Buck Angel: On Being a Trans Activist, Entrepreneur, and the First Trans Man in Porn


Transgender / Thursday, November 1st, 2018
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Buck Angel was assigned female at birth, but he knew as a very young child that he was supposed to be a boy. However, this was 50 years ago, well before most people knew what being transgender was. Struggling with his identity, Angel went down a dark path of drug and alcohol addiction and nearly died.

Angel finally pulled himself out of addiction, got sober, and entered therapy, though he struggled to find a therapist who understood or believed his gender identity. Finally, in his late twenties, he found a therapist who supported him and helped him realize he could actually transition.

Having already been involved in the porn industry, once he transitioned, Angel noticed there was no representation of trans men in porn. He decided to be that visibility himself and created his own brand with a message he was in control of. Despite intense pushback from both the adult industry and trans community, he began to gain visibility and recognition.

Angel thought his career would remain in porn, but his popularity opened other doors to him as a businessman and an activist. The 56-year-old is now an in-demand public speaker, often traveling from his home in Los Angeles to cities all over the world to talk about his life. Two years ago, he launched a cannabis business with a fellow trans man, and he recently launched a sex toy and lube line for trans men. He’s also created two educational video series about trans men, among other projects for the community.

I was inspired by Angel after seeing his documentary, “Mr. Angel,” years ago, so I was honored he agreed to do an interview with us. In our interview, Angel emphasized that while he’s all about being visible and speaking his mind, he’s not the voice of the community. He said some people try to put him in that role, but he speaks for himself only and is simply sharing his story and experience.

Read on for our lengthy, powerful interview with Angel, where he discusses being the first trans man in porn, his unique businesses, his activism, being “Tranpa” to trans youth, and his thoughts on some of the issues currently facing the LGBTQ community. In two spots below, you can also watch video clips from our interview — a first for Profiles in Pride!

Profiles in Pride: Buck, when did you first realize you were trans?

Buck Angel: First, I want to let you know that I identify as a transsexual man, not a transgender man, and that’s a really important conversation. It has been lumped into the transgender umbrella. I understand what umbrella terms are about, but I also believe umbrella terms are very dangerous.

I identify as a transsexual man, so clearly I always knew I was a boy and I felt like a boy. I could tell you that whole story; we trans people all feel the same way on some level. But I didn’t really understand what that meant until I got sober and started to see a therapist.

This was over 20 years ago, and that therapist didn’t even know what trans was, until I told her one day that I feel like a man, and she said, “I believe you.” She was the first person who ever said that to me; I’d had so many therapists who just kept calling me a lesbian and equating it to my sexuality and not my gender.

But remember, this was over 20 years ago, and therapists just didn’t have the tools. When I’d say, “I’m a man,” they’d say, “You’re a lesbian” or “You’re just a very male-identified female” — these weird terminologies. But when this one therapist said, “I believe you” when I was in my late twenties, that was the first time I actually realized I could transition from a woman to a man.  

Buck Angel modeling as a teenager
Buck Angel modeling as a teenager

PIP: Can you talk more about your definition of transgender vs. transsexual?

BA: It’s just my opinion, what I believe and my identity. It’s not set in stone. I talk about this for a reason. For me, a transsexual person is like myself. I was born female, and I always felt like a man and that I needed to transition. I have what we call gender dysphoria; it’s a total medical condition. From that I used hormones in the form of testosterone injections and had surgery to remove my chest to medically transition to become a man. I live today as a man.

I don’t live as a transsexual person or transgender person — I live as a male. To me, that’s the difference between a transsexual person and a transgender person. A transsexual person is a medical condition specifically geared toward someone changing from one gender to the other. The majority of us want to live in the binary, and the majority of us all have some kind of medical transition, whether it’s hormones, surgery, or both, and most of us identity as transsexual or the binary.

Now move over to transgender. I used to identity as transgender, before it became an umbrella term. Now it’s become an umbrella term for many different identities, including transsexual. For me that’s upsetting, because it’s literally taken away my own identity since I don’t relate to all the other identities that are under this umbrella term.

