INTERVIEWING THE TRANSMAN:
Buck Angel’s New Year’s Revolutions.
When Buck Angel walks down the street, people take notice. With his rugged features, seriously muscled body, tattoos, and commanding aura, Buck is a man who clearly makes an impression. (Add a cigar, and the effect is no less than… well, smokin’!) But, as his friends and fans (of which Buck has many) know, there is more to Mr. Angel that meets the eye– WAY more! When looking at Buck today, it is hard to believe that the 41-year old sex star was actually born female… and still proudly has a vagina to prove it. Mr. Angel achieved fame, notoriety, and a generous helping of controversy as an adult film actor and producer. As something of a one-man show, he founded Buck Angel Entertainment to create and distribute his unique brand of erotica. Buck performs with both men and women, although his work with men seems to be the most popular. In 2005, he broke new barriers when he appeared in the release “Cirque Noir” for Titan Media, a high-end gay porn studio. Also in 2005, Buck performed in “Allanah Starr’s Big Boob Adventures”, directed by transsexual Gia Darling. The film included another “first” in the breaking of cinematic sexual boundaries: a scene between a transwoman (Allanah Starr) and a transman. Buck received the 2007 Adult Video News Award as Transsexual Performer of the Year. From 2010 to 2012, he created an award-winning series about transmale sexuality called “Sexing The Transman XXX”.
Buck Angel has acted in movies with titles such as “The Adventures of Buck Naked”, “Buck Off”, “The Buck Stops Here”, and “Buckback Mountain”. (Are you starting to detect a trend?) Indeed, Buck’s larger-than-life persona often breaks through any role he plays in his films. However, the sex star’s latest role may be the most revealing– and challenging– of them all. In Dan Hunt’s award-winning documentary “Mr. Angel”, new to DVD, we learn all about Buck’s journey from frustrated child to the renegade role model and icon he has become today. Shot over six years, “Mr. Angel” truly shows ALL of Buck: body and soul. The movie is fascinating– bolstered by Buck’s idiosyncratic sense of humor and charismatic nature which come off so well on the screen. However, the film is also difficult to watch at times. It gives us an unblinking look at Buck’s past experiences with gender confusion, addiction, homelessness, suicidal thoughts, and a society which, as we enter 2014, still just doesn’t “get it” about many matters of sex and gender.
Buck took the time to speak to me about “Mr. Angel” and much more…
JR: Hi Buck! Congratulations on the release of “Mr. Angel” on DVD. How did the idea for the documentary originate?
BA: Thank you so much. We are pretty happy with the success of the film. Dan Hunt contacted me about 7 years and asked me if I wanted to make a documentary. I wasn’t really prepared at the time to do this. I was really into my porn work at the time, and that is what I wanted to concentrate on. So Dan said we can make the doc reflect my porn work, though I think he just said that to get me to start the filming…
BA:…Because, as the filming progressed, so did my work. As you see in the film, I started becoming more of a pubic speaker and educator. This is how the film became what it is. Dan is a very smart man. I am pretty sure he knew this would happen. I never wanted to involve my family, but that was inevitable– and it really makes me happy that we did.
JR: For the viewer, it was definitely provocative to watch: that level of intimacy and candor. So…”Mr. Angel” was created over six years. Out of all the many experiences you must have had, what was the biggest change in your life in those six years– aside from becoming even more muscular?!
BA: The evolution of my work. I would never think that I would become a public speaker or advocate. That was never my intention as a porn producer. I never even thought of my work as educational. So, that is probably the biggest and most exciting thing for me: to see that my work has transcended porn. I don’t really think that is an easy thing to do. The other big change for me was the split with Elayne. That was not something I would have thought would ever happen. We grew apart in so many ways. I think that relationships are learning experiences, and that is super-important for people to know. I learned so much from Elayne and will always thank her for the many things that she taught me. But when a relationship becomes “sour”, it is so important that you know this and learn to move on, if that is what you choose– if it is not salvageable. That was a big lesson.
JR: Thank you for sharing that. Now, I remember when you were on the Maury Povich show many years ago, and you described the experience to me as being very “restrictive”: You weren’t allowed to use your full name or to reveal your profession, among other things. Fast forward, and the documentary has a clip of you on the “Tyra” show, and the atmosphere seems to be much more open. Has the so-called “mainstream” media become more interested in hearing your unique life story?
