Buck Angel has been fighting for a long time.
First there was the unchecked and unexamined cis privilege that Angel helped dismantle by being unapologetically himself. Now, there’s a new brand of trans activism that seems hellbent on discounting Angel’s life experience as a transsexual, sending him the same kind of hate-filled messages he received 25 years ago.
“I have never fought so hard against my community in my whole life of activism,” Angel says, laughing out of a combination of exasperation and fury. “I have never been so kicked in my balls on a daily basis! I’m blown away by how our own community can be so mean and shitty to one another. I don’t even know what to say about it.”
That may be the only lie Angel is capable of telling, because he is never at a loss for words. The self-professed “tranpa” should be spoken of in the same breath as other LGBTQ+ pioneers who forced a reckoning, but he’s abruptly fallen out of favor and is seen by some as “problematic” and “dangerous” to the trans community .
At the root of Angel’s sudden banishment is his refusal to say anything other than that transitioning saved his life, and his choice to refer to himself as transsexual rather than transgender.
“Transitioning saved my life,” Angel emphasizes. “We have a lot of work to do just to be accepted in the wider world, so I see it as necessary to support one another, so when people in the community harp on me because of the fact that they don’t like that I’m a transsexual…its something I can’t reconcile with the wider cause.”
Much of the pushback regarding Angel has stemmed from the trans community claiming that his views on transitioning are harmful and dated, but Angel punches back, saying that he is speaking only from his own experience, and that to not speak directly to those suffering from gender dysphoria as he did is to court tragedy. Angel never advocates for living life within the gender binary at the expense of anyone else’s beliefs. Instead, he returns again and again to a philosophy of, “It’s my own space and what I do. As long as you don’t talk shit to me, I won’t talk shit to you.”
But what would Internet culture be without shit talking, and so Angel continues to be a lightning rod for controversy. Somewhere along the way, he points out, “transsexual” and “transvestism” were completely elided .
“I have no problem with new terms coming into existence, and that includes the terms like non-binary. Initially, I felt very challenged by it, and I voiced my opinions about it, which led to people saying hateful things in response to what I said,” Buck says. “I have admitted in some instances I was wrong, and I actually enjoy the process of being educated and adapting. I enjoy that dialogue and that’s part of any culture to grow and learn and debate together. But what I cannot adapt to is when people tell me that I’m not trans or that the term I (and others like me) have used for decades is wrong. I get called transphobic. Do you know how hurtful that is, when I have devoted my life to create change for my own specific community?”
That drive to create change hasn’t diminished, even as Angel steps back from the adult work that made his name to focus on other pursuits.
“I do a film maybe once a year or once every few years,” he says. “I don’t need to do be doing this. I love seeing these young guys coming in. Porn for trans guys is a really positive space—it can help them connect to their bodies a bit more. The porn industry for trans guys is totally different now.”
Angel launches into a factual recounting, with no appreciable change in his voice, of the many threats he received on a continual basis for appearing in porn: “I’ll hang you from a tree. You’re just a lady. I’m gonna rape the fuck out of you.”
That’s a level of vitriol many of us in the LGBTQ+ community are lucky enough to never experience, though we’re aware that it exists, But Angel has lived through it all, even as he’s simultaneously been accused by that same LGBTQ+ community of indulging the fetishization of trans men with his adult work. “Wait a minute, what’s wrong with fetishizing?” he says, laughing in disbelief. “It’s a sexual space! I want you to fetishize me; it’s why I’m fucking there!”
With porn on the back burner, Angel has moved his focus to cannabis and sex toys for trans men. Sober for over 30 years, Angel has been advocating for cannabis since discovering it as an aid in combating his own insomnia and anxiety. And his new line of trans male vaginal health products will come out sometime in 2021.
“We don’t talk about that, but there are a lot of health issues there, so I create products in order for us to have the conversation,” Angel says. He speaks from experience; in 2011, he required surgery after finding that his vagina had atrophied. “We have to create a space where you connect to your body,” he says. “I thinks sex is one of the most important parts of transitioning because you finally learn to love your body by just enjoying it. For me, the best thing was to not get the penis surgery and really connect to my body that way.”