Within five minutes of my arrival at the Hollywood home of folk rock vocalist and acoustic guitarist Mark Angelo Cummings and his wife Violet, Mark took off his shirt to display his remarkable physique. (May all the handsome men I ever have the pleasure of interviewing be this candid!) Mark is a man who is proud of the work he has done to sculpt his body to match his soul, both of which are beautiful.
Mark is also proud to say that he is a female-to-male transsexual who began his life in Havana as Maritza Delcarmen Perdomo.
Mark is a proud Cuban-American artist who has been writing and performing music from a very young age. His new album Enslaved is inspired by his unusual journey and by his commitment to creating a world of love and acceptance for all. His music mines his belief in a universal energy and is informed by his sexual identity. His new post-transition voice and his no nonsense message and style are compared to Melissa Etheridge or Cat Stevens.
Mark's life journey is best described in terms of "gender dysphoria", the discontentment from a very young age with the sex he was born with. He gave me a rapid education about the impact of hormones on gender identity.
"My mother took hormones to get pregnant with me. This may have had an impact on the way hormones worked in my body. Even as a child, I was fascinated by the male physique. My earliest erotic fantasies, at maybe the age of eight, were male directed. I was very shy and I took a lot of teasing from other kids. I felt like a Martian. When I started dating, I found out that I didn't like it when a man would grope me or fondle my breasts. It felt weird being attracted to men but not liking what they wanted to do with me as a woman.
"When I became a body builder in 2001, I took steroids to become more masculine. I was still a female but I was trying to acquire a powerful male physique."
Mark met Violet before his transition. Violet is an attractive, athletic woman who is obviously in love with her husband in a way that transcends his physical and sexual characteristics. She smiled with amusement while Mark narrated their story.
"I met Violet in the locker room of our gym. We talked and seemed to hit it off. Afterwards, she gave me her number and I wondered if maybe she was coming on to me. She had been married to a man and I had a previous relationship with a woman.
"I had never even heard the word "transsexual". Violet and I went to Key West to have a commitment ceremony. At our guesthouse, one of the women asked me because of my bodybuilder physique if I was an f2m transsexual. The steroids you take for bodybuilding give you facial hair and I had decided not to shave in Key West. That made me look even more like a man.
"When we got home, I searched transsexual on the net and as soon as I read about it, I cried. I said 'Oh my God, that's me." I found the doctors I needed and on December 23, 2003, I transitioned. Breasts, ovaries, uterus gone."
I looked over at Violet wondering how she had felt about the operation. With a simple shrug and a smile she explained that she knew it would make Mark happy and true to himself, and that the changes in his body were not traumatic for her.
We talked about sexual attraction, fantasy and body parts and it became clear to me that I was in the presence of two very mature people who have entirely freed themselves from ordinary conventions and needless restrictions. Not only do they think out of the box, but they have long ago cut up its cardboard and put it out on the curb. Mark makes his perspective clear.
"I love Violet but if we were not together, I would probably look for a relationship with a gay man. I'll watch gay porn--with some variety thrown in for Violet--because of my fascination with the male penis and physique. Maybe someday I'll have surgery to get a penis. I'd really like to have a penis."
Mark and Violet described closing their business, a gym, and packing up their lives in a makeshift camper to begin a cross-country journey with no specific destination. This brought them to Silver City, New Mexico where they remained for more than a year. Mark was writing songs, and a book, The Mirror Makes No Sense. He is now an occupational therapist.
I wondered what was next for him.
"I want to be successful as a recording artist. If I got rich, I would use the money to educate people about transsexual issues. I would like to help children who, like me, have no one to guide them and to keep them from suicide. My real goal is someday to be able to create safe havens for people who need them."
I certainly felt safe and comfortable with Mark and Violet, and I am happy to report that Mark's music is sensational. I especially like the song "I Wonder." You can hear that song and sample many others, and see photos and video of Mark and Violet by visiting Markangelocummings.blogspot.com.
(The Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southeastern University, continues its free Third Thursday monthly event series with a special music performance on Thursday, April 15, 2010, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm by Mark Angelo Cummings.) This profile also appears in South Florida Gay News.