Gay League Transgender Day of Remembrance Exclusive
In San Francisco, there is a charity based calendar contest that has a history of over 30 years called the Bare Chest Calendar with AIDS Emergency Fund and Positive Resource Center as its beneficiaries. The following is an interview between Mr. December 2014, Ed Mathews (former co-Editor in Chief of PopImage, and former publisher of the critically acclaimed web series Young Bottoms in Love and Gay League member since 1997) and Mr. December 2015, Dane Whitaker. The contest process is one with many weeks of semi-finals and fundraising, leading to a very public Finals contest where the judges make their final decisions as to who will make it on to the new Bare Chest Calendar. Dane Whitaker is the first trans man to be on the Bare Chest Calendar and is part of the team that raised the most money in a single year for people living with HIV/AIDS and we’d like to share part of his story on this Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Tell me something about Dane as a child. What advice would current day Dane give to his younger self if he could send a message back in time?
I had a happy childhood over all. I am an only child so grew up entertaining myself, I had quiet an imagination! I was raised by very liberal parents who very much encouraged me to be myself. If I could send a message back to myself it would be to learn not to worry about what other people think.
What was your motivation to go out for the Bare Chest Calendar? What new things did you learn about yourself during your fundraising experience?
As a trans man, making it onto the Bare Chest Calendar seemed like a rite of passage into manhood for me. When I started transitioning 8 years ago I thought in the back of my mind it would be cool to make it onto the calendar. When I started to consider it seriously, I realized how important it was for me to give back to my community that had been so supportive of me through my transition. Before being on the calendar, I thought that I was too shy to get up on stage in front of an audience and speak, but through the calendar events I realized that I am not as shy as I thought. I found out that I really like to go go dance! Who knew?
Growing up, who were some of your favorite actors and actresses?
My favorite actresses where Julie Andrews, Lucille Ball, and Carol Burnette. For actors I liked Cary Grant, Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Did you enjoy comic books or super heroes and which ones were your favorites? Why?
I didn’t really read comic books, but I did love the Six Million Dollar man and the Bionic Woman. I think the only comic I was interested in was Wonder Woman. I think I liked strong female characters!
You are a veterinarian. What drew you to that profession? What is a typical day in the life of Dr. Dane Whitaker?
I have always been into science, and thought I would go to medical school, but my love for animals drew me to vet school instead. Currently I am back in school completing a Masters in Preventive Veterinary Medicine. It’s like a public health degree for veterinarians. I have been a small animal vet for the last 18 years and decided to go back to school to get training on a different area of veterinary medicine. When I am done with this program in 1 year I will either continue on to get my PhD or I will start working in international veterinary medicine. So right now my typical day involves going to classes, learning bio statistics and epidemiology, and doing research on infectious diseases in California sea lions!
Politics inform and form us. What are your thoughts on the recent failure in Houston regarding LGBT protections and the transphobic ads that were used?
I must confess that I haven’t really been following this but condemn anything that is remotely transphobic. I think the idea that someone would go the trouble of disguising themselves as trans to molest women in a public restroom is preposterous, but just shows the level of ignorance that is out there regarding this issue. For me it reinforces my personal commitment to be an out trans person in order to help educate and be a visible representative of our community. I know that this is something that not every trans person is comfortable with, but personally, I am comfortable with being out so I happily take on that responsibility.
Mr. December 2015 has a Mrs. December 2015. What’s married life like?
It’s great. One issue that my wife and I face is trying to figure out a way to combat the assumption that we are a straight couple. She is a lesbian and strongly identifies as one, so often I refer to her as my husband and she refers to me as her wife. It causes lots of confusion, but it is worth the chance to get people to wrap their brains around something they made an incorrect assumption about.
If you had one piece of advice to give a trans kid growing up today, what would it be?
Know that you are not alone, that there are many of us that have gone through the same struggles and times of self-doubt. Know that there are resources and places to go for help, and not to be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.
Gay League would like to thank Rich Stadtmiller, whose photography is included in this interview. Mr Stadtmiller is the official event photographer of the Bare Chest Calendar. He has been covering the BCC for over 10 years and covers almost all of the local leather community’s history through his photography. His contribution to maintaining LGBT history within the leather community is immense. More of his work may be seen at the following links: Bare Chest Calendar and RichTrove (likely NSFW though it is not a porn site)