Saturday, July 11, 2009

Self Made Man

He is one of the most famous porn stars in the world with an impressive collection of films under his belt. He has been photographed and captured by many artists worldwide. He is ruggedly handsome, layered in stunning tattoos and his pierced sexy muscled body is a stunning example of manhood. But there are plenty more other reasons why Californian born Buck Angel is so captivating and fascinating. Buck is a self made man like no other. He was born and raised as Susan.

“A lot of people ask me what it was like growing up as a girl… it’s funny because I was never raised that way,” says Buck.

“I was a tomboy. I wore boys clothes and played outside a lot. Everyone always treated me like a boy growing up so always felt I was one.”

Susan was tall, beautiful, athletic and graceful. She was a star athlete, excelling in track and field sports. She also had a promising career as a professional model that saw her going overseas to Europe and the UK. But all of those opportunities were slowly destroyed with the gradual onset of puberty, which was totally traumatic for her.

“All those hormones rushed around my body, which quickly started to change and I began menstruating. I grew breasts. I felt this utter disconnection from my body, which really didn’t feel like mine anymore. What was happening within my body didn’t match up with how I saw myself.”

People also changed the way they treated Susan. She was always attracted to girls and suddenly she was expected to like boys, wear dresses and expected to be and act like a girl – something that felt quite foreign.

“What was worse was that I felt so alone in all of that. I couldn’t express myself or my feelings to anyone else. You have to understand that it was a very different time… people weren’t understanding of ‘gay’ let alone ‘transsexual’. Everyone else seemed at ease and perfectly happy with what was going on with their bodies. I was really depressed and I went inside myself. I started acting out and becoming incredibly self destructive… but I didn’t know what else to do.”

Susan started drinking heavily, using drugs, and acting out in self-destructive ways. Her distraught parents helped her get into an expensive $30,000 rehab center where she was pampered while being given a chance to beat her addictions. It didn’t work too well, and within days of being out of the program, she was using drugs again. Her parents had enough, and kicked her out of home. It was something that Buck says needed to happen.

Luckily androgyny was in style, and with Susan’s gorgeous face and tall lean body she easily scored modeling gigs, gaining opportunities to travel overseas to Europe and the UK. It was a good excuse to run away, but still Susan couldn’t leave behind the battle going on inside. Everyone around her said that he had what it took to become a supermodel. It wasn’t long before the drugs, alcohol and her behaviour was out of control again and she was sent packing back to the US.

Homeless, living on the streets, hustling and prostituting to get by, Susan hit rock bottom. She was sent to another rehab program.

“This was a community rehab center for those on the edge, and it was really hard but the best thing that could have happened to me. The program made me take responsibility for my life and my actions. It also helped me realise where my real issues lay… it made me face and accept that I am a man,” says Buck.

With the program complete, Susan started officially living as a man. He got a job working in a warehouse; he got a girlfriend and started rebuilding his life. But it wasn’t till the fateful day when he came across the film Gendernauts that featured a female to male transsexual, that Buck realised that he needed to start the process of becoming a man, not just psychologically but physically.

“You’ve gotta understand that it was a very different time I lived in when I was going through all this. No one even knew female to male sex change surgery was even an option, especially me.”

You can imagine how much the realisation of that possibility changed my life! No one I knew had done it… and then I saw that amazing movie.”

Buck Angel’s body was at least ten years in the making – a slow, thought out and planned regimen of transformation that included psychiatry, hormones, surgery and a hell of a lot of gym sessions. Buck was in no rush, taking plenty of time to properly research and inquire about his options. Finding the right professional for each step with the right caring nurturing attitude was essential, but even then there were limitations.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a total perfectionist. I mean, just look at my body, my chest surgery. Even looking at the latest surgical developments don’t really offer anything close to a real penis. There are often many complications, risk of infections after surgery, severe scaring and after all that, they aren’t that big. My toys are way better!” he laughs. “What I’ve got works perfectly and it gives me lots of options. I decided to keep my vagina. I’m still a man… just a man with a pussy.”

