Man Healthy
April 24, 2015 6:34 AM   Subscribe

“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,” Dowling says about possibly being on the cover of Men’s Health. “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.”
--Meet Aydian Dowling, the Trans Hunk Aiming for a ‘Men’s Health’ Cover
posted by almostmanda (45 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is Men's Health going to honor the win and put him on the cover? I hope they do! Surely it'll sell like crazy. I'll buy it!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:43 AM on April 24, 2015


Is Men's Health going to honor the win and put him on the cover?

The public vote is just the first (and pretty small part) of the selection process. I think that it would be great if this (very good looking) man ends up on the cover, but it's not up to the voters.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:47 AM on April 24, 2015


My goodness, that's a lovely boy to look upon, I must say.
posted by dejah420 at 6:48 AM on April 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm not really the target audience for Men's Health, but dude is in very good shape and extremely good looking. If I was looking for inspiration, he would certainly fit the bill.

Of course, I haven't seen any of the other models. The article suggests that it was his trans status that drove a lot of the votes. I could see Men's Health being annoyed that their "Ultimate Guy" was selected by organized voting among a politically motivated group. I mean, running an online poll to select their cover model? I hope that they heavily screened the candidates ahead of time. Otherwise, they're lucky that they didn't get 4chan organizing a million votes for someone with a giant swastika tattoo.

On the third hand, one of their Ultimate Guy criteria is "giving back," and Aydian is certainly giving back a lot of good feels and inspiration to the community, so maybe the organized voting is entirely within their intent for the contest.

Regardless, I really hope they have the good sense to put Aydian on the cover.
posted by 256 at 6:49 AM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I get that they probably have readers who wouldn't want a trans man on the cover (or maybe that's putting it too strongly- they might not be against it but they wouldn't buy it, and I get that they have to sell magazines), perhaps they could do multiple covers.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:50 AM on April 24, 2015


The public vote is just the first (and pretty small part) of the selection process. I think that it would be great if this (very good looking) man ends up on the cover, but it's not up to the voters.

Ah! Well, that changes things and definitely makes the whole idea seem less insane and naive on the part of Men's Health.

Best of luck to Aydian in the rest of the selection process!
posted by 256 at 6:52 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Aydian looks badass and fit and awesome; he certainly deserves the cover. No need to go looking for stupid people to be offended or invoke anonymous internet hordes or preemptively suggest ways to reduce his visibility.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:53 AM on April 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


His Instagram is fun, if you're not following already.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:00 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, the awesome. Thank you for posting this. (I might be sniffling a bit. It's been that kind of week.)
posted by joycehealy at 7:06 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are they supposed to be good looking or just buff? I am...very not the target audience for this magazine.
posted by corb at 7:30 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


corb, it's pretty much dude-aspirational for how to get a great body.

And, honestly, if you're a magazine about making your body look buff/hunky/whatever slightly creepy word you want to use for that kind of hot, Aydian should, literally, be the poster boy.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:33 AM on April 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


Does it seem weird that this man is trying to fight narrow-minded beliefs about gender by going on the cover of a magazine that celebrates narrow-minded beliefs about male attractiveness?
posted by jayder at 7:47 AM on April 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


I could see Men's Health being annoyed that their "Ultimate Guy" was selected by organized voting among a politically motivated group.

Well, they picked this guy last year. It seems like it's a combo of "fits all the requirements" and "has an interesting human interest angle." I mean, why put Buff Dude Number 65,789 on the cover when you have someone more noteworthy who might sell more magazines?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:48 AM on April 24, 2015


As an aside I just learned yesterday that 'hunky' was offensive slang for you male Central European immigrant labourers.
posted by srboisvert at 7:55 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a great story - thanks for posting it.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:02 AM on April 24, 2015


That should be young male Central European immigrant labourers however you are all still hunky in my hunky opinion!
posted by srboisvert at 8:33 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


As an aside I just learned yesterday that 'hunky' was offensive slang for you male Central European immigrant labourers.
posted by srboisvert


Holy crap. That's what my recent-immigrant Hungarian family called the even-more-recent-immigrant Hungarians who were coming over to take jobs away from good Americans like themselves! I hadn't thought of that meaning in decades!
posted by Seamus at 8:36 AM on April 24, 2015


Honestly, if there's a legit reason he wouldn't qualify to be on the cover of Men's Health, it's because he looks so young. I am more or less the target audience for the magazine and while I don't recall many covers I've seen, the model always appears to be hovering somewhere around 35-40.
posted by psoas at 8:38 AM on April 24, 2015


Well, they picked this guy last year. It seems like it's a combo of "fits all the requirements" and "has an interesting human interest angle." I mean, why put Buff Dude Number 65,789 on the cover when you have someone more noteworthy who might sell more magazines?

