This interview was originally published for an educational conference in Australia. Questions and introduction were written by Dr. Rosslyn Prosser, Senior Lecturer, English and Creative Writing, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Adelaide.
Buck Angel is a North American trans man who calls himself a “man with a pussy.” Buck uses storytelling as an educational and motivational tool. The concept of resilience is key to a discussion of Buck Angel as he continues a re-appraisal of his position in the trans and hetero-normative worlds. Buck responds to the shifting understandings and reactions to the meaning of being transgender and to ideas about a multiplicity of ways that ‘being a man’ can be produced.
For Buck, resilience is a continual and negotiated process that occurs in the many vehicles of storytelling that he is involved in: from online social media forums, filmmaking, and in appearances at LGBT events worldwide where he is an invited speaker. Resilience is never a final state of being. Moments of storytelling and a style of witnessing exist in Buck’s self-presentation. Here, he touches on the autobiographical narrative of recovery and survival which he uses as forms of advocacy and politicization.
1. How much does the global community of trans people mean to you?
Everything. As a transsexual man who transitioned over 20 years ago, to see the emergence of this community explode in the past couple of years is so refreshing and brings hope that the world is evolving — that we can start to understand that gender is more of a spectrum than just male and female; that people can start to become themselves instead of hurting or feeling that there is no way out of the cycle of self-hate. This, I believe will start to reflect positively in the way the world will evolve more and people will begin to be able to work together instead of apart. I believe that the more we are seen the more that change happens.
2. Do you believe that you are resilient?
One hundred percent! Everyday, I feel a need to break down the way some people react to being a transsexual person. The hate just makes me want to bounce back even more. I think most of the transgender/transsexual community is starting to feel this way. We have to or we will not survive.
3. What makes you resilient?
The desire to make positive change in the world after years of not feeling worthy of living or being myself. Once I found peace within, I found a desire to fight my oppression and teach through my pain.
4. Can you describe the worst moments in your life — as a man with a vagina?
A desire to die. I had no will to live and no self-worth. These were feelings I had all day/everyday in my teens and early adult life. I hated myself. I hated life. I was self-destructing through alcohol, drugs and unsafe sexual encounters. I did not care. If brings tears to my eyes now, as I think about it. I remember the pain so deep inside, that I cry for the others who I know feel this way today.
5. Why do you persist with the man with a vagina identity?
For one reason only — to show the world that you do not have to conform to a set standard of gender. To show that hat we have been brainwashed to believe we cannot be unless we conform to a standard. I have proven this by becoming a man with a vagina. Many will still argue that I am not a man, but this I know comes from being programmed. So by using my “man with a vagina” persona, I am able to break down these notions.
6. Is resilience natural or does it need to be taught?
I think it comes from within you. Some people know how to tap into it and others do not. I think it can come from a place of survival or a place of love. It just all depends on the person’s situation — and time and place.
7. How would you teach resilience?
Good question. I think I teach it just by being. By doing my work, it shows resilience. This encourages others, I know because I witness it everyday. Lead by example, I guess, is a good way to put it. Be the change you want to see and others will follow.
8. Does resilience come about through survival or can it be obtained by other means?
Both. For me, it is mostly through survival. But like I said above, I think I encourage resilience through my work.
9. Do you express your vulnerability easily?
Yes, I do. It was not easy at first and I felt very, very uncomfortable. Letting myself be vulnerable felt un-masculine. It wasn’t until one of my first speaking events that telling my story I started to cry, remembering some horrible parts of my life. When I witnessed others in the audience crying with me, I realized how powerful and freeing it is to be vulnerable as a man.
10. Do you think it is important to express vulnerability?
Yes, I do, especially so for a man. Men are taught not to be, that it is feminine. So when people see a man being vulnerable it breaks down so many walls and helps to heal not only your own pain, but the pain of others. To help people themselves become vulnerable is an act of kindness, I believe.
11. What do you think the main purpose of your life is?
This question makes me laugh because what I am about to say might seem crazy, but then again you know me.
I believe with all my heart that I have been chosen to make big change in the world. To unite people through humanity. To show people a way of living that is authentic without apology. To teach love, self-love, desire, will and change. To start a revolution. To be a role model. To just be a survivor so others can be too. I feel blessed beyond belief that this is my life. It’s a process after years of self-torture.
12. Who is your life role model and why?
Madonna — and I do not apologize for that. She is a woman who has made such change in this world through her art, desire and passion. She has shown that with all of this you can be, you can make change and you never ever have to apologize. She is a great feminist who does not get recognized for her contributions because she pushes the lines between sexuality and gender. This is my passion as well. This woman is a powerhouse, a survivor and very resilient.
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