Is a man with a vagina still a man? Buck is quick to share his perspective on that.

“What is a man? If a man loses his genitals in say a car accident, are you not a man anymore? Of course you are. Being a man is more about what’s in your head than what your body looks like.”

The whole idea of transsexuals is largely an abstract concept to most people, many of whom have probably never consciously met a transsexual. The reason that Buck Angel is so challenging is that he makes those concepts real, and by his very existence throws our narrow definitions of gender into question. What is a man? How do you know you are one? What if you’re attracted to him – what does that make you?

Given that the gay and lesbian, transsexual and porn communities are often so marginalised and ostracised, you’d expect that Buck Angel would find acceptance or at least understanding there, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“Nearly all my lesbian friends disowned and rejected me during and after my change. They saw it as me rejecting my womanhood and lesbian sexuality… and they took that very personally. They were fine with me dressing butch, getting tatts and strapping down my breasts, but once it came to hormones and surgery it was a whole different story. I quickly learned who my real friends were, but that was a very isolating experience.

“To many of the trans activists, at least the ones in the States, I’m held up as an example of what not to be, and I’ve personally witnessed situations where some very nasty personal things have been said about me… painful, uninformed and hurtful things. They might show stills or clips from my movies and cast judgment, totally without context or without ever allowing me the right to share my perspective. It’s unfair and it’s a real shame too, because my point of view is valid.”

And then there was the porn industry that in the beginning was terrified of what Buck Angel represented. Studios and individuals simply refused to work with Buck initially. Buck wasn’t just a trans man who liked women, but also ‘loves being fucked by men’. There wasn’t really anyone out there like him and that was challenging. But in porn, money talks.

While working as a warehouse worker, Buck also found an interest in the Internet and web design. With his very supportive girlfriend, he started his own porn website which at first featured still images of himself and then eventually small amateur movies. So successful was the site that it brought enough attention to score a 12-picture deal with a porn studio; the first female to male transgender porn star to be signed up to a major studio. He made Cirque Noir with big gay porn studio Titan Men becoming the first transsexual to ever appear in one of their films. He also started creating his own films and online video content that has done outstandingly well. Films like Buckback Mountain, V For Vagina and Bang For Your Buck.

It wasn’t too long before the industry realised that a huge market that existed for the kind of porn that Buck was making and before long he had amounted a substantial filmography. It was also apparent that he was a brilliant performer. In 2007 Buck Angel was not only nominated for Transsexual performer of the year, but he actually took out the title. It was a proud day for Buck Angel.

Since that fateful award win, his career highlights include being a special guest at the infamous Black Party and being a performer in Stairway To Hell for the Jim Rose Circus. Buck has also been captured by various artists and photographers internationally. US photographer Joe Oppedisano captured an amazing image of Buck that he included in his publication Testosterone. When publishers said they did not want the image of Buck Angel in Testosterone, Oppedisano apparently said ‘either the picture stays or there will be no book’.

Buck is also one of 12 enigmatic people, including singer Michael Jackson and model Kate Moss, to have their entire body cast in gold by UK artist Marc Quinn. He has been interviewed by publications worldwide and has been a guest on countless television shows including talk show Maury Povich. Buck Angel is a phenomenon with legions of fans around the world, especially in Australia where he hopes to visit soon.

“It has always been a dream of mine to come to Australia. That is definitely something that I’d like to do soon. I have so many fans there… in fact it’s one of my biggest fan bases in the world,” says Buck. “I get the impression that you Aussies really understand where I’m coming from. I’d love to do Mardi Gras! It looks so amazing and I’d love to be a part of that.”

It’s the day before Buck’s birthday, and he ends the interview by reflecting on his life so far, and the wisdom he’s gathered along the way.

“You need to live your life on your terms, and not let other people tell you what’s right for you. You know what feels right for you. If people reading your article walk away with anything, I hope it’s that message.”

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