The below interview was originally published in WHACK! Magazine back in 2013. I’m reposting it here to preserve it for posterity, now that Tumblr (where WHACK! was hosted at the time) is banning adult content. In it, I spoke with controversial trans activist Buck Angel about his then-current endeavors, his push to see more trans men on camera, his dating site, and his passion for rescuing animals of all kinds.
[Editorial note: I want to be clear that I’m aware of the controversy that’s been swirling around Buck Angel in recent years. He’s adopted a strong transmedicalist stance, effectively dismissing nonbinary folks and attempting to gatekeep who “gets to be” trans. I’m not a fan of this kind of behavior, and I’ve been really sad to watch him move in that direction because he’s doing real harm to trans folks. However, I believe that this interview should continue to live on the Web. I don’t want to censor my earlier work or Buck’s—that’s a slippery slope that’s damaging to journalism, freedom of information, and the future. As a journalist, it’s my job to let the work I’ve done stand, and this interview is part of both my body of work and Buck’s.]
Whack! Magazine: Buck Angel! Thank you so much for your time; I know you’re a very busy man. Please allow me to geek out for a minute; I’ve been wanting to interview you for years now and finally got up the cajones to ask you for one. But just in case our readers don’t know about you, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I started writing about the porn industry in 2007 and I feel like your star has been constantly on the rise since then. You won an AVN for Transsexual Performer of the Year that year, and you’ve been blazing new trails ever since. If you had to sum up the past five years into an interview blurb (like… right now), what would your blurb be?
Buck Angel: First, thanks so much for the interview; I really appreciate your interest in my work and your support.
Over the last five years I’ve transitioned (so to speak) from being primarily a niche adult performer to an educator, motivational speaker, and filmmaker. I’ve moved back behind the camera and created a mainstream documentary that is showing at film festivals across the globe (Sexing the Transman). I also launched a XXX adult series by the same name, featuring intimate interviews and graphic scenes with many different trans men.
W: Your image seems to have evolved somewhat over the years. When I first encountered your work, you were going by the catchphrase, “Buck Angel: The Man with a Pussy.” Recently I feel as if I haven’t seen that as your moniker so much—have you switched into a different gear?
BA: Thanks for noticing. Yes, at some point that I realized my work was about more than pornography. I wanted to reach the people who might not be able to access my message because they weren’t open to adult content, especially because I have a large, diverse fan base of people outside of my sex work. So, yeah, I basically re-invented myself and since then, more of the “mainstream” started to tune in to me and also, importantly, I am now able to talk with a younger generation of trans people. I could not engage with them before, when I was “just a porn star.”
I’m really passionate about my message of empowerment through self-acceptance and being sexually comfortable in your own skin. It feels so great to be able to inspire others to become themselves—whatever that may be, as it isn’t only about trans people, but for everyone.
W: You’re something of a porn celebrity now, even getting nods from “mainstream” porn entities like AVN. Do you see more acceptance in the industry these days for trans people and queers?
BA: Yes, I definitely see greater acceptance now. Back when I first started in my adult work, the mainstream porn industry was not at all interested in supporting what I was doing. It took three years of getting doors slammed in my face before I got that AVN award [in 2007]. At that time, there wasn’t really a trans male or queer porn presence in adult. But now there is so much more of it that I think the industry has no choice but to embrace it on some level. It is what a new generation of porn consumer wants. What I started has finally become more of a genre in its own right, now that others have joined the market.
W: Given that the industry is plagued by racism, sexism, and homophobia in most of its mainstream manifestations, what do you think can be done to overcome these problems?
BA: I think the best thing we can do is to produce our own stuff—like we are doing. I had never seen a trans man in porn, so I stepped up and made films that represented who I am and the lifestyle I live. I wanted to put myself out there before someone else did it who was not FTM, and represented me in a way [in which] I did not want to be seen (like “Freak of Nature” or some such crap).
Something that makes me laugh is when other trans men say that I am not representing them. Of course I am not, and I have never aspired to nor pretended to. The whole point is to make your own. It is cool that there are now more trans guys in the field, but still not as many as I would like to see.
W: What about consumers? What should they know? How can they help?
