It's almost time to start flipping the calendar to a new year, and a new diabetes awareness campaign is going full monty on this!
Yep, a group of fellow type 1s in California have created a nude calendar, with each of the 12 months of 2015 featuring a different PWD (person with diabetes) who's shed their clothes to pose for the cause. Their initiative is called T1D Exposed, aka The Nude Diabetes Advocacy Project.
With a title and theme like that, we should note that this may be a PG-13 rated post. But the calendar creators are quick to note it's not sexual in nature. Rather, it's about showing pride in the human body, in spite of all the diabetes gadgets we attach to ourselves and the "battle scars" we must endure on our bodies thanks to diabetes. They also obviously have a sense of humor, as witnessed by the pancreas that the male cover model is holding strategically ;)
This nude calendar concept isn't novel; it's gained traction far and wide over the past few decades following the hit 1997 hit movie Full Monty and the original Calendar Girls back in 1999, plus the subsequent movie about those British women in 2003. Heck, I just recently saw a holiday movie titled "The 12 Men of Christmas" about a fictional group of Montana guys doing the same type of cheesecake photos to raise money for their mountain rescue squad.
So it's not a new idea... but this is presumably the first of its kind for diabetes advocacy!
Behind the initiative are two California 20-somethings, Kat Reed and Tara Layman, who met at a D-Meetup party more than a year ago. Kat was diagnosed about 15 years ago at the age of 12, and works in the healthcare industry (she's using a pseudonym to protect her professional identity). Kat says she moved to California from Georgia a couple of years ago, in large part because of the D-Community she met while attending a D-Camp there when younger. Tara was diagnosed at 8 years old about two decades ago, and she moved from Colorado to California to get her masters in photography.
Tara is, of course, the photographer capturing the calendar images of PWDs, and the whole idea stemmed from her masters' thesis on T1D imagery. When she and Kat met, they started kicking around the idea of a nude calendar.
"It started off as a joke, as in 'Wouldn't it be funny if...?'" Kat says. "I mean, the Calendar Girls had great success, so why not? Then we got to talking more seriously, because diabetes can really be an invisible disease. Just by looking at a photo, you can't tell if someone's diagnosed. We decided we'd love to show the other side of it, any devices or the bruises and callouses we have underneath."
"I didn't want people to see it when I was first diagnosed, and didn't want people to know. I didn't want a pump for that same reason," she says. "Moving here and all of this has really made me be able to say, 'No, it's OK to shed your clothes. You can proud of having diabetes and that you can live your life.' At the same time, it's made me more aware and appreciative of the tech and management, and taught me how thankful I am for these things that keep us alive."
There are 13 models featured in the 2015 calendar (themselves included) and all are real, local PWDs living in the San Francisco Bay Area; none are professional models.
The project actually kicked off on World Diabetes Day, Nov. 14, and both women say they've had an incredible amount of interest from people around the world.
The future possibilities seem endless, the pair tells us -- and not just because nude pictures are tantalizing. Since the launch, people worldwide have contacted them wanting to be a part of the calendar themselves next time around. As of early December, they already had a list of 30+ adult PWDs of all ages wanting to be involved. That could mean a double-calendar is in future, they say.
Yes, they've also taken some flack from naysayers who don't like the idea. Both point out the photos aren't sexual in nature, but rather about the "human form," and they emphasize the images are tasteful and not obscene. But they also admit that the use of the word "nude" in the title comes across as a buzzword to get people's attention.
"There is definitely criticism," Kat says. "It's a part of the conversation, and that's OK. If you don't want to do this or have (a calendar), then you don't have to. For us, the positive comments far outweigh the negatives."
Tara also defends the whole idea an agrees it's not too far off from the mantra behind the #ShowMeYourPump initiative that exploded earlier in 2014, when Miss Idaho Sierra Sandison wore her insulin pump on stage when being crowned Miss Idaho (she went on to compete for Miss America and eventually won the People's Choice designation in that national contest). #ShowMeYourPump also encouraged PWDs to lift their shirts and skirts and be proud of their diabetic bodies. So both initiatives are about not being ashamed of diabetes, but wearing it proudly.
The key difference, obviously: clothing.
"With T1D Exposed... it's not just exposing bodies, but a lot of things -- the frustrations and feelings we have, as well as the devices we might be using," Tara says. "You are embracing yourself. There is a very intimate side of yourself exposed when it comes to diabetes, and that's what we're showing."
You can order the calendar on their website for $20, plus $3.50 for shipping -- or if you live in the Bay Area, use the Contact link on their site to set up free on-site pickup in Oakland.
The project is backed by three sponsors: Tara's freelance photography business, the DFM Web Studio that helped them set up their site, and the I Heart Guts company that makes those cuddly plush little pancreas toys used in the calendar to make the images more whimsical and tasteful. There's also a Facebook group talking about the calendar, where you can learn more about the T1D Exposed initiative.
Well, the idea may not sit well with some, but it certainly is a bold way to say to the world: "We're not ashamed of diabetes, or our real, natural bodies with all of their failings."