Aydian Dowling Won't Be Featured On The Cover Of 'Men's Health,' But He's Still Making Important Strides For The Trans Community
Despite months of social media campaigning and massive media attention, trans man Aydian Dowling won't be featured on the cover of Men's Health . The well-known LGBTQ advocate (and total hottie) announced on his Facebook page yesterday that he had not won the magazine's "Ultimate Guy" 2015 award, which recognizes men who possess "all the qualities that make up today's well rounded, active, health conscious and thoughtful guy." From that description it's easy to assume the contest is a testosterone-fueled circle of traditional masculinity, but previous winners have been encouragingly inclusive. But even though Dowling didn't win, he's still making both history and some extremely important strides for the trans community.
If Dowling had won, he wouldn't just have been the first trans man to cover Men's Health; he would have been the first to cover any men's magazine, period. Needless to say, this would have been a huge step forward for trans visibility, and Dowling wrote on his Facebook page that he couldn't help but be disappointed."Of course I hold feelings of disappointment for what could have been an amazing opportunity for our visibility as a comunity," he wrote. However, Dowling made sure to point out the silver lining: "Please do remember that this fight for Transgender rights, inclusivity, and visibility is not over! ...We joined together and showed that we have a voice that is LOUD and PROUD!"
Dowling first came to the Internet's attention when he recreated Adam Levine's infamous Cosmopolitan UK magazine cover for FTM Magazine, serving up a now-iconic statement on trans visibility as well as straight-up hotness. (Unfortunately, he's also married. Sorry, hopefuls.) He later told the Daily Dot that the positive online response to his FTM cover is what gave him the courage to enter this year's competition, where he would compete against thousands of other men for the title of "Ultimate Guy" 2015.
That fateful decision succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, landing him first place in reader votes and a spot as a semifinalist in the competition. Although he may not have won first place overall — the honor went to firefighter Tim Boniface — Dowling still made it onto the cover of Men's Health, along with the other finalists, in a special collector's edition. As he noted in an Instagram post, this is the first ever instance of a trans man gracing the pages of Men's Health, which marks a huge step forward for trans visibility. "Change happens in layers and this is a huge layer we have peeled back!" he writes.
Dowling may not have won the title of "Ultimate Guy," but his success reaches far beyond a fleeting competition. The LGBT community as a whole may be receiving historic levels of mainstream acceptance, yet the trans community still struggles with shockingly high rates of hate crimes, suicide attempts, and mental illness in a society that polices strict gender norms. As the Human Rights Campaign notes, visibility is key. "When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law," their website reads.
Unfortunately, visibility of the LGBTQ community is far from equal. Lesbian and gay individuals are receiving unprecedented levels of visibility in mainstream media, but the bisexual and transgender communities lag behind. According to a recent study, one in two Americans report knowing someone who is gay or lesbian, while only one in 10 say they know someone who is transgender. That's what makes Dowling's success in the "Ultimate Guy" competition so important — he didn't win, but his appearance on the pages of a mainstream men's magazine will likely reach audiences the trans community never would have found in the past.
Even though Dowling isn't the Men's Health Ultimate Guy 2015, I'd still say congratulations are in order.
And now, I shall leave you with a series of Dowling's Instagram photos, because hot damn, that man is good-looking. You're welcome.