I’m not taking away from those identities, but what I don’t find healthy is creating one term for a bunch of people who have all kinds of different identities. How can I be lumped into the same umbrella as a gender non-conforming person? That isn’t OK. Look, I’m set. I’ve already had my sex change, my paperwork is changed; I live as a man, and there’s no turning back, not even legally. I really speak out like this for the children and youth who are confused with their identities. When we lump everything under one term, we’re now confusing people more and saying we’re all the same, but we’re not all the same.

When you make somebody feel they’re the same as a gender non-conforming person when they actually want to become binary, what do you think that does mentally to a person who now doesn’t understand their identity? I get youth contacting me all the time: “Tranpa, what does that mean? Maybe I’m really a transsexual person and not a transgender person?” And when I explain it to them, they say, “Oh, I’m transsexual!”

I speak out about it because think it’s very important that we distinguish between a medical transition and a transition that isn’t necessarily medically necessary but more of a mental necessity. Even though people argue with me and say, “No, transgender is transsexual,” that’s fine, take that on. But give us the opportunity to separate medical from mental, if that makes sense.

Buck Angel, trans man and porn star

PIP: Yeah, I’ve seen the diagram of “the transgender umbrella” online, and it doesn’t make sense to me since it also lumps cisgender drag kings/queens and crossdressers in with trans people.

BA: It doesn’t make sense. But also, who created this umbrella term? It wasn’t me, but it was people within our community, and those people are gatekeepers. They’re trying to create a space to lump us into so they can point fingers and say, “That’s how these people are,” and to me it’s a way to control our community, which is very dangerous thing.

It’s like saying all people of color are the same — they’re not! Black communities are separate from Latino communities, but they’re lumped under the same “POC.” I also think that’s dangerous since they’re coming from different spaces and needs. So we really need to talk about an umbrella term as not necessarily a positive thing, but a thing to control, and that’s what I see.

PIP: Absolutely. Let’s jump back a bit: how did you first get into the porn world, and what was it like being the first trans male in the industry?

BA: I had been working in the porn industry but behind the scenes; I had a partner who was a professional dominatrix. We had a big dungeon in Los Angeles and we’d started to shoot fetish movies, and this was way before the Internet even really started. Then this transgender woman came to me and asked me to help build her website.

Transgender women’s porn has been around for a long time and is a very big genre, and it just clicked! I said, “Wait a minute, there are no transsexual men in porn!” None! There was a pornographer named Christopher Lee who created some porn before I did, but it was much more obscure and very underground. I look at mainstream, and there was nothing on the Internet. It didn’t exist.

So the light bulb came on, and I said, “Buck Angel, the man with the pussy!” For the ladies, they’d call it “chicks with dicks” or “ladyboys,” so I just played off the marketing, because it’s all about marketing. I created myself with such hard pushback of the adult industry and the trans community, with everyone calling me names, saying I was exploiting trans men, etc. But it seems that nobody understood “Buck Angel, the man with the pussy.” I never said “transgender man porn” ever! It was all about me.

Buck Angel, trans man and porn star

I created it with a big pushback, and the one thing I’ve been blessed to have is when you push against me, I will push back. So I did, until eventually I won awards and I started to become very known. Then I started to transcend my porn through people finding me and saying, “I love what you’re doing, but I’m just not into the porn.” That’s how I used my pornography as a platform.

But that wasn’t my intention; my intention was to be a pornographer, to make a million dollars, to kick ass. But that’s not how it works! My idea was never to be where I am today; it was always just to be a porn guy and create porn and to create the genre and be the king of FTM porn. But it turned out different.

PIP: There’s an interesting scene in your documentary where you point to a DVD of trans female porn, which calls her a “shemale” and says, “Are they a he or she?” You say that’s exploitative, but yours is different because you take ownership of your identity and control the narrative.

