Trans pornstar and activist Buck Angel and artist and filmmaker Rachel Mason list seven books to educate yourself this Pride Month.
Buck Angel and Rachel Mason could have crossed paths years ago in Southern California. The former found himself visiting Circus of Books—the iconic bookstore and gay porn shop owned by Mason’s conservative Jewish parents in the West Hollywood and Silverlake neighborhoods of Los Angeles—as he was discovering his sexuality. Angel would go on to cement his name in the history books as the first trans pornstar and an activist who champions trans rights. He trailblazed the way for transgender people in porn, starring in the 2005 film Cirque Noir—Angel was the first trans man to star in an all-male film for a company that specializes in gay porn. He also won the first AVN Award for Transsexual Performer of the Year in 2007. Mason carved out her career out as an artist whose subversive work spans various mediums, and sometimes touches on politics, like a 2017 performance where she lip synched Trump’s inauguration speech in real time, and a 2004 sculpture of herself kissing president George W. Bush that earned a front page review in the New York Times’s Weekend section. Her work has been featured at the Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art, The Whitney, and LACMA.
Decades later the two would meet at Outfest 2019. Mason had just released her first documentary, Circus of Books. The film chronicles the quirky history of her family’s legendary Los Angeles bookstore and debuted on Netflix this spring. In it, Mason gives an inside view of her parents’ business, which employed the queer community, and served as a place of discovery before the internet. She also touches on her parents learning about her gay brother’s sexuality, and their subsequent support. Angel and Mason felt they had a strong connection, started a romantic relationship, and now live together in East Hollywood.
The Black Lives Matter protests around the globe this month have inspired the couple to continue their fight for change. “I am really hopeful that we can actually cause a change, because enough people are finally unwilling as a society to let ongoing, prolonged violence against Black people continue,” said Mason.
The duo list seven books to educate yourself on queer history, art, and more this Pride Month.
The First Man-Made Man by Pagan Kennedy
“It’s an important book about a transsexual man. It tells a similar story to my own and it’s one of the first books I ever read that I could relate to my own experience and I actually found it in a thrift shop! I had just won the AVN, and this line jumped out: ‘Dillon started out as a baby girl named Laura in 1915.’ Laura was my birth name!”
How To Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man by Zsa Zsa Gabor
“It’s my fantasy to have a reading by drag queens. Flip to any page. It’s gold.”
A Witch’s Bestiary by Maja D’Aoust
“It details the way mythological creatures have appeared in every single culture all around the world. It’s a challenge to the idea of ‘cultural appropriation’ when you see that people the world over have come up with nearly identical creatures in ancient folklore. It’s amazing to see that dragons have appeared in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, at a time when none of the inhabitants would have had any contact with each other.”
Life, The 17th Grove Play of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco
“This is an actual playbook, with music from 1919, made by a secret society which was a predecessor to the Radical Faeries, they were ahead of all the Cockettes and all the various identities within the gender-nonconforming transgender umbrella of today. These books started the revolution of gender and sexuality.”
-Rachel Mason and Buck Angel
The Complete Reprint of Physique Pictorial by Bob Mizer
“This is one of the most important records of gay male erotica from the 1950s to the 1990s, with images that include Tom of Finland’s very first artworks. If you compare the early poses to the later poses, they are all nearly all the same through history.”
-Buck Angel and Rachel Mason
She Wants It by Jill Soloway
“I got this at an amazing performance by Faith Soloway and friends—and the book chronicles Jill’s rise through Hollywood, and gives a super generous accounting of what it was like to get to the position of making a hit television show in the digital-streaming age and becoming a mentor to a generation of young filmmakers in the entertainment biz.”
Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin
“There is a whole scene devoted to a man talking about Buck Angel in the book and what a revelation it was for a character to behold his work. Maupin autographed the book too.”
Read all of Document’s reading lists here.