As a Nudist, I Think a Lot…

fullsizeoutput_ba70As a nudist, I think a lot.

I think about authenticity and what it means to be true to ourselves when we are shoehorned into a society where no one really wants anyone to step out of line. I think about how being my authentic self, as a nudist, could mean that someone might be alienated by me. Perhaps even someone who has known me for a long time. For the many years I was fully closeted, I was worried a lot because I was going around in secret enjoying myself. It was a lonely existence.

As a young adult, I lived in an apartment with a childhood friend. I wore little and was told that that made him uncomfortable. We shared a bedroom and when I tried to sleep nude, I was told in no uncertain terms that was forbidden. I thought if I can’t be myself with one of my best friends, then who else is going to be ticked off? Maybe that set me back a few years.

As I hovered around thirty, there came a point where I couldn’t take it any longer and I told select friends and family. Part of it was due to the fact that I was now occasionally going to a nude beach and I felt weird lying about it. I didn’t need anyone to know about this part of me, but I didn’t want to hide either. I wanted both of my “selves” to meet each other. When I told those first people, there was a collective…. acceptance. I was surprised and relieved.

When I was in a graduate program, it was with a group of people who were relatively hippie-ish, and that is perhaps where my nudism was met with the most positive reaction. And so then I told a friend here and there, pretty much anyone I felt was trustworthy. A family we hang out with now has a pond and the husband once surprised everyone and jumped in naked. I joined. Then we warmed by the fire – naked among the clothed – and it was perfectly normal. The husband told me for years he had been trying to find someone who would jump in. I sense a tradition in the offing.

As I’ve crept into my forties, I’ve been more and more able to land within my own authenticity. Though I closed the TFV Twitter, I do keep an account where I’m clothed in it, but I identify nudism as an interest and will comment on or like some posts. I have connections there who probably, unless they examined my page before we got in touch, didn’t know this aspect of my life, even though I’ve known them for most of it. It’s a quiet way I’m working for normalize naturism. Why have the discussion come just from a naturist page?

I think about marginalized communities and what it means to be considered less than. Less than the prevailing winds. Less than what society’s culture has decided for everyone else. Less than what is considered normal or polite or decent by those who conflate nudity and nudism with sexual activity. I have tremendous sympathy for all the communities that are searching for acceptance in our increasingly polarized and mean country, who just want to exist without having to be preapproved by those inclined to disapprove.

As nudists, many of us are familiar with the closet, as I noted up above. Those who deal with their own closets – whether it’s stigma attached to mental illness, body shame and shaming, the inability to express their attractions or to be ostracized for daring to express their gender identity – should be a mirror to our own struggles and should allow us to flow empathy in their direction. Nudism is built on non-judgment, on self- and other-acceptance, on living and let live.

I think about the tenuous political position we are in. Here in Vermont, Democrats have tried to outlaw nudity every few years in our legislature. Their laws typically go nowhere, but it can put a stressor on things if they misunderstand that the openness we have with our bodies has nothing to do with the sexual activity they are afraid of. That’s not what nudism is. Republicans are no better, historically, when it comes to nudism either and the current rulings by judges of all stripes regarding free nipples should help us realize that our wonderful community needs to remain together.

It’s why I cannot understand how a nudist, a member of such an accepting community, can support the current president, a symbol of not accepting pretty much anyone. I’ve never worried if someone supported a Republican, Democrat, or other party’s politicians, even if their politics are different from mine. But I cannot figure out how this guy gets any of our support.

I think about the peril of our natural resources. The Earth can go on without us on it, but I’ve rather been enjoying my stay. But with rampant wildfires, powerful hurricanes, increased tornadoes, and fluctuating temperatures, the Earth is telling us that it is sick of what we’re doing to it. And at some point, we won’t be able to go back. If it’s not already too late. And that’s where my naturism comes in.

As a naturist, I am never as calm as I am when quietly nude in nature. I thank the planet for sustaining me and do my best to be sustainable. A warm summer breeze, fresh water to play in, and aged rocks are all subject to calamity if we continue on our path. Food and water will dry up and we won’t be able to provide our children or subsequent generations with the general joy we shared while here. When I see these disasters, it seems that greed will always prevail, but we cannot accept that with finality. As naturists, again, our community can help turn the tide by reminding people what we’ve had and could have if we change our ways. But only if we can influence the powerful to change there. So, as we advocate for our own rights, we should never lose sight of the big picture.

There is nothing I like more than zoning out and just being, but as a nudist, I think a lot.

 

 

Unobstruct the Mammary Papilla

The Free the Nipple campaign took a hit in the legal system when the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal of the three New Hampshire women who were arrested for going topless at a beach in 2016. The women believe (rightly, I’d say), that the rule violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution, because men can go without shirts while they cannot, putting an unequal and undue burden on them to cover their breast.

And it’s silly really, since men with larger and more pronounced breasts than women are allowed to be unclothed. This is due to a misogynistic sexualization of the female body by men over the course of history. So, rather than promote equality under the law and do away with deeply held, but nevertheless erroneous, impressions about the body, the Court let the ruling stand.

In Utah, a woman whose stepchildren saw her topless in her own home faces jail time and a ten-year stint on the sex offender list after a judge did not strike down a lewdness law. The judge amazingly claimed that she could not second-guess what lawmakers consider lewd conduct. At last check, judges strike down bad laws all the time, because it’s their job, literally, to judge things. So, in abdicating her responsibility, a topless woman faces an uncertain and damaged future. She still can appeal this decision.

