the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Aydian Dowling

Aydian Dowling is my unexpected trans hero

May 24, 2018

2015 started what I thought would be a lonely and incredibly difficult journey. I was only just coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t straight before confusion surrounding my gender identity seeped in. I felt lost.

Questioning gender wasn’t something that was ever talked about in my family or community. I was different from all the other girls, but I never knew why. Trans and nonbinary people weren’t on my radar—that is, until Men’s Health published an article about an Ultimate Men’s Health finalist.

Normally, a magazine’s contest to find the buffest guy wouldn’t interest me. What would a pre-transitioning, physically and emotionally soft guy have in common with buff cisgender men? I almost didn’t pay attention to the article. But after being sent it many times, I knew it was important that I read it—and I couldn’t be happier when I did.

The article introduced me to someone I now consider to be my hero: Aydian Dowling. In July of 2015, when the article was published, I had only disclosed I was trans to a small handful of people. I was terrified and worried about what my future would hold. Despite my fears, reading about Aydian inspired me to be brave. He was comfortable with who he was and was open to share his experiences growing up and struggling with gender and sexuality. He was visible. He was the first transgender man I had ever seen and he uses his visibility to empower others. Aydian is the kind of person that I want to be when I grow up: compassionate, selfless, healthy, and most importantly, seen by others. I may have not wanted to be a bodybuilder like him, but I wanted to be an advocate like him.

Fast forward to 2016, I attended the Gender Odyssey convention in Seattle. I still felt scared about my future: I was starting to investigate top surgery options and wanted to know how to be my healthiest self. I was completely unaware that Aydian would be at the convention, but low and behold, I stumbled across his booth and had the opportunity to meet him face to face. I was so nervous and I hoped he would embrace me.

Aydian was very popular with everyone at the convention. Despite a small crowd forming, he took time to individually talk to every person that wanted to see him. Though I was a stumbling mess, I had the opportunity to thank him for being visible and such a positive force for the trans community. He was humble in accepting my praises and was excited about the steps I had made in my journey, despite meeting me for only a few moments.

GLAAD Campus Ambassador, Mason Bernardo

As I have grown into my identity, my respect for Aydian grows, too. He’s a fierce advocate for the LGBTQIA community, a phenomenal YouTuber, a soon-to-be father, CEO of the clothing line Point 5cc, and president and co-founder of Point of Pride, a nonprofit focused on helping underprivileged individuals within the trans community.

Aydian’s role in media advocacy inspired me to start two blogs dedicated to uplifting and supporting the trans community, as well as a petition to install more gender inclusive bathrooms on my university’s campus. I may have been an instant fan from the beginning, but I now stan for him like no other.

#WeStan is an amp original series honoring LGBTQ legends in media because we know that representation matters. Follow along on GLAAD social mediaFacebook, Instagram, Twitterto see who our fans stan!

Mason Bernardo is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and first year at Western Washington University studying secondary education. 

the voice and vision of a new generation