I'm guessing that a large portion of the magazine's article would find a soldier wounded in battle a lot more acceptable than a transgender man. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but I'm worried that any gender-marketed magazine would feel compelled to uphold and enforce strict gender binaries.
posted by bibliowench at 8:39 AM on April 24, 2015


Honestly, if there's a legit reason he wouldn't qualify to be on the cover of Men's Health, it's because he looks so young. I am more or less the target audience for the magazine and while I don't recall many covers I've seen, the model always appears to be hovering somewhere around 35-40.

This recent cover seems like the obvious counterpoint, but I think you're correct otherwise. Maybe they're trying to skew younger?
posted by almostmanda at 9:03 AM on April 24, 2015


They publicize their audience demographics. Median age is indeed 40! And that's not great if you're a magazine, you want the almighty 18-to-35 demo - which is much more supportive of trans rights.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:06 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Men's Health has two, occasionally overlapping, target markets:

1) Guys who aspire to having bodies that are basically unrealistic for 99% of the male-identified population

2) Gay men who like to look at people who have bodies that are basically unrealistic for 99% of the male-identified population

It's Cosmo minus the makeup, basically.

Also Aydian Dowling is so frighteningly beautiful he makes me go crosseyed.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:32 AM on April 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


Does it seem weird that this man is trying to fight narrow-minded beliefs about gender by going on the cover of a magazine that celebrates narrow-minded beliefs about male attractiveness?

The thing is, people said the same stuff about gay marriage 20 or 30 years ago: "Being gay is all about freedom from conventional sex roles and relationship structures, right? So why would gay people want anything to do with marriage, which is the #1 most conventional relationship structure there is?"

Which, like, okay, there's a legitimate point somewhere in there. (And plenty of radical queers do think we lost something by assimilating and shooting for legal marriage.) But it's worth remembering that being gay isn't "all about freedom from conventional relationship structures." Being gay isn't "about" anything but same-sex attraction. It doesn't necessarily make you any more radical than the next person, except maybe under duress — when the entire mainstream culture was murderously hostile to same-sex attraction, then sure, that radicalized a lot of gay people, but most of them were happy to rejoin the mainstream once that was an option.

Being trans is the same way. Ten years ago, when there was zero positive trans representation in mainstream culture, being openly (not stealth) trans meant being a radical out of sheer necessity — or at least getting comfortable with being seen as some kind of defiant freak-flag-flying outsider. Now, it's becoming more and more possible to be a conventional mainstream dude who just happens to be openly trans, and it turns out that's what a lot of trans people would prefer.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:20 AM on April 24, 2015 [27 favorites]


I get that they probably have readers who wouldn't want a trans man on the cover (or maybe that's putting it too strongly- they might not be against it but they wouldn't buy it, and I get that they have to sell magazines), perhaps they could do multiple covers.

... seriously? I am sure they have readers who don't like black men on the cover. Who fucking cares? Why should they make multiple covers? You make it sound like Dowling is "cheating" and that they should also have a cover with a "real" man. Please tell me that's not what you meant.
posted by desjardins at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Has anyone else noticed a distinct abundance of trans people in the media the past year or so? What is the source of this new focus on trans issues?

Is it just organic, now that the LGB part of the movement is mainstream, the activist groups are focusing on the "T" part of it?
posted by theorique at 12:43 PM on April 24, 2015


I think it's a couple of things:

1) A whole bunch of trans people said "Hey, fuck you, we exist"

2) People, especially teenagers, listened.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:51 PM on April 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


now that the LGB part of the movement is mainstream, the activist groups are focusing on the "T" part of it?

