On Saturday, Lou Cutler became the first out transgender man to take home the coveted "Mr. Gay Philadelphia" crown. Competing in casual wear, swimsuit, and Q&A categories, Cutler also ousted 13 other competitors for the title of "Best Body."
The 33-year-old acupuncturist had never entered a gay pageant before, and never expected the overwhelming response to his win, he told Philly Gay Calendar. His participation in the competition was encouraged by the event's organizers, local party promoters Bruce Yelk and Josh Schonewolf.
In the days following his victory, Cutler says he's watched as the story's gone viral, and he has started hearing from numerous people inspired by his victory. The Advocate had a chance to talk to the surprisingly shy Cutler about what it means to be so visible as a gay transgender man. Read the interview below and check out photos from the competition on the following pages.
Meet the contestants.
The Advocate: Congratulations on being named Mr. Gay Philadelphia. What was the best part of the competition?
Lou Cutler: Feeling loved. I had three of my best friends in the front row cheering me on.... I could also hear people I've never met before in the audience shouting my name. It was an incredible feeling. I also secretly enjoyed running on-stage in my little swimwear outfit. Oh, and winning!
What has the response been to your win?
I have honestly gotten positive responses from everyone I've interacted with. From what I can tell, the first article that announced my win… has circulated quite a bit on different Facebook pages, both individual and group [ones]. I've gotten messages from friends and strangers alike congratulating me. A couple people have called me a "trailblazer," which gave me chills and brought me close to tears.
What does the win mean to you?
This win really means a lot to me. I had no idea I would get so much attention from it — let alone win! — and am truly humbled and so very excited. It feels like I am contributing to bridging communities: ones that are always grouped together in the LGBT acronym, but [which], as I've heard from many folks, don't always feel like they're together.
It feels really important to be out as a visible, gay trans guy. I am feeling a lot of pride, not only for myself as an individual, but also to represent the trans community, the gay community, and the queer community in general. I am proud to be visible and hope that I can inspire people to be themselves. I believe with all of my being that our individuality is what makes us beautiful.
In your experience, have gay spaces been accepting of gay trans men?
This is a tricky question. There are certain spaces where I've gotten nothing but acceptance. Fortunately for me, I have never had a really negative experience.
However, I have been rejected for dates numerous times after guys realize I'm trans. I actually keep a bunch of screenshots on my phone of the ridiculous things some people have said to me. Many times they are just really surprised … Sometimes it's funny, but on the other hand, I'm just another person trying to connect with people, and it can be very frustrating and disheartening.
Relatedly, I recently got featured on Scruff as an openly gay transman. They have an enormous following and a ton of people saw my bio and picture. I am happy to say that about 95 percent of the cisgender [nontrans] men were extremely supportive, to the point of telling off the 5 percent who were writing nasty comments. It was amazing to watch, actually.
Click through to see more photos of Cutler's award-winning body!