The transgender community has been dealt some harsh blows lately, so it’s about time for some seriously positive news. Transgendered activist Aydian Dowling may be the first trans man to be on the cover of Men’s Health.
You may remember Dowling from when he re-created that salacious photo of Adam Levine when he was on the cover of Cosmopolitan UK in 2011 for FTM magazine. He got a tremendous amount of attention from the cover photo, many commenting that he looked hotter than Levine.
While Dowling was flattered by all the positive encouragement, he was ultimately trying to raise trans awareness and combat body issues. He told Buzzfeed, “Some areas of my body used to remind me of everything I’m not. Now they represent everything I am.” That’s body positivity if I ever heard it.
Aside from being a trans advocate, Dowling is also a huge fitness enthusiast. He runs Point 5cc, a “stealth transgender” clothing company out of Eugene, Oregon. He also manages a YouTube channel (apart from his own, which has almost 16,000 subscribers) called Beefheads Fitness, which aims to help transgenders stay healthy and get in better shape. Sounds like he’s the perfect candidate for the cover of a fitness magazine, right?
Dowling’s subscribers started suggesting he submit himself for Men’s Health‘s Ultimate Guy Search back in 2014, but he didn’t feel confident he could actually make it until his FTM cover photo went viral. And even after he put his name into the hat, he never imagined he’d get as much support as he has.
Here’s what Men’s Health says it’s looking for in its “Ultimate Guy”:
“The Ultimate Guy Search is a nationwide search for the guy who possesses all of the qualities that make up today’s well rounded, active, health conscious and thoughtful guy. Our judges are looking for a guy who is fit and fearless; a doer who gives back and leads by example.” I don’t know about you, but to me, Dowling fits that description to a T.
This past Monday night, Dowling was in the top 300 of men competing to be the Ultimate Guy. By the very next night, he was in first place, according to The Daily Beast. A good deal of his support comes from trans community members who are super active on social media. He actually racked up over 100,000 votes from one Tumblr post by Tristan, a fellow trans supporter.
Dowling told The Daily Beast, “It’s been crazy and amazing. I definitely was not expecting all the support, but I’m so happy and proud of the community for using its loud voice and realizing that we really could do it. We’re banding together and this is us. We exist and we should be represented in some way in mainstream.”
Even though Dowling definitely has the popular vote right now, that doesn’t mean the prize is in the bag. There are judges that could sway the competition a different way if they see fit. It would be difficult to just ignore a front-runner with 33,894, though, especially when he’s 25,009 votes ahead of the guy in second place. Men’s Health has often been noted in the past for its heteronormativity, but Dowling is not the only trans guy competing, so let’s hope the magazine realizes that our “original gender” does not have to define us.
In the face of all that, Dowling remains optimistic. He tells The Daily Beast, “It would be so affirming to just know that the man that I set out to be is somebody that people think is a good man. To break those stereotypes, but still be a man. Feel pride in masculinity, but not putting down femininity. That would be so important to me.” It’s something that should also be important to all of us.
The competition doesn’t end until June, so if you want Dowling to stay in the lead, vote here. If you want to see just how far he’s come, check out his video-documented, five-year transformation from woman to man, and prepare to be amazed.
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