On the cover: desperately seeking buck.
Born female in California, Angel wasn't like his two sisters. As a child he enjoyed athletics and roughhousing with boys. The name "Buck" is actually a nickname from his childhood. But with the arrival of his period and secondary sex characteristics, Angel was suddenly treated differently. Now expected to act as a young lady, internal confusion set in, leading him to seek escape through drugs and alcohol. Though uncomfortable in his own skin, his androgynous Brigitte Nielsen good looks led him to a modeling career, eventually taking him to Europe for work. However, modeling did not fill the void or settle the confusion Angel felt inside and he eventually returned to California.
At one point he came out to his parents as lesbian, an experience he recalls as "horrible." "I remember telling my dad, 'It's not that I'm gay. It's that I feel like a man,'" he says. Having always wanted a son, his father recounted Angel's tomboy upbringing and replied, "That's my fault." Then he cried.
Chemical abuse continued to isolate Angel, until one day a friend offered to help him get clean. Shortly after becoming sober, he saw a documentary about transsexuals and came to the conclusion about what he needed to do.
Angel began seeing a doctor who had only worked with male-to-female transsexuals previously. "I remember after the first shot [of testosterone] thinking 'I feel like a different person.' Obviously, that's not possible, but it's psychological," he explains.
After a while on testosterone, Angel decided it was time to tell his parents that he was undergoing a sex change. Hesitant from his negative coming out experience, he was surprised at their reaction to this new transition. "My mom actually said to me, 'We love you and if this is going to make you happy and a better person, we're all for it,'" he recalls. "And I was like, 'Is this my mom?'"
He started going to the gym to build a more masculine physique, and after two years on testosterone, decided on a surgery to remove his breasts. Angel underwent a procedure called "key-hole" where an incision is made under the areola to remove the mammary glands. Post surgery, he wore a binder for three times longer than normal to ensure that his skin tightened effectively. Though Angel had initially wanted to pursue "bottom surgery," he eventually decided against it. "That was a very difficult decision for me because I had wanted to have a penis for forever," he said. "For many years I didn't feel like a whole man until I finally accepted that it was never going to happen."
I'm on my way to meet Buck in Oklahoma City, with a detour in Salina, Kans. On the way down I-70 I stop at the Lion's Den outside Abilene. Though there is some confusion on how Buck's films should be categorized, the staff is helpful, and even print a filmography of all his releases; however, they don't currently have any in stock. Apparently a local collector has bought them all.
At the turn of the century, Angel was working behind the scenes as a cameraman in the adult entertainment industry when he realized a void. In a business where almost every niche and fetish has been documented, Angel noticed that transsexual men were not represented at all. It was then that he embarked on his own career by starting the website www.transsexual-man.com. "It was a website about me," he explains.
After about two years, Angel decided to start making movies. "Initially the whole adult industry was kind of anti-Buck in a way. They were all freaked out by me. So I had to get my friends to be in my first movies," he said. "Looking back it's kind of funny, but it was really difficult to do that."
With titles like Buck Fever and The Adventures of Buck Naked, Angel's early work encompassed a hodge-podge of various scenarios with both men and women. Eventually, it became apparent that his main customer base was gay men, and Angel redirected his efforts to appeal to his biggest market. "Gay men have always been, and still are my customer base," he said.
Although most of Angel's efforts have been self-produced, in 2005 he appeared in the Titan film, Crique Noir and also did a first-of-its-kind scene with male-to-female transsexual porn star, Allanah Starr. 2007's
Buckback Mountain featured hunky cowboys and followed the storyline of the Oscar-winning film, Brokeback Mountain. It earned Angel the AVN award in 2008 for "Transsexual Performer of the Year," an honor that had previously only been bestowed to female transsexuals.
In Salina, I decide to check the only place I can think of that might have a Buck Angel movie, Cirilla's. I ask the girl at the counter if they have any of his movies in stock. She looks confused, so I say, "He's a F to M." "What's that?" she asks.