BA: They should speak up and be vocal about what they want to watch. I get lots of specific requests, which I love. And I always try to accommodate them whenever possible. That is one of the reasons I started my series, Sexing The Transman XXX, because we needed to have something that was more educational and also representative of other trans men.
W: This is a big question to ask early on in an interview, but it’s burning my brains and I have to get it out: as a trans man, you’ve undoubtedly faced huge obstacles trying to bar your progress at every step. You seem like an incredibly upbeat and positive person, and you’ve certainly set out to educate people about transgender people… but why did you decide to do this with pornography as your main medium? Porn seems like the one career path that would be certain to offer you more obstacles and pushback than you’ve already experienced!
BA: You’re right—I’m a huge believer in the power of positivity. Something a lot of people don’t know is that in the beginning, I did not set out to educate anybody about anything. That couldn’t have been further from my mind! I only wanted to make porn that was representative of me, as I said earlier.
However, it was through making porn that I realized that it was transcending the adult industry, and that people were really interested in what I had to say. Now I know that it was a stepping-stone to get where I am today.
At one point I wanted to stop making porn and just concentrate on speaking, but I came to understand that my sex work is just as important because it is educational, too. I feel it is very important to show trans men who are comfortable with themselves, and that is a big support in helping other people to become their true selves. When you embrace your body and your sexuality it can really make a big difference in your quality of life.
W: Do you find that your role as a porn icon interferes with your role as an educator? Or does it make it easier because you are so open about your body?
BA: At first I did think it was interfering with my more mainstream work (especially the education and advocacy aspects). But now I realize that so much of what I say is about embracing that part of yourself. People are often uncomfortable talking about sex, and get all weird about it. I think because it is so natural and normal for me, when I share about my sex life and sexuality, it helps other people to feel ok about themselves. So the sex work is related to my educational work.
W: Ok, now that the big stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about your porn-ducational projects: your series Sexing the Transman is now in what, three volumes? Is the third one out yet?
BA: Yes! I call it a “docu-porn” series and I am super excited about it. I just released volume 3 and I’m currently editing volume 4, and also shooting volume 5. That is so crazy. It took me a year and a half to film the first one, because it was so hard to find any performers willing to get in front of the camera. And now I have so many guys lining up to shoot with me, it’s awesome!
W: What’s going on with Volume 3? Who’s in it, what’s new, and what can we expect from Volume 4?
BA: The first movie does not have a very diverse ensemble of guys because, as I said, it was so hard to cast. So those were the only people who were willing to participate—and they were great! But I got lots of flack from the trans community that it was “only a bunch of white guys.” Fair enough I guess, but obviously I can only film the consenting adults who agree to participate, right?
Anyway, so I made a point to make the second volume more diverse and now the third is even more so. It contains an amazing, hot queer couple, a trans man of color, a trans couple of color (MTF and FTM) and a gender-fluid guy as well, and also a scene with me and a bio gay man. I am really proud of this movie! I think it came out super hot and educational. It includes great interviews along with the sex scenes.
And from volume 4 you can expect more new and exciting scenes. I don’t want to give too much of it away yet….
W: You’ve also started Buck Angel Dating, a site specifically suited for fostering dating with trans men. How is that going so far?
BA: Super! People love it and it has successfully matched up some really happy couples, which makes me feel so great. It’s all totally new, so there were some glitches at first, like the need to create a bunch of new categories like FTM, MTF, genderqueer, other, etc. to suit the members, but other than that it’s been great. I get lots of messages from guys thanking me.
W: What do you see as the specific and unique needs of trans men in the dating world? How does Buck Angel Dating help meet them?
BA: Well, lots of guys feel concerned that no one will be attracted to them when they first start the change. I wanted to show them that this is not true. Lots of people love transmen. Some just want to hook up for a sexual encounter, and some are looking for more. Unless you experience such a life-altering situation like this, it is very to explain. But basically I wanted to give transmen a place to feel hot and hook up or find love.
Having this site takes all of the potential awkwardness and worry out of when to disclose (trans status) after meeting someone. Because, obviously on this site, everything is all out in the open, so that part is never an issue. Obviously if you are cruising on this site then you already know what you’re getting…there are no surprises there.
My wife and I met online over 10 years ago, but there really wasn’t anything like this available at that time. I totally think online meeting/dating is the way of the future.