BA: Well, I sure would like to say “Yes.” But the truth is “No.”– especially in the USA. I would say that Europe has been much more open-minded in having me on mainstream TV. That said, I do take shows in the USA even if they are sensationalized such as “Tyra”. I got lots of good PR from that show. People learned from me, and I still get emails from that. It’s so funny how mainstream TV tries to act all prude around someone like myself, when they have tons of hit shows about sex and drugs. I am not sure why I am so taboo still.
JR: When you find out why, let me in on it too! I’d like to believe that society has become more enlightened about transgender issues. But being on the front lines yourself, do you think we really have?
BA: Boy, would I like to as well… but sad to say, No that is not true. I think that’s for many reasons, but one of them is that people are still taught that sex and gender are the same thing– and that a boy has a penis and a girl has a vagina. This is the hardest part of breaking through to the world: That gender is not as black and white as you think it is. I have been getting so much positive feedback from people who have seen “Mr. Angel” and had no idea about someone like myself. That is so awesome– and it gets people thinking about these issues. I am sure one day this will just be a normal thing to be a man with a vagina, and I hope it happens in my lifetime.
JR: The movie has some very revealing moments, such as when you talk about your struggle with depression and addiction and even homelessness. Was it difficult to be so candid about your life in this film?
BA: Yes and no. It was hard because it’s just always hard for me to talk about those times in my life. They were horrible, and I hate re-living them. But that said, it is so important for me to tell my story of struggle with my addiction and my gender. So many people will benefit, and I know this. If I would have seen this, it possibly would have given me hope and I would have not felt alone. So, I have to put aside my own feelings and remember that I am lucky to be alive and to be able to tell my story. My life is full of gratitude now and part of that gratitude is giving back.
JR: The audience is also grateful for that! In the film, we also get to meet your parents, and they display a lot of their emotions on screen as well. How do you feel about that?
BA: That was super-hard for me. Like I said earlier, I did not even want to bring my family into the film. I have always tried to keep them separate from my work, for many reasons but one in that it just was not important for them to know what I was doing. They are pretty conservative people, and have really been amazing in accepting me as their son. But they might not understand when I tell them that my work is about sex, or my showing my body to the world. But then I realized that they really love me, and when I told them what I was doing they were super supportive. So when Dan approached me to talk to them, I said “OK” and they agreed. It was really hard seeing my dad break down. He is still dealing with this whole thing in his own way. I know he tries really hard to understand, but as you see, it hasn’t been easy for him. I think that is one of the strongest parts of the film.
JR: Yes, I agree. You mentioned how audiences in Europe were far more receptive to your erotic films than those in America, and it was difficult to find Stateside distribution of your movies. Do you see this situation changing?
BA: I have distribution now, and that’s because I have made a name for myself– not because FTM porn is something that is flying off the shelves. That said, DVD sales are also not on the up. As you know, everything is going digital– so you don’t really need distribution like you used to. I have worked very hard to build my brand, and it is finally paying off. My “Sexing the Transman XXX” series is my best seller yet, and I am sure it has to do with the growth of the trans and queer communities.
JR: When you are on the lecture circuit, what was the craziest question you ever got from someone? Is there a question you’d ever consider “off limits”?
BA: I get some awesome questions, but one that stands out in particular is when a guy asked me why I decided to remove my penis and add a vagina. Obviously he was not paying attention. I get that question lots on the internet too. I think it’s quite a compliment really. As for a question being off limits, no I am pretty much an open book at this point– or wait… maybe, when people ask me who are you dating!
JR: (Laughs) Documentaries in general can sometimes be a hard sell to the audience. I mean, God forbid someone might actually LEARN something when they watch a movie! So, in one sentence, why should people see “Mr. Angel”?
BA: Because: becoming the person you have always dreamed to be, without a care of what the rest of the world will think of you, is what you will hopefully walk away with after seeing “Mr. Angel”.
JR: How true! And lastly, what are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2014?
BA: Funny you should ask. This is the first year that I have NOT felt the need to do this. My life is amazing and full of gratitude and love.
JR: Thanks Buck… and “WOOF!”
“Mr. Angel” is now available on DVD. Visit http://www.BreakingGlassPictures.com for more info!
You can see much more of Buck Angel at: