Brad Shreve

Welcome Aydian Dowling to queer we are.

Aydian Dowling

Hey, how’s it going?

Brad Shreve

It’s going great. And I’m so excited. I tell you, the more I learned about you, the more excited I have been to do this interview with you. I’m thrilled to be looking at you on the other side of this computer. In 2009, you posted a video on YouTube of you getting your first hormone shot as part of your transition from the simple video you’ve now grown to a YouTube channel of 81,000 subscribers. You’ve made guest spots on Ellen more than once. You’ve been on magazine covers, launched your own company. You’ve been CEO of a nonprofit providing aid to trans folks. Still are. And you now have an app for the trans community. I’m not going to ask you if you thought this would happen, because I know the answer to that. But in just a few words, how would you describe the trip from then to now?

Aydian Dowling

Probably that’s a hard one. It’s kind of like getting on a plane and you think you’re going one place and the steward people are like, so you’re on your way to Chicago and you thought that you were going to New York and you’re very confused, but you can’t really get off. And so you’re like, all right, I guess I guess we’re going to Chicago and I’m going to figure it out from there. Out of my control, I think, is more of what it is, not what my intention was, but what the outcome became.

Brad Shreve 00:01:40
It’s been an amazing journey, and I can’t wait to hear the details. So let’s tell the people who we are. I’m your host, Brad Shreve.

Aydian Dowling 00:01:47
And I’m Aydian Dowling.

Brad Shreve 00:01:48
And Queer We.
We’re going to want you to give details about the Trace app. I’m very fascinated about that. But first, I want to comment on something on your cover of FTM Magazine back in 2015. For those not familiar with Adam Levine’s iconic photo, he was in British Cosmo magazine. And in the magazine, Adam is naked and his then girlfriend’s hands are reaching up and everybody envies her and hates her because she’s covering up the stuff we all want to see. Well on FTM magazine. They recreated that shot with Aydian. And I got to tell you, my thought was when I looked at the picture of you doing that pose with the picture of Adam Levine, I looked at you looking all hot and buff, and I was like, I never realized that Adam was so scrawny.

Aydian Dowling 00:02:44
Well, he’s quite tall, so he’s definitely got something on me.

Brad Shreve 00:02:48
He may have that on you, but you’ve got plenty on Adam. I feel good about that. So the Trace app, when did that launch?

Aydian Dowling 00:02:59
July 1 of 2022. It’s in iOS and Android, and it’s awesome.

Brad Shreve 00:03:05
It’s been great as an Android user. Thank you. It always goes to iOS for about a year before Android, so I love you. tell folks what it does, it’s very important.

Aydian Dowling 00:03:16
Yeah. So the Trace app is you can think of it as a social media for trans and non-binary folks and our allies, but it also has documenting tools for those who choose to medically transition. So you can document and kind of tell this story. As you were saying, I’ve been on YouTube since 2009 and I got on there to document my transition because there was no place to do that. And so Traces both a social platform and a documenting platform and there’s also.

Brad Shreve 00:03:47
A community building relationship thing there as well, isn’t there?

Aydian Dowling 00:03:50
Yeah. So, I mean, the whole concept of the social platform is that and I think all LGBQ folks can relate. When you go on social media, sometimes you don’t know what dumpster fire you’re going to get into, especially being from the trans or non-binary community. And so we wanted to create a place where you could go and build a community where trans people are put first and not put second like they are on every other platform. And so you go on to Trace, you create a profile just like you would on Instagram or a Facebook. You can upload photos, comments, DMs, we have channels so open group chats where you can meet other individuals. And we always say you can build communities safely and celebrate who you are instead of having to hide who you are

Brad Shreve 00:04:43
You’re giving to those something that wasn’t there when you were there.

Aydian Dowling 00:04:46

Brad Shreve 00:04:48
It’s awesome. Transgender has always kind of been kind of pushed to the corner of LGBTQ. Even HRC didn’t include trans rights and some of the bills that they were trying to get passed. Now things have improved and they are embracing more queer people, including the transgender folk. Their earlier policies were controversial. Are things better?

