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  • Photo: People magazine via Instagram (@the_brianmichael)

Ann Arbor’s Brian Michael Smith, a Trans Man, Makes People’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ List for Second Year

In 2021, Smith spoke to Pride Source about going to Pioneer High School

By |2022-11-14T16:09:05-05:00November 14th, 2022|Entertainment, Michigan, News|

For the second year in a row, Michigan native Brian Michael Smith has been named one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive.” Smith, a trans man, has starred as a series regular on the Fox series “9-1-1 Lonestar” for the past four seasons, portraying firefighter Paul Strickland.

“I’m floored,” Smith said on Instagram, adding that such a level of recognition and visibility as a trans man “is so important to me because again there is a concerted effort across this country and around the globe to legislate trans and non-binary people out of existence. But we are here, we are real and we aren’t going anywhere.”

Smith made history last year by becoming the first trans man to be included on the list of sexiest men. Now history has been made again with his second appearance on the list. Smith, who is originally from Ann Arbor, posted to Instagram last year about how surprised he was to find himself on the list.

“I’ve been called many things, this is a first,” he wrote in November 2021. “Incredibly honored to be included in this list with so many actors I admire. Big love to [People] for the historic shout-out.”

In an interview for Pride Source in 2021, Smith told Chris Azzopardi that he didn’t know much about queerness or queer identity as a kid. But growing up in Ann Arbor, he said, he found a certain level of support.

“I was able to be myself,” he said. “I played football on the boys team at Pioneer (High School). I scored a touchdown, and I’m technically the only female in the state of Michigan history to ever score a touchdown in football on varsity. I say that distinctly because it was Ann Arbor.”

Smith went on to say that his role on “Lonestar,” that of an out trans man, felt “right and unreal at the same time. Unreal, given that I came from the Midwest and I never even knew there were other people like me until I was 20.” He credits trans actors that came before him, like Laverne Cox, for opening doors and paving the way and allowing him to play the role of an out Black trans man who works as a firefighter. It’s “not just a trans character who’s a victim or the butt of a joke, or a villain, or a side character. [It’s a] whole series regular.”

Undoubtedly, just as Cox and others before had done for Smith, he is now inspiring trans men — and trans actors — with not just his looks but the authenticity he brings to the character of Paul Strickland. 

“My hope is that my visibility can encourage and empower others who want to be their full selves but are afraid or can’t see a future for themselves, to take a step towards being who they are,” he said on Instagram. “It’s possible! Do you. Find your tribe. Keep fighting and help others.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael has been with Pride Source since 1999 and is currently senior staff writer. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.
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