It's been done before: Adam Levine snapped this famous nude shot with his ex-girlfriend Anne Vyalitsyna’s hand covering his junk in 2011. But this remake of the famous snap in FTM Magazineis different because the model, Aydian Dowling, is transgender. The amateur model and owner of clothing company Point 5CC spoke to Metro about his experience recreating a photo of the music industry’s alpha male and what that means for the trans community.
How did you end up doing this shoot?
Jason Robert Ballard who runs FTM asked for me to be on the cover and he showed me a photo of Adam Levine naked and said he really wanted to recreate the photo. I’ve put up pictures of me shirtless and he said, “I see similarities; I want to recreate this photo. How powerful would that be for a trans man be naked next to [a photo of] Adam Levine and you couldn’t tell the difference? What a way to kind of change everyone’s assumption of what a trans man is supposed to look like.” I’m a pretty vulnerable guy, so I was a little nervous about it. I asked my wife how she would feel and we thought the cause was better than the insecurity.
Have you ever modeled before?
No, I’ve never been an official model of any kind.
What was it like for you to do that for the first time?
It was cool. A little nerve-wracking. Even though I was naked in front of other people, I covered up until the actual shot was taken, so that was definitely interesting. It was fun. Who wouldn’t want to be given an opportunity to say something and have it be heard?
How do photo shoots like this help change perceptions about trans people?
I think shoots like this just kind of normalize transgender people and tackle someone’s uninformed and uneducated guess on what a trans person would look like, and they think, “Wow, I could be sitting next to a trans person on the subway or the guy who opened the door for me could have been trans.” We’re no different than any other person in society. It’s just trying to be comfortable with the idea that the body you’re born with doesn’t reflect the identity that you have.
When did you transition?
I’ve been documenting on blogs and YouTube for the last five years and I still do vlog about my transition so I’ve been identifying and been in a hormonal transition for five years. Five years in October is my date.
How long did it take for you to feel comfortable in your own skin?
I think that being comfortable with myself happened before I was comfortable with my body. So when I first decided that was how I truly identified and that’s what I connect with within a few months of coming out and having support from my friends and family I felt like I was worth living a life, even if it was a transgender life. With the hormones, after a year or two I was able to recognize the guy in the mirror. The body was starting to match the mind, so I had to build a confidence in that body and that kind of happened through just putting myself out there on YouTube and allowing people to see the life I live and finding other people in the same situation. Top surgery made me feel more comfortable with my body and I like to weight-train and live a healthy lifestyle, and that forces you to get comfortable with your own body.
When did you start Point 5CC?
I started it in 2012, but I really dived into it in the beginning of 2014 or end of 2013.
What’s the feedback been on your photo?
Really good. I got nothing but positive responses. There’s always somebody who’s going to say something negative and a lot of times, it’s just a reflection of themselves, but it’s been really good. I couldn’t be happier with the positive response and people who understand what the picture is about see it for what it is.
Dowling, 27, is based in Eugene, Oregon, where he heads Point 5CC. Point 5CC creates clothing for the transgender community and its supporters, and it also donates used binders to those in need and gives out an annual surgery fund for people who need sex reassignment surgery. And sorry ladies – Dowling has been happily married for three years.