Any model who graces the cover of Men's Health magazine looks exactly like you'd expect him to: body chiseled by the gods, eyes that smolder like molten lava, equipped with a tattoo... or five. Come April, its German edition will feature someone exactly like that — with one notable distinction. Men's Health cover model Ben Melzer, a transgender man, will be the first trans person to ever be featured on a men's fitness magazine cover in Europe.
Melzer's groundbreaking achievement comes after winning the Men's Health cover contest.
Called Yvonne as a child, Melzer said that he was "never a typical girl," pointing out his particular disdain for the color pink. The fitness model began transitioning at 23 and picked up physical training not too long ago. "I always had a passion for fitness but because of the surgeries it was hard to achieve my goal," he told Towleroad. "After about 3 years everything was finally done and I started to concentrate on my training and diet."
Many have asked Melzer why he chose to make his story so public. The answer, for him, was easy: he wanted to represent the trans community.
"When I was in that situation, I had nobody to talk to, nobody to ask all [these] questions," he told Towleroad. "That's what I want to do. I want to give the community a face, stand up and answer those questions for people."
Though his appearance on the Men's Health April collector's edition cover is a first in Europe, it was trans bodybuilder Aydian Dowling who made history last year as the first ever transgender person on the cover of Men's Health. Dowling had placed fifth in the magazine's "Ultimate Guy" contest.
"I think I would have laughed if someone said that in five years I was going to be in a competition to be on the cover of Men's Health magazine," Dowling said at the time. "I would be like, 'No way would you be putting me shirtless on a magazine!'"
The magazines' decision to place trans people on their covers as ideals for physical masculinity is a move that has been widely lauded, and will surely help boost trans visibility even further.
For his part, Melzer told A Plus that he wants to "educate" others about transgender people and inspire those like him.
"We're just normal guys," he said. "We also have dreams, so why not [go] after our dreams?"