Aydian Dowling 00:05:22
They are better, but I think trans and nonbinary people are still secondary. I think right now when we just think about all of the money pumped into marriage quality, right, and that was there were a lot of legal rights that LGBTQ people were denied by not being able to be married. And yet today, as we speak this year, have had the most anti trans bills and legislation brought up and yet where is all of the money, right? Where’s all the money where we spent millions and tens of millions of dollars fighting for marriage equality and yet we have not seen that same fight come for and we’re not talking about the privilege of being married. Being able to be married is a privilege of many sorts. Right, but we’re talking about just having people denying access to basic human health care. Right? And I think there’s a lot of correlation in what a lot of LGB struggles have been and trans and it just seems like sometimes it’s like we’re at the end of the acronym and we’re the last people to be served.

Brad Shreve 00:06:39
And I was going to bring that up. I’m not going to say I agree with this. I’m going to say I’m playing devil’s advocate here. Now, they say they couldn’t get the rights for LGB if T was on there, and they had to at least make some headway, whether you agree or disagree, see where that thought process was. Do you understand it?

Aydian Dowling 00:07:04
I can understand it in the sense that I think it is more palatable to have two binary looking men in love with each other and two binary looking women in love with each other. I think that is more palatable. Right. It’s cool. Great. You know? But I what I don’t get is it’s like leaving half of your luggage behind, right? It’s like, yeah, okay, you’ve got enough to get through, but you’ve got to wear the same outfit. Why didn’t you just bring everything that you brought on off? Like, why did you leave any of it behind? And what it sends is a message of, we can leave you behind. You’re not worthy. Like right. Like, you are our second trip. You’re not our first trip, you’re our second. And so we’ll come back and get you. And even in that, it’s like, we’re still behind. You haven’t come back to get us. It’s been how many years? You know what I mean? And we’re at peak right now, peak of our rights being stripped from us and politicized in a way that I think a lot of LGBT people, especially older people, should be able to understand, because that’s what happened in the 80s, right. Is like, the politicizing your sexuality and using it as a way to get votes or claim a Republican or a Democrat or whatever, you know what I mean? I get it. And it still doesn’t make me feel any better. Right.

Brad Shreve 00:08:42
It also doesn’t mean that was right.

Aydian Dowling 00:08:44
Right, exactly. So it’s like, I get it. And are we fighting for our rights? Are we catering to the heterosexual world? What are we actually here for?

Brad Shreve 00:08:58
It’s kind of like, we’re all going to get in the lifeboat and we’ll come back for you.

Aydian Dowling 00:09:03
Exactly. It’s hard, I think, because a lot of and a lot of trans and non-binary people, like, a lot of our friends are LGB people, and so of course we want a lifeboat for them. We’re like, yes, you should have a lifeboat. We want you to be saved. Why wouldn’t we? Right? But also, why is it so easy to leave us behind?

Brad Shreve 00:09:29
My theory on why things have gotten worse for trans folk is marriage equality. People started seeing friends and neighbors and family members out more all of a sudden and living more normal day to day lives and became comfortable with it. I mean, the number of people that support marriage equality is huge these days compared to a very short time ago. So they needed something else to go after. And unfortunately, the trans community was an easy target and still is for them.

Aydian Dowling 00:09:55
Unfortunately, I agree with that statement. And if we go back to what we said earlier, if we were just in the first lifeboat and we had a boat big enough, there wouldn’t have been anyone to go after. Do you get what I’m saying? Like, we’re an easy target because we’ve been left behind. I get on. And so what you’re saying is very true. We are an easy target. We’re the easy target in this sense of today. But it’s just unfortunate because we wouldn’t have been here if we had all stuck together in the beginning.

Brad Shreve 00:10:29
I agree.

Aydian Dowling 00:10:30

Brad Shreve 00:10:31
So we’ve talked about some of the issues going on with trans people today. The laws that are being passed, the murders are sickening, and I don’t want to downplay that, but that’s a lot in the news. And what I’m curious about is the little things, the day to day things, the challenges that trans and non binary people deal with every day that the rest of us may not be aware of. What are some of those?