BA: Yes. It wasn’t easy, but one thing I wanted to make sure of is that nobody got a hold of us and made us into freak fests, because they wanted to. I got asked so many times — “Let’s do a series called ‘Buck Angel, Freak of Nature.’ We’ll make so much money.” I said no, that’s not why I’m doing this.

Even though “man with a pussy” could sound derogatory or exploitative, it’s not, because it’s me taking the control of it; it’s not them naming me. And me keeping the narrative and doing everything about it, and coming from my own space and my own control, which is what I think makes it powerful.

PIP: Are you still shooting porn?

BA: I do still work in the pornography business, and I always will. I only get in front of the camera every once in a while; in the last year or so I did one movie. I’ll only do a movie if it has never been made and I feel as if trans men are losing their ground within the pornography world. After spending 19 years in it and building that platform, there are still not many trans men in porn, so I feel like I need to continually keep myself visible in there so people understand we’re still around.

Pornography is not my profession. But it is in the sense that I used it to create the platform “Sexing the Trans Man,” which is a docu-porn series. I interview trans men, and after the interview I have them talk about their bodies and their transition. Then I have them take their clothes off and eventually they go into some form of sex scene, whether masturbation or a sex scene with someone else. I use that as an educational tool to really create a space for people to see us as sexual beings and “normal.”

Buck Angel

PIP: Is that different from your series “Conversations with Transmen” on Amazon?

BA: It’s the same thing, but I only have conversations with trans men, whereas “Sexing the Trans Man” has the porno aspect to it. You’ll see that cross-over there, but I couldn’t get it on Amazon with the sex. But what’s cool about it is Amazon let me put guys in there with breasts. I don’t think people understand how groundbreaking that is — not for me, but for us. The fact that the whole world gets to see these men talk about themselves and sex is huge.

I believe the messages these guys are talking about are hugely important, and many men — trans, gender nonconforming, queer, whatever — can relate to these stories. So I really made an effort to get it onto a wider platform like Amazon Prime. It took me over a year to get it on there because they thought of it as porn. I removed the sexual aspect and just left the talking head interviews because they’re really pretty profound.

These guys are very open, and some of them actually have no top on and they have their breasts, and Amazon was totally OK with it. I have to say kudos to Amazon for understanding that all of us men have different bodies and different body types. I think it will help guys who don’t have top surgery to see these guys on the Amazon platform with their chest hanging out. It really can help some other guys with their dysphoria right now. I fought to get it on there for that reason; it’s going to help so many more people.

Buck Angel, trans man and porn star

PIP: That’s great. So you’re currently writing a book, correct?

BA: Yes. It’s difficult, I’ve been through millions of years of therapy and it’s like I’m going right back into therapy again. It’s emotionally draining and it’s heavy, but it’s very important. I’m writing my book for parents and kids, not for a specific trans men group. I’m looking more outside of the trans world and into parenting and people who are having a hard time understanding why a person like me would transition from a female to a man. That’s really the focus of my book; I want to help parents and kids. Because I have so much knowledge they can gain from, I think I could create such a great space, so that’s my focus right now.

PIP: Definitely. You also recently created your own line of FTM sex toys; tell us about it!

BA: I got lucky enough to hook up with a company called Perfect Fit Brand, and I created the world’s first transgender male sex toy. From that it just blew up, and they gave me a whole line of sex toys to create however I want.

I created the signature toy first, the Buck-Off. It was created from my genitals; my clitoris became very big from testosterone. Not a lot of trans men are as big as me. I created it because we have gender dysphoria, and we also have genital dysphoria. A lot of us don’t like our vaginas. I hated my vagina for many years.

The reason I got to be in a spot where I am today is I learned how to masturbate. I said to myself, “Well, at some point I’m going to have to accept my vagina and not be that guy who feels like a victim because I don’t have a penis.” I really had to push through that. The guy you see today that’s all “vagina power” — no no no. I was completely mortified by my vagina. So I started to create little toys. I created something from another toy that basically let me do this.

