In 2019, Amber Jo was a neophyte would-be wrestler in Portsmouth, U.K. with a lot of confidence and a steep learning curve ahead.
By January 2020, she was wearing the moniker “The Notorious Angel” and stepped into the ring and into history, becoming the first out transgender wrestler to compete in one of the U.K.’s largest wrestling promotions, Revolution Pro.
This year, she’s weathered the long COVID-19 shutdown to take on a heavy competition schedule in a different promotion, including participating in a 30-wrestler battle royale for charity over the weekend. And on Nov. 20, she’ll take another step towards history when she enters the ring against Bunny Mallow on the Immortal Wrestling card.
The match is the promotion’s first-ever women’s championship bout. It lands on an important and somber date on the calendar for trans people: Transgender Day of Remembrance.
“Bunny’s the only thing standing between me and becoming Immortal’s first ever women’s champion and it’s also on Transgender Day of Remembrance,” Amber Jo said in an interview on this week edition of The Trans Sporter Room. “I’m not just fighting for me, I am fighting for my whole community.”
For Amber Jo, the opportunity is the intersection of her journey as a 23-year-old transgender woman and wrestling fan who’s now living her dream. Growing up, she fell in love with wrestling by watching VHS tapes of vintage WWE matches.
Her obsession and ambition back then was met with some resistance in the schoolyard.
“I always got bullied for liking wrestling. It wasn’t cool, and it was a kid’s thing,” she said. “I couldn’t care. No one could even take away my love of wrestling.”
What especially grabbed her imagination was the influx of female wrestlers who exploded onto the scene in the early 2000s.
“Two of my big idols were Chyna and Beth Phoenix,” Amber Jo said. “I instantly were drawn to them. They weren’t your typical divas. They were very strong, very powerful women and they captivated me.”
Those wrestling superstars propelled Amber Jo to chase her own dreams. She came out and began her gender transition at 16, with immediate support from her aunt. Her mother, who struggled with Amber Joe’s coming-out at first, came to unequivocally back her as well.
Amber Jo’s family support helped her build her in-ring persona: a mix of glamour and grit. Above all else, Amber Joe hopes she can make a dent against the rising tide of negative discourse in the U.K. about transgender people. It has become a toxic environment, from public policy to the mass media.
As an example, Amber Jo points to a recent BBC article written by a cis lesbian researcher who says cisgender women are “being pressured into sex with trans women” at high rates. In the piece, the author cites lesbian porn actress Lily Cade, who published an anti-trans manifesto on her blog. She called for prominent trans women, including MMA pioneer Fallon Fox, to be “executed” and “lynched”.
“It’s upsetting some of the things I see and some of things I read,” Jo said. “ Telling people that we need to be killed and we need to be shot, and someone who is in the LGBTQ community as well? That is what sickened me a lot more.”
Jo says she’s received a lot of support in her hometown of Portsmouth, a coastal city of 240,000 on the southern edge of the English Channel —where she was bullied and teased growing up. She also gets a boost from members of the trans community in U.K.. In fact, Amber Jo feels like they enter the ring with her.
“Showing who we are doesn’t stop us for achieving our dreams. Win or lose, I’ve won the war,” she said. “Winning that belt would be like saying ‘the trans community has got this!’”
Brawn, beauty and confident bravada was evident throughout our conversation with The “Notorious Angel” Amber Jo. She touched on being a rising star, a cool aunt to future protegé, and how she’s also a gamer and Star Wars die-hard who is all about the Dark Side of the Force.
Check out the complete interview in this week’s edition of The Trans Sporter Room. Check it out on Megaphone, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts, and many other platforms for Outsports podcasts as well.