Trans Photographer Amos Mac: The Autostraddle Interview

photo by Austin Young

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.

photo by Heather Renee Russ

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.

Self Portrait circa 2006

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.

"The Boys of Original Plumbing : Past, Present & Future" photo by Elisa Shea

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! 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.”

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  1. This is an amazing interview!!

    1. Amos is so cute! Eeek!

    2. I want to check out OP. Note to self!

    3. I only recently stopped wrapping my new camera in a winter hat, so I’m glad to hear about how Amos treats his nice things too.

    4. “Michelle Tea’s book “Valencia” is coming to life in movie form, and each chapter is being cast and filmed by a different artist.”

    WHAT! I didn’t know that. Good lord, I love her. Everyone go read “Rent Girl.” Now.

    5. I’d be curious to know what Amos thinks about Catherine Opie, the photographer.

    • re 2- I have issue 1 and it is very cool.
      re 4- I think Valencia is my fav MT book (although I haven’t finished Rent Girl Yet.)

    • hey taylor. i really appreciate catherine opie’s photographs! i was just given a huge book of her work for my birthday this year!

      • i have that book too! (assuming it’s the big retrospective)…i caught her exhibit at the guggenheim a little while ago and my gf bought if for me! i just pulled it out actually and will place it firmly on my coffee table. it’s interesting (at a glance- I want to see more of your work!) how differently you both capture similar subject material, on the gender front at least. her style is so hard to pin down though, it’s kind of crazy. like ice houses vs. the masochistic self-portraits and whatnot. interesting!

  2. 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.

    This is the best synopsis of AS ever on earth or for all of space-time.

  3. also, thank you amos for being unpretentious about your equipment and giving hope to some of us kind of broke little lesbians toting kinda old, not amazing cameras around! i like that his cam has a crack. one of mine had a light leak and i still insist on taping it over instead of getting it repaired. it just feels right-er!

  4. this is an amazing amazing interview, and amos mac is definitely deep into friend crush territory now. his photos are so wonderful! and i feel like our culture/community so often forgets that FTM trans guys exist, i am super excited about OP now!

  5. I love this interview and my love for the SF Bay Area continues to swell.

    The film version of Valencia is officially the movie I am looking most forward to, even more than the new alice in wonderland.

  6. Augh! No Sydney based distributor! T_T Maybe I’ll order one, if only just to get even weirder looks than usual on the train. ;)

    • If I saw you reading OP on a Sydney train then I would most definitely walk over and high five you.

      Great interview! Wonderful photos too.

    • We will hopefully be sold in Sydney soon! We were just picked up by a distributor that sells a lot internationally, called “Bookazine”, so tell your queer bookstores they can order it from that catalogue any day now.

  7. I could not be more pumped about this interview! Amos seems really awesome, and the photos are great. I’m so jeals of everyone who gets to be in SF every day.

    I’m gonna go order an issue of OP now…

  8. Wow, this interview is great! I really liked all of the questions you asked.
    amos seems amazing, and he’s totally hot.
    I’ve read issue 1 of OP, it was quite cool, i’m excited about the second issue.

    Thanks for another great interview, autostraddle. you have established yourself firmly as my favorite blog/website.

  9. You guys! This was really an awesome interview. I love everything about it. Checked out Amos’ site. The photography & stories are fantastic.

    Also, since everyone is on the San Francisco kick.. I have been there a few times and LOVE it. I know its a completely different experience when you live there, but I hope to some day.

  10. such a cool interview. i sorta have a crush now on Amos.. but all i can thnink of when i see his name is that mouse named amos in some disney movie?

    annnnd my sis is moving to SF this summer and I can’t wait to visit/crash at her apartment for half of the year!

  11. Pingback: TheFemme - Meet transgender photographer Amos Mac♥

  12. Laneia! This interview is so good! I love how you’re so honest, it makes me feel like we’re getting honest answers from Amos, which obviously is super awesome.

    Also, his photography is SO FUCKING GOOD OMG

  13. i want to hug this interview and these comments and also that photo of Amos & Rocco on page 1!

    in case you guys are interested, and i feel you might be, Amos’s work can also be found in Issue 2 of Cutter Photozine!

    and probs like a ton of other places that i don’t know about AND ALSO if you follow @ftmquarterly on the twitter machine, you can keep up with OP’s release parties, etc.! sometimes they’re in L.A., which is still not Phoenix, sadly.

  14. Awesome article. I just recently saw “Young James Dean,” and really loved it. Great interview! Loved it!

  15. I loved this. And I’m happy that y’all brought “Original Plumbing” magazine to my attention/knowledge. I think it’s super cool and is very important to have out there. Lots of luck to Amos on that – I hope it gets the wider distribution it deserves!

  16. Pingback: Recommendation: An interview with Amos Mac — Genderfork

  17. Pingback: Interview with Amos Mac « The Queerist: Blog

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