Watch Buck talk about the toys and show how they’re used in this clip below from our interview!

What this does is it help guys who have genital dysphoria and who still have a vagina and are not having any sexual contact, which I believe is such a dangerous place to be in when you’re transitioning. To fully accept your body, you have to have sex on some level, whether that be masturbation or sex with another person.

My clitoris is about the size of a thumb, and the toy fits over on top of the clitoris. The base of it goes against the body and it sucks on, so it’s sucking you in. And we made it with a penis head, so it gives you the feeling of stroking a penis like a man. We have ribs on the inside so it actually feels like you’re being sucked on. It’s incredible. Guys are writing me saying, “I cried!” or “I’m 28 and I’d never had an orgasm before.” This little toy is a game-changer. All of the major toy companies said nope. Perfect Fit said, “Oh my God, great idea, let’s do this.”

The hole on the Buck-Off is very big and it won’t fit every vagina. Its success enabled me to create sizes, so then I created the Kiss-X a size down. There are a lot of trans men who aren’t medically transitioning. If you’re not medically transitioning, that means your clitoris is not growing, so this one has a smaller hole. Same concept, same penis head. But you could use it — anyone with a vagina could use it. It fits over your clitoris. I designed it so it goes through your labia, and it sticks onto your clitoris.

Everyone’s anatomy is different, so you just have to find your spot and play with it and move it around. Some people write in and say, “It doesn’t work,” and I say, “You’re rushing! Put on some candles and some music and take your time!” They’ve been hugely successful. Now we have products in shops all over the world that say “trans FTM,” and that’s huge.

Buck Angel's Kiss X toy for trans men
Buck Angel’s Kiss X toy for trans men in clear (also comes in black)

I also created the world’s first trans male lubrication, called T-lube. I created it to bring awareness to vaginal health for trans men, because we don’t talk about it, and this is causing a lot of problems you probably don’t even know about. But the youngsters are reaching out and saying, “Tranpa, I’m having these weird cramps, I don’t feel good down there.” Well, they’re atrophying from the use of testosterone, which takes estrogen out of your vagina. Really basic biology, but doctors are acting as if they don’t know anything, and it’s very scary.

I created this product with a great lube company called Sliquid, and this helps bring awareness to vaginal dryness and health care. It says trans male lube on it, and we’re going to try to get this into gynecological offices so trans men can walk in and see it. Also, I want to get the toys into therapists’ offices where people are talking about gender dysphoria. Like, how can you connect to your body? This is a great, inexpensive way!

One of the really important points I want you to understand is, I don’t make a million dollars off my community. These are community service products. We could easily charge $60 for a toy, and the company wanted to do that. But I said, “My community is poor! We don’t have that kind of money.” We need accessibility; that’s the most important thing when you’re creating products for marginalized communities. I made the toys accessible at $29. People are fine with it and don’t feel that I’m taking from them, and the lube is only $11.

I also have a product called Buck’s Balm, which is a CBD balm, and I created the world’s first CBD-infused erection drink called Buckshot, the boner drink. Mostly people with penises use it, but it works with everybody. I made it because I hate pharmaceutical drugs, and all the guys use Viagra and all that other bullshit. It’s 100% all natural and it works. It’s my biggest seller. It went into the Emmy swag bag — the Emmys asked for it! It helps with erections, but even vaginas can use it; it just gives you a sexual feeling.

Buck Angel, trans icon

PIP: Why did you get into the cannabis industry?

BA: I started a cannabis business here in Los Angeles two years ago with my business partner Leon Mostovoy, who’s a very well known trans man in the community. He’s my age, he’s an artist, and he’s done a ton of awesome work. We wanted to start a cannabis business because we’re both sober but we use cannabis, and we realized our community needs to understand the education aspect of cannabis.

As businessmen, we saw the future of cannabis being taken away from the LGBT community, people of color — everyone but the white cis guy. Cannabis was legalized by the gay community, but people don’t know this.

