• Buck Angel talks about life as a transsexual porn star
Buck Angel is a pioneering filmmaker and icon in the world of transsexual porn. The Feed's Patrick Abboud sat down with Buck Angel to find out more about his life and career as an author, activist, educator, and transsexual porn star.
Airdate: 
Monday, February 10, 2014 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

Buck – let’s rewind right back to the beginning. You say as a teen you were a girl that acted like a boy. What does that feel like to know deep inside that your biological gender is just not right?

Yeah it’s really kind of a difficult question to answer in the sense that everyone - most people in the world, feel totally in their bodies. And so for a person like myself, I always felt like a guy, I always felt like a boy, and my parents in a sense raised me like a boy. I was a tomboy (do you have that here in Australia?). I always felt really comfortable that way and I always thought I was a boy and people reacted to me as a boy, but I was really a girl. So everything was fine pretty much until puberty hit and that’s when I really had this realisation that my outer physical body was not matching how I felt inside and people started to react to me that way. So most of my childhood I always just felt like a boy and it wasn’t really an issue until people started saying, “you’re actually a girl.”

You had a pretty rough time as a kid…

Yeah not a kid, more early teens... when those things started to happen and then people started to say things to me. You know, “you’re really a girl,” and tease me at school, because “why do you look like a boy?” You know kids can be very mean. It’s still the way it is today. Kids can say things to you that are very mean so that started to make me a little bit more isolated and shy and not be able to interact with people a lot, and fight a lot. I was one of those angry kids. I was constantly fighting the boys at school and I was a girl. So that was getting me in a lot more trouble because I beat the crap out of boys! [laughs]

How did you deal with that?

It was totally serious and alcohol. Alcohol was my security blanket and smoking marijuana. I started getting into that and really sort of isolating myself that way. And really getting into drinking. Drinking. Blackout drinking. You know at 15 and 16-years-old and not really coping. Because I didn’t really know what was going on, I had no idea what was going on. At one point I thought I was just a gay, I was starting to have feelings for women and I knew I was a woman and that was something I couldn't talk about either. I didn’t really know that I was a transsexual person until way later on.

Did it get serious to the point where you thought about hurting yourself?  How did you escape that?

I tried suicide and I was put into a psychiatric institution for a while because of my suicide attempts. I just totally removed myself from society in a sense. I just didn’t have many friends at school. The thing that really saved me… probably from dying, was sports. I excelled in sports. I excelled in long distance running which is really good for a person which isolates themselves from the rest of society and the world because I could just run, run, run. And I excelled at running. I excelled at running so much that I had all these schools and organisations coming after me but I was this person who couldn't interact and I wanted to die, I didn’t really want to be alive.

When you finished school you kicked off a massively successful career as a female model…if you never really felt comfortable being a girl why would you go to that extreme? It’s kind of a weird contradiction isn’t it?

It completely is... I was discovered in a sense. Someone took my picture, they found me they said “we can send you to Europe” and all that was around me at the time was drugs and alcohol. So I was an alcoholic and a drug addict and so that was fueling my passion for that.

You started your transition at 28 years old – you’re now 51…talk us through briefly the process of going from Susan to Buck Angel?

It’s a long process! [laughs]

Yeah once I was a girl named Susan and now I’m a guy named Buck and that process took many, many, many years. And how it started was I couldn’t live as a woman anymore. I could not live that way. I wanted to kill myself every day that people interacted with me as a woman... Every day to walk out the door, I wore baseball hats, never looked at anybody in their eyes, I was always very disconnected from the world. And so one day I met a therapist who said I believe that you really are a man and I’d never heard that before from anybody. When I would say it they would shut me down, “you’re just a male identified woman.” Whatever that means… or “you’re a gay woman, you’re a butch gay woman” and that’s all I ever heard. 

When I did it there was no doctors... I found a hormone doctor that worked with transgender women… He had done that for 30 years and he said, “yeah I’ll help you,” along with my therapist saying, “Yes I believe that he is a man,” and so I was his guinea pig. He told me, “You’re going to be my guinea pig.” Used those exact words. And so of course it’s life threatening, it was life threatening for me. I had no problem being a guinea pig because for me, in my mind if it didn’t work out I’m going to kill myself... So that’s the way I thought. It was like that’s what I’m going to do. So I started the process of hormone treatment, testosterone, and teeny little teeny bits because again I’m the guinea pig and through that he gave me more and more and we figured out the dosage and after six months... he sent me on my way. Within two years I found a top surgeon... he said, “I would love to try something new with you.” [He] did my chest surgery… I wanted to get what we call bottom surgery, penis surgery, but you know back in the day there wasn’t a lot of internet, there wasn’t a lot of focus on that and there wasn’t really any research I could do on that, and the research I did was not really what I wanted. I wanted a penis, like for me a cisgender or a biological man has. I wanted the functioning thing that I could use and they didn’t have that. And so there was one point I just had to realise that I couldn’t get it and I never will get that penis.

