"I was responsible for being a voice for an entire diverse community, but I also knew that I'm one voice of millions”

My favorite quote is: "Living well is the best revenge" - George Herbert My favorite city in the world is: New York City

Aydian Dowling

Creating a safe space for the trans and non-binary community

A JOURNEY INTO THE UNKNOWN. Aydian Dowling's enterprise emanates from wanting to build a community that is often forgotten and misunderstood. His company, Trace, is a mobile app building a safe community for trans and non-binary folks and their allies. It's the result of a journey that began 13 years ago when Aydian uploaded his first YouTube video documenting his transition.

Aydian's story is well-known to many in the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2009, aged 21, he was among the first to use YouTube as a platform to share his transition journey. Taking a holistic view of the process, he documented the physical changes as well as the emotional and societal. "Unintentionally, but very gratefully, I started to take off. I realized I had a unique opportunity to be a voice for the community at the time when we didn't quite have one."

In 2015, Aydian applied for a contest in Men's Health magazine called The Ultimate Guy. Now with a substantial following, he was voted into the semi-finals, leading him to be featured on the cover of the publication alongside other finalists. He became the first transgender man to grace an international Men's Health cover, leading to appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Good Morning America.

Aydian admits he became an entrepreneur without even realizing it. Before the Men's Health cover, he'd already launched a clothing company aimed at trans folks and started a non-profit, Point of Pride, which has now hit $1 million in donations for the community. The launch of Trace, he says, "stems from that first video I made when I just wanted a friend, back when I was doing my best to put myself out there. As awkward as that video is to watch now, it was a life-changing moment that hugely impacted my life today."

MAKING A POSITIVE, LASTING IMPACT ON THE TRANS COMMUNITY. Aydian has grand ambitions for Trace. With over 7 million trans folks in the US alone, his aim is for the platform to sit alongside the other major global social networks. "Trace is a space for people to share their story where others can relate, or for people who want a better understanding so they can be impactful to the trans people in their lives. As a trans or non-binary person, you can go online and just have a good experience, instead of what frequently is a negative one, like loading up your Twitter and seeing another anti-trans bill."

As Aydian's first startup, Trace has provided a steep learning curve. Along with the technical considerations around building and scaling a business, he is often faced with potential investors who lack an understanding of the community. "In a half-hour meeting, I've got to spend five to seven very precious minutes coming out to them and sharing my personal experience. I have to be vulnerable and open but also get them up to speed with the entire community."

Today, Aydian feels the weight of responsibility as not only a prominent member of the trans community but also the pressure to build on his success in a meaningful way. As Trace continues to expand and add new features, he hopes he will inspire other trans folks to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit. "I was responsible for being a voice for an entire diverse community, but I also knew that I'm one voice of millions. I don't know if I would have been as public if I didn't have to be. I had to be because there was no other way to find people.

"What do I do next? It's something that's always something on my mind. The trans community has come a long way since my journey started in 2009, but there's still so much more to do."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.