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Buck Angel on Why We Need a Dialogue That Includes Listening

By Sunnivie Brydum

After Buck Angel launched a website late last year that billed itself as a way for trans people to raise money needed for expensive gender-confirmation surgeries, the venture quickly became a source of heated discussion among trans people online. Then the site closed down, leaving behind a terse message in all caps: "REMEMBER THAT PAYING IT FORWARD IS PART OF A STRONG COMMUNITY. SPREADING HATE AND LIES ONLY FURTHERS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TRANS COMMUNITY. BYE AND GOOD LUCK." The founders, Angel and Jody Rose, who are both transgender men, argue that Transgasm was misunderstood by its critics. The Advocate spoke with Angel extensively about the site's story and why it's no more, including Angel's criticism of our coverage in December of the site's shuttering. An edited transcript of that lengthy conversation follows.

The Advocate: Thank you for speaking with us; you were less than thrilled with an article we published, and we wanted to offer an opportunity to respond. Do you feel there were mischaracterizations?
Buck Angel: Yeah … I really wanted to do this project, to start really helping other people in the trans community, just because I’ve been really lucky with some of the things that have happened to me. And I’ve been blessed — it’s been pretty easy, in a sense, for me to get my surgery and everything. And many years ago, I said something pretty inappropriate about surgery funding. And this person quoted that from 2007, which I thought was kind of bizarre to quote me from 2007 when, you know, it’s like, 2014, basically. 

And I have apologized for that many times over, and I have said I did say something that was completely inappropriate for me to say. That said, everybody has said probably something they wish they didn’t say in their lifetime — especially somebody of the public figure I am. And that’s how, I think, I’ve become a better educator, is the fact that I have made mistakes, and I have said things, and I didn’t understand the politics of community back then. It just was not something I was involved in or understood. 

And so that said, she did quote me on something that will again raise questions about me as an educator and as somebody who wants to help the community, because the community is … in a sense boxed-in, in a lot of the ways that they think. … They’re very much about language and those things. So it automatically put a negative spin on what my project was about.

And then, quoting some other people about my project being a "pyramid scheme" — which is the reason I stopped doing the project immediately — was because all of a sudden there was this huge backlash from the community, [claiming] that I’m taking advantage of the community, I’m pissing people off, and [the project] just started. Like, I just put it out, it wasn’t even a week old, and it was a phenomenal amount of negativity that these specific people started about me. 

[The website] was about teaching people to do what I did, which was to be financially independent, and fund my own self. And it gives you a sense of pride when you do these things. 

I know a lot of people aren’t able to fund their own surgeries, and that’s why they have to do a lot of fundraisers, and in a sense, I think it feels like begging for a lot of these guys, and it’s not comfortable; that’s not a comfortable feeling. A comfortable feeling is to come at something, make something, make some money, move on, and then build a community for that, and we’re gonna fund other surgeries. It was so much more involved, if people would have just listened to what we were saying.

My friend Jody Rose and I were doing this project. And the project did come from the fact that I thought it was time to start working and giving back to the community with surgeries, and teaching people to start being financially independent, and how did I do it? 

I am financially independent, because I taught myself how to be these things and I wanted to share that so much with so many people. Because a lot of trans men — I can’t speak for trans women — aren’t getting jobs, aren’t able to go off to the workplace. When the Internet is a huge place where, if you know how to make money, you can. You know what I’m saying? 

So all of my knowledge and everything I’ve learned over the last 10 years was something I wanted to give back. … In one week, it became such a negative: I’m a bad person, I’m ripping off the community, I’m doing a pyramid scheme. And it was shocking to me, and it really hurt my feelings. Nobody was listening. ...

I deal with this stuff all the time. And I know that it’s not about me. If you look deeper into the whole thing, right, it’s not about me. ...

What is this really about? Because I’m far from the only person in our community who gets bashed. You know that as well. So let’s say, Dan Savage gets bashed all the time. So for whatever reason, people don’t like one word that he used, and so he’s bashed forever from now on. It’s kind of weird — you can’t apologize. If you apologize, that seems to get skipped over. It doesn’t matter that he apologized. It matters that he said that, and that’s the only thing that ever matters. Which I find really kind of insulting and sad. 

I’ve grown totally as a person and as an educator. I’ve grown tremendously. And I know when I’ve done something bad, and I will always say "that was something bad." But I guess that’s sort of where I’m at at this point. I’ve let it go — there’s nothing I can do about it. Once that fire starts, you can’t fuel a fire. If you get involved in it, you’re fueling it, and it’ll die out eventually. But right now, the most important thing is that it brought up dialogue, which is totally awesome.