Aydian Dowling 00:10:52
Yeah, I think some of them are. I’ll just use my own life and other close friends and stuff who are trans. I mean, even just like when I go to the gym, I go to the gym in the morning, and I’m pretty binary passing. Right. I think most people, when they meet me, are not going to assume that I’m transgender and there’s going to the bathroom. I could shower at my gym, but for my safety, it’s probably best for me not to shower at the gym. Right? And so I don’t have the full access to which everyone else has the full access to. Right. Then we start talking about getting jobs. Right? It’s not just about it’s like, what is the name I’m using versus the name that’s on my ID, versus how do I look now as opposed to when I looked? Maybe my ID is three or four years old. Maybe I’ve started hormones. Right. And it’s never like, especially with jobs, like getting jobs, never just like just your ID. It’s always like your ID, and then they want your Social Security, you know what I mean, in all of your past history. And so even if you have changed your name or your gender marker, it’ll come up when they search it’ll have like, FKA, like a formerly known as. And so right then and there, you could potentially just not get the job because they don’t feel comfortable, right? Like the stigma that comes along with that of like, oh, well, if we hire a trans person, what else are we going to have to do? Right? And are we going to change our bathrooms? Are we going to have to have different policy? Are they going to be combative? Because that’s a lot of the rhetoric that’s shown in the trans community. So those things I have a four year old and he was on a soccer team. We did the youth soccer right here at the Y, and you have to have a volunteer coach, and none of the parents volunteered, and I did not want to volunteer, but when I see a group of people who need a leader, if no one else is stepping up, I’m going to step up. So I stepped up. That soccer just ended about two or three weeks ago, and right now there is a bill that is just being talked about. It’s not actually there yet, but saying that I’m in Florida, by the way, that no trans or nonbinary person could interact with kids under ten years old. So literally, I didn’t tell people I was trans, but let’s say that, like, that could have not been an option for me. Like, I could not volunteer coach my the four year, three and four year olds soccer, which is just pretty much telling everyone which way to kick a ball. Yeah, purely because I was transgender, and that would be a detriment to those kids having a coach that is of me. Right. That is trans. That’s a very basic human middle America experience. Right. Like, you got a kid and they’re in practice at the Y, and you just trying to volunteer because no one else will step up. So those are some examples, and you just never quite know who’s okay and who’s not, especially if you don’t live in an area that you’re more represented in people who are accepting of the community than are not. So, yeah, it can be difficult in just those day to day interactions of just you just never know. You probably can’t see. But I have, like, trans flags all in my office. I work from home. A tree was like, rotted, and the tree fell on the roof, and people had to come into the house, and they’d come right into my office, and I very quickly was like, I should probably get my I should probably move my trans flags. Like I should probably take them down or put them away. Because I don’t want these workers who have no idea if they agree with who I am or not to know where I live and know that a trans person lives there. Because I don’t feel safe. Because the area I live in Florida and the area is really 50 50. So it’s little things like that that you’ve got to really think about as a trans person.

Brad Shreve 00:15:17
Well, I see the picture behind you that has two trans flags sticking over the top of it. I can see that very clearly. The coaching thing is just, let’s punish the kids due to some irrational fear.

Aydian Dowling 00:15:29

Brad Shreve 00:15:30
And the problem is really, it’s not irrational because these folks are so ignorant, and the stuff is being dumped into their brain, and it’s all they hear, so they don’t understand that it’s so irrational.

Aydian Dowling 00:15:42
Yeah, they think they’re right.

Brad Shreve 00:15:44
That’s a hard battle.

Aydian Dowling 00:15:45

Brad Shreve 00:15:45
That’s a hard battle. It’s overcome. We’re learning the more people are educated, the better things get. But it’s getting them to understand. That’s the challenge. That’s the challenge.

Aydian Dowling 00:15:57
Yeah. And education is something you want to have to do, right. Like, how many people you know are like, oh, it was so terrible in school, but then I went to college and started learning something I wanted to learn, and I did so well. It’s like, education is a choice, right. You have to want to learn it. You can hear it and sit in a class for twelve years and never learn a thing. So getting people to choose the education, it’s difficult. It is difficult.

Brad Shreve 00:16:27
Yeah. You brought up the ID thing, and it made me very curious. How many states don’t allow you to change your gender on documents? Do you know?

Aydian Dowling 00:16:36
To be honest, I don’t know. Off the top of my head, I know that there are some that do not I believe I don’t want to name I’d rather not say a state and be wrong.

Brad Shreve 00:16:49

Aydian Dowling 00:16:49
But it’s less than 50% allow you to change documents, at least in an easeful process. Some states don’t allow you to ever change your birth certificate, ever.

