Showing Skin for Type 1 Diabetes

In 2014, Tara Layman and Kat Reed put their heads together to create “T1D Exposed,” a nude calendar featuring individuals with Type 1 diabetes. These two twenty-somethings launched the project with several goals in mind: to give visibility to diabetes, to connect members of the diabetes community, and to raise money for related organizations.

Three years later, they have exceeded all original expectations. They’ve raised thousands of dollars for JDRF, Carb DM, and Diabetes Youth Families, and they’ve brought together members of the diabetes community from across the globe. The 2018 calendar features several international participants. Another sign of their success? Last year, Diabetesseura Plasma, A Type 1 organization in Finland launched its own calendar after one of the organization’s members came across Layman and Reed’s project. The Finnish calendar also features participants wearing nothing but their diabetes gear.

Thanks to social media and campaigns like JDRF’s “T1D Looks Like Me,” diabetes is more visible today than in years past. But the public is still largely unaware of the toll that the disease exacts. “As with many chronic illnesses, diabetes is not a visible disease that you can see by looking at a person,” Layman explains. “By having our participants shed their clothes and bravely show their scars, diabetes devices and other touches of diabetes, we are illuminating the effects diabetes does have on a person’s body.”

Mindful of the need for inclusivity, the founders have included participants who represent diverse demographics. “The project is our opportunity to show that diabetes affects people of all ages and body types, who are in different stages of life, from different places and of different ethnicities.”

Why nudity? Because it allows participants to acknowledge vulnerability and self-acceptance at the same time. Living with diabetes is a multifaceted psychic experience, so it’s important that the project reflect these different dimensions. According to Layman, “T1D Exposed is vulnerable, accepting and resilient, much like the community we are a part of.”
Of course, the founders realize that visibility should not be compulsory. As Layman explains, “Diabetes does not have to be at the forefront of who you are, it can be as big of a piece of who you are as you want it to be.” The purpose of the calendar is simply to initiate conversations to and “to show the world the beauty of those living with diabetes and their strength on their journey.”

In many of the photographs, participants pose with meaningful personal items and equipment. For instance, Brooke Gibson, a long-time DJ and the founder of Type 1 Diabetic Sugar Mommas (@T1DSugarMommas) is photographed with her vinyl and headphones. She chose these accessories to convey that “music and not just diabetes alone is a part of [her] identity.” Gibson further explains that T1D does not deter her. “Many of us who were diagnosed [so] long ago were told that we most likely wouldn’t have children. And we are living proof that you can! This is why I did the calendar.”

Omid Farivar participated for similar reasons. He, too, wants the public to know that “T1Ds can do literally anything else a lay person could do”–they simply have to plan ahead. The project instantly appealed to Farivar, who was approached by a mutual friend of Layman’s at a wedding. “Hey. This is random. But. Do you wanna do this like… nude photoshoot?” the friend asked. Farivar recalls, “I experienced a really weird range of emotions, from flattered to confused to bewildered to feeling extremely sexy . . . I was instantly sold. When else was I going to be able (or even, asked) to pose nude for a calendar?”

You can see all of the 2018 participants, read more about the project, and purchase your calendar here. All proceeds go to charity.

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Audrey Farley is a former editor of Insulin Nation.

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