Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wanna Fuck Buck?

Ever since the days of Christine Jorgensen the public has been aware that there were men who got sex changes and became women. A comparatively recent phenomenon is the female-to-male transsexual, and there seem to be many of them these days. Although many of these FTM transgenders get artificial penises, apparently these do not look very convincing and in addition cost around $100,000. So some of the FTM transgenders just keep their vaginas. A case in point is the transgender porn star Buck Angel [see the comically overstated photo above], who is billed as "the man with a pussy." Buck appears in adult films targeted for the gay market and identifies himself as, you guessed it, bisexual. He has a bisexual wife (a body-piercing "weirdo" named Elayne Angel) but told one interviewer that he and other FTMs like him go to gay bars and pick up the "edgier" or "kinkier" members of gay male society. In other words, people who think it would be kinda cool to fuck a guy with a pussy (although I imagine many of them would prefer to go in through the back door, if you know what I mean). Buck says he has never been fucked in the ass, however.

We’ll get back to Buck and his ilk in a moment. First let me say that I support rights for the transgendered – including gay and straight transsexuals, gays with characteristics of the opposite sex or transvestites with opposite sex identities, the androgynous, and so on. I can’t say I identity with any of these people in any particular fashion (aside from acknowledging the fact that we’re all "queer" and discriminated against) but I do sympathize with their struggles. Today many of the transgendered have a remarkable confidence and pride -- at least when they're in a group and/or have support from loved ones -- and while you can feel sorry for them and what they have to go through in a prejudicial society, I can’t say that I find them in any way pitiable, (although perhaps at one time I did. And some, of course, may be just a teensy bit odd.)

Still, there are troubling questions, some of which center on transsexuals who identify as straight. Most of these, of course, would have been considered homosexual while they were still in their original biological bodies. After transitioning, they generally remain attracted to the same sex as before and therefore become – in a way – heterosexual. (Transsexuals feel that whatever their biological condition, they are actually male or female, as the case may be, both before and after surgery. Therefore a gay male transgender was a gay man even when he had breasts and a vagina, and other trannies insist they were always heterosexual. Boy do they insist!

And this is where the troubling aspect comes in, the borderline (and not so borderline) homophobic attitudes that have been expressed – too often for my comfort zone – by straight-identified transsexuals. External and internalized homophobia can strike every segment of the LGBT community it seems. For instance, on the LOGO TV series Transgeneration (which seemed to focus primarily on straight-identified trannies), a male to female trans named Raci gives a lecture on what it’s like to be transsexual and is asked if she’s ever had sex with another woman. Raci makes a disgusted face and says "No! Never!" as if the very idea is anathema to her. The lecture hall bursts into laughter, but whether the people there were giving in to their own homophobia, reacting to Raci’s, or simply thinking to themselves "of course she doesn’t want to have sex with a woman – she’s basically a gay man" is uncertain. Probably all three.

In the documentary film Southern Comfort, a transgendered man named Robert Eads insists over and over that he’s hetero even though the object of his affection – supposedly a male to female transsexual named Lola who lives most of the time as a man named John – comes off as nothing so much as a typical (and very likable) drag queen. They come off as a gay couple by any objective standard. Raci (although she can "pass" easier than others) also comes off as a drag queen and so does another MTF hetero trannie from Transgeneration named Gabbie, who is less successful than Rani at "passing." Watching Gabbie dining with her family and boyfriend or accepting an award from GLAAD, she seems little different from the stereotypical "queen."

Eads and the other FTM transsexuals in Southern Comfort for the most part seem very masculine, and if you weren’t clued in from the beginning you would probably take them for "ordinary" males. However, late in the film we see the dying Eads in a wheelchair and you can catch sight of the "woman" who once existed (Eads had been married and pregnant more than once) underneath the world-weary facade – Eads simply looks like a grandmother who’s pasted on a false mustache and beard so she can have fun with her grand kids on Halloween.

Undoubtedly the truth is that the transsexual community can be as diverse as the gay community, and there are some "transitions" that are more successful and convincing than others. Yet some times you’re given a sudden disturbing impression that reminds one of the now politically-incorrect observation that transsexuals are just gay people who can’t deal with their sexuality and would rather cross over and become heterosexual than face the facts. Of course this is pretty far-fetched – surely it’s easier to accept one’s homosexuality than to have a sex-change operation and everything that goes with it. And many transsexuals do clearly come off as the opposite gender (as opposed to merely being "effeminate" or "mannish") even before they have any surgery, making it clear – to me at least – that definite transsexuals do exist. (And I fear that young teen trannies get a hell of a lot more support than those who "come out" and transition much later in life.) But in some cases ...