Also, more trans people just said 'fuck it' and started their own activist groups, because LGB"T" groups often distanced themselves from trans issues because they felt like they were less likely to get mainstream approval. It sucked/sucks. Here's one article, sorry no time to find more.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:53 PM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Urgh, phrasing on my second point was bad, sorry. That should be people-who-aren't-trans. As it stands it looks like I'm saying something I'm not, didn't want to use the edit window to change it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:54 PM on April 24, 2015


I feel like some of the really brave trans gender kids and parents who have been very open with the media have helped a lot too. It can be a lot easier for bigots to be bigoted against the offensive stereotypical images that have previously been associated with trans people than it is against kids who are plainly just being themselves. Visibility can be very important, even stuff as simple as a magazine cover.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:59 PM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


1) A whole bunch of trans people said "Hey, fuck you, we exist"

2) People, especially teenagers, listened.

....

Urgh, phrasing on my second point was bad, sorry. That should be people-who-aren't-trans. As it stands it looks like I'm saying something I'm not, didn't want to use the edit window to change it.


I mean, for what it's worth, people-who-are-trans listened too. There's been a huge snowball effect here — if you're a closeted trans person, the more other people you know who are coming out and transitioning, the more likely you are to say "Fuck it, you know what? I can do this too."

The upshot is that the number of people transitioning each year has been increasing exponentially for a few decades now. By "exponentially" I don't mean "a lot" — I mean there is a literal exponential increase, of the sort you'd expect to see in the spread of a virus, because the confidence required to transition spreads as a contagious meme among closeted trans people.

And the speed at which that meme is spreading is one of the major reasons that we're finally able to force the mainstream media to pay attention.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:16 PM on April 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


And another thing that's been happening behind the scenes for a long time is that more of us who transition are doing it openly. For a long time, trans health care operated in a super coercive and shitty way, where the goal was to produce "normal," "passable," conventional straight men and women — and people who didn't fit that mold were denied access to hormones and surgery. Ironically, one thing that could get you denied access to surgery was being too open about being trans. The idea, I guess, was that "real" trans people all wanted to pass as stealthily as possible as "normal" men and women, and so if you didn't intend to go stealth yourself, that could be taken as evidence that you weren't "really" trans. That shit made it very difficult for a community of visible trans activists to form — it forced people who might otherwise have been radicalized by their transition to keep quiet for fear of losing their access to care.

For decades now, trans people have been organizing and fighting back against that coercive model of care, and things have been gradually getting better.

There has always been a small vibrant community of openly trans activists and artists. What's changed is that many more people are transitioning, many more transitioners are doing it openly, and so the work done by those activists and artists is being increasingly amplified — and apparently, in the past few years, has been amplified loud enough that mainstream media and mainstream LGB"T" groups have started paying attention.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:17 PM on April 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


Ack sorry I have FEELINGS AND OPINIONS on this subject and not enough time right now to condense them into something short and pithy.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:20 PM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I want this to happen SO MUCH it's ridiculous.
I think it would be awesome.
That's about all I got to say about that.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 2:27 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ironically, one thing that could get you denied access to surgery was being too open about being trans.

I had no idea. This is especially horrifically shitty given that a barrier for many to acceptance of trans folk is the idea of the 'stealth trans' person - and I know some people have tried to use evidence of that sort of thing as evidence of sneakiness or shittiness. That it was actually encouraged or created by medical providers as a gatekeeping thing is pretty fucking awful.
posted by corb at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Awesomely, Buck Angel (SFW) is also in the "Ultimate Guy" voting gallery.
posted by nicodine at 2:53 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's his number?
posted by corb at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's the direct link to Buck Angel's entry page.

I see at least five other trans men (1 2 3 4 5) in the recent entries; I wonder if Aydian's popularity has encouraged more to enter.
posted by desjardins at 3:58 PM on April 24, 2015


Has anyone else noticed a distinct abundance of trans people in the media the past year or so? What is the source of this new focus on trans issues?

Is it just organic, now that the LGB part of the movement is mainstream, the activist groups are focusing on the "T" part of it?


I think the media attention and activism are somewhat separate. It honestly doesn't feel like a whole lot has changed on the activism front. The SPLC started working on trans and queer stuff in a bigger way, but otherwise, it feels like it's the same groups who've always worked on trans stuff working on trans stuff and getting ignored by the rest of the LGBT "establishment".

