A 20-year-old bodybuilder from central Texas is determined to compete for the title of Mr. Olympia as the first trans competitor.
Ajay Holbrook wants to prove he's no different from other bodybuilders who compete in the traditionally cisgender professional men's bodybuilding contest.
Holbrook told Men's Health:
"Nothing is ever impossible until it's done."
"That's where I'm at. I'm going to make it possible."
Holbrook knew he was different from as early as age 3 or 4.
His earliest memory is of being reprimanded when he took his shirt off while swimming at his grandmother's pool. Holbrook did it because "the other boys did."
"She yelped. She grabbed me, and she was like, 'What are you doing, you're a girl!' I looked at her like, 'What are you talking about?'"
It wasn't until he was 13 that everything made sense.
The word "transgender" appeared when he typed in a search for 'Why do I feel like a boy trapped in a girl's body?'
He came out to his mother, Holly, by handing her a 30-page paper on being transgender. She gave him her blessing.
His mother says:
"It finally made sense."
"Whatever made him happy, I would have been there [for him]."
Holbrook began taking testosterone as part of hormone replacement therapy as a senior in high school.
But not everyone in the family was supportive of his transition.
Holly's ex-husband—who at the time lived with the family—did not approve of Holbrook's gender identity. His father would often physically abuse him.
"He made it his life's goal to prove to Ajay that he would never be a guy."
But it is the abuse that led Holbrook gym-bound, to transform his body so he could defend himself.
"Within the first three months, I started seeing results, and I got hooked."
After the first six months of intense training, he finally confronted his father.
"I stuck my chest out to him, and I said, 'You're not going to touch me'."
"And he just walked away. That was it."
But Holbrook was just beginning in his bodybuilding journey.
He strove for more ambitious goals: competing in Mr. Olympia.
One of the main arguments preventing him from eligibility is many judges and competitors believe the hormone-replacement therapy gives transgender men an unfair advantage in the competition.
It is a commonly mistaken notion.
The treatment is meant to replace hormones that are missing. It does not enhance performance.
Testosterone Centers of Texas states:
"Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) returns your testosterone levels to normal—it won't give you an unnatural edge over the competition or magically turn you into a champion bodybuilder."
The treatment doesn't yield short-cutting benefits.
All humans need testosterone and estrogen in their bodies to function properly. Hormone therapy is designed to help men and women who suffer from low testosterone or estrogen gain the optimal levels of these necessary hormones.
Fellow transgender bodybuilder and motivational speaker from Oregon, Aydian Dowling, said:
"A lot of people think that if you get on hormone replacement therapy, that they're like steroids, and they'll make you big and muscular."
The TCT website confirmed:
"You can't use testosterone replacement therapy for bodybuilding—it's not a magic bullet to help healthy people beat the system."
Holbrook knows he has his work cut out for him.
But his ambitions are stronger than people trying to discourage him from achieving his aspiration.
"By the time I step up there and I look like that … what are they going to say?"
"At that point, they are going to have to respect me."
Like he said before, nothing is impossible.
And he has plenty of people who agree online.