The trans who merely seem like drag queens or butch lesbians may be less successful attempts at transitioning, but it begs the question if some of them are in a different classification. And the fact that some in this grouping are a bit homophobic only makes it more confusing. If prejudice is generally caused by an inferiority complex, you can understand why the transgendered can be homophobic. I’m not saying transsexuals are inferior, only that it’s no wonder many of them feel that way given the level of misunderstanding and prejudice they have to deal with, something that all other minority groups from gays to African-Americans can certainly understand. But while there may be a reason behind it that doesn’t excuse it.

Candidates for sexual realignment surgery must receive counseling, but are all psychiatrists sophisticated enough to tell a self-hating homosexual, or a dizzy queen who wants to make his fantasies of being a real lady become real, from a true transsexual? Hopefully most of them are, and don’t just react in a pc manner that says "If you say you’re transsexual you must be transsexual." Which doesn’t make any more sense that accepting that someone is straight or bisexual just because he or she says so. (As I’ve said many times, people rarely lie about being gay.) Even Buck Angel says that switching genders is becoming easy and "trendy," and that some people go underground to get hormones and wind up deeply regretting their decision.

Of course we then have to turn around and ask if many drag queens, especially those who live as women most of the time, are really gay men or are instead transsexuals. Is having a female identification the same as being female? Traditionally there are reasons why some gay men think of themselves in female terms (their attraction to men, for instance). It may also be an acknowledgment of – and even pride in – their effeminate demeanor. This may be entirely different from being transsexual, however. You occasionally hear butch gay men calling each other "Mary" or something along those lines, but this (or a variation of it) seems to happen more often amongst femmes. Some femmes identity strongly with women, and others – despite a vaguely effeminate demeanor or androgynous manner – are strictly guys, and think of themselves as same. Effeminacy and transsexualism don’t always go together. Is a drag queen who is basically female 24/7 a transsexual deep down or a type of gay man living out a "fabulous" fantasy? Ironically, some very effeminate men get very angry if you talk to them as if they’re women despite the drag, make up, mannerisms, and all that goes with it.

As for Buck Angel: Is the porn star with a pussy – as well as a beard, chest hair, and a masculine aura – a true transsexual, or a strange bi-identified lady living out one of the world’s most bizarre and complicated fetishes? Is this role-playing, acting, carried to a strange and fascinating extreme? In his "former life," Angel was supposedly a very feminine top fashion model ["I was not an ugly bulkdyke (italics mine)," he says, perhaps revealing a little more of that trans- homophobia we've been talking about.] Watching Robert Eads and and his buddy, another FTM transsexual named Max, conferring in Southern Comfort, it almost feels as if you’re watching two women giving a frantic theatrical performance, each trying to out-butch the other as the camera and the audience looks on. Observing FTM transsexuals at work and play you occasionally get the impression that some of them have an almost desperate (and understandable) need to come off as much, much butcher than any man who was actually born with a penis (a need to come off as macho? -- gee, they really are men, aren’t they?), just as drag queens want to come off as more fabulous, feminine and glamorous than any actual female. (Honest-to-goodness transgendered females seem to be less ostentatious than drag queens.) [PC advisory: these are admittedly subjective impressions, not meant to put anyone down.]

Buck Angel claims that a penis doesn't define a man, but it certainly helps. (He has to use dildoes when he wants to fuck anyone.) In one sense, of course, he's right, in that men who can't perform, have been castrated, or lost their organs due to illness or accident, are still male. But a man with a pussy (or an expensive "penis" that doesn't quite look right) must feel an awful need to be as hyper-masculine as possible to make up for it. And can this lead to a kind of macho mind-set that can be as unappealing, if not more so, in men-who-were-once-women (and "ordinary" women) as it is in men born with cocks? Judging from interviews (his porn films don't interest me, but then I've never had much interest in porn, it being a spectator sport) Buck sort of comes off in part like one of these swaggering a-holes who fuck around with other men but God forbid if you dare suggest they're gay.

Buck does his best to deny that having a pussy makes him less of a man, then turns around and says that when he's getting screwed by men in his "gay" porn films, the vagina makes the action kind of "straight" as well. He's got a point, of course, but gee, I thought he was supposed to be all-man -- how can his male on male action be considered straight? Buck does everything else -- can't he get used to taking it up the ass as well? Or is that too "gay?" Maybe he and other FTMs keep the pussy because they really prefer it over a dick, even one that came up to their -- and everyone else's -- standards. Buck says he'd get a dick if the science and surgey was up to par, but who knows? [Let's make it clear now that Buck is only one kind of FTM transgender male, and we shouldn't assume that every FTM acts like him or agrees with him. For instance, many FTMs feel a penis is quite important. And I'm sure most are not swaggering a-holes.]

