Ben Melzer, Men's Health Germany's next cover star. Photo: Men's Health Germany
A transgender man will appear on the cover of Men's Health Germany, becoming the first trans person ever to cover a men's fitness magazine in Europe.
Ben Melzer, an athlete and fitness model, finished runner-up in the magazine's 'Ultimate Guy Cover Contest', but he'll appear on the cover of a collector's edition, due to be published in April.
The 28-year-old said he was inspired to enter the competition by Aydian Dowling, the American trans bodybuilder who was a finalist in a similar contest for Men's Health US last year and eventually became the magazine's first transgender cover star.
What an awesome and exciting day! Hard work finally pays off! No matter if I win the cover or not, this is a life goal for me! #meinCover 💪🏼 #menshealth 💪🏼 SO KRASS HIER LEUTE! ANSTRENGEND UND AUFREGEND ZU GLEICH! DRÜCKT MIR DOE DAUMEN ✊🏼 much 💙#fingerscrossed #fit #fitness #ftm #ftmmodel #model #motivation #instagood #inspiration #healthy #life #love #lifestyle #instadaily #workout #powerful #strength #transformation #training #transman #transgender #transguy #believe #focus #workhard #trainhard #germany #hamburg
In a series of online interviews, Melzer - born Yvonne - has spoken openly about his transition.
"I started transitioning at the age of 23 and I always had a passion for fitness but, because of the surgeries, it was hard to achieve my goal," he told website Towleroad. "After about three years everything was finally done and I started to concentrate on my training and diet."
He told Men's Health Germany that he first realised he was "stuck in the wrong body" during early childhood.
"My mother told me that I refused to wear girl's clothes around 3 or 4 years old. Pink was taboo for me. Puberty was not an easy time," he said, adding that a "key moment" in his life was seeing a report on transgender people on the news when he was 18.
"I was relieved because I got answers for the first time, but at the same time I also asked: what now?," he said.
"It took another five years until I decided on gender reassignment. This was mainly due to external pressure. If you live in a village, it's a different world."
Melzer also noted he was fortunate to have the support of his family - including his 90-year-old grandmother.
"My grandmother said, 'It's only the name that changes, the person remains the same.".
✖️ FITNESS FRIDAY ✖️ had an awesome workout @crossfit37 💪🏼 my coach almost killed me 😁 #workhard #workout #staystrong #believe #ftm #fitguy #fitness #fit #ftmmodel #men #model #motivation #instagood #inspiration #abs #tattoo #transguy #transman #transgender #transformation #crossfit #love #life #lifestyle #instadaily #training #trainhard
The new cover star has quickly become a prominent trans voice on social media, with over 30,000 Instagram followers - almost doubling since he first entered the 'Ultimate Guy' comp.
"I think it's important to be open with the issue of transgender and not hiding," he told Men's Health.
"Many people come to me on social media, young people who do not feel comfortable in their body, and ask me questions. The other day someone wrote to me saying I gave them the courage to take the step of gender reassignment - at 47 years old! I take this role very seriously."