Brad Shreve 00:17:03
Well, I’m curious, and I’m sure it’s different from state to state. At what stage do they allow the change? If I went and said, I’m a man, will they accept that? Or do I have to start going through transition before they say, okay, is there a different stage?

Aydian Dowling 00:17:24
At one point, I know that in order to get so things may have changed. I know that at one point, in order to get your birth certificate changed, you needed at least some from New York State, you needed at least, like, one irreversible gender surgery. And then your surgeon gives you a letter that says you’ve had this surgery, and now you can now be known as a man or a woman. Right. I don’t know what it is now, but what I do know is that it goes through the courts. So a judge has to decide, and that’s where it gets really sticky. When I got my name changed, I went to one judge, and I didn’t actually meet the judge, but they’re like, clerk, I guess, is the person you go up. I handed my paperwork to the clerk. The clerk looks at it, brings it back, comes out and says, our judge won’t sign this, but you should go like, three doors down to Judge Johnson or whatever. And I was like, okay. And it’s like, grab the paperwork. I went three doors down to whatever that judge’s name was, handed it to their clerk, and then 45 minutes later, they had signed the paperwork and I had gotten it back so I could get my name and gender marker changed. So I think it also, like, it’s clear that that first judge I went to was not going to sign that paper. Right. So it’s like it’s kind of also based on who has the power. When you actually jump through all of those hoops, are their personal biases going to interfere with the legal process of if you can or if they will or will not sign that paperwork?

Brad Shreve 00:19:08
For most, if not all of us, we struggle with the deal that the Supreme Court, whether we have rights or not, depends on who happens to be sitting there on a given year.

Aydian Dowling 00:19:17
I agree. Yeah.

Brad Shreve 00:19:18
Trans individuals are dealing that on a much more local level more often than the rest of us.

Aydian Dowling 00:19:24

Brad Shreve 00:19:25
Because as you’re telling me this, I’m thinking, well, what if I’m trans by choose not to have the surgery or at least right now?

Aydian Dowling 00:19:30
Right? Yeah.

Brad Shreve 00:19:32
They’re saying, no, that’s not well, yeah, let’s talk about the good things. Yes, it is difficult, but it is getting better. At least in my eyes, it’s getting better. I now live in the heart of Trump country in California, but I used to live in La. And I know at least three, maybe four of my friends, their children came out as trance, and they were very loving and embracing. I’m sure that was difficult. Even Cher said when Chaz came out to her and said she said, I behaved in a non share like manner.

Aydian Dowling 00:20:08

Brad Shreve 00:20:09
You have ideas of your kid, and all of a sudden they change it. So it’s okay to be shocked, but then how do you act?

Aydian Dowling 00:20:15

Brad Shreve 00:20:16
I see more and more. I know it can always be better, but to hear stories where a parent is like, okay, where do we go from now? That’s something you never used to hear.

Aydian Dowling 00:20:26
Yeah, I agree. I think kind of what’s happening here, even in our conversation, is like, if you wear these glasses, everything is terrible. But if you take those off and you put these glasses on, things are actually kind of pretty good. Right. So I think depending on which glasses we’re wearing right. There is a lot of great progress that’s happening. There really is. And I think, you know, even from when I think about when I first transitioned in 2009, there was there was none of this. Everything we’re talking about, the pro, was that no one was trying to take away my rights to coach my potential future son soccer game, but also, there also wasn’t anywhere to go to get services. I mean, I went to an LGBT center locally where I was living, and they were like, we don’t have any trans people here. I was telling my lesbian friends, because I identified as a lesbian beforehand, that I was trans, and they were just like they just didn’t get it. You know what I mean? And now I think that if you tell your lesbian friend you’re trans, whether they agree or not, they’re going to be like, oh, okay, I know what that is. I know what you’re saying, right? So I think there’s been a lot of education as far as just, like, people being able to see other people. I think that’s what’s happening with parents, too, is I think parents are just if you’re a parent and you Google transgender stats, you’re going to find out that 50% of all trans people have attempted suicide at least once. And if you love your kid, you know that’s not what you want for your kid. And so I think it’s really great to see people like Cher and other celebrities and large figures who are supporting their trans kids, because I think it shows even someone in Trump country, right, like you’re saying, or Florida, where I’m at or whatever, I think it shows other parents that you’re not the only this isn’t just your kid. And there are ways, like, look at these other kids. They’re happy. They have families that are together and bonding. It can be different. You don’t have to just be like, be gone. You know what I mean? I can’t have that. So I think when we really look at the situations, I’m an optimist. I like to look at the positive as well. I think that there’s a lot of growth has happened. And I think that’s also a lot of, like just a lot of young people have been pushing for that, right? I think a lot more young people are less likely to be like, well, mom and dad said I have to be a veterinarian, so I’m going to school for that. I think kids are a little more like no, whether you agree with them or not, right? They’re like, oh, I want to be a YouTuber, or whatever it is, but they’re just more likely to kind of state what they want or their needs. And I think it’s good that parents are listening, because, again, whether they agree or not, they can help be there during the process instead of having a kid who wants absolutely nothing to do with you. Because you can’t. Even fathom that they might be transgender or non binary. And then they just shut you out completely and you’re not going to get back in there.

