5 transmasc activists to celebrate

By Emen8, updated 2 months ago in Lifestyle / LGBT people and culture

Trans man in black with trans flagged wrapped around, facing sky horizon

Over the past few years, we have seen a tremendous increase in the visibility, education and awareness of trans men.

But this road is only beginning to be paved. It is the dedication and advocacy of an outstanding league of trans men with inspiring voices who will continue its reach.

We take a look at some big names in transmasc activism since the 1970s.

1. 1970s and beyond: Stephen Whittle (he/him)

For many of us who identified early in life as ‘different’, school sports days were nothing short of terrifying. For trans activist Stephen Whittle, such an occasion in 1965 set the scene for an identity revelation.

“There were girls races and there were boys races. I remember I couldn’t stop crying because I was always going to be in the wrong race,” Whittle recalls.

As an adult, Whittle has formed his own race. Now a university professor lecturing in equality law, Whittle actively campaigns for equal rights for the transgender community, co-founding the transgender activist group Press for Change.

Considered an activist icon, Whittle’s reputation and accolades precede him. In 2002, he was given the Human Rights Award by the civil rights group Liberty and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to gender issues in 2005.

In 2016, Whittle joined an esteemed panel during the Sydney Mardi Gras event Gender Trailblazers to discuss the most relevant issues faced by the transgender community over the past three decades – a period in which he has been an ever-present voice.

His unwavering dedication and passion for transgender rights and advocacy is a source of inspiration to the transgender community and his activist contemporaries alike.

“I will stop one day, but I will only stop when not one child has to go through what I went through, ever, ever again.”

2. Early 2000s: Willy Wilkinson (he/him)

Willy Wilkinson is no stranger to controversy; in fact, he was born into it. His parents’ interracial marriage sparked plenty of it in 1950s conservative American society, the effects of which may well have contributed to his natural prowess for activism and social justice.

To call Wilkinson a pioneer is somewhat of an understatement. He was the first Asian and first transgender community health outreach worker to provide street-based HIV education and crisis intervention for sex workers and drug users in San Francisco and has since gone on to contribute enormously to the visibility of transgender men and women and the issues that they face.

As an activist, scholar, husband and father of two, Wilkinson’s cavalcade of achievements would be better covered in an entire feature-length documentary – a few of which include the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Excellence in Writing Award and the Transgender Law Centre Vanguard Award. He is also the first transgender person to receive the Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community (APIQWTC) Phoenix Award.

A quote by Paisley Currah, Professor of Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies at Brooklyn College, best captures Wilkinson’s impact on society:

“Willy has always been far ahead of the curve in identifying issues of pressing concern to trans communities, especially transgender men and trans people of colour… He not only identifies a problem that others have overlooked, he also does the labor that’s necessary to fix it.”

3. 2011 and counting; Aydian Dowling (he/him)

If you haven’t heard of Aydian Dowling, prepare to be impressed as this hunk couples his resounding voice with some seriously sexy swagger.

The 35-year-old bodybuilder, activist and motivational speaker was catapulted into the mainstream in 2016 as the first trans man to grace the cover of Gay Times magazine. His incredible impact, however, goes far beyond poster boy status.

Over his 15-year YouTube career, Dowling has shared over 700 videos that document his physical, emotional and mental transitioning journey, as well as interviews with his peers – all of which has gained him millions of followers.

In 2011, Dowling’s very personal story was showcased on the Emmy nominated It Gets Better Project on MTV and Logo and he has shared his journey on Ellen, reaching millions of mainstream viewers, broadening the reach and impact of his message.

Dowling is a co-founder of the not-for-profit organisation Point of Pride, which provides health and wellness services for trans people, such as funding for gender-affirming surgery, hormone replacement therapy and chest binders.

4. Right here, right now; Teddy Cook (he/him)

The only thing more impressive than a modest overachiever is one with a distinct sense of cool. ACON’s home-grown Teddy Cook is all that and more, with a dedicated focus in community health and anti-violence awareness.
Beneath the urban chic exterior of a totally fly dude lies a seriously switched-on professional with an impressive work history to match.

Cook’s early career includes his work with ACON’s Anti-Violence Project before managing the Regional Outreach Service and Trans and Gender Diverse Health Equity. He is now the director of Community Health, overseeing ACON’s LGBTQ+ health, equity, and harm reduction programs.

A role model for young trans men and an advocate for the visibility of trans men everywhere, Cook has a particular passion for the sexual health of trans men who are attracted to other men. This powerhouse of an activist, served as Board Director and Vice President of the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPATH – 2019-2022), Trans Health Research Group, and was recently appointed to a WHO Guidelines Development Group to develop a global trans health guideline for working with trans adults.

One of Cook’s contributions to the trans community is leading and co-authoring TransHub. The site offers vital information for trans and gender-diverse folk about social, medical and legal affirmation, as well as health and support resources. Created by and for trans people to be their authentic and healthy selves, it also provides information on how allies and clinicians can create trans-inclusive environments. TransHub’s ‘My Health’ resource empowers trans and gender-diverse people to take care of their sexual health with information about STIs and HIV and where to find free, trans-affirming testing clinics.

As a tattoo-blazoned and super-charismatic presence at any LGBTIQ community event that provides a platform for advocacy and awareness, Cook brings identity, sexuality and sex to the surface where it can be discussed and explored without inhibition.

5. 2020 and beyond; Hayden Moon (he/they)

Part of a new generation of fierce trans activists, Hayden Moon, has achieved a lot at just 29 years of age. He is a Wiradjuri Brotherboy, legally blind, non-binary and transmasculine student, currently completing his PhD in USYD’s Theatre and Performing Arts Studies. They fight for First Nations, trans, queer and disabled rights as a performer, speaker and writer.

Moon forayed into trans activism after succeeding in changing the Australian Irish Dancing Association’s policy to allow trans dancers to compete in the category they identify as. Telling their story as a trans Irish dancer, Moon has a chapter published in the 2022 anthology ‘Nothing to Hide: Voices of Trans and Gender Diverse Australia’.

An established speaker, Moon has advocated for trans and queer health and visibility within various community events. They were on a panel for Mardi Gras’ ‘Queer Thinking’ in 2020. He presented a keynote speech at the Australasian Sexual and Reproductive Health Conference discussing inclusive healthcare for trans and gender diverse people.

In 2022, he worked as a Trans Peer Navigator in ACON’s Trans Health Equity team under the tutelage of trans icon Teddy Cook.

Despite their youth, Moon received various accolades for their activism and writing. They have written for several publications, including Archer Magazine, writing on experiences of Brotherboys and Sistergirls, trans healthcare and Irish dancing. Hayden was awarded the first USYD LGBTQ 78’ers scholarship, 2022 Student of the Year by the LGBTQ organisation Out of Australia, and is a Pinnacle Foundation scholar.

Hayden Moon continues to fight for trans people’s rights and visibility from the stage to the streets. He’s an example of trans excellence and the future of transmasc activism.