Aydian Dowling is a 27-year-old guy who enjoys bodybuilding, has a YouTube channel called "Beefheads Fitness," and likes to go on hikes with his wife on his days "off" from working out. He's also transgender, and currently in the lead (way in the lead) of Men's Health magazine's "Ultimate Guy Search." The winner will appear on the November 2015 cover. The amount of support he's gotten since entering the contest is "crazy," the New York native, who now lives in Eugene, Ore., tells People. "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. I would be like, 'No way would you be putting me shirtless on a magazine!'"
He explains that he started bodybuilding "because I wanted my outer body to feel more masculine like my inner soul does," and soon after, "I started to feel better. You're forced in front of a mirror to make sure that you're doing an exercise properly, and after five days a week in front of a mirror, you start to get used to your body. You start to appreciate it." His YouTube channel is geared toward helping other transgender people on a similar journey, and he explains in his contest entry that he also trains local transgender males. "They have greatly progressed and I feel very proud to see their self-confidence grow," he says. As for winning, it's a complicated process: User votes are taken into account, but according to the rules, there are three more phases of the competition, and judges will make the ultimate decision in September. (Transgender rights recently got two new high-profile advocates.)