Around the World and Buck Again
By Kibwe Chase Marshall
Picture it: Southern California, 2018. My editor at the The Sex Ed gifts me a gem of an assignment: meet up with Trans-male pioneer (and porn industry legend!) Buck Angel to chat weed, female-gender assigned individuals who transition to male-gender identified individuals, and ways parents can support their Trans kids.
Is it possible that my “yes I’ll do it!” response hit the editor in questions’ inbox before her “will you do it?” request hit mine? Whether or not it did, fast forward a couple of weeks and I’m chatting everything from clitorii to cannabis with the muscled-out, gluten-free, gay male icon with “a female past” and a heart of gold. Buck shed a unique and timely light on the ways the Queer community is reevaluating blanket-identity labels, as well as how porn, pot, and orgasms just might save us all. Enjoy our convo below.
TSE: Your story is so rich. There’s a lot to dive into! I’m figuring out where to begin...
Well, I’m 56 [years old]. I was born in Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley. Yeah, I’m 56 and I got into the adult industry 19 years ago. I created the genre of Trans-Male porn. It didn’t exist before I created it in the industry.
TSE: 56 is an interesting age to be at such a transformative moment in the American narrative.
TSE: You lived across some really contrasting political eras.
Especially in the LGBTQ community. I was [there] in the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. I mean it started when I was a little dyke.
TSE: Okay, let me screech the record there for a minute. It’s interesting to hear you speak about your past in terms of being a lesbian. Can you tell me about how your gender and sexual identity evolved?
I grew up a total little “Tomboy”. My parents raised me as a boy. Back in the 60’s, tomboys weren’t a problem. Nobody had a problem with it because [for many people] it’s okay for a little girl to act like a little boy, but not okay for a little boy to act like a little girl.
TSE: Did you play sports?
I was very athletic; I was a total little dyke. I was a runner and sponsored by Adidas, Nike, all of them... I became a very well known track runner and I was coming into being a lesbian, but I totally didn’t know how to handle it. Then this movie came out called “Personal Best”. Mariel Hemingway! That was a film based on my club track team from when I was back in high school. I was creaming my panties over her. She was so cool. But back then, you couldn’t come out as a Lesbian. No way. Especially if you were sponsored by Nike or Adidas. You would lose your sponsorship.
TSE: Who were your friends when you were a kid?
Pretty much on the street—and this is the weird thing—when I was in high school, I played with boys that were younger than me. I wasn’t playing with 14 or 15-year-old girls; I didn't even know what girls that age did. If girls were playing with Barbie I had a G.I. Joe. So yeah, I’m a 15-year-old girl with a G.I. Joe. So I really felt connected to younger boys because they accepted me as a boy. They didn’t even question it until they got to be around 15 or 16. Then the sexual stuff starts to happen. That interfered with me being a boy because they were like, “hey wait a minute: you’re a girl!” That really is where most of my trauma started.
TSE: Can you tell me a bit about how you experienced that?
Coming into puberty was traumatic for me because I thought I was a boy. I was shy when I wasn’t in my element. I didn’t start becoming this way until my parents’ friends said ‘That’s your daughter NOT your son”. I had to start wearing girl clothes then. They had let me wear boy clothes before. Then all of a sudden everything shifted. Game over. It really even still affects me now. I remember it. Those sorts of things can destroy a child. And it’s why I do a lot of the work I do now with parents. I don’t currently work through any one specific organization but I support parents of trans kids that contact me online. I also meet parents at conferences that I speak at. I just got back from an amazing conference in Utah called Gender Revolution where Cece McDonald and I were keynote speakers. A lot of the work I’m doing is taking place on Instagram where I talk to trans kids all day long. I hook them up with helpful organizations in their cities. We’ll talk about anything from finding safe spaces to socialize to starting hormones.
TSE: Is “Trans” itself transitioning? The playing field seems to be expanding more and more to be really wide open now...
But it should have always been that way. On some level, I do identify with those who claim the term “intersex” because growing up I didn’t get a period until I was around 15 and my genitals weren’t conventional. I’ll tell ya this: when I transitioned 22 years ago, I transitioned specifically to go from being a woman to man, so I really had a “sex change”. So I am a Transexual, not a Transgender, and it’s very important that people understand that. Some feel that the term Transexual is outdated and dangerous language, but there are those of us out here that embrace it.
TSE: Is the term Transexual about owning the role of modifying genitalia in regard to identity?
No, not necessarily, because I still have my vagina. It’s about presentation. All of my identification and presentation is Cis-Male. I don’t live my life as a “Trans” person. I live my life a man with a history of transitioning, or having a sex change.