I’m so happy with my body right now that it’s not something that I do research on anymore. And nor do I feel that I need that. I don't ever need to have that penis. That was sort of like the point where I realised that I don't have to have a penis. I don't have to have it. I don't have to have it to be a man it’s not necessary it’s a misconception completely.

So how much testosterone does it take to get you looking as ripped and buff as you do?
I don’t take that much! I work out. I take about one cc of testosterone every ten days or something like that. And I work out five days a week. And I eat very healthy... But for me this was my vision, not everybody wants to be this way. I really had the vision of being hyper-masculine that was something that I always dreamed. G.I.Joe was my sort of like hero you know... I wanted to take my top off and I wanted to present to the world as this like hyper masculine man and I really wanted to achieve that.

Let’s talk relationships…you were married to a dominatrix Karin Winslow (transgendered) she left you for transgendered Lana Wachowski who co-directed The Matrix.

Ilsa Strix, that’s her dominatrix name. That was her (Karin Winslow’s) real name.

Actually I dumped her... [laughs]...I know that’s what they write in the papers.

So what happened?

So I was with my dominatrix wife, Ilsa Strix/Karen, and we were a married couple but we were also a professional couple. We had a dungeon in downtown Los Angeles and she was a very well-known dominatrix and got a lot of high profile clients, one of them being Larry Wachowski, one of the brothers who directed the Matrix. Who’s now Lana Wachowski.  And so through that they started having an affair, which was very strange for me because she always had such great boundaries around her clients, so it was never really a weird thing for me. But she started having an affair with him at the time. And you know we talked about it a lot and it was just something that kept happening. They were filming the Matrix 3 here in Sydney during the time of the affair. And so he would fly here out here and she’d be out here for months and I’d be like “what’s going on?” I knew something was going on so you know it just wasn’t happening for me and I pretty much cut it off I said it’s either him or me, and so you know she couldn’t make a choice. So I made a choice and filed for divorce and chose to move on from that situation. And so that said, it’s obviously the way that it needed to be, but Larry was going to Karen for that need. In the sense that he would go to cross dress but I think then he started to kind of feel trans at the time and so they were exploring that... I also want people to understand that being a dominatrix is a really awesome thing and it helps people to deal with their fetishes that society says is not cool, if you want to dress like a girl and you’re a guy. I think what she does and what she did is amazing but the boundaries were crossed there so that happened and we split up and they ended up getting married and that’s that.

You re-married another woman Elayne Angel – a body piercer. But she recently announced that you’re no longer together… it seems you haven’t had much luck with women?

We were married for 11 years, 11 years. Very few people stay married for their whole lives and if they do most people will stay married like that unhappily. And I’ve always said to myself, the first part of my life was so bad, that the second part of my life right now will never be like that. I will never compromise for anybody. I will never stay in a situation that I’m not happy, ever. So we grew apart. I travel a lot, things happen, people grow, she grew, I grew.

I’ve totally moved on from that. The divorce is happening right now, but I’ve completely moved on from it. It’s sad when it happens but it happens. I’ll tell you this; I will never speak badly about Elaine for those 11 years. She taught me a lot. I learnt a lot from Elayne, she really was an amazing person. And I really feel a lot of gratitude for what she brought to me. But that said we completely went separate ways.

And you have an adopted daughter right who is now a playboy playmate?

Well here’s the deal with her. She’s about 48-years-old, so she’s not adopted in that sense. I met Rebekka Armstrong, who’s a Playboy Playmate, 21 years ago in Los Angeles at a party. And I will never forget when she walked into this party, she was a mess. She just looked like she was homeless, she didn’t have anything and she’s just discovered that she had AIDS. And Playboy dropped her and she had nowhere to go and there was this connection between me and her that was not sexual. It was like my Dad, I have this Dad part of me this “I want to take care of you” part of me, that connected with her and I just connected with her and I said “you know I have a house and dogs and I’m not married, I don’t have any partners and I work all day, how about if you move in to my house and cook and clean and do the things that need to be done while I’m away and you can live with me?” And I sort of adopted her and I became her Dad. And that was 21 years ago and I’m still her Dad.

We have the closest relationship of anybody, she’s my longest relationship.

Your Dad was a butch dude he was professional football player and you came through a pretty conservative up-bringing…do your parents see you as a man or a woman now?

