Did you know that about 700,000 people in the United States identify as transgender? With more and more men and women identifying as trans than ever before, there is an increasing fight for their rights throughout the country. However, at the same time, there’s also an even greater need for advocacy and understanding as the mystery behind what it means to be transgender is slowly unveiled.
While there have been very few transgender celebrities to come out, two of the most notable examples in recent history are Kaitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) and Chaz Bono (formerly Chastity). As Kaitlyn made headlines alongside her famous family on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Chaz found his own way to the spotlight as the daughter of famed musicians Sonny and Cher. But, did you know there’s another transgender man who has also made quite the stir?
Who is he, what’s his story and where is he now? From a tomboy and female professional model to a male adult film star and LGBT activist, Buck Angel has had an interesting and incredible transformation over the last 30 years. Join us as we take a look at one woman’s breathtaking journey to become a man in the story of Angel’s courageous transition into the transgender world.
#8 – Growing up Susan
Growing up a tomboy in Los Angeles as a young girl named Susan, Buck Angel didn’t think twice about her preference for spending time with the boys in her class rather than the girls. Initially not causing any concern among her family who believed she would outgrow it, it wasn’t until Susan was 16 years old when her sexuality came into question at home after she displayed the same behavior. Feeling forced to identify as a woman and falling into a deep depression, Susan made a suicidal gesture at school that changed everything.
Immediately sent to therapy, Susan finally admitted that she identified more as a man but her revelation was not well received by her family who, according to Angel, planned on sending her to a mental institution. With little known about gender transformation surgery or hormone replacement therapies, Angel had no other choice but to live life as Susan and eventually turned to drugs and alcohol while working as a professional model completely unhappy with herself and devastated by her life.
#7 – Just the Beginning
Despite finding moderate success as a female model, it wasn’t enough for Susan who eventually set out on her own path apart from her family’s disapproval to freely identify as a man. Cutting her hair, adopting a new style and changing career paths completely, Susan turned to the widely diverse adult film industry where she presented herself as a male entertainer under the title Bulk Angel Entertainment. Having yet to undergo any transitional or genital surgeries, Angel found immediate success in the industry.
While getting a fresh start and gaining more confidence as an adult entertainer, Angel met and married Karin Winslow, a dominatrix living in San Francisco. Divorcing shortly after Winslow left him for one of her clients, Angel turned to online dating where he met body piercer Elayne Angel. Marrying in New Orleans in 2003, Elayne filed for divorce in 2014 and argued that the union was illegal because Louisiana did not recognize same-sex marriage at the time, which she said applied since Angel never had genital reassignment surgery. The court, however, ruled the marriage was valid.
#6 – Finding the Way
Beyond his relationship troubles at home, Angel became a pioneer in the adult film industry since there were very few other transgender men on the screen at the time. Eventually making his all-male film debut in Cirque Noir in 2005, Angel followed up his performance with the first sex scene between a trans man and trans woman in what was nominated as the “Most Outrageous Sex Scene” of the year at the AVN Awards.
Finally enjoying his life and his career, it wasn’t long before Angel’s efforts were rewarded in 2007 when he became the only trans man to win the Transsexual Performer of the Year award. Still holding the coveted title today, Angel has since been nominated for and won dozens of awards in addition to appearing in the 2008 documentary Naked, which offers a rare glimpse into the world of adult film. Now a household name beyond the industry, Angel has also built a stellar reputation in the LGBT community.
#5 – Becoming Buck
With his name change from Susan to Buck successful both in and out of the industry, Angel never felt pressured to undergo genital reconstructive or reassignment surgery and, instead, had some minor work done to eliminate the fat tissue in his chest. Taking testosterone to combat the hormones and ease the physical transition from female to male, Angel’s transformation was anything but smooth sailing after the influx of testosterone caused his female reproductive organs to work overtime leaving him incredibly ill.
Though initially refusing to undergo a hysterectomy and hoping to tough it out, Angel was left with no other choice after the harsh effects of the ongoing testosterone treatments. Sharing his story today as part of his speaking engagements on transgender sex education, Angel says that anyone taking testosterone for more than a few years after making a transition will eventually need a hysterectomy before the sickness and side effects become unbearable. Doing exactly that and continuing the treatments to build muscle, Angel started lifting weights to bulk up and look more like a male.
#4 – Life After Entertainment
Making yet another transition in 2012 from the adult film industry to sex education, Angel launched his first tour educating audiences around the world on human sexuality and the acceptance of LGBT people while sharing his story. Coining the catchphrase “it’s not what’s between your legs that defines you” in his “Bucking the System” presentation, Angel is an entertainer of a different kind these days who focuses more on activism after being inspired by and joining Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign in 2010.
Wrapping up his “Bucking the System” presentation with question and answer sessions, Angel doesn’t shy away from the truth as he talks with people across the United States and Canada with stops at Yale University, Cornell and Toronto’s IdeaCity10. And, admitting that everything hasn’t always been easy, Angel says, “I cringe at some of the things I did early on. But now I know better and really make an effort to help change the world.”
#3 – Activist and Educator
Obviously using his fame and experience to make a positive impact, Angel has taken his message to television where he’s shared his story and advocacy of the LBGT community with talk show hosts like Tyra Banks, Howard Stern and Maury Povich. But, he hasn’t stopped there. Putting his second divorce from Elayne behind him, Angel created and launched a dating website for transgender men in 2012 called BuckAngelDating.com that caters to the needs of other transmen like him.
As for his career as an activist, Angel says, “One of the great things about growing older as an activist and educator is learning and growing as a person.” Angel is also the mastermind behind the award-winning series Sexing the Transman XXX that debuted in 2010 and was recently renewed in June 2016 for its next season. Using the series as a form of education in sexuality and body positivity, Angel says that people have contacted him to thank him for the series because of how it has helped them in their personal lives.
#2 – Changing Times
Happier than ever with both his career and himself, the 54-year-old Angel continues his work as an activist and public speaker today while building his following and support system across the trans community. With plenty of work to do to achieve full acceptance in the LGBT community and more than ready for the challenge to educate and inspire, Angel shared his insight in a recent interview when he told reporters, “I would say that there are still some weird feelings about the transgender community and the adult industry.”
Following up his comments, Angel added “I think they still look at us more like outsiders and not necessarily as part of the adult industry. But I do not see that as a big problem because you can do and create whatever you like now. You do not need the industry to ‘make it’ anymore. We can now just do it. I am proof of that!” Because of statements like this as well as his honesty about his experience, the internet has been especially kind to Angel who has expanded his reach on sites like YouTube and Tumblr with an outpouring of positive feedback and grace.
#1 – The Future of Buck
These days, Angel spends his time at pride parties and festivals around the country while giving speaking engagements where he meets one on one with people who are struggling with their own transitions. As for what the future holds, Angel is still filming Sexing the Transman XXX and hopes to continue his work as a prominent figure and advocate in the LBGT community while building his legacy as a success story of one woman’s journey to embracing her true identity as a man.
“You know,” Angel said, “When I started my work I just wanted to create a space in the adult world that wasn’t there. I did that. Then came my activist work and that really made me feel so happy and powerful because I really started to see the change that my sexuality work was creating and I thought how lucky am I to be able to travel the world to create change.” Although Angel’s family hasn’t fully accepted his transition from Susan into Buck, there are thousands of others in the world who have and he couldn’t be happier and more grateful.