The dialogue is the important part. That said, we definitely wanted to reach out and give you an opportunity to be really clear and to refute some of these statements on-record. You said the 2007 comments were inappropriate. Now, what is your perspective on trans folks of any identity crowd-sourcing their surgeries that are not covered by insurance?
It’s necessary! Completely, 110 percent necessary. How else are you going to get your surgery? The United States doesn’t fund surgery. It’s ridiculous. … I donate DVDs all the time to people's crowdsource funding. … Posters, T-shirts — all the time I donate, because I believe in it. And you know, come on, 2007 and 2014? … I was thinking it even a year after I said that, I was like, Why did I say that? That’s just ridiculous that I said that. It was my own weird [focus on], I funded my own surgery kind of thing. I didn’t get myself out of my own ego. … I’ve grown so much as a person. I don’t even think that way anymore. Who is that? Who said that? Is that me? How embarrassing.

So that was not me. That’s another person. But that’s why I wanted to start this project! Because I do know so many guys who don’t want to [crowd-source surgery]. Because it’s humiliating! And especially when you’re not getting the funding. When you’re out there pushing, pushing, pushing, and five people donate a dollar to your surgery fund? It’s depressing. It’s horrible. … I know my surgery changed my life. Without my surgery, I’m not even sure if I would be alive today. So I get it, of course I get it. So yes, the 2007 statement was ridiculous. It was horrible, I feel stupid about it, and that’s why I try to make up for it by doing the things that I do now, and by starting this process. To empower someone to create their own project, to make their own money, it’s powerful at so many levels. 

I was confused, though, about the actual product that the campaign was selling or encouraging contributors to make.
Basically, it can be any kind of product. It can be an ebook, it can be a video about how to eat particularly right . … It can be anything that you want — it’s about getting you to understand your own creativity. It’s not for everybody — it’s for people who have the desire to become their own and create their own.

I created my own product out of nothing. So it’s like a way [for me to say], "OK, let me show you how I started to create video clips." So what is a passion of yours that you feel like people want to hear you talk about or see? Maybe you want to become a public speaker. Maybe you feel like you can go to a university and speak, [then we say] "OK, this is how you can start making a product of your own that you can say, 'this is what I’m going to speak about at a university,' and start marketing that there." 

We were also going to try to get more into the adult arena, if some people wanted to start making adult-style clips, because obviously that’s my expertise. And there’s money in that, and there’s people that want to do it, but they don’t know how to do it. And I’m like, "OK, I can teach you how to do that." 

I’m not saying it’s a specific product. It’s not. It’s all kinds of products, and [asking] what do you think you could sell? And I wasn’t making any money off it. Fifty percent goes right back to you, 25 percent goes straight into a surgery fund. I believe in giving back, so it’s sort of like giving back into a surgery fund. We pick seven guys a year. Hopefully the fund will be big enough to give these seven guys surgeries for the year. And then 25 percent will go back into the maintenance of the website, as you know, it's not an inexpensive thing to do.

You were talking about helping people tap into their creativity to create a product. Would that include, in your mind, a one-on-one consultation with them where you’d kind of discuss and get to know them?
No, we would do webinars. So you’d sign up for the webinar, and then like [participate in] a webinar where Jody and I would talk. Jody’s a professor and author and so he’s written a lot of books and he'd share his expertise on that, so we sort of talk about both kind of things. And you’d sit in on our webinar, and we’d talk about … let’s just say for example, "This is how I started making videos: I got a camera, I got in a certain situation, and then I learned how to do iMovie." And not everybody can afford those kinds of things at first, but there’s still a way to do it without having to put a lot of money in it. [It's about] getting people to understand they have these opportunities to do this. I think that in itself empowers people [who] feel like they’re never going to have an opportunity to make money. I think just giving you a sense of empowerment is huge. ... I’m not saying everyone’s going to get the opportunity. It’s sort of like inspirational thinking to these guys. Like, "don’t be bummed out, you guys. There’s gonna be an opportunity for you somewhere, but this is what I did, maybe you can do something like this." 

I get letters every day from these guys, crying that they don’t have money for their surgeries. I mean, for me, it’s depressing. It’s depressing because I have to be there, in a sense, for these guys. Because they see me; I am successful, but I’m successful because, not to toot my horn, because I really did do these things, and obviously I had my own opportunities. So the opportunities are there. 

