Aydian Dowling is a powerful advocate for queer health. He helped raise awareness of transgender lives, becoming the first out trans man ever to appear on the cover of Men’s Health magazine. He has founded organizations to help trans people afford gender-affirming care and uses his social media platform to discuss LGBTQ+ mental health.
But when he experienced a medical emergency a few years back, he had trouble finding a doctor who understood his unique needs as a trans man.
He called over 20 specialists until he found one willing to see him. The dingy clinic was located over an hour away from his home. The doctor there began asking invasive questions about Dowling’s body, sexual encounters, and gender transition. Rather than receive care, Dowling left as quickly as possible.
It wasn’t until he traveled back to New York that he could see a doctor he trusted to help resolve his issue.
“It’s not easy to share this story,” he admits. “It’s extremely tough to find good care out there as queer people.”
But that’s why, as an advocate for trans health, he regularly shares his experiences and encourages others to share theirs too.
“When we stop talking about the issues,” he says, “the work stops getting done.”
On his social media, he has mentioned his past struggles with depression, disordered eating, and self-harm. He also shares his current struggles with body dysmorphia and staying positive in a society that often tells LGBTQ+ people that they’re inadequate. He does this, he says, to inspire others to build a loving relationship with their own body.
When he first started transitioning, many insurance companies considered trans identity as a “preexisting condition” and, as a result, wouldn’t cover transition-related care. To fund his top surgery, Dowling founded Point 5cc, an online store that sold clothing emblazoned with powerful proclamations of trans identity, like, “I am enough,” “Gender outlaw,” and “We are the change we’ve been waiting for.”
Through Point 5cc and Point of Pride, a non-profit he founded in 2016, he has helped provide 14,800 free chest binders and awarded over $485,000 to help trans people worldwide access hormone therapy, electrolysis, and other gender-affirming medical care that they couldn’t otherwise afford.
But while Dowling has been a vocal advocate for queer health — even sharing his experiences in numerous conferences, on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show, and as the first-ever trans male cover model for Men’s Health magazine — he knows it’ll take internal changes to make the healthcare settings more welcoming to LGBTQ+ folks.
“Many times, I have met people who are ignorant to the suffering our community goes through and would be open to learning more information and getting educated on how to address our community properly,” he says.
Dowling feels that if LGBTQ+ organizations, individuals, and allies developed stronger community and working relationships with medical providers, providers would feel more motivated to learn how to serve queer communities better. This is essential to improving care, Dowling says. But even more importantly, it would also save LGBTQ+ lives, he says.
“As transgender people, we are at the hands of our doctors,” he says. “I am so grateful my Doctor is a TransAlly and very informed… Not everyone has access to these kinds of amazing doctors.”