Monday, June 18, 2012

Sexing a highly specific kind of trans man

The Buck starts here

Sexing the Trans Man, Buck Angel's new documentary about the sex lives of trans men has been shown at a handful of queer-related film festivals, most recently at San Francisco's Frameline Festival 36. For the most part shot in LA and Toronto, it's well worth seeing on two immediate satisfying levels: 1) it adds to understanding about trans men's sexuality especially how medicalized transition impacted this aspect of their lives; 2) It's a documentary about trans men made by a trans man... and, for the most part, they're allowed to speak for themselves. It's comprised of an extremely bare-boned structure: prolonged talking head shots of the person being interviewed by Buck (with occasional reference to him and his porn career), and quick vignettes of some of the younger men masturbating, and touching themselves. There are a couple of brief couples scenes involving trans-guy-on-trans-guy-action.

Ian Harvie: sexy trans man preppy

Some of the persons Angel interviewed fall into the trans man celeb category: rocker Lucas Silvera (formerly of the Canadian band, the Clicks) and stand up comic Ian Harvie. A few of the younger interviewees are involved in trans guy porn (a subject which, curiously, isn't really discussed in the film). Two couples who have girlfriends are interviewed (one with his girlfriend by his side, obediently  listening to him). A trans man bear and his trans man partner who are constantly pawing one another during the interview explain how they have a kind of 'friends with benefits' relationship... buddies who love to get it on together. There's only one trans man of color who's interviewed, a rather jolly trans sissy, who vaguely speaks about his sexuality. In general, trans men of color are sadly under-represented here.

Cho & Luna expound on... life with trans guys

Two of the most exposed interviewees in the film are Margaret Cho and her close friend, fellow stand up comedian and actress Selene Luna. Both have been in relationships with trans men (Cho is well known for her 'obsession' with them) and add witty rambling on their perspectives on having sex with them. The pixie-ish siren, Luna, gives a looong account of a 'stone' (doesn't like to be touched) trans man she was involved with who never liked to show his body. While both are fun to listen to (for a few minutes) they take up a large portion of the film. I couldn't help wishing that time would be better spent speaking with more trans men (both pre-and post-transition) and those with more varied experiences.

Lucas Silvera touching his junk
(which he's perfectly happy with, okay!)

And here's where the film kind of falls flat. There are some important members of the trans guy community it doesn't even start to include. There are zero 'no hormones' trans men and trans masculine people and no discussion of their bodies, lives and decisions and how that impacts their perceptions of themselves and their lovers' relationship to their bodies. Also ignored are trans men who had some form of genital surgery. Instead, we get a monologue from Lucas Silvera (who is 'non-op' in terms of bottom surgery) about how he's researched it and the surgeries aren't very good. Okay Lucas, that's your opinion, but how about letting trans men who did get a phalloplasty or a meta actually speak for themselves and their experiences? What, they don't count?

Gropey bear and lil' sex buddy

The film's production company is mirthfully called "I love my pussy productions"... a cute name, but it's kind of like "Original Plumbing" magazine. Is being non-op being somehow made more 'queer privileged' than trans men who've gotten bottom surgeries? Not a terribly inclusive opening statement. Moreover, there is no discussion about possible issues like how hysterectomy/oophorectomies might have impacted their sex lives not to mention the subject of T and the cessation/continuation of periods. Nor is there any attempt to speak with trans men who have previously given birth to find out how that experience might have impacted their sex lives. At the beginning of the film, a warning is stated that the film is not politically correct. Okay, but that doesn't excuse important subjects being ignored in favor of cis celebs taking up 20 minutes of the film.

It's also very clear, from Angel's selection of interviewees, that he wants to emphasize trans men who ID as gay. Easily 2/3rds of the interviews seem to revolve around, "I didn't use to be into guys, but I went on T and now I want to get it on with men." At one point in the film, it even seemed like Angel was prompting someone to go in that direction. Yes, it's his film (and as I understand, that's kind of his sexual preference these days) but he only really talks with 2-3 trans men who are primarily into women, not to mention what their relationship is with women's bodies. That can either be seen as breaking through barriers or trying to reinforce a specific narrative at the expense of others.

MJ: Cub scout wants to
have sex with you.

Another interesting moment for me (as a trans woman... maybe not the intended audience) was when MJ (the uber-cute, young trans guy) relates how he gets so turned on he neglects to inform his cis male partners that he's trans. All right, certainly his choice, but he mentions doing this one time right before he removed his underwear with little or no mention of any concerns he might have had about facing rejection or even violence. In light of how many trans women are accused of this very narrative (the so-called "Crying Game" legal defense of those who've murdered trans women) his little tale left a sick taste in my mouth. It makes these situations almost into porn fantasies and removes some of the reality all trans people face when dealing with ciscentric expectations of body norms.

These concerns aside, Sexing the Trans Man is a breezy (yes, curiously enough), often entertaining tour of some trans men's sex lives and shows some potentially instructive images of how these trans men like to be pleasured. As one transmasculine friend of mine said, "but it's not raunchy enough for porn and not serious enough to be educational." For a documentary, it's hardly an in-depth, thoughtful discussion of the subject exploring multiple viewpoints but, thankfully, it's all with people who are trans men or had sex with them and not burdened with "experts" or academics explaining it all to us in Gender Studies 101 gobbledygook. Happily, it's closer to a midnight movie than an academic filmic treatise. And honestly, it's a Buck Angel joint, so who would expect or want otherwise?

Postscript: It's important to note that I saw the "mainstream public consumption" version of this film and not the XXX version which is also being marketed. It evidently leaves out some of the hotter footage which is included in the XXX version.


  1. Thanks for the review I appreciate the great feedback!
    Buck Angel

  2. Hi Buck, thanks for stopping by!


  3. I just wanted you to know that it means lots to me to get great feedback to help me make better films. Also the reason I added so much of the "names" is to help get the film a wider audience than just the trans community. It is more for others to learn about trans sexuality. I found that "names" help to do that when you are considered only a "pornographer" is the eyes of many! My film has been accepted to many festival all over the world and continues to do so helping to break down those barriers toward sex.
    Thanks again!


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