And as you envisioned it, would Transgasm’s clientele and those who were on the surgery list primarily be trans men? Would that be an exclusive thing?
No. No, no.

It would be open to trans folks of any identity?
It wasn’t even about trans. That’s what started it, because two trans men did it. And so it said it was for F-to-M and M-to-F and anyone in between. And it clearly stated that. But the trans women got really upset at me because I had no representation of a trans woman. And I said, "Well, actually, it’s one week old. And we’re already looking."

It got hard. … It was a nonprofit. We were even already applying for nonprofit status. And so we were going to get a board, and we were going to have trans women on the board, and we were doing the whole thing. It’s a long process. My mistake was to put it out there before I had all my ducks in order. But I was so excited about it, right? Ohhh, mistake! Whoops. 

That said, yeah, we’re open to everybody, it wasn’t specifically about [transitioning]. That’s just the way we marketed it, because that’s what I know. That’s who I am, and that’s what I know. I don’t really know the in-between. But of course, even hetero people [were welcome]. Male cisgender guys, cisgender girls — it doesn’t matter to me. Whoever wants to be part of it. Because 25 percent of your money is going to go back into our surgery fund. So the more people, the better. The more money we make, the more surgeries we fund.

You said that you felt that the attack on your site came from a specific group of trans women, and speaking in broader terms, as someone who has been reporting on various aspects of the community for a while now, this seems to be kind of a dichotomy or a combative nature that seems to exist between many trans masculine and trans feminine communities. There sometimes seems to be open hostility between these two facets of the community. As someone who feels they’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of that, where do you think that comes from? What’s behind that?
I want to make sure I don’t get myself in trouble here. I have to choose my words very carefully. And I also really need you to understand: I’m not angry. I’m not angry at all about this. I’m not. I’m sad, which is totally different than being angry. Because I don’t like to see this. It just tears us apart. We have such an opportunity right now in the world because the trans community is growing so rapidly. You know, when I was a transsexual — which I consider myself a transsexual, I don't consider myself a trans person — it was different. And so now it’s so huge, it’s growing, wow. You know, I would even say this by the gay community. If we could just all stop arguing, we could take the world over. We could rule the world! But for some reason we can't.

It’s a hard question to answer because I feel like if I say one thing, it could be misconstrued as something else. … We’re coming from different places. … I have privilege, let’s not kid, right? I’m a white guy. I have privilege, done. I used to be a gay woman. I totally get it. It’s like, my life sucked as a gay woman in the real world, right? In the real world, walking around as a hard-core dykey butch, people throwing stuff at me, getting my butt kicked … getting gay-bashed, all of that happened to me. So now as a white guy who looks like whatever, tattooed and whatever, I have privilege up the butt. And I know I have it. I’m not at all, in any way, shape or form, pretending like I don’t.

And so I think sometimes — this is only my own opinion; I don’t know anything about the trans woman world other than that I have a lot of trans woman friends. I don’t want to use the word ballsy, but it takes a lot of guts — I think, a little bit more guts for a trans woman to become themselves. Because you are giving up privilege to become who you are. Wow. Just think about that. That’s just powerful. When I realized that — because I didn’t get it — but when I sat back and started to think, what is up here? I’ve gained privilege, and they’ve stepped back from that privilege that they once had. So that can bring a little tension. And I think that’s kind of what I feel, is that tension of privilege.

And you said that was something you didn’t always get. When did that click for you?
That clicked for me when I really started getting more involved with community politics. And I didn’t understand. When people would say "You're privileged," I was like "What are you talking about?" Super defensive, right? Like, "I don’t know what you’re talking about." Because I didn’t have that language. I’m not even a high school graduate — not that that really means anything, but I don’t come from education. I come from street. Totally different. I’m a survival, street guy, and I was homeless. I was a drug addict, all of those things. I didn’t know education. I didn’t know that level of understanding politics. … All I knew was "Hey, I survived. Screw you! I know how to do this and that’s that. Grr." 

That said, I don’t have that anymore. I understand the politics of community. But I’m also very outspoken, and I think that’s also important, because it does bring up dialogue. If we’re all speaking the same way and we all use the same language, you’re going to lose a lot of stuff there. But you still have to respect people’s choices. So yeah, I would say just through really getting more involved with the community. And really understanding that everybody here is different, their journey is different. And yet, once I stepped back and got out of my own ego — cause a lot of the things are about ego and about "you, you, you, you, you," — I realized it’s not about me. I have to step back and look. 

