Alison Lynch for Metro.co.uk
This week, Benjamin Melzer became the first transgender man to appear on the cover of Men’s Health in Europe.
The 29-year-old fitness model, who’s from a small village outside Dusseldorf, is currently gracing the front cover of the German edition of Men’s Health.
He was chosen to appear on the cover after readers voted for him in an online poll.
To all appearances, Ben’s starring shoot is much like thousands of others seen on the front of men’s fitness magazines all round the world – the buff body and the ripped abs are all there.
But, what is particularly significant for a medium which tends to be hyper-masculine, is that Ben still lived as a woman six years ago.
‘I really hope that I can change attitudes,’ Benjamin told The Telegraph of his cover shoot. ‘When you are born this way, you have no choice. So many people are hiding who they truly are, so I really wanted to give the trans-community visibility. Show that we’re just normal people.’
Born Yvonne, Ben says he knew he wasn’t the same as other children, but adds that his childhood ‘was not bad – it was happy.’
However, as his body began to develop during puberty, he says he became ‘so confused’. When he turned 18, he started exploring the possibility he was transgender and looking into what transitioning entailed.
Six years later, in 2011, he underwent a double mastectomy, and a hysterectomy, before undergoing full gender reassignment surgery in 2012.
He never craved the Men’s Health style buff physique, but started working out after the mastectomy, which left him with excess skin on his chest. ‘It is your own responsibility to exercise, work out your pectoral muscles,’ he says. ‘After my final surgery, I began going to the gym. And I trained hard.’
He now hopes to use the platform afforded by Men’s Health to help others going through the same experience. ‘There was nobody there when I needed my questions answering,’ he explains.
‘There was no hero to look up to. But, when I ended my transition, I thought to myself, “why can’t you be that hero for somebody?” So that’s what I’m aiming for. If I can reach just one person, I will be more than happy.’