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|Trans disclosure debate tests safety, freedom of expression|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 28 September 2012 00:00|
Buck Angel, the “man with a pussy” who garnered fame through porn films and is now an activist, was greeted warmly by dozens of young transmen at the 22nd annual Southern Comfort Conference.
At the Transmen’s Welcome Party on Sept. 20, Angel, attending his first Southern Comfort, talked with fans, posed for photos, signed autographs and mingled with the crowd. Not only a porn star, Angel is an educator on sexuality and gender through his “Sexing the Transman” documentary.
Angel discussed his story with the group of men and women who gathered in a conference room at Atlanta’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. But none seemed to know that Angel was embroiled in an online transgender controversy about the sensitive topic of disclosure — when is the right time to disclose to a romantic interest that you are transgender?
In an interview posted Sept. 5 on Salon.com about his new transmen dating website, BuckAngelDating.com, Angel gave this answer:
“I’m a huge advocate for disclosure, because I believe a lot of people get themselves in bad situations because they do not disclose. For example, trans women who might hook up with a cis-gendered guy and then he goes home with her and finds out she has a penis and flips out and beats her up or kills her,”Angel answered.
“That’s horrible, and I really believe by not disclosing it’s very disrespectful to the other person because they might not be into it and it makes them feel very freaked out about themselves.
“Disclosure is huge for me, and how do you do that in a bar situation? You’re right, it’s very strange,” Angel continued. “For me, how I always did it was if I knew it was going to turn into a sexual situation, immediately, immediately, I would say, ‘I need to let you know about this situation.’ But the dating site puts it right out there: I’m a man with a vagina!”
In the days following, a small community of people exploded with anger on the social media forum Tumblr, saying Angel had basically said trans women deserve to be killed if they do not disclose immediately. He was called a “trans misogynist.”
Angel took to Tumblr to apologize for being misinterpreted, but not for hi belief on disclosure.
“For me, when you’re going to go meet someone and have sex it is important to disclose because it is disrespectful to yourself and to the other person,” Angel said in an interview with GA Voice.
“I used trans women as an example. And I was speaking strictly about meeting someone for sex,” he said.
Using trans women as an example for disclosure was simply Angel using a term and gender identity more people are aware of, he told GA Voice.
“Not many people talk about transmen,” he said. “I love trans women. I have many trans women who are my friends. But we have heard stories of trans women who are hurt and get in bad situations.
“But why would I say that — that a trans woman deserves to be killed if she doesn’t disclose? I’m an advocate for trans people being proud,” he said. “It wasn’t even a transwoman that started the fire. It was a cis-gendered [a woman-born female] woman. I have people who don’t like me.”
In Angel’s apology on his Tumblr website, he wrote, “Disclosing is a very personal choice; I know this and respect it. I was not assuming that we all decide to make that choice. But when we do, we expose more people to trans folks, which ultimately does lead to greater awareness, and ultimately acceptance in society.
“Please accept my apology for this comment coming across in a way I did not intend. This can happen sometimes when you do a verbal interview due to the way it gets transcribed,” he said. “I am most certainly not trans-misogynist.”
Angel told GA Voice he believed the controversy was started by someone with an “agenda” and he stepped away from it after posting a public apology. He still wants people to understand that he did not mean a trans woman deserves to be hurt if she does not disclose.
But he stands firm in his belief that to disclose before sex — and before a possible awkward and dangerous situation — is the best way to go.
“It is inappropriate to not disclose. It is disrespectful to the other person. If you had HIV wouldn’t you disclose? I would hope so,” he said.
‘Man with a vagina’
Before talking to GA Voice, Angel spoke frankly to Southern Comforat attendees about his work, his desire to educate and his vagina.
“Twenty years ago when I had my sex change — and that’s how old I am that I call it a sex change — there was no nobody to talk to me, about how to have surgery, what I’m going to look like, let alone my vagina. Which I had a huge issue with,” he said.
“It was something I couldn’t deal with as a woman and then as a man. How am I going to be a man without a penis? But for me I had to learn that was something that was not for me. I knew I wasn’t going to get the penis,” he explained.
Angel said he became comfortable with his vagina after masturbating for the first time.
“I had never done that before. My world changed. It was truly, truly an awakening. I knew I didn’t need to conform to what world telling me how to be a man,” he said.
That led to working in the adult entertainment industry and “sharing it with the world,” he said.
“I’m a guy just like everyone else. I just have a vagina,” he said.
In the beginning, however, transmen hated him and sent him angry emails telling him he did not represent them because they hated their vaginas. Today, Angel said, transmen are embracing his philosophy to just be themselves regardless of how the world tells them to conform.
“I’m here as a man with a vagina. And I’m very proud of that,” he said.
Top photo: Buck Angel spoke to fans at the Southern Comfort Conference. The 22nd annual Atlanta gathering that attracts hundreds of transgender people from across the country. (by Dyana Bagby)
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