"Look at you. You are a white dude. Nobody would ever know. I can basically even go naked and nobody knows." People treat me different. I forgot. I just didn’t think about that. All I thought about was myself. "My life is awesome. I can walk anywhere. I can do anything. Nobody says anything to me." And then it was like, "Oh, my God. Remember how it used to be?" I forgot. I didn’t remember how it used to be.

Chronologically, when did you really start diving into community politics and undergoing that shift in perspective?
Well, I would say 2009 or ’10. … Because I never wanted to be an advocate or activist. I didn’t want to be a public speaker. All of the things I do now? No way. I just wanted to make porn! That was my thing. I just wanted to make sex movies. It was awesome, I loved it. But beyond my movies, I didn’t know that my movies were ever even political. I didn’t even realize that. I didn’t realize that movies were anything other than pornographic. 

But then I started to realize when people started to write me tell me, "Wow, I’m not into you sexually, but what you’re bringing to the table is going to change the world. And it’s gonna open so many people’s conversations." And I was like, really? I don't get it. So that’s how that sort of blew up, I was like "Oh, you know what, I do have a message here that’s bigger than that." So, thank God I could grow as a person, because some people wouldn’t, right? Some would be really shut down around that. I’m lucky that for some reason I was able to open my mind. And then I started to realize, yeah, people want to talk about these things. 

The only way to be a good educator is to make mistakes. I really believe that. If I didn’t make mistakes, I would not be the person I am today. I don’t think I would be a good educator. I do believe in myself as a good educator, I really think so. I reach outside of our community. That, to me, is the most important thing with my work. And those are the people that I think need to be spoken to. Those are the people that need to understand who we are. I relate to a lot of straight dudes. Straight dudes relate to me. I mean, straight white guys, wow. Can you imagine? That’s a very hard … faction of humans to get to. It’s very difficult to get to them. And they’re like, "Wow, dude, you’re cool." And they start researching trans people and gay people. Come on, that’s pretty powerful. So that’s when I started to sort of go, "I gotta get my language together."

Speaking about language, I know something that you and some other prominent trans male figures have had to defend or give some perspective on is the use of the word "tranny." I've spoken with Lucas Silveira [front man of the Cliks] about this as well. And I know he has been the subject of a lot of criticism for using that word. How do you respond to folks who say that word is not anyone other than trans women’s right to reclaim?
It is a difficult question to answer. Because I understand tranny has been used [as] derogatory toward trans women. But how do you know it hasn’t been used derogator[ily] toward me? How do you know that? I’m 21 years a transsexual. I found that kind of offensive myself, that they would just assume it’s all about them. It’s not all about them. But, that said, of course I understand that. I work in the adult entertainment business! Tranny is the number 1 word used in the adult entertainment business, and it’s negative. I totally get it. 

OK, that said, how is one word reclaimable while another is not? That’s my question, and that’s always what I come back with. I don’t understand why, for example, queer is reclaimable, because I’m old. I’m 51 years old, I remember when "queer" was a dirty word. I remember that. I marched with Queer Nation and all of that. You know, reclaiming queer! It was a dirty word in the gay community. And now it’s a positive, awesome word. Now everyone’s queer, right? 

So in a sense, that’s what I’m saying. I’m a huge believer in reclaiming, empowering words. When you don’t empower the word tranny, those people who have used the word against us? They win the game. Because they’re like "A-ha-ha. Now we always have that word and we can always call you tranny, and you’ll always be angry about it, and you’ll always be shitty about it." But if we were like, "Uh-uh. We are trannies, and we rule!" Look at how you’ve just changed the dynamic of that word. That’s what I believe. 

It does not mean I don’t respect what they feel. I fully respect that. It has nothing to do with that. And I’m not a trans woman. I can’t tell you that. I’m a transsexual man with a different understanding of the word. The word has been used against me negatively. I don’t care. You can call me anything, just spell my name right. I really don’t care. I really feel that way. But you have to really understand that I respect and I understand that, but I’m also into reclaiming words. And if you don’t want me to call you a tranny, I would never call you a tranny. I wouldn’t do it.

