*I published this piece originally on The Huffington Post on September 23, 2014.
His Pervert tattoo on his back is often misread as Perfect. But that’s what he has achieved in a way. Perfection. He looks the way he always dreamed to. He has also created Buck Angel Entertainment, Buck Angel Dating, and has his own sculpture in London.
A lot of people don’t think he has important things to say, which he attributes to the fact that he is a porn star. And he does. That’s why I met with him for an interview on a short trip to Merida a couple of years ago and between work trips of his own to Detroit, Oklahoma City, Copenhagen, and London. And after a series of unfortunate events that resulted in this not being published earlier, here’s my chat with award-winning pornographer turned advocate Buck Angel.
Buck Angel: This place has been magic for us. People are amazing, they’re really sweet, even though I look kind of scary in a sense. So, I do stand out, but people aren’t rude about it. They’re very okay. They don’t care. It’s very simple and easy here. There’s no pretentiousness. You lived in New York, you know what I mean. I travel all the time. I’m constantly on the road, so our house here is sort of like our safe place. We have people who work for us, who take care of our place and our dog, and we could never live like that in the U.S., with a domestic staff of three. We throw Christmas parties for our neighbors, with tamales and everything. At first they were scared of us. They thought we were drug dealers. We’ve made an effort to show our support to the community.
ETM: How did you get into the work you do now?
BA: I started working in the porn business behind the camera and everything was going great. Then I started working with a transsexual woman, which is a huge genre in the adult industry. So I thought, wow, there is no porn with a man like me. You could see any kind of porn you wanted, but a guy like me did not exist. I realized it had to be all about me, so I came up with the “man with a pussy” tag line. It was not easy. The whole adult industry hated me. I was, like, they have porn with 500 men gang bangs. How can you say I’m a freak?
ETM: Do you think that even with everything you can find in porn it is still a heteronormative or gendernormative industry?
BA: Everyone was freaking out on me. It was something new, and there had been nothing new in this industry for so long. At one point I got sick of it, I was taking everything personal, and that’s when I snapped myself out of it. I flipped it and everything started to change. Within two years of starting my business I won the AVN Transsexual Performer of the Year. Little by little I started recognition inside and outside the adult industry. When I started getting media attention from outside of that I realized maybe I was doing something bigger. Gender and sexuality is whatever you make of it. Because of that, that’s where I am today. Moving my adult work into educational work. I moved it to wanting to teach the world that you can be whoever you want to be, no matter what anybody tells you.
I get emails from people who tell me I’ve changed their lives, I’ve made them feel like they don’t have to commit suicide, they can be who they want to be. They don’t have to have surgery to become a man or a woman. That has been the most rewarding thing for me. A 13-year-old kid writing me and telling me “Thank you for making me feel that I’m not a freak.” You know how huge that is? When I was 13 I wanted to kill myself. That’s why I’ve had to twist my work into more educational, because my message is bigger than that.
ETM: So, that just happened very organically.
BA: It did. But through the organic change I realized I have to make an effort to change. I had to make that effort to say I’m an educator. I’m an advocate. I’m a filmmaker. I’m not just a pornographer. That has actually been a burden more than anything: the fact that I’m a porn star.
ETM: Is that common in the porn industry? To have people make that crossover to advocacy, activism, education?
BA: You will not see a lot of people like me making that crossover, though it is happening more today. And I have to say I attribute that a lot to my work. I really believe that my work has helped other people come along and feel more the need to become sex educators. The way they disrespected trans women in porn was also one of the reasons why I did my own work, because I didn’t want me or a guy like me to get into a porn industry that disrespects me. Trans women or girls with dicks were marketed as freaks. It was a straight man who took them, and made money off of them, paid them, and kicked them out the door. I saw that, and I didn’t want that to be my work.
ETM: The T in LGBT seems to be the last priority within that community. Does it make sense for transgender people to continue to spin off as a movement of its own?
BA: I think they should. Sexuality and gender are two different things. LGB is your sexuality. T is about your gender. I’ve always said that. When I mention that I’m a transsexual to a doctor, they immediately think I’m saying I’m a homosexual. And I have to tell you Mexico has been amazing in terms of medical care.
ETM: What is it like to have achieved the ideal version of yourself, appearance wise, if that is the case?
BA: It is. I always dreamed to look how I look: a man with muscles, able to take my shirt off. I don’t know so much about the tattoos or the bald head, which came with the testosterone as a side effect. I can say that I have achieved what I always wanted, which is the look of ultra, hyper masculinity. That’s what I was going for. Not to say that’s the case for all trans men, but it was my vision. I used to hate my body. And, actually, contrary to what people say of testosterone, testosterone mellowed me. It didn’t make me angry. I was angry before the testosterone, but now I’m much more calm, and feel more at peace with myself than ever before. My work isn’t about being trans. It’s about being who you are.