Trans man is finalist in Men’s Health Germany’s cover model contest

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.

Dowlings bid to be the first trans cover star of Mens 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 Germanycover model contest.

Melzer was bested bywinner 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 magazines first trans cover model.

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 Mens 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 the contest.”

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, its 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.” His90-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 Mens 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 reassignmentat the age of 47,” he said. “Therefore, I take being a role model very seriously.”

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