So for you, it is a word that can be reclaimed, and in your opinion, that is reflective of each individual’s experience if they’ve had that word hurled at them or not.
Yes, because I have tons of trans women friends who call themselves trannies. Tons. Tons, tons, tons. And they love the word tranny, and they empower that word, and it’s awesome. Those are the women I’m around — so when I’m around those women and they’re saying "tranny, tranny, tranny, tranny, tranny," I’m like, "Tranny!" You know what I mean? That’s my language. I’m around that. I’m not around the other women, though I respect their opinion. As a person, you can’t expect everyone to have the same language as you. I just think you’re living in some kind of bubble that doesn’t exist, nor will it ever exist. And you know what? You’re angry now. You’re always angry. That’s what’s always fascinating to me, is a certain group of people who are always angry all the time. And that’s all they put out, is anger, anger, anger, anger. And nothing will change with anger. It will not. And I’m total proof of that. You have to change the way you view things, and the world is ugly and mean. 

You don’t think I put myself out there every day and hear so many ugly things every day about who I am, what I am? And from everywhere. But it doesn’t stop me, because I love myself. And I love who I am and what I do. And I’m willing to have a conversation like this. Why can’t we have a conversation like this? It’s such a nice, civil, awesome conversation. I guess it’s more of an interview, really, but you know what I mean.

Oh, yeah. In my opinion, the best interviews are more like conversations, anyway. I’m biased, because it’s what I do for a living, but I like having this kind of conversation. It’s one of my favorite things about working here at The Advocate, is that I get to have these kinds of conversations with people all over the spectrum and all over the world who’ve had different experiences. It’s fascinating for me.
Me too! It fascinates me. That [story] exploded, and I just stood back. It was fascinating to me, to watch it [exploding sound]. Now it’s not about me anymore. It’s totally not about me. It’s about something else. What is it about? I don’t even know what it’s about. Do you know what it’s about?

I think it’s about a lot of things. One of the big things that I do think it was about — especially what folks were getting into in the comments — was a contentious issue, but talking about disclosure and for trans folks, and whether or not someone should tell potential intimate partners that they are trans. At one point in the comments, our writer cited your 2012 statement to Salon, where you talked about being a big advocate for disclosure and said that withholding or not disclosing at that point does, unfortunately, lead to the hate crimes and people being victimized. So what is your perspective on disclosure now? And kind of knowing the blowback that you got in these comments, if you had the opportunity, would you reword those?
No.

OK. So what’s your perspective on disclosure now?
OK, great. I would like to know why some people read it the way I said it, and some people don’t read it the way I said it. Don’t you think that’s interesting? Some people read it exactly what I meant, which was: "disclosure will change your life;  and for example…" OK, honestly, I will change that. I will change "for example." The reason I used "for example, a trans woman" is because that’s the majority of people I know who don’t disclose, and then get in really bad situations. That should never happen. 

And then they read it as: "If you don’t disclose, all trans women should be killed if they don’t disclose." That’s what they put out there! That is far from what that says.  But they changed it around and started just putting those words out there, that that’s what I said. And then I have to go "Read the interview. That is not what I said." And then people go back and read and go, "Oh, you didn’t say that!" So I’m fighting against something I never even really said. 

So that said, yes, I am huge — and I will never change that stance — I am huge, huge, huge on disclosure. One of the reasons I started my dating site is so that it’s already disclosed. You’re already going on a dating site. I get people writing me all the time, "I met an amazing woman, I met an amazing man on your site, thank you so much." Yeah, because you already went in there knowing what you want. And it’s hard to be a trans person and to go and find [a partner]… you’re not sure if anyone’s going to like [you]. "Is anyone going to want to be having sex with me? Because I’m not a ‘normal’ person." I mean, God, having a vagina is weird. I’ll even admit that. How do you date a man with a vagina? How do you feel comfortable asking them to go on a date with you? And then you're going to have sex, how do you do that? It’s not an easy thing to do. So disclosure will cut out so much. So yeah, I’m huge about disclosure, because it will eliminate many many possible bad things that could happen.

I’m looking at the quote and I wonder if one of the sticking phrases for folks was that it’s disrespectful to the other person.
Right. I do believe that.

And you stand by that statement?
Oh, yes, I do. And that said, it is! They’re not thinking about the equation. It’s not just one person involved. And I’m not saying it’s disrespectful enough that he can chop you up into little pieces. I mean, come on. Really? Give me a little bit of credit there. That’s just ridiculous. 

What I mean is, imagine the scenario! You’re going home with a man and you’re expecting a penis. That’s what you expect as a woman. And all of a sudden, that’s not happening. The shock — what’s happening with the other person? Why is nobody ever thinking about the other side? I don’t understand that. Why’s it only about you? What about the other side? 

It is disrespectful, I’m sorry to say that. I mean, I’m not sorry to say that. That’s wrong. I really just think you need to think about the whole equation. I mean, if you’re honest about everything, honesty is a huge deal. It eliminates so much stuff that never has to happen.

