For the first time ever, there’s a transgender man on the cover of Men’s Health magazine. But only half of him, and only on a special collector's edition.
The fitness magazine made history earlier this year when it told Fusion its annual Ultimate Men’s Health Guy contest, the winner of which gets his own cover, would be open to “all men.”
Aydian Dowling, a 27-year-old transgender man and fitness enthusiast, ran away with the public vote, earning 72,672 votes compared with only 23,572 for the runner-up. But editors of the magazine chose the overall winner, and they went with Tim Boniface, a firefighter from Kentucky who can be seen posing by himself on this month’s regular cover.
On the special cover, also released Tuesday, Dowling gets a consolation prize: half of his body in profile near the fold. Boniface and two runners-up are included in full. Another runner-up, Washington D.C. educator, Omari Grey, who happens to be a man of color, gets cut off by the right frame.
“Aydian got us thinking about what it means to be a man in 2015," Bill Phillips, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health, said in a statement. "He’s become a leading voice of the transgender community and we feel privileged to share his story and to count him as a member of the Men’s Health family." In response to questions about the models’ cover placement, a representative for Men’s Health referred Fusion to a press release.
In a phone interview Tuesday morning, Dowling said the cover shot is still significant for transgender visibility. He does get a full spread inside the magazine, along with a picture of him and his wife.
The accompanying article also mentions Dowling "won our contest’s online vote."
“Men’s Health magazine is supposed to tell you who the hottest sports guy is, what’s hip, and they took a leap of faith and said there’s different types of men out there and asked their readers to recognize that too,” he said.
Dowling said the shoot was arranged as a group shot, with everyone playing tug of war with two of the biggest guys. He doesn’t think he got pushed to the side intentionally.
“I’m an optimistic person, and I would like to think that Men’s Health has a good heart and that’s not what they were going for,” Dowling said.