In the ’80s, because of AIDS, we campaigned for the legalization of cannabis to help AIDS patients and we got the drug Marinol created, which is a pharmaceutical drug, and that was specifically because of the gay community. So we were like, wait a minute, this is going to be taken away from us? I got into it to create another business and some revenue, but also to create a space where we can create jobs for our community and businesses for our community in a potentially billion dollar industry.

PIP: I saw on Instagram that you also helped put together a brochure about FTM health?

BA: So again, kids are reaching out to me: “Tranpa, I have these weird pains, but the gynecologist says I’m fine!” I thought, “UGH, that’s it!” So I started FTMHealth.com, and on that site I created a pamphlet. Whenever I create a project, I always get the community involved. So I got 10 young trans guys to donate their time to help me build the site. I gave each of them a little job and they all volunteered their time. It teaches them to be part of a community service that’s bigger than them, and I can tell they feel so happy about it.

You can download the pamphlet on there. It says to hand it to your gynecologist, and it has all the things the doctor should know to test for. It’s really basic, but these doctors don’t have any clue, so we’re helping them to create a better environment for our healthcare. I’m a big believer in if you don’t have what you need, you need to be part of creating that.

Buck Angel, trans man and porn star

PIP: Are you also still doing a lot of public speaking?

BA: Yes, that’s where most of my income comes from. I still travel the world. I’m getting a little bit tired of it, but I’m blessed to be able to do it. It’s tough work; I give a lot of myself in these talks and they’re very draining. I speak all across the board. I just got back from Denmark, where I spoke at the Gender Festival there. Next month I go to Salt Lake City to speak at the Gender Fest, then I go to Amsterdam to perform at a club and then to speak at a place called Mr. B that’s a sex shop that carries my toys, and I’ll do a little talk.

From there, I go to Paris, Milan, and Brussels to speak to an organization that’s CEOs of major corporations. I speak to them about my story, about who I am. Because they also want to see entrepreneurship; that’s a big deal to these guys.

People couldn’t believe that these toys didn’t exist in a multi-billion dollar sex market. That’s why they bring me in to talk. I came from the streets — I almost died. I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic. People told me my whole life I was never going to be anything, so I’m proving them wrong.

It’s very important that my community sees someone like me as a successful business person, successful in my own sobriety and my life. I think it’s important they see that you don’t have to be a victim. I think a lot of the youth have fallen in a victim mode, like they’re never going to be anything, because we don’t have a lot of role models or people out there who are successful trans entrepreneurs or business owners.

I feel that it’s very important for me to talk about my businesses and help kids start creating something. I’m starting to see the kids doing that, creating hair products and cool little things. That just says a lot to me, like they’re actually taking the initiative and not feeling like they’re not going to be something.

Buck Angel, trans activist and porn star

PIP: That’s wonderful. You post a lot of inspirational, uplifting content about your journey on Instagram; I’m sure that’s saved some lives.

BA: Thank you; it’s important. If you look at a lot of the other Instagram pages of trans men, it’s a lot of self stuff, a lot of hateful stuff, and a lot of pushing against each other. There’s not a lot of camaraderie or feeling as a family. I think a lot of the kids are lost because they don’t feel like they have a platform to bounce off of.

I’m 56. Dude, why are you crying at 20 because you’re not getting your chest surgery? I understand your anger and your pain and your anguish, but you don’t understand that 20 years ago, you wouldn’t even be getting a chest surgery. They need to put things in perspective, but how can kids put things in perspective if they don’t even know where they came from?

We don’t talk a lot about the history of our community for some reason. I think kids are very entitled. I know I sound like an old man, but they are entitled considering where I came from. I really want to give them a grounding so they can understand that when you have gratitude for your transition instead of entitlement for your transition, you will have a different outlook about where and what you are today.

PIP: It’s clear you’re a role model to a lot of kids online. How does it feel to support and mentor these young trans people?

