Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Trans Faces #7 Aydian Dowling ; The Entrepreneur...The New Face of Trans* Leadership

By Sabrina Samone, TMP

Paying it forward, in my opinion, is a perfect New Year's resolution and a great way to start the year.  One who is well known for 'paying it forward', is Point 5cc T-shirt Company's founder Aydian Dowling. Like many great ideas it started with taking a chance...holding your breath and jumping in. Point 5cc T-shirt Company is not just any other Trans owned business I've run across. One reason I wanted to signal boost them is because it's a business that gives directly back, advocates, and sets an example of unselfish leadership so desperately needed from Trans-related business owners.

Rather than using social media as a platform to promote ones latest food pics Aydian used it as many in the Trans*, for surgery funds and connections. It would be this modality that would spread the news from brother to brother, where FTM's worldwide began flooding social media with images of themselves wearing a Point 5cc T-shirt. It is becoming a sort of right of passage to see a young trans-man, especially but not limited to, be pictured wearing a shirt. It's a symbol of arrival not only as a man but part of a business that gives directly back to the community.

As a leading business person within Trans society, Aydian is a major supporter of similar businesses that are giving back. Point 5cc is a prime example of the Trans* using it's dollar to demand equality. As Harvey Milk once said, “Let me have my tax money go for my protection and not for my prosecution. Let my tax money go for the protection of me. Protect my home, protect my streets, protect my car, protect my life, protect my property...worry about becoming a human being and not about how you can prevent others from enjoying their lives because of your own inability to adjust to life.”  

Let your money be your advocacy. Support Trans-owned business and only support mainstream companies that support Trans culture.



1.  TMP:  How did you become the T-shirt advocate and what was your initial goal when you began 'Point 5cc T-shirt Company'?


 Aydian Dowling:
"The T-shirt advocate" That's funny because it was never my intention in life. Actually the entire lifestyle I live today is something I would have never imagined just 4 years ago! Point 5cc was started as an idea to raise the funds for my Top Surgery (removal of breast tissue). I had made a few other attempts to raise the funds including wood burning items for sale, selling baked goods locally, and like many do today I also started an online fundraiser. It didn't take long to realize people weren't so willing to just give away money, let alone to someone they don't even know! I knew that in order to raise the amount I needed ($5,900) I had to come up with something that someone would buy and I could keep the funds strictly for surgery. I had just been featured on the Emmy nominated "It Gets Better" MTV and LOGO special, which paid me $250 for having to take off work and have a crew in my house. It wasn't much at all but I felt I could make that $250 into $5,900 with the right investment and idea! One morning I asked my wife, Jenilee, "What if I took the money and made tee shirts?!" Something in her gut must have told her to say "Yes" because it was kind of a far fetched idea, but it worked! I raised the funds with Point 5cc, as well some online donations, in just around 6 months! 

To answer the question a little more directly, once I decided to keep the company going and become a real part of the transgender community I had specific goals in mind for the base and core of the company. It was necessary for Point 5cc to be specifically for Transgender and Supportive individuals. I wanted to make clothing that Trans* people can relate to. Also, I felt Point 5cc needed to have a surgery fund each year. I needed to repay all those people that took a chance on me and purchased a shirt. Besides the surgery fund, I also wanted to find other ways to give back to the community, which is how the Binder Exchange Program began. The first of its kind, Point 5cc Binder Exchange program gives FTMs the opportunity to donate their lightly used "binders" to Point 5cc and we will then give them to those in need who make a donation to the current surgery fund (aka buy a tshirt or any other item from Point5cc.com).  It is very important to Point 5cc that as we grow- we give.


2.TMP: You also have one of the leading Trans YouTube Channels. How has this been  a major contributing factor in your marketing strategy?






A.D.
My YouTube channel ALionsFears was the original platform for Point 5cc
to be seen. I was, at the time, NOT one of the 'leading Trans YouTube Channels' and the solid amount of followers I did have, were very supportive. I would say Point 5cc was originally 100% of AlionsFears because it was based on getting my Top Surgery funded. Once that was successful and I transformed Point 5cc into a real company it started to take on it’s own identity. I knew I couldn't flood my YouTube Channel with ads all day because that was not what that platform was for. My channel ALionsFears is for documenting my physical and most importantly, my emotional transition. I try to keep it that way still.  Today, I can confidently say that many Point 5cc customers, don't know who I am!

3. TMP: I admire that this is also a family business with you and your wife, Jenilee, which also make you inspirational role models. How important is it that we get the message out that it gets better for Trans* to have healthy productive relationships?

