‘Pioneer’ transgender makes magazine cover

By Mark Baker | Living Here | |

He didn’t win, but he’s still a cover boy.

Eugene’s Aydian Dowling, who was vying to become the first transgender man to land on the cover of Men’s Health magazine as winner of its annual “Ultimate Guy” contest, finished as one of four runners-up, it was announced earlier this week.

But the 28-year-old, who won the contest’s reader vote (72,000-plus) in a landslide last summer, said he has nary a complaint, and the increased exposure for the transgender community was worth the effort.

And he’s still landing on the magazine’s cover, if not all by himself.

“Sometimes you don’t have to be a winner to feel like one,” he said on Friday.

Tim Boniface, a 6-foot-3-inch, 250-pound firefighter/EMT from Lexington, Ky., won the contest. He will grace the magazine’s November cover.

Dowling, along with the four other finalists, will appear on an upcoming special collector’s edition of the magazine. Copies of that cover, showing Dowling labeled as the group’s “Pioneer,” can already be seen online.

All five finalists were photographed by the magazine in New York City in August.

“Being the only guy on the cover, I think that would have been a bigger statement, but overall, no complaints,” said Dowling, who grew up on New York’s Long Island and came out as a lesbian in high school. He began his female-to-male transition in 2009 with testosterone injections that he plans to continue for the remainder of his life.

Dowling runs his own online transgender clothing company and is considered a leading trans activist across the nation.

He appeared on “Ellen,” the TV talk show hosted by actress/comedian Ellen DeGeneres, on Tuesday, the day after Boniface was announced as the winner on NBC’s “Today” show.

Dowling also appeared on “Ellen” last spring after he made international news when he entered the contest.

DeGeneres, who came out as a gay woman in the late 1990s, was the first to show Dowling a copy of the Men’s Health cover with him and the other four finalists on it.

“That is a big deal,” DeGeneres said, holding up the cover, as her audience erupted in a cheer.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkBakerRG . Email mark.baker@registerguard.com .