Brad Shreve 00:23:49
I was watching you on Ellen and something you said really jumped out at me. You said you were a girl who likes girls, so the lesbian label was put on you, but it didn’t feel right. And I don’t know if it was a friend or a girlfriend who kind of tossed the idea at you that maybe you were trans before then. Did you have any idea that maybe and she just helped bring it out? Or did she catch you off guard until then?

Aydian Dowling 00:24:18
She caught me off guard because this is the difference between 2009 and having a BlackBerry and 2022 and having an iPhone or Android or whatever. Right. Didn’t know about trans people. I didn’t know that there were trans men in existence. It was always self identified as a butch. I was growing up in Long Island. I would go and I would hang. Like, there were fems, there were butchers, right? Lipsticks, butch, lesbians. Like, there were dikes on bikes. Like, this is the culture I was brought up in. And so when I looked around, I saw other women dressing masculine, presenting very masculine. So I was like, that’s me. That’s what I am, right? I had never met a trans man. I had met drag queens, and I had met trans women who but even then, you didn’t really call them trans women. It was just kind of like, oh, yeah, we call her Stephanie and it’s her, and it’s just, like, embedded into the culture when you meet someone in that situation. And so, yeah, I just had never seen a trans man. And I just never honestly, I knew that I always liked boy stuff, and I always felt more like I wanted to do all of the boy things. But the possibility of being like you could be a boy was not even a thought because it was like a fairy tale. It was like, that’s not real, right? It’s like being like, you could fly. You’re just like, yeah, I mean, it’d be nice, but it’s not going to happen, you know what I mean?

Brad Shreve 00:26:03
How did you feel that revelation? Was? It like, damn, it all makes sense now.

Aydian Dowling 00:26:08
Yes, definitely a lot of that. And yes, it was like the Cinderella, the shoe fit. And I was like, okay, now I can go back to my castle. You know what I mean? Now I get it. This makes so much sense. This is where I belong. And it was also very scary and very fearful, like you were saying in that video of my first hormone replacement therapy shot. It was like, I have some anxiety in there because I’m like, this is it. I’m going to live this life. And I have no idea what that means ten years from now, because I have zero examples of what that means ten years from now. I think if we really think back to 2009, it was a very, very different place then. I mean, there was no such thing as a viral video. Instagram wasn’t even a thing yet people were barely still using Facebook, you know what I mean? When we think back to that time and we recognize that, we realize just how far we’ve come in the last 13 years of accessibility to seeing different types of people and being like, oh, wow, that’s an option in life. You could be that because in 2009, you saw what was on TV, what was in music and books. That really was it.

Brad Shreve 00:27:32
And about half the time they did it.

Aydian Dowling 00:27:33
Well, yeah, right, exactly.

Brad Shreve 00:27:37
Yeah. There’s a lot of criticism. Social media, and boy, I could criticize it all day, because a lot of social media isn’t safe for queer people. Certain areas but there’s a lot of good that comes out of it as well, to make connections with other individuals like you throughout the country. Yeah, that’s something you didn’t have.