Meanwhile, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an unequal law that required women to cover up in Fort Collins, Colorado. Though there has been some confusion about whether the law applies to all states in the Tenth Circuit’s jurisdiction, towns in Colorado are addressing their “decency” codes. The town attorney of Breckenridge has alerted government officials that their law is now in violation of the ruling.

So, a step forward and two steps back. All the more meaningful for #NormalisingNaturism in our society, so we can do away with all this craziness.

#NormaliseNaturism

fullsizeoutput_ba77When Full Vermonty had a Twitter account, I tried to hashtag “ReclaimNudism” in response to all the pornbots that decided to follow me. It did not catch on. Shortly after I posted my last article about naturism and social media, the hashtag “NormaliseNaturism” popped up in a feed for a different account I have. It hails obviously from lands where the Queen’s English is spelled.

No matter how you spell it, normalizing naturism can come in many forms, both overt and covert, depending on one’s comfort level. Some naturists/nudists have no problem posting a lot about naturism and its finer qualities on social media. They aren’t shy about their own bodies or don’t feel that they have to maintain adornment due to the general discrimination by society at large. It’s the Naturist Society and AANR providing guidance and leadership in the naturist space, particularly around advocacy and getting the word out. It’s the resorts that post frequently about their welcoming sites, often in a warm locale, and the northern ones that remind you that it will soon be warm where many of us live, as well. In many ways, it’s showing up for the cause.

In my article for magazine (“Born This Way;” Issue 38.3), I wrote about how I simply didn’t have any naturist role models, though I was drawn toward the clothing optional life from a young age. There was no social media and nude beaches or naturists events were often mentioned with a snicker. Imagine laughing at the vessels that carry each one of us around this world. Today’s newbies don’t have to search very long for credible information about nudism, don’t have to wonder how to find community in person or online, and hopefully feel less of a stigma attached to nudism/naturism as a way of being. For me, it’s always been a part of me. I don’t know if it’s genetically possible, but it certainly didn’t come from outside influences.

And yet, with the internet and social media, there is also a lot of misinformation about nudism/naturism, which is dangerous to the cause. I mentioned all the porn accounts and exhbitionists that found me on Twitter. That gives a skewed view of what a U.S. movement has spent nearly a century trying to build here – that nudity must always be intertwined with sexual activity. And because that view holds sway in the public mindset, thereby contributing to discrimination against us, people who run those accounts are not helping. They are certainly not normalizing naturism.

So, I’m thrilled to see naturists and nudists taking our way of being back, providing good examples that are representative of the heart and spirit of naturism. We just want to hang out without clothes, as nature intended. There’s nothing better than the breeze on skin on a warm summer evening, just before you dive in for that final dip before heading home. There’s nothing better than a group of kind, like-minded individuals who find kinship in who we are as beings, rather than in what sports team, deity, or politician we love. There’s nothing better than knowing that no matter how we look or feel within our skin, acceptance is there from a community that embraces the whole self.

To all those working to #NormaliseNaturism, thank you. You provide hope.

 

Naturism on Social Media

At the new year, I chose to shut down my naturist-specific Twitter account. Day-to-day, I was blocking about a dozen or so accounts that were pornographic or exhibitionist in nature. Quite simply, I did not need a part-time job of eliminating content on social media. It was sad, because I had built a bit of community on Twitter, but a really good move for me overall.

When I’d get tired of it, sometimes I would post something along the lines of “Nudism is not porn.” I don’t know if spelling out p-o-r-n was setting off an algorithm, but coincidentally there would be an influx of savory accounts. There is also an attempt, it seems, to redefine what it means to be nudist/naturist that relies on creating backlash for those of us who emphasize the nonsexual aspects of the movement.

The logic seems to go that sex is normal and natural so nudists who emphasize nonsexual nakedness are denying part of humanity. In fact, we are not, or I don’t think we are. You see, in the 80 years that nudism has part of an organized effort here in the United States, our unclothed bodies have been attached to the anti-nudity hysteria that assumes all nakedness is sexual. Those who claim to be nudists on their pages and then when you click on them to see if they’re worth following and a scroll past the first usually innocuous post is of his erection or her showering (or their likes are smattering with sexual videos), they are doing harm by contributing to the conflation of nudity and sex, which is forever the main reason we remain discriminated against as a community.

Nudity can involve sex, but not always. Nudism and naturism are not about sex or exhibitionism. If you’re an exhibitionist, go for it! But don’t use the language and naming of our movement to hide your situation or trick people into viewing what you choose for sexual enjoyment. When you conflate the two, you are setting our efforts toward equal treatment under the law back. It’s not that nudists don’t enjoy sex; it’s that the movement is not about sex.

So, I chose to leave my naturist Twitter account behind. I hemmed and hawed a bit, but an influx of accounts I had to vet for way too long finally set me free.

In the Quiet of the Season

IMG_3975The winter solstice returns the light, but is the darkest day of the year. For me and the people I love, this invites quiet and introspection. We reduce our interactive technology for a few days and take part in the festivity of togetherness. So, here’s the opportunity to wish you all a happy new year. I’ll leave the puns our community loves so much to someone else.

This time of year, I find myself settling in with books, but here are some online articles that spoke to me this year:

  • Being a Naturist Isn’t Sexual at Exposed Happiness (Link)
  • Wear Clothes? Then You’re Part of the Problem at New York Times (Link)
  • Should LGBTQ Add an ‘N’? at Nude Movement (Link)
  • Science says to get naked (abridged title) at The Mirror (Link)
  • Why Are Nudists Such Friendly People? at Naked Wanderings (Link)

Let’s show fellow writers who are adding to the rich literature of our community some love and support.

My wish for you for 2020 is peace. My wish for the world is an awakening to action on climate change.

Cheers! See you in January.