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German fitness model and trans man Benjamin Melzer is following in Aydian Dowling‘s footsteps to attempt to appear on the cover of a mainstream men’s magazine.
Dowling’s bid to be the first trans cover star of Men’s Health magazine in the U.S. saw him reach the finals in October 2015. (He did not win the “Ultimate Guy” title but still posed on the cover of a collector’s edition of the magazine with four other finalists.) Melzer has followed the same path in Europe, beating 169 other entrants to be voted into the finals of the 2016 Men’s Health Germany cover model contest.
Melzer was bested by winner Patrick Kohlstock, a 24-year-old soldier. However, Melzer will still appear on a collectors edition cover of Men’s Health Germany in April, making him the magazine’s first trans cover model.
Letztes Bild für heute und ausnahmsweise mal auf deutsch! Gestern Men’s Health Finale in Hamburg, morgen ab nach Berlin zur Fashion Week! Ich bin unfassbar dankbar für all das, was gerade in meinem Leben passiert! Danke an alle, die an mich glauben und mir soviel Kraft geben! 🙌🏼💙🙌🏼 #proud #believe #ftm #ftmmodel #transman #transgender #transformation #powerful #strength #instagood #inspiration #motivation #model #love #life #healthy #lifestyle #awesome #people #thankful #menshealth #meinCover #tattoo #fitness #fitguy #germany #german #trainhard #staystrong #workout
A photo posted by BENJAMIN MELZER (@egoshooter) on
Twenty-eight-year-old Melzer refers to himself throughout social media and on his website as “self-made man.” He said in his interview with Men’s Health Germany that he was inspired by Dowling’s participation in the U.S. contest. “I’ve written to him and talked to him,” he explained. “Finally he encouraged me to [sign up for] the contest.”
✖️ DEM BOYS KILLIN’ IT ✖️Stay tuned for the collectors edition of @menshealth.de magazine and find these awesome guys on the cover 😎 I’m more than proud to have the opportunity to be part of this! Thank you guys, I’ll never forget this mind blowing day in my life and much love to all my beautiful followers and your support! #proud #meinCover #menshealth #fit #fitness #fitguy #beautiful #people #ftm #ftmmodel #transgender #transformation #staystrong #motivation #instagood #inspiration #believe #trainhard #workout #focus #germany #hamburg #powerful #strength #staystrong #training #covermodel #love #life
A photo posted by BENJAMIN MELZER (@egoshooter) on
In an email to the Daily Dot, Dowling commented:
“I am so proud of Benjamin and his visibility for Europe! We as Transmen and individuals all have such varied stories and the core of those stories is finding empowerment within and becoming your most authentic self.”
Melzer, who transitioned at the age of 23, told the magazine that despite knowing from an early age he did not feel at ease with his assigned gender, he felt there was little he could do about it. “This was mostly due to external pressure,” he explained. “If you live in a village, it’s a different world.”
Melzer added that when he finally did come out, he “was very fortunate that my family stood behind me and supported me.” His 90-year-old grandmother told him he would still be the same person to her.
With 31,500 followers on Instagram, Melzer is a proud ambassador for trans visibility and told Men’s Health Germany that he receives many messages on social media from young people struggling with gender dysphoria. “The other day someone wrote to me, telling me my story had given them courage to take the step of gender reassignment—at the age of 47,” he said. “Therefore, I take being a role model very seriously.”
Photo via Instagram.com/egoshooter
Catherine Scott is the author of 'Thinking King: The Collusion of BDSM, Feminism and Popular Culture.' Scott's work has been published in the Telegraph, the Guardian, Ms. Magazine, and Salon.