"For me to be on the cover of a women's magazine is kind of a sense of validation that other people are seeing transgender women as women," says Amelia Gapin
Credit: Women's Running/James Farrell

For Amelia Gapin, running was always a big part of her life – but it became even more important for her as she was transitioning to a woman.

“Running helped me get through the mental and emotional struggles I went through while I was transitioning,” Gapin tells PEOPLE. “I was able to clear my head and approach things from a much better perspective.”

So it’s fitting now that the 33-year-old software engineer and co-founder of MyTransHealth, an organization that helps connect trans people with doctors who understand trans healthcare, would land the cover of Women’s Running, a historic moment that Gapin says represents a huge win for transgender women.

“For me to be on the cover of a women’s magazine is kind of a sense of validation that other people are seeing transgender women as women,” she says. “And having Women’s Running want to put me on the cover says a lot about how they see transgender people.”

“Amelia’s bravery, openness and tough-runner spirit makes her a wonderful role model for Women’s Running‘s growing community – she’s certainly an inspiration to everyone on our team, myself included,” Jessie Sebor, editor-in-chief of Women’s Running tells PEOPLE.

Gapin started transitioning four years ago with hormone treatments, and after a long debate, she eventually decided to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the last few months, because she wants to qualify for the Boston Marathon as a woman and couldn’t do it without the surgery.

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“It was a lot to grapple with,” Gapin says, of transitioning. “There were the things you’re dealing with internally, and figuring out things that you either you never thought about before or never really allowed yourself to think about. Things you kind of knew were there and you pushed away.”

“[Running] gave me a place to work through all of the external things, like dealing with other people, and how to approach coming out to people and how to explain,” she says. “And when conversations didn’t go well – I lost friends because of it – running was a nice outlet for getting out some of that frustration.”

Gapin hopes that her cover will help others in the trans community.

“I’m hoping that it shows people that are thinking about coming out, or want to transition and are afraid, that you can transition and things can go well,” she says. “It’s really scary to be a trans person right now with everything that’s going on, and I know that a lot of people who were thinking about transition are reconsidering that. So if I can show them that it can be a very positive thing and it’s not going to necessarily be horrible.”

“You can be successful, you can do all these things.”