Aydian Dowling 00:27:55
No, exactly. That’s why also why I feel like we could have more good than bad in social. And that’s why I’m building Trace. Because I know the value in social media. Because everything you named earlier, when you introduced me, none of that would have happened if it wasn’t for the ability to share my story on a platform like a YouTube or a Facebook or an Instagram. None of that would have happened without that accessibility and listener.

Brad Shreve 00:28:27
I’m hoping we can talk a little bit about the YouTube videos, because it’s a really interesting journey that Aiden has from beginning up to today with the first hormone shot, up to where he is today. And if we don’t get to it, his website is on in the Show Notes. There is a link to YouTube there. Check him out. It’s amazing. You’ll learn a lot. And one of the things that you did in those videos when you were ready for your top surgery, you started asking for donations and doing little fundraisers and that sort of thing. I’m sure that wasn’t easy. In fact, I could tell it wasn’t easy in your voice. And I’m guessing that was one of the reasons you have found Point of Pride.

Aydian Dowling 00:29:06
Yes, exactly. Yep. So I as you said, I had I tried many things to try to raise extra funds.

Brad Shreve 00:29:15
It ain’t cheap, folks.

Aydian Dowling 00:29:17
No, it’s not cheap. And it was a hell of a lot cheaper then, too. It was almost half the price now, on average, a top surgery, which is a removal of breast tissue to have a more masculineized chest, is on average between eight and 12,000. And I paid 5900. So, you know, it has almost doubled on average. So yeah, so I tried everything in between. I mean, I if you like you said, like Brad said, like, you go back and see some of those videos, you’ll see some attempts. But I started making T shirts. I started just hand pressing T shirts and selling them, and I raised the money, and I started giving away the funds that I was making from the T shirts, and I started collecting old binders, which are compression vests, to flatten breast tissue, and I started giving those away. And my friend, my co founder, Jeff Him, and I were like, we’re not making money. We need to stop filing taxes as if we’re making money, because we’re not. So we transitioned it over in 2016 to a nonprofit, Point of Pride, and now we’ve actually helped over 13,000 people internationally, and we have five different programs. And the difference between Point of Pride as a nonprofit and a lot of the other nonprofits that you’ll hear is that we’re direct services, which means that we don’t have a brick and mortar, we don’t. Do support groups, but we literally hand people garments, give money for surgeries, for HRT access, for Electrolysis. We offer services to our community when it comes to the medical side of transitioning.

Brad Shreve 00:31:07
And you started originally just medical, wasn’t it? And then it expanded into clothing and on from there, am I right?

Aydian Dowling 00:31:14
Vice versa. So it started with clothing, and that was the for profit. And then we started doing binders, and then that started taking off. And then we missed an opportunity to get some funding because we weren’t a nonprofit. And once we had that missed opportunity that we had to wave goodbye to, we were like, well, let’s change this up. And then we switched completely. Don’t make shirts or anything like that anymore.

Brad Shreve 00:31:42
So it’s just all Point of Pride now.

Aydian Dowling 00:31:44
All point of pride. Yeah.

Brad Shreve 00:31:46
For somebody that needs your help, where would they go?

Aydian Dowling 00:31:48
So you can go to Point of Pride. Point of pride. And you can see we have a chest binder program. We have in tucking garments program. We also have a surgery fund program, or Surgery Fund. Rather. We have Electrolysis Fund, and we have an HRT access fund. And anyone can apply. If you identify as trans or nonbinary and you’re looking for these services, we do our best to give access to people who have the most barriers to entry when it comes to health care and access to these services.

Brad Shreve 00:32:24
And there will be a link to Point of Pride in the show notes as well as on the website. And there is a Get Involved page on there, and they kind of make it easy to help them out. So I’m sure Aydian would not complain if you went to that site and did a little help there.

Aydian Dowling 00:32:39
Yes, many different ways money helps, but there’s other ways, too.

Brad Shreve 00:32:46
So I talked about your picture that you did that matched that Levine’s picture. Let’s talk about your striving to get on the COVID of Men’s Health magazine. Is that really what kind of put you on the map and got you on the Ellen show?

Aydian Dowling 00:33:00
Yeah, absolutely. That was the horse.

Brad Shreve 00:33:04
Yeah, because I see you kind of trickled there and there, and then all of a sudden, 2015 ain is everywhere.