Yeah, I think that makes sense. And yes, I agree to some extent that perhaps folks are only looking at one side of the equation here. However, I think I can see what some are hearing you say in that: by saying that it is this person’s obligation to disclose, and that it’s wise and respectful to disclose, I think it’s understandable how some people would see that as saying, well, you know, the flip side of that is that if you don’t, then these people who would do terrible things have a right to be so upset.
Yes, and that’s what I don’t want you to think.

So provide some clarity on that for me.
I understand why they do think that way. Everybody’s different. All I’m saying to you is that if you disclose, it can change the equation. I’m not saying you have to disclose. It’s just my opinion, that’s all. Anything I tell you, it’s just my opinion, and my own life. I’ve disclosed forever and it changed everything for me. 

And yes, of course somebody’s going to be a little upset. I mean, come on, let’s just be honest about it. You don’t think somebody’s going to be upset when they say that [you're trans]? I’m not saying being upset equates to killing. That’s way out of left field. I don’t even know where that comes from. Because killing happens? Yes, but that’s a whole other situation. That’s that [killer]’s own stuff in there. Not everybody who gets in that situation feels like killing you. But on the other side, they might feel embarrassed or humiliated or a bunch of other things. The same things you feel when you don’t disclose and the situation happens. They’re feeling the same thing. Does that make sense?

Yeah. But then I pause, because those words that you were using, "humiliated or embarrassed," those are words that folks tend to use in a trans-panic defense in a courtroom. They'll say, "Oh, I was tricked. I was deceived. I was embarrassed. They lured me into something that I didn’t know." And that’s the kind of defense that we hear and that sometimes holds up in court.
It does hold up in court. It totally does. 100 percent. But how come it does?

Well, exactly, and I think that’s where the danger comes in.
You’re right, because here’s a trans guy saying that. That’s the way it comes out, and I completely understand that, but that’s not really what I [am saying]. I’m trying to eliminate it. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m not saying it’s OK for somebody to kill somebody because they don’t know. I’m just saying we need to look at both sides of the equation.

I’m a transsexual man. I understand how hard it is. And not everybody’s going to be able to disclose. I’m trying to empower you to disclose. I’m trying to tell you that you can’t imagine the powerful feeling it is for me to say "I’m a transsexual" or "I’m a trans person, now how do you feel about that?" That’s very, very powerful on your end …

Clearly, we’re talking about a sexual situation here … So as a trans person, you’re already nervous, because you don’t know what the outcome of the situation is… You already know that by not telling that person, something could happen. So I’m trying to empower you. … I don’t think [disclosure] has anything to do with tricking. It has to do with your own self-esteem and your own empowerment and your own OK-ness with being who you are in your body.

But I think especially for trans women, who are disproportionately the victims of intimate partner violence within our community and even outside of it, it goes deeper. Can you understand how these women could have a different perspective, especially given your unique situation, as we were talking about earlier, as a trans man who reads as a white, possibly cis man? You’re a pretty masculine guy, and I imagine walking down the street, people are just like, "Oh, there’s a buff dude," without a second thought.
Yes, I do. 100 percent. And that’s why I don’t speak for trans women, ever. And I wish I had never used that example now. Because I didn’t realize it, and I learned from my mistake. And I always say now, "I don’t speak for trans women." It’s not my experience. I don’t know a damn thing about being a trans woman. I have trans women friends and I can tell you what they tell me. And I can tell you [that I know] trans women who disclose all the time, and they tell me how amazing it is to experience, because they find guys who want to be with them because they’re trans women ... 

My mistake was using the example of the trans woman. Because I spoke [without]  the understanding of a trans woman. And so I wish I never said that. That said, I do still believe in disclosure — however you need to do it. I’m not saying first, second, third date. I’m just saying try it. That was my point of saying disclosure is awesome. It’s empowering disclosure. And of course, we’re all different. Some people might never want to disclose. It’s your choice. We’re all individuals. 

I never want to get bottom surgery. That’s my choice. Doesn’t mean I’m any less of a man. If you want to have bottom surgery, go ahead, dude. Awesome. I’m so happy for you, and that’s gonna change your life. Again, the whole point is for us to be happy in our bodies and live our lives the way we always wanted to do. That’s my message. That’s the bottom line right there. My message is: Love yourself, be yourself, just be in the world, because you didn’t get to do it for most of your life. That’s my message.

Photos by Dusti Cunningham; find more of his work here.

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