This Man Could Make Transgender History

by Eliza Castile

When you think of transgender rights, do you think of men's fitness magazines? Probably not, but tell that to transgender entrepreneur and activist Aydian Dowling, who Men's Health may feature as the first trans man ever to grace its cover. It's about time there was some good news for the transgender community, which is more often than not in the public eye for news of tragedies and restrictions on their rights.

Dowling is no stranger to magazine covers or media attention: you may recall him from when he made waves earlier this year after recreating Adam Levine's nearly-naked photo for FTM Magazine. The advocate lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he runs .5cc, a "stealth transgender" clothing company, and YouTube channel BeefHeads Fitness, which is dedicated to helping trans people get healthy, the Daily Dot reports. (Sorry, ladies, he's also married.) Many of his 15,000 subscribers suggested that he try out for Men's Health's annual "Ultimate Guy Search" in 2014, but it wasn't until his FTM photo went viral that he was comfortable joining the competition. Since he decided to enter, however, his campaign has been successful beyond what he, or anyone, could have expected.

On Monday night, Dowling went to sleep as one of the top 300 men in the competition. When he woke up on Tuesday night, he was in first place, the Daily Beast reports. His campaign post on Tumblr has over 100,000 notes, no doubt partly due to Tumblr megastars like Tyler Oakley and Hank Green reblogging the post. Currently, he is still at number one with more than 24,000 votes. In comparison, runner-up Brian Taylor is at a third of Dowling's votes.

Dowling is floored by the attention, and he credits the trans community for his status in the competition. "I’m so happy and proud of the community for using its loud voice and realizing that we really could do it," he told the Daily Beast. "We’re banding together and this is us."

Although Men's Health is frequently cited as an example of hypermasculinity and heteronormativity in the United States, the "Ultimate Guy Search" has had surprisingly diverse competitors. Last year's winner, Noah Galloway, is a veteran who lost his left arm and leg to an IED, and he's currently competing on Dancing with the Stars . As the Daily Dot points out, Dowling's competitors include other trans men as well as a disabled physician.The competition includes judges (I selflessly volunteer myself as one), so Dowling's popularity online doesn't guarantee him the win. However, in the event that he is passed over for the cover, he says he won't be too disappointed. "Even if we don't get a trans guy on the cover, we're gonna make some waves at Men's Health," he said in a reaction video on Tuesday.

The competition doesn't end until June, so whether Dowling will stay at number one remains to be seen. However, there's no denying that even if he doesn't win, he has helped loosen the rigid definition of masculinity that much more.

To cast your vote, head over to the "Ultimate Guy Search" website.

Image: Aydian Dowling/Instagram