Aydian Dowling 00:33:10
Yeah, 2015 was my year. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I looked back, I was like, that was a good year. So in February is when the Aydian Levine photo came out. And so it went viral in its own capacity. Not quite Ellen DeGeneres viral, but I was told that Ellen’s team had heard about that picture, but chose not to have me on. But then when they heard about me vying to be on the COVID of Men’s Health, they’re like, all right, let’s get this kid in here. And so Laverne Cox had just hit the COVID of Times earlier in 2015 as well. So there was a big movement happening. And, yeah, being on that cover. It’s like the COVID but it was really getting the process of getting there because it was a contest, you had to vote so many celebrities that were like, go vote for this kid. And I was like, what is even happening? Because I only applied to be in this contest because I was into fitness and I was making these videos, and a couple of people I’d hit my DMs who were like, hey, you should try out for this contest. It’s pretty cool. Wouldn’t it be awesome? And I was like, okay, I’m going to do this because I just want the other trans guys to know that you could apply. Like, I’ll apply. You should apply. We should all apply.

Brad Shreve 00:34:32
No thought that you may make it?

Aydian Dowling 00:34:34
No idea. No idea. That plane landed. And I was like, Where are we? What is happening?

Brad Shreve 00:34:43
So you are the first trans person to be on the COVID of Men’s Health magazine?

Aydian Dowling 00:34:48
Yes. And I believe, honestly, up until Elliot Page hit the COVID of was it People? I think this year I was, since 2015, the only trans man to be on the COVID of a mainstream magazine. Up until this last year, which is kind of sad. You would think since 2015, we would have had at least someone else on the COVID But I know that I believe that we will see a lot more covers of trans people in these next, you know, these next five years ahead, for sure.

Brad Shreve 00:35:28
I look at the individual in that first video, and then I see him modeling, and it looks to me like you’re eating it up, and it feels pretty good. Was it pride, validation? A little of both.

Aydian Dowling 00:35:44
I think it was definitely validating, and I don’t know if it was good validation or bad validation. If I’m being honest in my manhood, like, my masculinity and being a man. Right. People are commenting on how masculine I look in my body, and I’m on the COVID of Men’s Health. I must be a man now, right? If I had any doubts, those should all be put aside. So I think that it was definitely a validation in that I think also just validating in my experience, that my experience was real and that it was something to be shared because I’m not the only one going through this. And I think a lot is also like that first video. I’m about to take the biggest journey of my life, and I’m nervous and scared, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. And so I’m excited, but I think the fear is higher. But I know that if I don’t do this, at least if I take this leap, I know that I could have a future. Because if I keep going down this route, like this route I’m on currently, I don’t know if I can have a future. So I think I just, like, I opened up that’s one thing my mom always says is, I was scared. But after the first two or three years, you just really became yourself. Like, you opened up, you started talking more. You just really became a person. Before then, I think I was hiding behind a wall in my life because I don’t think I knew it. I wasn’t who I really was in that living as a woman.

Brad Shreve 00:37:27
Of course, I haven’t watched all the videos I had to skip around, and you can really see where the walls are coming down and a little more reserved. I mean, you put yourself on YouTube. Obviously you weren’t too reserved. But these later videos were just so full of energy and so full of enthusiasm, and it’s infectious. That’s why I’m like, I can’t wait to talk to this guy. He had me energized. I loved it. And you said something a few minutes ago that I think is important because it reminded me of something that read, and I can’t remember who said it, if it was you or someone else. But I love what they said, and they said, this is not what a trans person looks like. This is what this particular trans person looks like. I think that’s important.

Aydian Dowling 00:38:13
Yeah, every story is different.

Brad Shreve 00:38:17
Well, it leads me to ask the question based on an individual’s body and their features. After transition, some will be able to take on more of what we consider the look of a male or a look of a female. Those that aren’t able to I hate to use the term, but I can’t come up with a better one on my head to pass. Those that don’t look the traditional form, let me that’s a better way. I presume they have it a much more difficult time.

