When Buck Angel walks into a room, you’d likely notice nothing out of the ordinary. The well-muscled physique, the shaved head and the tattoos may make the timid a little wary. But in conversation, that perception quickly changes. “I talk about my vagina all the time,” he reveals. Buck is many things: Man, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, adult film performer, human rights activist—and formerly a woman.
Though Buck always considered himself a feminist and had an outspoken role as a woman he describes as a “butch dyke,” it was after he transitioned that his true role in feminism became apparent. “When my outside matched my inside,” he explains, “I was able to understand myself better than I ever had. I was able to be a man who embraced his past as a woman.”
With great privilege comes great responsibility
“My whole life changed when I became a man,” Buck acknowledges. “People acted so differently to me. A lot of men don’t know they’re privileged because they’ve always been privileged. Now that I’m a man, I can literally walk wherever I want to walk and never have fear. But if I was the person I was before, I would never feel comfortable doing that. People say awful things to you when you’re a butch woman with tits.”
Buck may have gained the privilege inherent to men, but his path is by no means as smooth as someone who has retained their gender from birth: “I receive threats from people because I’m a man with a vagina. My vagina makes people go insane.”
“I’m a man, you can see I’m a man,” he continues. “I walk the world very masculine, no one has a clue. Even when I get naked sometimes, people don’t know what they’re seeing. That said, I get into situations where people think they’re being fucking cool and talk shit about women. Of course, they don’t know that I used to be a woman. Now what do I do? Do I say something? As a feminist man, I have to say something.”
A man’s place
The question of where men fit into the feminist movement is contentious. It’s a women’s movement, and it would be problematic for men to be prominent at its forefront. Having lived as both genders, Buck brings a unique perspective to the question of how men can best aid women in the movement toward equality.
“I have a chance of having a bigger voice,” says Buck. “As men, we already have a voice. It’s a very difficult thing, because some women will get upset about men even having this conversation. This is what I believe: If men don’t start having a conversation, we will never see true change.”
“My history does make me entitled to have an opinion,” Buck asserts. “Many people will say that when I transitioned I lost my right to this conversation, but I lived as a woman for 28 years, and I still have a vagina. And not to say my vagina is feminine, because it’s not. But I lived a life as a woman.”
Men as Allies
The problem with men being involved in this conversation is that our male voices already take up so much space. The male voice is perceived as credible, informed, respected. This assumption of competence doesn’t often apply to women until they prove they’re capable of the same qualities. But without the space, without inherent privilege, where do women stand in the fight against the patriarchy?
“This is what I believe: If men don’t start having a conversation, we will never see true change.” – Buck Angel, Transgender Activist and Educator
Buck’s solution? Men need to give over some of the space they currently occupy. “Sometimes we’re going to have to use our male privilege to open doors,” Buck explains. “I’m in such a unique, powerful space to see this from both sides. That’s why I encourage my male friends—if you hear anything that makes you cringe, it’s your job to speak up and support women. Having gained male privilege, I couldn’t imagine myself not using it.”
When we come together
Feminism’s goals are as numerous and varied as the issues women face simply because of their gender. Women are denied access to jobs, paid less than male counterparts, experience less physical security than men; history is not complete without understanding their subjugation and oppression. A woman’s experience is impossible for men to truly comprehend. Unless, of course, you were once a woman.
Buck has such an important role to play in this conversation, and he encourages men to get active and get educated: “Feminism needs men in order to move forward, and I don’t think that’s an anti-feminist statement. In order to create equality, we need to all be on the same page.” A voice in any conversation is a privilege—and it’s what you do with your privilege that counts.