A man completely. My parents are amazing. My parents had a horrible time with me. I mean from the age of 16 until I pretty much did my change at 28. I mean I was horrible, so they disowned me at one time, they couldn’t deal with my alcoholism, my drug addiction, all of those things that I was doing. My suicide attempts. Until eventually I just lost contact, they disowned me and through sobriety and getting my shit together, I re-enacted the relationship with them and today now I’m their son, not a problem. I visit them every month when I go to Los Angeles. 

So what do you reckon makes a man? Some would argue that genitalia is what really differentiates us as humans…taking that on board…how can you truly be a man without a penis?

Because it’s all in your attitude and how you feel about yourself. That’s what I’m trying to teach the world. we’ve been programmed to say if you're this way you're gay, if you're this way you're straight, if you're this way you're a man, if you’re this way...I’m living proof. It is totally false. It’s because we’ve been programmed to say that. I told you, asking that question is kind of a very, it is in a sense not a question that can be completely answered, it’s not a black and white question. For me my own feeling is how I feel presenting to you right now. It is male.

Do you really feel like you know who you are right now?

A 110 per cent. And that happened in this last year. And I would say that it happened a lot after my breakup with Elayne. Something came to me like, I know I’m going to sound like a wing-nut, [laughs] “here it comes?” Like I was enlightened somehow. I went to this next level and this next level of gratitude and thankfulness and lately I’ve been really learning about manifesting. And manifesting what you want, and who you want to be and how you want the world to react to you. And so I’ve always had that confidence, pretty much since I became this person and took the hat off and been able to give you eye contact, I’ve been this person. But there was still something a little bit not 100 per cent confident. But in the last year, or six months, it was like this thing came to me that I don't even know how to present it to you other than the fact that I learned how to have this gratitude, that I’m able and sit here and talk to you. And people listen to me because I am so confident in being the man that I am. 

So the question everyone wants answered…do you piss standing at the trough or do you sit in a ladies cubicle?

[laughs] Can I stand at the trough? Of course I can but here’s the deal. I have to take my pants down all the way down to my ankles [laughs] so I’m all like four year old! I was doing it the other night at this club and I totally do it, I don’t care. I completely take my pants down to my ankles and I stand against it all the way and I pee in it... But you know it’s that confidence. People don’t say things to me.

He’ll glance over, you know how guys do that, come on, and they totally check each other out. But he’s just looking at me but they never say anything to me. But I was at this party and the guy was like, “hey aren’t you Buck Angel?” It totally helped. But in that sense I go to gyms all around the world and I walk around naked, I don’t care. Nobody ever says anything to me. I’m telling you, it’s about that self-love of yourself. When you have that and it radiates to the world, people don’t feel the need to say mean things to you.

You travel the world now and run workshops and give lectures…do you feel like you’re work is making a difference?

Oh yeah, I do. I never thought in a million years that I would be doing what I’m doing. And yeah. The reason I know that is because I get people who are interested to talk to me and I get emails daily from anywhere from a 13-year-old kid who felt like killing himself until he saw a video of mine on YouTube to a grandma who is like “wow I saw this speech that you did and I’m just like you know, good for you for doing this!” It runs the gamut, so I know that people want to hear what I have to say.

Looking back on your journey…is the world a better place for Trans people now?

A hundred per cent. When I did it people didn't even know what that was. And then there was a time where people were freaky, weird about it. But I would say in the last five years there’s this huge growth of that community so because of that people are interested. Like you're interested to talk to me. People are interested in what does this mean to be a transgender person. That said I want you to understand that I’m not a transgender person. I’m a transsexual person and I live my life as a man. And so there are differences.

What do you really want out of all this media that you do?

I don’t know if I want. First off I’m a business man. First, for my business a hundred per cent, it was for my pornography business, and I went into that to make money.  [whispers] I like money [laughs]. That said the growth from that I realised people want to see me and hear me outside of the porn business. So when I started to do my speaking and people paid me to come and I started to make a living that way, then I just started growing as a person. What I want really is going to sound so insane and crazy that I’m going to tell you. I want to change the world. I want to make people think about what that means to be a man and a woman, and a straight person and a gay person, and understand that it doesn’t exist. I want to deprogram people from thinking they have to be this way. That’s my ultimate goal. 

How do you feel right now? Where is your life headed?

Brisbane [laughs]. And then back to Sydney and then back to Los Angeles and I live in the Yucatan in Mexico and then I go back to Mexico and then I start again in New York, Sweden, back to New York. I travel a lot because constantly people are asking me to speak at universities. I do shows. My life is amazing!

Buck Angel is on tour in Australia across February. For details on all his events head to http://getbuckedaustralia.com.

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