W: Why name it Buck Angel Dating? What if people think they get a date with you if they sign up? (Just kidding! But… no, seriously.)
BA: I am big on marketing and branding and that is how I have grown my business. My name gets around, so when people go to buckangeldating.com, I am pretty confident they know what they are getting. Besides, the term “trans man” is still not familiar to everyone outside the trans community. Also I am personally on the site and make an effort to talk to some of the guys on there, though I am not available sorry.
W: Ok, and now for the biggest and coolest news: a documentary about you called “Mr. Angel” has just been accepted to the 2013 SXSW festival! That is SO fantastic! Congratulations! What are you doing to prepare for that huge dose of exposure?
BA: Thank you so much! The director, Dan Hunt, and I are so excited. SXSW is such a fantastic festival and we feel truly honored that this will be the world premiere of the film. I am looking forward to the great exposure and meeting up with so many people. We hope to pack the house.
W: The documentary has been filmed over the past six years of your life. Have you seriously had a film crew following you around for six years?
BA: Hahaa…yes I did. Not every single day, but he was there on numerous trips in my world travels, at my home, and so on. Dan is such an amazing person. He has done several incredible award-winning films. It was more like having my brother hanging out and filming me. I never felt uncomfortable with him and he was always super respectful of my time. My parents loved him and they agreed to be in the movie too!
W: I guess you’re a bit of an exhibitionist to begin with; the documentary experiences must have been at least somewhat fun for you… maybe? Did you enjoy the process?
BA: Oh yes it was totally fun. I will admit there were certain aspects that were a bit tough for me, like when I talk about some of the hard times I had growing up and my drug addiction and suicide attempts. That was a bit rough. But as I said, Dan was amazing and always made me feel safe revisiting those memories in front of the camera for the whole world to see.
I tried to keep my focus on the reason I let someone so deeply into my personal life: I believe that this film can help people who are dealing with gender or sexuality issues, or other personal problems. I’m hopeful that everyone will walk away from seeing it with a crucial message about self-love and acceptance.
W: What is the sculpture of you I saw in the trailer? That’s awesome!
BA: What an honor that has been! Can you imagine a famous artist (British painter and sculptor, Marc Quinn) calling you up to ask if he can sculpt you!? Hahaa! I was so stunned. So there are actually a number of different bronze sculptures he made. That particular one has been showing all over the world and is now at a museum in Australia.
W: Does the documentary have distribution figured out yet? I wanna see this but I can’t get to SXSW.
BA: No, hopefully that will be one of the things that happens at SXSW. Also it is showing at the LLGFF in London on March 23. After that we have lots of festivals interested in screening it already, so hopefully it will be appearing somewhere near you soon.
W: Ok, non sequitur: on your Tumblr you put up pictures of a parakeet without wings that you RESCUED? How did this happen? Tell us the story!
BA: Well one of our American friends here (where we live in Mexico) had two birds (budgies) at his house and we totally fell in love with this crazy looking one who was born without feathers or wings, Jimmy. That little bird is just so sweet. His partner is Señor Blue, and he’s lovely, if less interesting. They’ve been together for 8 years!
Our friend said he never spent time with them and he asked if we wanted the birds! Of course we said yes. They love it here. They sing all the time and they are really entertaining. Jimmy, he likes to take nosedives from the top perch to the bottom of the cage and then pull himself back up along side with his beak. He is so awesome.
W: Do you routinely rescue mutilated animals?
BA: My wife and I rescue dogs mostly, but if there is some other kind of animal that needs help, we are pretty willing. We don’t have kids, but we are totally animal people, and thankfully we both feel the same way about that.
W: Speaking of animals, your catchphrase is “Woof”! Where did that come from?
BA: Hahaa! It’s originally from the Gay Bear culture, and when I started coming out of my sexual shell after my change, they were the most open to me. So I just picked up that lingo and have used it as my sign-off slogan ever since. Here is the definition: Depending on the inflection of the tone it can mean anything from wow to sexy, hot, intense.
W: Once again, Buck Angel, thank you SO much for your time! I really appreciate it, and you and your work.
BA: Sweet! Thank you for asking. I truly appreciate your support.