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On embracing external support for nudism
An essay on the importance of building bridges, not gates, in nudism advocacy
Nudists and naturists need allies beyond our community—supportive individuals, regardless of their attire, who are willing to advocate for us. We need to cultivate those communities among people we trust, and we need our national and regional organizations to do the same. We need not to gatekeep when people speak up on our behalf, and we need these relationships with the cultural and social majority to serve as a bulwark against retrogressive anti-nudity laws that are being and will be pursued across the country.
And we need to get out of our own way to ensure that all voices carry to create a more just environment for our existence.
Recently, a thoughtful and well-written piece of allyship was published here on Planet Nude. It was written by the teen child of nudist parents and it robustly supported our rights to live the way we see fit. The author had suffered taunts in school and still spoke up in support of nudism/naturism. Yet in the comments section, some posters did not view her beautiful advocacy as good enough and wanted her to embrace nudism for herself. In my view, they missed the point: a member of the non-nudist world supports us. Rejoice!
My efforts, too, have fallen prey to “not-good-enough” nudist/naturist gatekeeping. I ran a comprehensive website that featured all the information you needed regarding Vermont nudism, including where to practice, what our laws are (and who might be trying to make them more restrictive), and how the local nudist community celebrates various well-known nude events (like World Naked Bike Ride or World Naked Gardening Day). It was a trove of information I dug up to enable more people to take part in my state’s pretty liberal tradition of nude acceptance.
Despite offering up an unpaid service, the reception moved from the initial happiness for such a resource to the emergence of negative gatekeepers who questioned my sincerity because I did not have pictures on my site. One particular piece of feedback I received was, “How can we know if this guy is for real without pictures?”
Even if I wasn’t “for real,” I was still offering a service no one else was providing. After feeling pressured to add pictures, I was then criticized for not showing my whole front, as though nudism is only valid in the online era if you publish everything for anyone to see.
In the end, I was hectored into closing down my site so that I could live with more peace in my days. I came away with a valuable lesson about openness and grace when advocacy aims to help our community. The experience also shined a light on the influences (negative in my view) that social media has had on advocacy and allyship.
The dangers of gatekeeping
In the past few years, I’ve read a lot of thinkpieces on advocacy and allyship from my fellow progressives—lists of rules and permissions and shouldas—that could make anyone inclined to speak up think, “What’s the use?!” There are so many guardrails and third rails thrown up at potential allies that I came to appreciate the magnanimity of the LGBTQ+ community even more. Had I had to place hat in hand and ask “am I doing this right according to all your arbitrary pronouncements?” I probably never would’ve spoken up.
Therein lies the danger of nudists gatekeeping what counts for advocacy for and allyship in our cause. Nudism is at an inflection point in the United States. Here in Vermont, a couple Democrats put forth a half-hearted nudity ban that I spoke up against a few years ago. The representative who placed it in committee, out of which it never got, said he wrote the bill because one constituent complained. One constituent could’ve endangered our rights and traditions!
In Wisconsin, as chronicled here on Planet Nude, the legislative movement against us is much more nefarious. We will need all the Wisconsinite non-nudist allies we can find to speak up on our behalf, be they in government or thoughtful people who understand that nonsexual nudity exists. No one will want to come to our defense if after they speak up the gatekeepers deride what they said or how they exist in their own lives.
Nudism and naturism, historically, have messaging problems. For instance, I cite nudism and naturism, because online discussions for two decades have often revolved around, “what do we call ourselves?” and not about how we move past that. We’ve existed as a community and organized (more or less) movement for nearly a century, yet we’re continually forced into defending and explaining ourselves anew.
We need to unite within our community and with generous outsiders to bat back the retrograde era of governance we’ve entered. If anyone wants to take up our cause and speak up about it, we need to embrace, not criticize. Gates not only keep people out, they keep us from moving forward, as well. Bridges are preferable infrastructure. 🪐
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