Apart from his work in the adult industry Angel is also a trans educator. He has done countless interviews with mainstream talk shows and publications in Europe and the United States. In 2006 Angel had an up-close and personal appearance on the Howard Stern show, leaving Stern to recount Angel as his most memorable guest. He has made multiple public service announcement videos with topics ranging from the importance of gynecological exams for transmen to safe body art. He also conducts transsexuality workshops across the country and has spoken at Idea City and several universities, most notably for a Master's Tea at Yale.
Sexing the Transman, a previous title for one of Angel's workshops has become the subject matter for two new films, one a documentary and the other an adult feature. The films are composed of multiple interviews with transmen and the people who love them.
The documentary version includes celebrities such as comedians Margaret Cho, Selena Luna, and Ian Harvey, musician Lucas Slivera (from The Clicks), and Playboy Playmate Rebecca Armstrong. Recently the documentary was picked to screen at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Copenhagen at the end of October.
The adult feature, Sexing the Transman XXX is Angel breaking new ground again. It features interviews with four unique and different transmen describing their transitions and sexual preferences, followed by a masturbation scene. It is the first film to have an all-transman cast. "Most people don't know about guys like me," he explained, "and they are always asking questions like, 'How do you masturbate?' or 'How do you orgasm?' [In the film] I'm showing you they do it like everyone else."
On a sunny Saturday afternoon I pick up Buck in downtown Oklahoma City and head back to the hotel for our interview. On the way he tells me about visiting the state fair a few days earlier. After approaching a conservative propaganda booth, the attendant commented to Buck that he "could have put a kid through college for what he spent on those tattoos." He smiles, "So I said to him, 'I don't have any finishing kids.'"
Being a porn star and public figure has had a downside as well. Though Angel never claims to represent the trans community, it hasn't stopped a backlash of negativity directed at him. "I think that people are sort of jealous of other people who are focused and have an understanding of how they want to be," he explains. While speaking at Stockholm Pride this year, he befriended another controversial transman, Thomas Beattie, the first man to have a baby. "We're polar opposites, but I think that's why we became buddies," Angel said regarding Beattie. "He doesn't care what other people think of him, and neither do I. We're individuals; we're not representing anybody."
Online, Angel's YouTube account hosts several interview clips, Q&A segments, workout and diet tips, and home movies that allow a glimpse into Angel's personal life. Last year while making a clip for the "It Gets Better Project," he broke down recalling the pain he felt as an outsider. "When I did [the video] I was really embarrassed because I didn't know that I was going to get so emotional," he recalls. "But I put my own ego aside and thought, 'You know what? It's not for me.'"
Almost immediately after posting the video, Dan Savage wrote Angel thanking him. However, after the popular gay blogger, "Joe my God" posted a link to Angel's video, a stream of negative comments followed asserting that Angel was not a role model due to his career. "What I do is about your sexuality and being free in your body. Why shouldn't I be speaking to youth?" Angel replied.
At home in Mexico, Angel and his wife have several pet Chihuahuas, some of them rescued from the street. Angel has a gym there and conducts business from his home when he's not traveling. He also enjoys dressing up as Santa Claus and giving gifts to the local children at Christmas. "It kills me to see these kids. They don't have shoes or anything. Americans take so much [for granted]," he says. "I'm so blessed and I have so much, how could I not give back?"
It's half past midnight at a smoky dance club in Oklahoma City. The night's entertainment has been an eclectic mix of drag, burlesque, and performance art by a group of locals. During the show, the man next to me describes his 25 different genital piercings. Buck's appearance tonight is a tame striptease version of his European stage show, which includes penetration. Two young women in various states of undress dance around him as he strips to nothing but socks and a jockstrap. After the big reveal, he flips the bird with both hands and the crowd roars. Later on he tells me that the promoter approached him afterwards questioning, "You taped your a*%hole, right?"
*** Buck Angel will be speaking Nov. 14-15 at the University of Washington in St. Louis for "Trans Awareness Week." Charles S. McVey is a musician in Lawrence, Kansas. His band Ponyboy. recently scored music for Angel's film, Sexing the Transman XXX.
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|Title Annotation:||Buck Angel|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2011|
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