On Sept. 21, transgender rights activist and model Aydian Dowling gave a presentation on his journey as a transgender man at the Charles B. Wang Center.
The presentation conveyed Dowling’s experience of coming out as transgender and how it changed his life.
The event was organized by Charles Robbins, the director of the Center for Changing Systems of Power. He was impressed with Dowling’s social media presence, appearances in men’s magazines and interviews on TV shows like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
“I love the quote he started with, which is ‘the best revenge is living well,” Robbins said. “I think, whether it’s about LGBT issues or any way that people are put down and given a hard time, just to know that they can live well is the best revenge.”
After starting with this notion, Dowling chronicled his journey as a transgender man and activist to the audience of 40 people.
“I began exploring and exploring and trying to figure out who I was, and I came out to myself as transgender in early 2009,” Dowling said.
He explained how there were not many resources available to transgender youths at that time, and that the online community was small. This was what motivated him to begin his career as an activist and set up a range of charities.
“As I continue my journey, I made it a point in my life to share what is going on with me, interact with people to provide support outlets for them, and to really make sure that what I got as myself in the world,” he said. “I was able to kind of give back to the community in all these different ways.”
In 2012, Dowling started the apparel company Point 5cc, which donates a portion of its profits to the transgender community.
In 2016, he formed Point of Pride, a nonprofit fund that provides healthcare and resources to transgender youths.
That year, he also became the first transgender male to appear on the cover of the Men’s Health magazine.
In the past year, Dowling launched Trace, which is an app for trans, non-binary folks and allies to connect and support each other. Trace aims to provide a safe space online for transgender people.
“Overall, I just saw a need for trans and non-binary folks to be supported emotionally, and that’s kind of where my activism comes in,” he said.
Each of these organizations has helped to provide financial resources and build a community for transgender youth. Point 5cc raised over $250,000 for LGBTQ+ charities before it closed in 2021.
Point of Pride has donated “life saving garments and surgeries for trans and non-binary people so that they can feel more authentic in the body they have,” Dowling said.
Point of Pride also donates money to a wide variety of organizations working to help provide support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“I loved just learning how he transitioned, what he went through and how he was able to kind of beat the odds and is able to mentor all these young people who are also going through similar stuff that he did,” Jahnissi Ardila-Varriale, a research study coordinator who attended the event, said.
The event also fulfilled an event requirement for the Stony Brook Scholars program which was an incentive for some attendees, like freshman William Reahl. Reahl said that he attended “mostly just to get it out of the way so he didn’t have to worry about it later on in the semester.”
However, others came specifically to hear Dowling’s story. “To be empowered and strong in your identity is something that I take away a lot from what I’ve heard from Aydian,” John Filippelli, a second year Master’s student in social work, said.
Overall, Dowling felt welcomed by Stony Brook and is confident that his message was well-received.
“It’s been awesome to be able to have a conversation with people, to walk the campus now and say hi. So overall, I feel like it’s been a really good time, and it’s been fun,” Dowling said.