BA: I used to feel a little taken aback from it in the sense that I don’t want to be a role model; it’s a very big responsibility! I don’t have kids for a reason! Then I realized, “Wait a minute, dude, you are Tranpa, and you do have a lot to offer,” and “Wait a minute, you really do love your community, and there are other people telling these kids really bad, ugly stuff.”

I felt like maybe my voice was going to help them, just being a loving grandpa to these kids. So I started to come at it that way. I was nicknamed Tranpa and I took it on, because I really feel that it is a responsibility on some level for elders to push forward and create. As we do this, we help our community grow into a much healthier community. Because right now I don’t feel that it’s a healthy community on many levels. I feel very blessed and honored when kids say I helped or inspired them. It’s an honor and a privilege for kids to look at you that way.

Watch Buck answer this question in this video from our interview below!

PIP: Definitely. I profiled Larry Lare Nelson, who had a booth at San Francisco Pride where kids could ask senior LGBTQ people anything and learn from them. I wish there was more of that!

BA: It’s coming. My cannabis company works directly with the LGBT Center in Los Angeles; we’re vetted by them. Every time someone buys a product, a dollar goes back to the Center. We’re working hand in hand with the senior center there to build a facility for homeless seniors.

There are very few housing options for LGBT seniors. We’re helping build a 300-room center here in Los Angeles that will help LGBT youth and seniors. I’m just devastated by homeless seniors, because that’s not OK. We’re the only country in the world that treats their elders as if they were dirt. Not just trans people, not just gay people; everyone. We treat old people without any respect.

I lived in Mexico for 10 years, and I learned so much there. The people in Mexico take care of their elders no matter what; they move them into their homes. How beautiful is that? We just don’t do that. I have been thinking about creating a space like that also, a retirement or community space where elders can move in together and be friends with each other and create that.

Buck Angel

PIP: Yes, there are so few retirement communities and homes for LGBTQ seniors in this country.

BA: And it takes money — some seniors don’t even have enough money to do that. We as a community need to understand that and give back to that, and give a space where people can move in. That’s why we’re building that. It’s just so distressing for me to see that people don’t care.

I talk about it all the time, and it’s why on my Instagram I go on every night and I talk, often about respecting older people. You don’t have to like me and you don’t have to share my opinions, but you have to respect me. It’s very important; we should all be able to have different opinions, but what we shouldn’t be doing is telling people you’re wrong just because you don’t believe in that opinion.

Going back to transsexual and transgender, instead of just chilling out, the community is fighting itself over identity politics and it’s unbelievable. If I want to identify as a purple cow, who cares? Is it really bothering you that much?  

PIP: Yep, I’ve encountered some of that identity politics and infighting within the community, and it’s disheartening. I waver on whether to call myself bisexual anymore since people have expressed different strong opinions about its definition, and “queer” sometimes feels easier.

BA: This is the part we need to have a discussion about. It’s not OK for somebody to tell you how to identify or to explain your identification to you. I’m a bisexual guy; I totally claim bisexuality, and I understand that gender is different now, and that’s why I feel OK with bisexual, because it just means I am pansexual. I feel like claiming bisexual is very important right now, because it’s the bad little stepsister of the LGBT community. Always has been, and always will be. I’m tired of it.

Because pansexual is really bisexual, they just changed the terminology. Like transexual and transgender, but they really coopted transgender and created a different language for it and a different identity for what it means. And that’s not OK to still tell people that’s what they are when it really doesn’t relate to a lot of the identities under that umbrella term. Same with bisexual; it works with today’s language, but people just always have to push it! Reclaiming that word “bisexual,” like tranny or faggot or dyke or any of the words that people feel are derogatory, are the only way to actually reclaim and push it forward into a better space.

I feel like our voices have been shut down by certain types of groups within our own community. Not just the trans community — all across the LGBTQIA community. So I think it’s very important we get all voices out there.

Keep up with Buck Angel on Instagram @buckangel, and visit his website to purchase any of the products mentioned in the interview, including Sexing the Trans Man!

Photo credits: Buck Angel Entertainment


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