TSE: So are you advocating for us all to open up to the notion that some people will transition to a place of alignment with the gender binary, some people won’t, some people will transition to a place of alignment with the medical biological binary, some won’t, and we’ll also have plenty of people that select different individual locations on these various intersecting spaces of identity as well?
Exactly my friend! You get it. But the blanket term “Trans” isn’t doing justice to giving enough of these different identities visibility.
TSE: I think I’m beginning to get it more and more, I think we all are. Attitudes around so many elements of our lives are evolving right now. Weed legislation is another space where I’ve noted that. Tell me about your relationship with weed, especially as somebody who is in sobriety from other more destructive substances.
Cannabis is my boyfriend [laughs] It’s my lover! I have an amazing relationship with cannabis. I believe in it—not only as a way to alleviate my anxiety and my sleeplessness—but I also believe in it as a great way to socially interact with people, For me (it’s not for everybody.) I don’t really have social anxiety, but it actually opens up my brain to a different level. The history of cannabis is of storytelling. It’s medicine and I really want the world to understand how valuable this medicine is. I really want to create a space in the world where people understand that it’s not the evil marijuana drug as everybody has been told, but it’s more a beautiful medication.
TSE: Once again you seem to be ahead of the curve, but I think the arc of history is bending toward justice for weed. Your adult industry presence and career were ahead of the curve too. How’d you break into porn?
I was married to a dominatrix here in LA. We owned a dungeon downtown that we rented out; it was a great business that we were running. I learned how to build websites, and developed a porn site for a client that was a Trans woman. I started shooting for her and doing her website and then I was like...boom!...“wait a minute: there are no transgender men in porn, it didn’t even exist. Porn is fuckin’ milion-dollar business!”
TSE: And anything that’s unchartered is the next thing
It’s the next thing! So it just came to me...boom! “The man with a pussy”. It became something that people freaked out on. The adult industry was so freaked out. The transgender community was so freaked out. People were FREAKED out.
TSE: Most of your scene partners are Gay men now. Was that always the case?
After my website got some traction, I thought, “I gotta make movies...but who’s my customer base?” So I made three different movies. I made a movie with me and all cis-gender women; I made a movie with me and cis-gender women and cis-gender Gay men, and I made a movie with me and all cis-gender Gay men. The film that sold was the one with Gay men. Gay men just came after me like crazy. They were like “Oh my god, I’ve fantasized about a man like you forever”. Some Gay men were like “Oh my god this is disgusting”. But the majority of Gay men were like “come to us, we love you!” The only reason I’m sitting here today talking to you is because of Gay men. Gay men embraced my work.
TSE: What are the pros and cons of the porn industry as you see it?
First I’ll start with the best things about porn: 1) Education, 2) Sexual Freedom 3) It’s a great Business
TSE: It’s lucrative?
NO! [laughs] Not unless you're a big company like Vivid, but for me, it’s about the people that you work with. Yes it’s a business and I make money from it, but I’m not a millionaire. The people that are in the sex world are amazing beautiful people. So yeah, I guess a fourth great thing would be the community.
TSE: And the not so great things?
So the negative aspects of it are...“Society”...the stigma you deal with. There’s that. Then there are some people in my industry who are not good people like in any business, there are some bad people. Then thirdly, there’s too much White-man-power within the industry. It’s too annoying to me and I hate it. White cis dudes run things. There are some horrible things that happen to cisgender women in this industry and nobody talks about it. I don’t stand for that at all. I love the porn industry but we have to talk about the dark side too.
TSE: You are big on centering things in the conversation that might otherwise get neglected. Your sex toys address Trans-masculine individuals who maintain a vagina. Was this just about chasing neglected consumers?
I created the Buck Off, not just to create another sex toy, but to help address gender or genital dysphoria. I like to call it a pleasure product or a wellness product. I created it because many Trans men are very phobic about their vaginas or genitals. This particular product helps for Trans guys to move out of that dysphoria into having orgasms and feeling positive about their genitals. You can see demonstrations of how it works on my site. What I wanted to do was give these men a chance to have an orgasm with the bodies they have, so they could actually decide how they feel about these bodies. It’s not that I’m anti-bod-surgery, but I wanted to give guys a way to make a really informed choice.
Buck’s schedule during the weekend of our interview was jam-packed with LA events that center the social and sex lives of the region’s arty, intersectional LGBTQ community. He’s viewed as an honorary mayor in these spaces, an elder statesman of the Trans community, or “Tranpa,” as he often refers to himself. Don’t get it twisted though: Buck is by no means approaching retirement. His narrative is one of self-definition, avant-entrepreneurship and rogue carving of the space that might otherwise have been denied to him. With a fistful of cannabis in one hand and the other brandishing a shiny “Buck Off”, we can’t wait to see where his future journeys lead.