Last fall I needed images for a little (read: life-altering) interview I’d done with Sister Spit. A quick search revealed that every kickass photo of Michelle Tea and Rhiannon Argo that I wanted to use had been shot by the seriously talented Amos Mac. After spending the better part of an hour looking through his photos of people infinitely cooler than me (when I was probably supposed to be writing the intro for that interview), I emailed Amos to request image permissions. Did I think he’d be the most charming / awesome guy I’d never met? Um, no. I was totally unprepared for that.
Not only is he this ridiculously amazing photographer, Amos is also editor-in-chief of Original Plumbing, a magazine dedicated to the sexuality and broad culture of FTM trans guys. I flipped through a copy of OP while perusing the merch table at Sister Spit and it was like being punched in the face with hot, radical sex, and that’s just barely a hyperbole. Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos (associate editor of OP and all-around badass) are doing big big things in the world.
So, when you work for an online magazine, you can pretty much talk about whatever you want (I love this job), and I want to talk about Amos Mac! Despite his understandable aversion to being a walking guide to Trans 101, he let me ask some pretty feelingsy questions about what it’s like to be him. He met Margaret Cho, you guys! He’s got sweet hair and cool friends and probably listens to fun music, though I forgot to ask. He’s my Number One Friend Crush, this Amos Mac, and now I’m gonna share him with you.
Laneia: I was wondering, is it weird to discuss personal things? Like, probably you just want to talk about Original Plumbing?
Amos: Personal stuff is fine with me. I get sick of answering the same questions about the magazine!
Laneia: Oh good! Especially since this is going to be read by a bunch of feelingsy girls and boys who’ll really want to know about your feeeeelings. Because that’s our #1 feeling (besides our feelings): your feelings.
Amos: Haha, ok! Really, people will care about my feelings?
Laneia: Yes! Like you don’t even know.
Ok, I wanted to ask about when you were a teenager. Seems like having sucky teen years is kind of universal. How did you deal with your body developing? Was it an issue?
I knew I was different from the other girls in my high school, but at that time, the thought of a gender transition never even crossed my mind.
Amos: I dealt with my changing body by wearing larger and larger clothes, until I was literally swimming in my jeans and over-sized t-shirts. Anything to hide the curves. But at that time I didn’t realize why I was dressing that way. I mean, I knew that it was how I felt comfortable and that I was different from the girls in my school, but at that time in my life the thought of a gender transition never even crossed my mind.
My teen years were kind of boring and almost asexual. At that point, I didn’t want to date. I didn’t do normal teen stuff. Like, I obsessed over working at this modern rock radio station in Philadelphia. I got a job there when I was 15 and worked a lot of super late night shifts, like 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. I loved working there.
Laneia: What did you love most about it?
Amos: I think I loved that I was hanging out with adults. And not hanging out with kids my age! The people I worked with treated me like a human being and I felt accepted, which was not how I felt in school. Also, I felt like I had a career.
Laneia: A career in radio! Was it hard to get hired?
Amos: Hilarious to think of now, but it’s all I wanted to do for years! It was weird how it happened, actually. I joined the Girl Scouts for like a month and they had this thing called “Take a Girl to Work Day,” which was basically the only reason why I joined Girl Scouts, so I could participate in this thing! So I signed up and said I wanted to be a radio DJ, and they sent me there for the day, and I hung out with this woman, Lucy St. James, who did all the on-air production for the radio station. We stayed in touch afterward and I called her a year later to ask if I could do anything. I started interning and then eventually I got paid. It was a great experience.
Laneia: This feels like a sort of pedestrian question, but when you think back on things, like being a teenager or a child, do you see that person as a separate person? Or have you always felt the same and the only difference is that now your body matches your mind / heart.
Amos: No, I see myself as the same person. I was just really young and not aware of myself. And not as in touch with myself in my teen years. I think I was more in touch with myself as a young child. But then suppressed it when I felt like it was wrong for me to be male. So the teen years were kind of like, the ‘lost years’ for me.
Laneia: Were you nervous about going on testosterone? Were the results what you’d expected?
Amos: Well I first started T because I just wanted my face to change. I didn’t want to tell anyone about it and I didn’t want my voice to change. I just wanted my body to basically … change. Like, my facial structure. And I didn’t want to have to explain to anyone what I was doing, I wished that it was something that was just happening to my body naturally and that I didn’t have to make some big “coming out” production. I just wanted to be male, a trans man, no questions asked, no need for explanations, you know? It was a very private time.
At first I was only going to take T for a minute and see what happened. Then I just decided to go with it. I can’t remember what made me feel okay with changing all these aspects of my body, but something just switched in my head and I realized that I needed to do this.
Laneia: Did you have a lot of support?
Amos: No. I went to a therapist at the LGBTQ Center in New York City. My friends all knew that I’d identified as male, but I hadn’t told them like, “I am now transitioning and you must now call me by male pronouns, etc.” until I’d already started T. I didn’t really know any transguys, so I went to a trans masculine group every week and met people. I was super separated from the community there because I’d just been in a long relationship with a straight girl.
Laneia: Wow. And now you’re doing this magazine. That’s f*cking crazy. Like, how far you’ve come in this relatively short amount of time. Can I ask how you chose your name?
Amos: I liked Amos because it was so weird and old… no one wants that name, it’s literally at an all-time low according to babynames.com! Ha! It means “the bearer of burdens” and a bunch of other random stuff depending on which baby book you pick up, but I didn’t choose Amos for the definition. Mac is short for my middle name, which is Macaulay.
Laneia: Does being called ‘trans’ get old? Would you rather just be referred to as a guy?
Amos: To me being called “trans” isn’t old… I don’t care if people call me trans, male, or a guy, whatever. Getting referred to as a “man” has taken some getting used to. I know that I look like one, but it bugs me. I think because I have a fear of getting older and I wish I could look like a teenage boy for the rest of my life. Or for at least another 20 years. I don’t feel like a man, but I definitely don’t feel like a woman either.
“We call Margaret Cho our “TranMa” (a play on the term Grandma) and she calls us her TranSons.”