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The trouble with Transgasm and its magical foundation

Date: December 7, 2013

Buck Angel and Jody Rose’s new project Transgasm that exists to “change the way surgeries are funded in the FTM and MTF communities” has received both praises and criticisms over the last day or so. We all like the goal of providing new way for trans people to receive the medical care that they want, but many of us in the trans and ally communities are calling it a “scam.”

The trouble with the Transgasm scam is that people running it probably do not even think of it as a scam: they probably think that they are doing good for the community. I believe that their purported commitment to “law of attraction”–the quintessentially American magical belief that claims that “positive” thoughts attract positive outcomes–is what permits such self-serving distortion, self-indulgence, and victim-blaming that will follow when things fall apart.

According to Transgasm FAQ, Transgasm will teach trans people how to produce downloadable contents that can be sold via its website. Once the contents are sold, creators are paid 50% of the sale, plus 25% “paid forward” to pay for surgery for someone else on the “surgery list,” and the last 25% is withheld to keep the project itself going.

Some people are criticizing the 25% margin the project keeps for itself, calling it an exploitation of poor trans people’s creative work for the project founders to get rich off of. But that is not necessarily the criticism I have for Transgasm: after all, 25% margin is not any more exploitative than Apple, Amazon, and many other distributors of downloadable contents, who usually withhold 30% of the sale.

The problem really is the idea of “paying forword”: that is what makes Transgasm a pyramid scheme. In order to pay for just one trans person to receive surgery, dozens of trans people need to “pay forward” their 25%. These dozens of people will need dozens more each to benefit themselves. For the scheme to function, it requires an unlimited and exponentially growing number of trans people to join, as well as the unlimited and exponentially growing market for their products–and that will simply not happen. Like all pyramid schemes, only the first few would benefit and everyone else loses.

What if their classes are so successful that it only takes two or three trans people to pay for one person’s surgery? This would slow down the need for the pyramid’s expansion, but in time it will collapse just the same. Besides, if the classes can make trans people so successful at producing downloadable contents, why do they need to pool the resource with people they’ve never met, someone chosen by Transgasm owners? They could either save up on their own, or maybe pool resources with two or three of their close friends so that each of them could get their turn.

We all know that money does not just appear just because we want it, but “law of attraction” teaches precisely that money comes to us if we want it bad enough. It is, essentially, a magical thinking. Napoleon Hill popularized this delusion in the United States by appealing to white American business elites’ sense of entitlement and victim-blaming disdain for the poor. Buck Angel and Jody Rose say that they want to “share” their “success with thought science and the law of attraction” through Transgasm, but we need to reject the pyramid scheme and its magical foundation before it hurts many more trans people.

[Added December 8, 2013]

Here is an example of magical thinking typical of followers of “law of attraction”:


The poor person who lost $160 on the sidewalk was probably to blame for their own misfortune for having some “negative” thought.


  1. Transgasm could work if they decoupled the surgery fund from the requirement to contribute a digital download to get access to the fund.

    one part: do whatever webinars they want. students sell ebooks created via webinar process . keep portion sizes if you want.

    Second part: open surgery fund, funded by sales of webinars and ebooks. not required to contribute anything. scholarship or lottery.

    Comment by Creatrix Tiara — December 8, 2013 @ 8:35 am

  2. @Creatrix Tiara

    That could work, if their classes actually taught people how to produce marketable stuff. I personally doubt that. See my follow-up, “The trouble with Transgasm, part two: a speculation.”

    That said, surgery lottery would be an interesting concept—especially if it can be transparent and fair. Owners of Transgasm just selected three “winners” in its inaugural “contest” to be entered into the “surgery list,” who appear to be all white trans men.

    Comment by emigrl — December 8, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

  3. Have you ever taken the time to reach out to Jody or Buck? Have you initiated an open and honest conversation with either of them? And I don’t mean on your blog, indirectly, but real time, face to face conversation. These guys are honest, hardworking and compassionate. You derail their altruistic intentions with your blog. You hurt the potential for good to come from their project. If you had good intentions in bringing your concerns to light, why not enlighten them directly versus attacking the project without giving them a chance to rebut? And it’s sad because they both have firsthand knowledge from the heart how life-alternating trans surgery can be, and all they want to do is help people help themselves. They have been transparent. They have engaged inquiries personally. They are good men.

    Comment by Arleen — December 9, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

  4. Arleen,

    I have not contacted them, because Buck has responded to any criticism or even a critical question by labeling them “hate” and either ignoring or ridiculing them. I also feel that there is no reasoning with people who believe that they can magically make $160 appear on the sidewalk simply by having “positive thought”: how would they understand the inherent flaw of their business plan when that is their worldview? Good, honest people with delusional thinking can cause serious damage.

    That said, they do have “a chance to rebut”: they can just explain on their website why their critics are mistaken (rather than just calling them haters). But what do they do instead? They took down their website. If the project were legit, there is no need to do that; all they need to do is to explain why it is legit. They obviously can’t.

    Oh by the way, Jody and Buck are welcome to “rebut” my posts here, if they want. Or email me privately to discuss (though expect that I will publicize it).

    Comment by emigrl — December 9, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

  5. Please read.

    Comment by Arleen — December 10, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

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