A.D.
When it comes to healthy productive relationships I think it's important to remember that someone WILL love you for who you are as soon as you can love you for who you are. Any relationship should include reciprocity and be an honest relationship. My wife Jenilee and I keep our communication lines very clear and open. I believe that has helped a lot with my transition throughout our relationship. Although I was already identifying as Transgender when I met Jenilee, I had literally only been on hormones a few weeks when we decided to officially date! I find a lot of Trans* identified people either feel they will lose someone they love if they transition, or never be able to find someone who will love them 'post' transition. It's understandable to be nervous of this, dating in general taking away the transitioning factor is hard! Not feeling confident in yourself makes it even harder! The best news of this, I find and hear about new Trans* partnered couples everyday, as well as receive emails from trans* men and women who never thought they would find someone- until they did. In order for our community to have more healthy, productive relationships, there needs to be room in these relationships for each partner to be 100% authentic.

4. TMP: Unfortunately these are unusually more mournful days within the Trans* with the recent suicide of 17 year old Leelah Alcorn. The role of the Trans*, in your opinion, how necessary is it that we live more visible...self accepting lives to show a following 'genderation' that it really does get better?

A.D.
Well first, my heart goes out to Leelah Alcorn and ANYONE who has felt this life is not worth living due to their gender expression. It is extremely sad to know this girl was robbed of any communication to an outside world of support with the internet being available to so many, there should not be one Trans* child out there feeling alone.  Second, I think there is a place for both open Trans* individuals and for stealth Trans* individuals. Trans* people who are comfortable with their gender expression enough to be open to the public on being Trans*, should do just that. It is important, however, that open Trans* individuals take opportunities to educate others in a patient and tolerant way. Many people just don’t know and it is important to be open to 'rude' questions or statements sometimes because it could be an opportunity to educate and open the mind of a person that just doesn’t know any better. However, it is everyone’s right not to answer questions that make them uncomfortable. I just find it helpful and important to voice this to the public in a space that you feel safe to do so. It is our responsibility to let people outside of the community know what is appropriate to ask and what is not. Becoming angry with people for asking questions is not the way to a more supportive society. It is easy to assume that the whole world just wants to be nosy and gossip, but a majority of people who actually ask a question, rude or not, are generally interested in the answer. If it is something they shouldn't ask, they need to know why. I always treat the general public like kinder-garteners. I make sure I am clear in my words and I make clear what words mean, even if they seem like someone who would already know.

As far as the role I feel stealth Trans* individuals should play is a behind the scenes role. You don't have to be front and center to help the movement! I have two stealth guys who work very closely with me on Point 5cc. They do a lot for the community, but it's behind the scenes. It’s stealth Trans* responsibility to stand up for Trans* people when they hear or see it in public. It's important that the stealth Trans* community understands that they DO have a role in this movement and their role IS needed. They are the guys and girls that can act as allies and still make a huge difference in improving world-wide awareness and sensitivity to the Trans* community without ‘outing’ themselves if they don’t wish to do so.

5.  TMP: You were named the TransMusePlanet Facebook page's monthly role model of the month of January. I think what makes you a role model is the charitable things Point5cc has done to give back to the community. What has it meant to you to help others live the Truth that young Leelah wanted to live?

A.D.
As corny as it sounds, helping others helps me. Every E-mail I get, I feel a connection to. It's another part of me that this person is reflecting back to me through their words. When I tell them that they are beautiful and that someone will love them- It's like I am retelling myself. The sadness they have when their family didn't call them by their chosen name, I have felt that. The anxiety that comes with staring HRT and wanting all the changes like tomorrow! I felt that. The fear that comes with realizing you aren't the person everyone thinks you are. Depression. Sadness. Shame. I have felt all these too. Sometimes I get these beautiful E-mails of how I changed a person’s life. All I ever think, besides 'thank you', is how those people changed MY life. As I mentioned earlier, my life is nowhere what I thought it would be just 4 years ago! I couldn't be happier. Which means, I couldn't be happy without the help of all those viewers, comments, or E-mails. The truth is I didn't save their life- they saved mine.


