In an exclusive interview with Us Weekly, Amo, 27, who is non-binary, talked about their life today.
“I’ve been really lucky that I have an online community of trans people, both men and women, who have been really helping me feel empowered to start this transformation. I guess maybe that’s more of what I’m calling it — a transformation, rather than a transition.”
The reality star — who was previously known as Ammo, a name reminiscent of the male Mormon figure Ammon — has also changed their name to Amo to better reflect their current identity.
“Now I am no longer a Mormon and I am identifying myself with a new name: Amo,” they said. “Amo means ‘love’ in many languages. Given that this transition has been the ultimate act of self-love, Amo seems a fitting name for this new chapter of my life.”
Amo, who starred on The Challenge XXX: Dirty 30, revealed that they first experimented with women’s clothes and makeup for a drag challenge on season 31 of The Real World in 2016.
“I was watching the other men get ready and kind of turn gender into something that was more comedic. For me, it just felt so personal and serious, and I couldn’t really figure out why,” they said.
It wasn’t until the reality star returned to New York City, after growing up Mormon in Idaho and Utah, that they started to think more about their gender identity.
“All of a sudden, having grown up really Mormon, I was in this super gender-flexible space,” they told Us.
When Amo returned to MTV for The Challenge season 30 in 2017, they openly identified as non-binary. Still, the reality star recalls a “traumatic breakdown” from the experience because of how much their body felt “violated.”
“I came back to New York, having had my body been violated, and starting to think about why is this so scary to have these strong men on top of me or pushing me around,” they said. “[I realized] that a lot of that was this ongoing body and gender dysmorphia that I’ve dealt with since I was a child.”
For Amo, the realization that pushed them toward their physical transformation came around their 27th birthday, after the MTV personality, who currently lives in Nashville, filmed a music video in which they play a Jesus who’s pansexual and in an open relationship with Mary and Joseph. The Real World alum was also inspired by their role in the upcoming LGBTQ TV series Stranger Hearts.
“I was living in this other skin, playing these two roles for quite a while,” they said. “It all of a sudden just became really apparent to me that, what if I had died at 27 and I never gave myself the opportunity to be me? And that was kind of it.”
They continued, “I guess the music video and the process of playing this transgender Christ, it gave me permission to let that old male me die, and then to begin taking steps towards resurrecting myself as something that felt more honest.”
As a musician themself, Amo is inspired by other trans artists, like Sophie, who earned a 2019 Grammy nomination for their debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, and Kim Petras, whose Clarity Tour is almost sold out across North America and Europe. Amo also looks at the career of Jackie Shane, a Nashville soul singer who was one of the first successful openly trans artists in the 1960s, as another example of how much they can accomplish.
“I think about her a lot because it’s hard, I think, to live in a world where you’re the first to do anything,” they said. “But knowing that there was one person before me who, in the same city, in the same genre, was doing something so momentous gives me a lot of courage.”
Amo has now been taking hormones for two months, commemorating the emotional milestone in an Instagram post on Tuesday, October 22, captioned: “2 months of joy. 2 months of pain. 2 months of confusion. 2 months of heartache. 2 months of growth. 2 months of learning. 2 months of loving. 2 months of transforming. 2 months of transitioning.”
“The nature of being a trans person is realizing that not all of us can be Caitlyn Jenner,” Amo told Us. “We don’t get to just wake up, walk into a surgeon’s office and emerge as beautiful.”
But Amo doesn’t want to focus on their physical transformation. For them, it’s the change inside that matters most.
“For the rest of us, being trans is just how we wake up and feel every morning,” they said. “It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel. I think that that’s, for me, what I’m focusing on the most right now.”
The Challenge airs on MTV on Wednesday, October 23 at 9 p.m. ET.
With reporting by Travis Cronin
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