Two important issues have now been laid bare through one racy pose.
For the upcoming issue of FTM Magazine, founder and CEO Jason Robert Ballard decided to have his cover model recreate Cosmopolitan UK’s iconic nude portrait of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, who posed with just a pair of hands covering his genitals. The musician's photo shoot was part of a campaign to raise awareness for prostate and testicular cancer.
As the head of the publication, Ballard had a different cause in mind. This time, he was seeking to create awareness for the community that his magazine covers: transgender people.
"As we collected them, I came across the shoot of Adam Levine for his prostate and testicular cancer campaign and immediately asked Aydian if he'd be comfortable doing that kind of thing,” Ballard is quoted as saying.
Dowling was on board. "It'll be like one of those 'imagine the audience naked' deals ... Only I'm the naked one. I better hit the gym," he said in response.
The result is a stunning recreation of the original Ben Riggot photo, in which a buff and tattooed Dowling stands nude with his wife Jenilee’s manicured nails covering his genital region.
"[W]e've received almost unanimous support for it and our attempts at creating visibility for the trans masculine spectrum," Ballard said in an email to The Huffington Post.
While the photo possesses sheer entertainment value, the image also shares an important message by challenging those who have a false sense of who transgender people are and what they look like, he said.
"We by no means mean to say that this is what all transgender males look like, but this is what one of us looks like, and it's no different from our cisgender counterparts,” the email said.
Perhaps Dowling best puts this into words. “Some areas of my body used to remind me of everything I’m not. Now they represent everything I am,” the model is quoted as saying in FTM's recent issue.
Dowling, who documented his transition on his YouTube channel “A Lions Fears,” also had his wedding was documented as part of MTV’s Emmy-nominated “It Gets Better Project.” He paid for his top surgery, or removal of breast tissue, through sales from his clothing company Point 5cc, which now helps pay for surgeries for other members of the transgender community.
“A point to think about in the lives of open and well known trans men such as Aydian Dowling, is that by openly documenting his thoughts and feelings along the road of his transition, he's always been naked and vulnerable to society,” the magazine wrote on its website. “Instead of this causing him any insecurities it has empowered him to make a better future for those to follow.”
When the new FTM issue hits news stands in April 2015, it will come complete with a pull out poster of Dowling, according to a post Ballard wrote for Buzzfeed.