Unlike most people, fitness model, motivational speaker, and YouTube personality Aydian Dowling has spent most of his life and thousands of dollars to be comfortable in his own skin.
Born in Long Island, New York, as a female, the now 29-year-old Oregon resident began transitioning in 2007, and gained notoriety and fame through an admirable display of his journey that he shared online, as well as his humble attempt to become the first trans male to cover Men’s Health magazine in November 2015.
“When I was young, I used to fight my mother to the death [because] she wanted to put me in these little dresses and hats and gloves and bags,” he revealed to Metro Weekly earlier this year, “because I was her only girl.”
With the help of surgery, testosterone, and an avid work-out regimen, the handsome Dowling ultimately became the man that he always knew he was meant to be. However, according to Gay Star News, his choice to openly display his ripped physique on social media has brought forth quite a few contentious replies from his followers. So, in his normal fashion, Aydian used the fervid outcry to teach people a necessary lesson.
Last Friday, Aydian took to his Instagram to share another shirtless selfie, this one, of him inside of his garage, and shared his thoughts on a phrase that has come his way often, but not so much toward cisgender — a person who identifies as the gender they were born — men.
“‘Put a shirt on’ is a pretty common thing [that’s] said to me,” he revealed. “It makes me wonder: Is it because I was born female that so many insist [that] having my shirt off is me being ‘topless’?”
He went on to add that cisgender males often show themselves off on social media sites without much complaint, but felt that “once [trans men] who work their [butts] off [to] afford ‘top surgery’ (a procedure that removes breast tissue) start posting shirtless photos, it’s now seen as ‘too much’ or [being] ‘topless’.”
“I don’t wear a shirt in the summer time mostly because I work daily in my studio [which has] no [air conditioner] and only [one] garage door as my ‘window’. It’s hot, humid, and damn [it], I work my tail off! Plus, I paid good money to have this surgery done to feel more in my skin, [so] why wouldn’t I want to be proud of that accomplishment?!”
Aydian then stepped outside of his own box to tell other men, women, or non-binaries (people who don’t associate with a set gender norm) that their right to “free the nipple,” a tag line that many female celebrities, such as Chrissy Teigen and Scout Willis, as noted by Vogue, have used in the past regarding internet censorship of breasts, is just as valid as his own.
“I say, take your shirt off,” he exclaimed. “You aren’t too fat, you aren’t too skinny, you aren’t not ‘manly’ enough, [and] you aren’t too black or white. You aren’t a post-op [transgender]? Who cares?! You [identify as a female]? Who cares?!”
“Stop letting people make you feel shame because you are confident in yourself enough to be shirtless,” Dowling said in closing. “Let the bare chests free!”
Since posting the inspirational message, Aydian has received a wave of support from men, both cisgender and trans, thanking him for speaking out on this issue. However, considering his openness about the struggles he still goes through to appreciate the man that is reflected in his mirror each day, his mission to imbue others with strength and self-love is of no real surprise.
“I’m all about compassion,” he stated during the Metro Weekly sit-down. “I try to always relate my story to anybody, because everybody has [their own] obstacle.” See Aydian’s full post below.
[Photo via Aydian Dowling/Instagram]