As discussions about transgender people in bathrooms rage, one Utah transgender man is being recognized by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a finalist in “PETA’s Sexiest Vegan Next Door” competition. I sat down with Dexter Thomas and his parents to discuss transition, community, compassion and sexiness. The road Dexter took getting to this stage in his life has been complex and beautiful. With the support of his family, he has grown into a man with a compassionate and inquisitive spirit.
While sitting down for lunch with the Thomas family, I witnessed parents who love their child unconditionally. Dexter’s parents spoke about how Dexter didn’t become a different person. Dexter says, “I didn’t become better — just everyone we love in life changes over time. This isn’t any different. I’m the same person.” They are supportive and were not concerned about his being trans*, but about anti-trans* prejudice in housing, health care, law enforcement, employment, etc. The hormone therapy wasn’t concerning, it was potentially not finding doctors who are trans* aware and friendly. They trusted Dexter to know what he needed to do to survive.
Dexter is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Utah. This is not the end result many would expect after Dexter dropped out of high school because he was bullied for his gender expression. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Westminster College and spent a year as an intern at the National Institute of Health before starting his doctoral program.
“Sexiest Vegan” may not be the first thought with Dexter’s academic achievements but he describes his reason for entering being about showing his compassion and humanity. Being trans* is a very important and positive aspect of his experience and identity, but it shouldn’t matter as a basis for prejudice and discrimination toward other human beings. His research covers the way people cope with chronic stress (e.g., stigma, elevated cancer risk) in our society.
The winner of the “Sexiest Vegan” contest will be announced after the writing of this article. So we don’t know if Dexter Thomas is the “Sexiest Vegan Next Door” but he has in many ways accomplished his goal of discussing trans* issues on his terms, showing that his loving spirit and compassion isn’t limited by class, species or gender.
On June 22, 2016, Salt Lake City resident and trans* activist Dexter Thomas named “PETA’s Sexiest Vegan Next Door.” He accomplished his goal of discussing trans* issues on his terms showing his loving spirit and compassion isn’t limited by class, species, or gender.
From the announcement of PETA’s Sexiest Vegan Next Door, “I learned first-hand that people are capable of immense cruelty toward others who they perceive to be inferior to them,” says Dexter. “When I started to realize that this attitude drives transphobia, homophobia, sexism, and so on, I also realized it fuels outdated attitudes toward other animals. This is part of what motivated me to go vegan when I was 17.”