I don’t know if there are as many FTM trans men cruising the back rooms of gay bars as Buck Angel suggests. Talking about Buck, friends of mine admitted they sometimes get freaked out looking around the bar and wondering which of those hot macho studs with their beards and chest hair and attitudes could be hiding a pussy under his jeans. This is not bigotry and it isn't a "fear" of the vagina; gay men tend to be into dick, after all. I find it homophobic to suggest, as some do [occasionally bi's and trans, wouldn't you know it?], that there's something wrong with a man because he doesn't find a pussy all that desirable. Most gay men may not be out and out disgusted by vaginas, women, or heterosexuality, but pussies are not exactly a big turn on, either. [On this point Buck seems to be clueless.] That's just being gay and what the hell is wrong with that?

Anyway, the next time you're in the Eagle -- in whatever city -- take a closer look at that hairy, overcompensating, hyper-macho mustachioed man busy acting up a storm before you chat him up.

Or you could be in for some Vagina Monologues.


Anonymous said...

I wanna fuck buck!

Bill Samuels said...

He's all yours, anon. Buck is cute, but he doesn't have quite the "bottom" that I'm looking for!

Walt said...

Interesting piece. I recently read that the first sex change operation years ago was actually a woman into a man. But you're right that FTM transsexuals seem more common today, or at least didn't get the "press" that the others did. Buck doesn't appeal to me at all, but it isn't just the vagina. and I have no problem with his transgendered status or orientation. He's just not my type.

KJ said...

I found your writing to be possibly the best critique of the subject yet, and I find it interesting that it's come from a gay man rather than a member of the trans community. You make all the salient points that need to be made , but are never raised by trans guys because , well, if we say it , we'll have to examine our own issues, and we can't do that , can we? Since there's no one queerer than us, we must be blameless.

I knew what I was getting into when I made the decision to go from a straight female to a gay man. I knew that I'd be losing a community and that the old adage of " What do you call a gay FTM? - Single. " is largely true. It sucks, but it is what it is. You trade off privilege, acceptability, romantic companionship, social status and a plethora of rights for sanity. A lot of folk rebel against it by stopping midway. They ID as trans, may take hormones, and present as male as possible while maintaining their place in the lesbian community. They try to have the cake and eat it too, which is great if you like women. A fag like me doesn't get that option. I effectively am invisible. I am the non-existent T in LGBT. To echo you, gay men want cock, and I come up short, no pun intended.

I cannot look down on Buck for the very public way he's living his transition and all the issues. If turning himself into a fetish object is his way of dealing with it, then more power to him. If I had the balls, I probably would attempt to be one of those guys at the eagle, but I fail to see the point of going where one is obviously unwanted.

Bill Samuels said...

Thank you for your comments, KJ, and for understanding that the post was my way of exploring some of the issues that people don't talk about and wrapping my own mind about things that I admit I may not fully understand yet... but I'm trying. As for FTMs being unwanted in the Eagle, I don't know if it's entirely true today and it certainly may not be true tomorrow as the gay community gains more understanding and acceptance of the transsexual community in all its variety. What may now be a "fetishistic" attraction for some gay men may turn into something more genuine as people open their minds to what makes a man a man and get over the (to them) "strangeness" of it (as people hopefully got over the "strangeness" of homosexuality).

I would like to think that if I met a man I liked and was attracted to at the Eagle, or anywhere else, that his turning out to be an FTM would not prevent me from being his friend, and perhaps lover, not as some kind of "kinky" thrill, but because I was attracted to his personality and sexuality. Admittedly, I might have some problems dealing with a vagina, but that is probably not the case with everyone. I would like to think that a transsexual man could be a soul mate, but in truth don't know for sure how I'd react -- with respect (despite my occasionally flippant tone) and compassion for a fellow traveler, I hope.

Things move too slowly some times -- forty years of Gay Rights since Stonewall and it still seems like there's such a long way to go -- but I believe we're on the verge of more acceptance of transsexuals, as people talk more and more on the subject -- although it ain't gonna be easy -- nothing ever is. The fundamentalists are still in a rage over gays, so you can imagine how they feel about the transgender community. The hell with them (pun intended)!

As for Buck, you're right that he's found his own unique way to find his place in the world, and you've got to give him credit for it. I'm sure it's not the path everyone would chose, but if it works for him, it works for him.

I don't know if it's possible for anyone who is not transsexual to fully understand all that you've gone through and given up, as you put it, but I imagine transitioning and accepting yourself is, in a way, similar to the coming out process for gays -- you have to do it or die -- and that I can certainly relate to. You may find -- I hope you find -- that many of the gay men you meet, while some may initially be confused or put off --will be more accepting than you imagine. There are narrow minds in every community but hopefully you will encounter those who are open to new challenges, attitudes, and types of people, and who will recognize that in all the ways that matter you are just a man like they are.

Thanks again for your enlightening comments, and I wish you the best.