6.  TMP: What type of advice and comments do you regularly deal with from younger Trans Men living their Truth?


A.D.
Most Trans Men that come to me for any kind of advice are from all over the age spectrum. It seems a lot of the same issues come from being a young FTM and an older FTM. I will say however a lot of younger FTMs tell me about their schools not letting them go to the right gym class or bathroom; their parents not allowing them to dress how they choose, or use their chosen name/pronoun.  It seems most young Trans* men also don't have the right resources to finding guidance such as a therapist or a local counselor that are open to helping young Trans* people figure out their confusion of genders. This is what causes young Trans* people to find unhealthy ways of dealing with their feelings, like self harm, drug use and unhealthy
relationships, to help them cope.  A lot of issues stem around family relationships and fear of having no one to turn to if their families do not accept them. Other popular questions have to do with romantic relationships. The fear of their lesbian girlfriend no longer loving them, or that they will never be able to have a loving relationship and be seen as the man they feel they are. It's important for me to remind them that everyone feels lonely at times. I remind them of all the local outlets, like LGBT centers or groups. If they have no local outlet I direct them to FaceBook Groups and YouTube videos encouraging them to make relationships with some positive people online to help them gain knowledge and perspective as well as explore their own feelings and thoughts about their transition.


7.  TMP:  Where does Point5cc go from here in the New Year?

A.D.
In 2015 Point 5cc will continue to come out with more styles of clothing and designs and we really want to focus on our consignment/wholesale accounts to get Point 5cc clothing into LGBT friendly stores around the USA. Being that we are based in Oregon we will be starting with the PNW and traveling to places like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco to find stores interested in carrying our community brand. Point 5cc will also be attending the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference and helping with hosting a concert during the time of the conference as well. We will continue to try to double our Annual Surgery Fund and we actually just got news of GC2B Binder company who will be working directly with us to help provide some more binders for our binder exchange program! Point 5cc will also be contacting LGBT centers around the USA to hold 'binder collections' to expand our reach for our binder program. We are always looking for stores to pitch our clothing too, if you know of any store in your area who would love to have Point 5cc Clothing flying off their shelves, please Email Point5ccClothing@gmail.com


8. TMP: In every avenue of society, the Trans* is saying loud and clear...we exist. How important do you feel entrepreneurship and business play a part in the greater Trans society's receiving total equality?

A.D.
It is important to remember that no one outside of our community is going to provide for us.  It is our current and future Trans* businesses responsibility to provide for a community that is not currently being provided for. Having products for Trans* individuals alone raises awareness and visibility to those outside of our community. It allows others to see us as a viable product of society and worthy of shelf space at your local mall. It's amazing how many minds can open when large companies like Coke, Target or Nike support a cause. 



9.  TMP: Where do you see or hope to see for the greater of the community this time in 2016?

A.D.
I think it's important we focus on the year ahead. It's great to set goals but I think what's more important is to have an overall vision. My vision for 2016 would be to see more unity within our own community. The division between FTMs and MTFs, the division between "Physical Changing Trans*" and "Non Physical Changing Trans*", division between feminine and non feminine trans* as well as the division between TPOC and Non TPOC- is saddening. This separation is NOT what will gain us respect from other individuals or worth in our health care and legal document systems. It has been proven time and time again throughout history that the best way to make a change is to make one together. What steps can we take to do this? Simple ones. Start with yourself. Stop separating yourself from Trans* people who 'aren't like you'. START acknowledging that everyone takes a journey that is unique to that person but the beauty of it all is that the underlying feeling, of being inadequate and feeling not worthy of your true gender due to society standards, is what connects us ALL! I really want to see the greater Trans* community in 2016 join forces and unite under one umbrella and keep each other out of the rain. When we show the world the respect we deserve to one another- then the world can start to reflect that same respect.



10. TMP: I like to ask, if you could tell the world something about Aydian Dowling and you knew everyone would listen, what would you like them to know about you?


A.D.
I want the world to know that at the end of the day I am just a man with big dreams for my time spent here on earth. I live a happy, humble life with my wife and I attribute my successes past, present and future to my daily decision to dream. I am no different than you. My soul craves happiness just as yours does. Therefore I commit to doing only things that make me happy. Running Point 5cc makes me happy everyday. I smile at the community and the community smiles back at me. It’s as simple as that. No yellow brick road or special formula for success. Just me, my dreams and my belief in my dream.



With that said, I have to say Amen brother. One thing TMP aspires to do is inspire; as my motto states, 'Inspire to be inspired' and this leader in our community does just that. As you see here and in the other Trans Faces interviews on TMP we have a rich, creative exciting community that were given the most beautiful souls on earth due in part by our humbling experience in life with dysphoria. There is so much to celebrate even amongst ourselves and each one of us can take that gift and show the world just really how to shine on .5cc at a time.


To connect with Point5cc T-Shirt Company order and support Mr. and Mrs. Dowlinig follow links:
Point 5cc website
Point5cc on Facebook
Aydian's Facebook Fan Page 
Alionsfears Youtube Channel


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