At a recent sultry, sexy and cultured night at Steamworks bathhouse in Edmonton, my political crunched ungraciously against my personal. The event, Really Big Show, a cleverly conceived evening of performance and installation, was part of Exposure, the city’s third annual queer arts and culture festival.
On an average night, patrons in the generous shower, steam and sauna area of Steamworks are unlikely to bump into each other, unintentionally. But on Nov 15, the long umber-tiled, delicately lit room was packed wall to wall with sweaty queers eagerly awaiting the promised live performance by one of North America’s hottest pornstars, Buck Angel.
Known for a vibrant arts scene, Edmonton’s a pretty conservative place in a pretty conservative province. Sex-reassignment surgery was delisted earlier this year and the provincial government only recently included sexual orientation in the human rights code, tempered by a little clause allowing parents to withdraw their children from classes when that content hits the curriculum.
So imagine Buck Angel, unstoppable trans pornstar, stopping in Edmonton with his brand of unapologetic queer sexuality. Imagine the Exposure Fest organizers having the balls to invite him. And imagine the thrill of local queers who rarely get kink of that stature in their midst.
No wonder the shower room was steamily packed. Organizers repeatedly had to clear enough space for Buck to perform and determined voyeurs hung onto front row spots as more and more squeezed in. You’d think anybody would do anything to get close to Buck Angel.
But how close? Earlier in the evening, as I trolled the mirrored rooms where various art projects perched and a Buck Angel video played on the monitors, I overheard some cis-gendered men unsubtly trying to make sense of Mr Angel. They stared at the screen; they pointed and laughed; they crowed to each other that “He used to be a girl!”. In another room plastered with close to 200 personal profile shots (all penises, all from Edmonton), a more thoughtful gentleman acknowledged he found Buck unquestionably masculine and extremely attractive but admitted it was “confusing.”
Buck entered the shower room and began a titillating, gyrating strip show to which the sweating crowd cheered. Off came the zipped black hoodie exposing the muscled, tattooed torso. Down came the flirtatious red gym shorts, only a tease, to let out the tip of a handsome cock. Thousands of customers pay for and download this action on video every day; here we were inches away from the real thing and all in the name of art. God I love the queer community.
Buck worked the crowd in his charismatic fashion and generously offered what it seemed they so pressingly wanted: him, more of him, and him being gratuitously sexual. He swaggered up to those who had doggedly hung on to being in the front row and invited them into his act. No one accepted.
Down to a black jock strap, white socks & black boots, Buck played on. A handsome boy-dyke near the front broke the crowd’s reticence by making contact when the star approached. Perhaps spurred by this, Buck once again worked the front row offering himself and his now fully exposed cock to any who might want to partake. Music blared, excitement was thick, the vibe was right, yet only nervous smiles greeted him as one after another they leaned politely away.
Squeezed into a spot at the side of the performance area, I was amazed that an opportunity to get my mouth around one of the hottest hotshots on the planet remained, well, open. How come? Strip shows often have a “don’t touch” politic to them, but I’ve seen enough to know that’s not always the case especially when a performer’s overtly offering themselves. Engaging in semi-public displays of outright sexuality obviously isn’t for everyone but I’d place my bets that that room wasn’t full of sexually shy, inexperienced or uncurious queers.
Seizing the moment I spurted “Bring it over here!” and in exquisite slow motion this is the memory I’ll always have: the sculpted, unmatchable body turning towards me, hard cock in hand, delectably approaching then filling my mouth. The crowd roared, Buck was generous, and strip act and sex act came together as audience and performer dissolved into two queers getting it on.
Did trans sexuality play a part in the crowd’s reluctance? Hard to know, without anything else to compare it to. My guess is a combination of factors, including blatant sexuality wrapped up in a trans identity, left me the lucky chance of servicing this outrageous pioneer who, himself, showed no preference for whomever might take up the privilege.
And here’s where my political crashed with my personal. I’m wildly impressed that a young queer arts festival in my hometown in the bluest part of Canada would headline an out-and-out trans sex star. I aim to live in a society where sexuality and gender are as fluid and welcome as lube is to sex, and support all efforts to arrive there. But if some lingering hesitation reserved space in that room for me to step up to the bait, I can’t say I’ll ever complain.