Aydian Dowling 00:38:42
Absolutely. I mean, I think that there is a privilege in being read as traditionally male or traditionally female. Absolutely. I think anyone who denied that is just not being honest. I think there’s still a lot of struggles that are there. But I mean, I can walk into a room of men and feel somewhat safe because I know that no one will know that I’m trans. And if I want to leave that room, I’ll have the option, you know what I mean? But if I looked maybe more androgynous or I didn’t quite look as binary as I look, I like to look binary. Like, I like the traditional male look. That’s how I identify. But if I didn’t and I walked into a room of men and I said, I’m a man, I would be more unsafe than I am. Right. I get to disclose. Right. Unless I’m literally and figuratively caught with my pants down, I get to tell people if I’m trans or not. Otherwise they would just assume that I’m not. And people who don’t look more traditionally male, female, more stereotypically binary, they don’t get that option because they’re just clocked. They’re like, oh, you say you’re a man. Well, you don’t look like one, you know what I mean? They definitely have a harder time in the world and are more put in more unsafe environments than I would be.

Brad Shreve 00:40:22
Some people that would require major surgery, if even possible.

Aydian Dowling 00:40:26
Yeah, and I think some people don’t want to look binary. Some people are like, I’m a man, and I don’t want to look like Aydian. That’s not what I want to look like. And I think we see that cisgender people, too. There’s lots of women and men who are just like, I don’t want to do that. I have no desire to look anything like that person. But I think it’s hard also because I think you just never know. That’s the dilemma. You just never quite know. And sometimes I question because it’s like I walk into a room and no one knows. It might be unsafe for me, but I wouldn’t know until something comes up. So it’s almost like I can get deeper into the unsafety without knowing it’s unsafe. But if I didn’t look how I look, maybe I would know it was unsafe right away because I would walk in and be like, everyone would be looking at me, and I’d be like, I should probably leave. You know what I mean? So I think there’s, like safety is such a gauge that changes almost every interaction. The safety spectrum goes higher or lower.

Brad Shreve 00:41:38
So how does it feel when men and women look at you and say, oh, he’s cute?

Aydian Dowling 00:41:46
I think it looks like if someone says you’re cute. Right? I think everybody is like, oh, cool. Hey, thanks. You know what I mean? I think that earlier in my transition, it meant more because I was being seen. I think that there’s, like, you’re seen for who you are, right. And maybe you relate to this or not, but it’s kind of like you first come out as gay or a lesbian, and you get, like, your first gay man to hit on you. You’re like, oh, okay. They think. Okay. Cool. Like, this is what that is. This is what that’s like. And so I think it’s a very similar feeling when you’re just like someone’s hitting on you and you’re like, oh, okay, cool.

Brad Shreve 00:42:28
You know, that never goes away. It was about a year ago. My husband no, it was before the pandemic. My husband and I were at the restaurant, and it was busy, and the host at the stand totally was cruising me. I mean, it was so obvious to my husband, and I was eating it up, and he was totally cool with it because he knows it feels good, and it wasn’t going to go anywhere beyond that. It was nice that we talked about it.

Aydian Dowling 00:42:55

Brad Shreve 00:42:55
So no, that validation. No matter how comfortable you are in your skin, it still feels good.

Aydian Dowling 00:43:00

Brad Shreve 00:43:01
I am sure it was much different before, much bigger before. Now that you feel validated that you’ve made your place. It’s not as big of a deal.

Aydian Dowling 00:43:09
Absolutely. That’s a great way to say it.

Brad Shreve 00:43:12
What is your best tip to make the world a better place?

Aydian Dowling 00:43:16
My best tip? I would say believe people. I think just believe people more. I think that very often we tend to question right away instead of just believing someone and trying to help them. And I think it’s because we’re like, oh, well, if we believed everyone, then everyone’s going to lie to us. And it’s like, or maybe if you believed everyone, people would actually trust that you’ll help them so they would tell you things that they need help with. You know what I mean? I think that we need to believe people. If someone says they need help, like, believe them. Believe that they need help. Offer them help.

Brad Shreve 00:43:57
Aiden, I want to thank you for the important work you do. Thank you for being an inspiration to many LGBTQ straight. It doesn’t matter. The enthusiasm, the energy you’ve had, the life that you’ve created for yourself, it’s an inspiration to anybody.

Aydian Dowling 00:44:12
Thanks, Brad.

Brad Shreve 00:44:13
So thank you very much. And listeners, you can find more about Aydian down in the show notes and as I always say, more even on the website. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been great chatting with you.

Aydian Dowling 00:44:24
Awesome. You too, Brad. Really appreciate it.

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