might save us all, so…good choices. Thanks so much for chatting me up today. Before we go, can you tell me a little bit about what you have on the horizon by way of projects?
Angel: Well, I got cast in a “mainstream” film, and I’m using air quotes again when I say that word. Long story short, I am going to be in this transsexual love story. I didn’t want to do it, I’m not an actor. I have no desire to be an actor, but he begged me to audition, and after I auditioned he said he really wanted me for the part. I figured it would be good for my speaking, so I took the role and now I’m doing acting classes. It’s so embarrassing. I’m taking acting classes!
Lynn: Awesome. The re-branding is branching out.
Angel: I’m excited about it.
Lynn: Are you still on a festival route with “Mr. Angel”?
Angel: Yes. This week it’s in the Brooklyn Film Festival, then we are at Frameline, Toronto, Inside Out, Philadelphia, the Toyko Film Festival.
Lynn: I’m so glad people are getting to see it. I have one last question before we go. If you could speak about your film “Sexing The Transman” I’d love for people to know a little bit about it, too. They are both such important pieces to telling the story and I think in many ways they work in tandem with one another.
Angel: I released “Sexing The Transman” a little over a year ago. I wanted to make a film that wasn’t pornographic, but talked about sexuality with trans men and how the change, whether with hormones or not, had affected their sexuality. I talked to all kinds of different trans men and partners of trans men. You know, I’m not a professional film maker. I’m a pornographic filmmaker. It’s talking heads and I know that’s a no-no in documentary work, but that’s what I did and every major film festival around the world picked it up. It became a major thing because nothing like that had ever been talked about, ever. It’s actually still screening at film festivals.
Lynn: That means you’ve done something good then, right?
Angel: Yeah, I’m really proud of it. Of course now I’m looking back at it thinking I would do this differently, or I would do that differently, but professional filmmakers have told me “Buck, that rawness is why it’s so good.”
Lynn: Ok, now that sounds dirty. Let’s end this on that note. I think you are one special person, Buck Angel, and I am so happy to know you. Thank you for all the work you do to make the world safer for trans people. I appreciate your spirit and hope this new chapter in your life brings you all good things!
For more on the “Mr. Angel” documentary, visit MrAngelMovie.com.
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