Buck Angel – Qualia FolkQualia Folk

Buck Angel is a female-born man who has gained iconic status in the LGBTQ community as a muscular, masculine actor with a shaved head, facial hair, tattoos (“pervert” is prominently written across his upper back), and a vagina. His masculine physique (his sex change included a masectomy), and female genitalia, coupled with his assertion that he is a man and nothing else, subvert presuppositions as to what constitutes a Lesbian, a man, and a transman.

Within the Trans community, Angel is iconic for his presentation of self and declaration of masculine identity. Nevertheless, he is condemned by some for what they see as his exploitation of the community for shock value in the adult video industry.

buckangel.com/blog/photos. Top image: www.myspace.com/buckangelentertainment /photos/1352757#%7B%22ImageId%22%3A1352757%7D, January 2012


Angel prefers to keep certain details of his life private, such as his name at birth, age, and hometown. But he does describe his early life in general terms. He grew up in a middle-class American family. As a young girl, she was a tomboy (a young female who exhibits masculine-gendered behavior). Puberty brought with it serious problems concerning identity, which led to drinking alcohol excessively and fighting, behavior that eventually got her disowned by her family. She tried modeling, and was successful. But she hated it.

Then she saw a video featuring a female-to-male transsexual, and her life changed. She looked into sexual reassignment surgery and began the transition from female to male in his twenties. The transition to becoming a man included a double masectomy, hormonal treatment, and a regimen of weight training to enhance his musculature. But Angel did not choose to go through surgery that would give him a penis because he believed the result would leave him with less neural sensitivity than what he would have with the vagina with which he had been born. He also was critical of the state of the art for penile construction, and wary that surgery would not give him a fully functional penis compared to those belonging to men born male. Having abandoned the destructive ways of his youth, his family has since been completely supportive of him, and he says his parents are proud to call him their son.

His name, Buck Angel, was chosen because of two factors: “Buck” because it is, in his opinion, a very butch (masculine) name, and “Angel” because it is the last name of his wife, tattoo artist Elayne Angel, author of The Piercing Bible.

Status in the Trans Community

www.buckangel.com, January 2012

Because of his openness about his body and participation in the adult entertainment industry, Angel has received criticism from transmen who believe he exploits his status as a transman, thus exploiting them as well. But Angel strongly disagrees with those accusations, in part because he does not self-identify as a transman; “I do not consider myself a ‘transman.’ I really think of myself as a man,” he said. With regards to his appearing in erotic videos, Angel feels no conflict about exploitation because he wants to make quality erotic videos featuring a female-to-male actor. In this way, he hopes that narrow definitions as to what constitutes normal sexual behavior can be subverted.

Angel considers the criticism he received in the past to be a reflection of the shock that people felt when first viewing his work, and the insecurities of those transmen who criticized him. He finds that the younger generation of transpeople does not react as negatively. Although he does not count himself as a member of the Trans community, Angel considers himself a supporter of it. For those transmen who condemn him for his videos, he said, “Let them make their own porn” (interview with Mickey Weems for the Qualia Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife).

Performing Erotica

www.buckangel.com, January 2012

Angel’s work in the adult entertainment industry began as a means for greater sexual expression: “I got into porn because I like sex,” he said. Due to the initial novelty of a masculine man with a vagina, Angel considers himself a pioneer in his field. He has made erotic videos with men, women, and transpeople.

His fan base, however, does not include many Straight men. Despite Angel’s vagina, Straight men tend to interpret his work as Gay-oriented. Gay men, and women of whatever orientation, tend to be his biggest fans. The connection between Gay men and Angel can be found in the ways that some male bottoms (those who are the receptive partner during anal sex) describe their sphincters as their pussies (slang for “vagina”) and man-‘ginas (“man-vaginas”) terms often used in humorous Gay men’s folk speech.

Angel performed during the 2006 NYC Black Party, a Leather Circuit event held around the vernal equinox that includes live sex shows. “It was just spectacular being able to perform in front of a mainly Gay male crowd. I was very well received,” he said. Angel also won the 2007 Adult Video News Award for Transsexual Performer of the Year.

Role Model

Angel’s physical appearance and his unapologetic attitude with regards to his participation in adult videos has gained him media exposure, including an appearance on Howard Stern where he mounted the Sybian, a high-powered dildo, during the show. Although frank expression and commercialization of his persona as a self-styled “real man with a pussy” have brought him censure from some members of the LGBTQ community, his visibility has made him a role model for some younger female-to-male transpeople, some of whom have told him that his example kept them from committing suicide.

www.buckangel.com, January 2012

Angel feels that he is not simply a porn star. He is an advocate for diversity and tolerance who will help change the world by showing people they do not have to fit into anyone’s categories. “I am a very confident man who does not need the acceptance of society to tell me if I am a man or not,” he said. “I believe I am already changing the world by just putting myself out there. I am changing the way people look at gender at sexuality and at people who are just different… With this, I think I will help to stop more homophobia, transphobia, and just phobias in general.”

Angel and Phallocentrism

Queer theory and feminist studies have stressed the importance of the phallus (an erect penis or its representation) as a mark of masculinity. But the success of Buck Angel in the Gay male community (and lack of success with Straight men) undermines the supremacy of the phallus-as-penis as the ultimate masculine biological-visual marker, placing at least equal importance on the muscular body. A similar statement could be made concerning another performer, Gia, a transwoman in Toronto who performed during the 2008 Toronto Prism weekend, who had all the signs of a feminine body as well as male genitalia (Gia covered her male genitalia in a bikini bottom when she performs). In Gia’s case, it is the feminine musculature of the body and the presence of developed mammary glands that marks the feminine body, not the presence of a vagina.

The growing acceptance of people like Buck Angel and Gia as glamorous rather than deviant confirms the importance of the larger context of the idealized masculine or feminine body overall rather than strictly genitalia in confirming the validity of erotic-aesthetic gender presentation.

– Mickey Weems
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Further reading:

Grecco, Michael et al. Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry. San Francisco: Rock Out, 2007.

Parks, Marcelle. Secrets of Porn Star Sex: Brilliant Ideas for No-Holds-Barred Pleasure. Oxford: Infinite Ideas, 2007.

www.buckangel.com, accessed July 2010.
www.transexual-man.com, accessed July 2010.
www.buckangelentertainment.com, accessed July 2010.

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