I don't really know what to think of the media attention. It's been going on for the last two or three years. I'm really cynical, but a not insignificant part of me feels like gay people aren't controversial enough any more, and the Huffington Post wants to show themselves to be "edgy" so they cover trans stuff. It's a cheap way to score points for progressiveness. After all, they're only asking us to notice trans people when they're young and attractive (and usually white) or dead. (Laverne Cox being the notable exception. But I feel like she's become less visible of late and I can't help but think that has something to do with the fact she's not willing to just be the "courageous" trans person.)
posted by hoyland at 4:13 PM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's another trans guy (omg hello), and another (helloooo).
posted by desjardins at 4:14 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can we not play 'find every trans man who's entered this competition'? It feel kind of objectifying.
posted by hoyland at 4:36 PM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


These guys (cis or trans) aren't exactly entering something where they're being judged on how often they mor their neighbours' lawns or what was in their PhD dissertations. Being on the cover of MH is an inherently objectifying process which they are entering into willingly.

What I'm trying to say is, when someone is saying "hey, judge me on my looks, objectify me" it's kind of odd to complain about them being objectified. (And if it's not about looks, by all means I'll submit my short pudgy self and expect to have a chance at winning.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:30 PM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm a trans guy myself, and my thoughts on this story are pretty mixed. I mean, first off, "Men's Health" is not a magazine of much personal interest to me, and it doesn't become more so because there is a trans guy on the cover. Obviously, Aydian Dowling is qualified to serve as "Ultimate Guy" cover model, and I will fight for his right to be treated as a serious contender against any transphobes. Further, my hackles really rise when a trans (or intersex) person is challenged not from the right, but from the left, for being "too gender conforming." We have no more duty to be subversive in our gender presentations than your next-door neighbor does. It can get very tiresome, as an intersex and/or trans person, living under a Catch-22 in which we are seen as a gender dupes if we gender conform, but have our gender identities disrespected if we are androgynous or gender-nonconforming. If Aydian Dowling wants to be Mr. Buff Masculinity, he's not some sort of patriarchal quisling.

That said, I'm really tired of the fact that the people lionized as trans spokespeople and heroes in the popular press are always people with bodies that out-idealize cis gender ideals. Like, Janet Mock is great, and Aydian Dowling seems like a nice human being, but the fact that the trans people pictured as role models in the media look like celebrity-beautiful cis people does more than just instill the usual bodily dysphoria that cis people feel when looking at covergirl and coverboy bodies--they multiply that by the dysphoria trans people feel in a world that tells us we must have bodies that look like cis people's in order to be accepted. This is not a critique of people like Janet Mock and Aydian Dowling--it's a critique of the media and its unthinking cissexism.

Anyway, I'm happy for Aydian and the success he's worked for and experienced. He's beautiful to look at, and I think every person of every gender and life trajectory has a right to enjoy being beautiful. But for me, the true trans heroes of the aesthetic world are the short, wide-hipped men --and moreso, in a transmisogynistic world, the tall, broad-shouldered women--who refuse to inhabit their bodies with shame, and make clear that they love their quite visibly trans bodies.
posted by DrMew at 12:17 AM on April 25, 2015 [17 favorites]


These guys (cis or trans) aren't exactly entering something where they're being judged on how often they mor their neighbours' lawns or what was in their PhD dissertations. Being on the cover of MH is an inherently objectifying process which they are entering into willingly.

Of course, but there's a difference between ogling everyone who's entered the competition and ogling the trans entrants specifically.
posted by hoyland at 4:31 AM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Trust me, I ogled all of them, but only the trans guys were relevant to this thread.
posted by desjardins at 6:10 AM on April 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


DrMew: "Further, my hackles really rise when a trans (or intersex) person is challenged not from the right, but from the left, for being "too gender conforming." We have no more duty to be subversive in our gender presentations than your next-door neighbor does."

If I had any artistic talent whatsoever -- or if I could find a suitable New Yorker comic to repurpose -- I would depict a stack of shelves full of magazines with beautiful, mostly-naked people on the covers, and a gaggle of people pointing, shocked, at the only one with a trans person on the cover, quivering with rage about how gender-conforming he or she is.
posted by these are science wands at 2:45 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


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