Last year, Trent alum Jenna Pilgrim and her team introduced the Trent community to the gentlemen of the Otonabee in a way most of us had not experienced before.

Pilgrim and team, through the Peterborough Rowing Club and with the help of some of Trent’s boldest male athletes, created and released the first ever “Gentlemen of the Otonabee” naked calendar. It is safe to say the rowers made some waves. A second edition of the men’s calendar is already out.

After this successful first run of the nude calendar in 2015, Pilgrim and her team have taken it to the next level. Following some back and forth with Trent administration, the team had no problem recruiting the twenty-eight daring female Trent rowers to strip down and come together in support of creating the “Ladies of the Otonabee” version of the calendar this year.

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Photography by J. Lee Photography

Arthur met with Pilgrim, the leader of this initiative, to ask if there is a deeper message behind the calendar, or if it is just something nice to look at when you are stressing at your desk in mid-November.

“Our inspiration for the calendar is, obviously, we believe that sport should have no sexual orientation, so we wanted to ensure that we were portraying that in all aspects, which is why we expanded the original concept of ‘Gentlemen of the Otonabee’ to the female version this year.”

“We were using the naked calendar as sort of a shock value fundraiser for people who want to learn about the issues facing LGBTQ+ people in sport and how difficult that is. Last year I was the fundraising coordinator and I saw a need for something to raise awareness on the issue and thought this was a good way to go about it.

“We wanted to ensure that the gentlemen’s calendar was a success last year before tackling the more controversial issue of a braver ladies’ calendar because there is, unfortunately, a double standard in the issue because it is a bigger deal for women to be photographed naked than it is for men.”

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Since the calendar is not officially sanctioned by the university, Arthur asked Pilgrim about the reception she and her team faced from administration, as well as the athletes themselves.

“From an athlete’s perspective, everyone was really receptive and really excited about it. We were all excited about giving this cause a little more face-time, because it’s something that isn’t talked about too much. We thought it pertinent for our team to have that kind of support being the largest team at Trent. With over seventy-five student athletes, you’re bound to have people from all walks of life and are facing these kinds of challenges.”

As far as the administration goes, Pilgrim says that they never sought out the approval or support of university administration or the athletic department.

“We knew it was a touchy issue and a daring initiative, so by keeping it isolated as a Peterborough Rowing Club fundraiser, it gave us the autonomy to deliver our message the way we wanted to.”

In 2015, Pilgrim and her team successfully raised over $2,000 from the sale of the “Gentlemen of the Otonabee” calendar on their very first attempt, and donated $1,800 back to Égale Canada, an organization dedicated to fighting stigma attached to the LGBTQ+ community in sport. The rest of the money raised was then put into a residual fund at the Rowing Club in order to help with the production costs for next years’ calendar.

In speaking with Pilgrim about this initiative, Arthur asked if there was any heightened push-back from the university when attempting to create the female version of the calendar.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-6-57-05-pm“We did hit more red tape this year in trying to produce the female version from Trent administration. Even though the initiative is not technically affiliated with the university, all of the participants are still Trent students. We just had to make sure that we dealt with that in a mature way and it’s fine now. Once administrators actually saw the photos and realized how classy and tasteful they were, they were much more receptive.”

Pilgrim says that they are keeping their goal at a humble $2,000 this year as well, but says they hope to surpass that in order to help the cause, as well as strengthen their resources for calendars in years to come.

Although the initiative was born out of the goal to promote awareness and reduce stigma towards the LGBTQ+ community in sport, the calendar has inadvertently helped many men and women stand up for self love and body positivity. A happy and powerful side effect of the naked calendar that is so necessary in the society we live in today.

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If you want your own copy of the “Ladies” or “Gentlemen of the Otonabee” calendar and did not snag one at this weekend’s Head of the Trent, they are available online at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/OtonabeeLadiesnGents for $20 each.