Aydian Dowling on The Matthew Shepard Foundation, what inspires him, his favorite superheroes, and his abs
Recently, Matthew’s Place writer Ian Carlos Crawford interviewed transgender activist and all-around badass Aydian Dowling for our blog. Check out the interview below!
What does the Matthew Shepard Foundation story mean to you? The Matthew Shepard Foundation story hits close to home for me. At least for me growing up, being a late 80s baby and a young 90s kid when this all happened — I just remember seeing it on MTV News and it really just sent me the message that being gay was not considered okay. And, in my own journey, when I came out as transgender in the early 2000s, I kind of realized that being transgender was not considered okay either — so I started my clothing company which is also now my non-profit to help inspire, motivate, and financially help transgender individuals who needed the help. So, the Matthew Shepard Foundation means a lot me because my response to trans discrimination was to start my own nonprofit and so the fact that the Matthew Shepard Foundation really saw there was a need here really hits close to home. And the best thing we can do for ourselves in our LGBTQIA+ community is to be a resource within the community and to provide support to one another. No one from outside our community is going to come in and try to help us.
What made you want to support our #MSF20 Heart/Fence challenge? I wanted to support the #MSF20 challenge because I think it’s such a great message. The concept is that if you’re not aware of what space you’re entering, you don’t know if it’s safe or not. So, to be able to drive through your town and see hearts on fences or walls, even if you don’t know anyone in your local community if you see one of these hearts you know there are people there that supports you and want you to be safe. I think that alone is really important especially in today’s world when sometimes you just don’t know what you’re walking into.
Tell us about your org, Point of Pride — what is their mission? So, Point of Pride’s mission is to have transgender individuals live more authentically in their bodies. That means we support transgender people by providing different programs — for trans femme individuals, we have an electrolysis program that will work on face, neck, underarms, and any other type of pre-op. To us, we felt like that was a very important program to have. We work with different electrolysists around the United States and we will be having one of our first recipients announced right around Springtime. We also have our binder program which helps trans masculine and non-binary people feel more comfortable in their own bodies by providing compression style binders with the big help of binder company GC2B. We’ve given over 3500 binders away to all 50 states and 31 different countries. That is one unique thing with Point of Pride — our binder program is one of the only US based international binder programs. Also, we have our surgery fund where we award multiple people financial aid in getting their gender affirming surgery. And last but not least we have a tucking garment program, which will be starting in early summertime where trans femme individuals will be able to get tucking garments for free if they are in financial need. We are 100% volunteer based, we all work remotely so we have volunteers and board members all around the country. We’re just really all about having people live more authentically in their bodies.
Who inspires you? I kinda joke that I have so many mentors yet none of them know that they’re my mentors. I say that because my inspiration comes from YouTube and online — motivational people who have had tough times in their life and continue to go on. There’s so many different kinds of those people out there. Luckily with the internet you can literally have a mentor that you’ve never met and that’s okay because it’s not the connection to them, it’s the connection to their message and what that does. There‘s a lot of people I hope to meet in my lifetime so I can let them know how inspirational they’ve been to me — and that kinda piggybacks on what else inspires me, it’s always amazing when a youth or adult trans identifying person comes to me and tells me how they started something of their own to give back to their local community.
What’s your favorite superhero movie? I’m really lame and don’t do many superhero movies — but when I was younger I loved Batman and probably Wonder Woman just because of what she stands for. I did see Black Panther and that was a really phenomenal movie. I really just like good guys and am a sucker for them.
What was your favorite TV show as a kid? I was a big Nickelodeon kid — so, like Ren & Stimpy, Rugrats, Hey Arnold. All those straight up 90s shows.
What’s a song you’re currently obsessed with? I’m really into The Fruitful Darkness: Part III by Trevor Hall.
What’s your favorite video you’ve done for YouTube? I always like the ones that are like montages — probably just because it’s kind of cool to remember where you started and where you’re at now. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I wasn’t always who I am now, which keeps me humble and reminds me that the things I struggle with now definitely are not as intense as the things I used to struggle with.
What’s the last book you read? The Mask of Masculinity by Louis Howe — what a good book. I think that any male identified person who is willing to talk about masculinity and talk about trying to be a new version of masculinity is really good. That doesn’t mean I agree with every single thing in his book but this is a conversation that needs to be had. The next book I’ll be reading is Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk.
What’s a movie that always makes you emotional? Oh my goodness, what movie doesn’t make me emotional? In all honesty, I am just a blubbering mess when it comes to emotions and movies — I have a lot of empathy. Anything that is going to test you is going to be emotion. I saw Black Panther and I was emotional — so there are just so many movies like that for me!
Who’s someone you’d like to collaborate with that you haven’t had a chance to yet? I really love motivational speaking. I would love to collaborate with some of my favorite motivational speakers. I really love Les Brown, I hope that I get the opportunity to share a stage with him, he’s so amazing — and, while Gary Vaynerchuk is a little rough around the edges, I do think he’s very inspirational and a very good motivator, especially for young millennials — he lights a fire under some young tushies.
What’s something you wish you could’ve known as a young LGBT kid? I didn’t know I was transgender because I wasn’t exposed to it — so I wish young LGBT kids would explore the other letters in our acronym. Just because you’re a young lesbian doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what it is to be a young gay man or a trans person or a non-binary or intersex or bisexual. I think we should really start to look outside our own letter in the acronym. I meet so many gay men who don’t know about lesbians or lesbians who don’t have any gay friends or intersex people who don’t know where they fit. I wish there would be more cross connection — not just a gay bar, not just a lesbian bar or a queer bar but a bar for the entire LGBT community where we all can connect.
What’s the fastest way to get abs like yours? This one is funny — at the end of the day the fastest way to get abs is not even something that I think is important, to be completely honest with you. I thought that if I woke up one day and had abs I’d feel great about my life — but one day I woke up and had abs and felt great but nothing else in my life changed because of that. I didn’t all a sudden have all the money I needed in my bank account, I didn’t all a sudden have all my relationships become beautiful, I didn’t all a sudden have all the friends I needed — I just was a guy with abs and all the same problems as before. I think the fastest way to get abs is to not really care. That’s my real answer — but if you want a generic answer, then of course, it’s just staying consistent in your workouts and making sure that the food you’re eating has a good energy and good vibration. And the foods with the best energies and best vibrations are going to be whole foods that your body can digest and make you feel energized.
About the author:
Ian Carlos Crawford grew up in southern New Jersey and, like most people from NJ, he graduated from Rutgers University. He then graduated from New School with an MFA in nonfiction writing. His writing has appeared on sites like Geeks Out, BuzzFeed, NewNowNext, and other random corners of the internet. He currently co-hosts a podcast about his favorite thing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, called Slayerfest 98 and is shopping around his fiction manuscript (you can view the book trailer here). Follow him on Twitter @ianxcarlos