To the best of my knowledge, there is no official government proclamation in any country designating today as Gay Nudists Day (also known as Gay Naturists Day) . For almost as long as I’m able to remember, that’s just what today is: a date to celebrate being a same gender loving man who prefers clothes-freedom. To be honest, I’m uncertain as to who informed me of this observance. One instance does remain set in my mind. I was once a member of a gay nude social club in the Washington, D.C. area, Lambda Soleil (since inactive). It was the oldest club of gay naturists/nudists in the Washington region (organized in the early 1980’s) and every year they communally observed this occasion.
This could be where I initially learned about this homocentric and nudecentric event. I distinctly recall that I was so excited about this discovery that I went home and immediately contacted Alex, my identical twin brother, and shared my knowledge with him. We both made notation of the date in order never to forget or overlook this auspicious occasion. Whenever possible, we try to spend it together along with our spouses/boyfriends/and potential boyfriends.
It has only been recently that the male same gender loving (gay) community and the bare practicing (naturist/nudist) community have become allied. Prior to this development, there were many myths and rumors surrounding gay social events and what transpired during those events. This led to the popular but false misconception that all same gender loving men were predators who were only interested in recruiting younger men into their deviant lifestyle.
This inaccurate stereotypical point of view is one of the possible reasons to explain (but not excuse) the often hostile and discriminatory treatment that the early gay nudists received from the established naturist/nudist resorts and destinations. These gay men persevered and pioneered the eventual acceptance of the male same gender loving community into the clothes-free culture.
Because of this early hostility from the naturist/nudist community towards same gender loving male participation in clothes-free environments, gay men interested in naked activities began to organize their own, gay-friendly clubs and associations. In most of the larger cities, throughout the USA, organizations were formed specifically for promoting and sponsoring social events and outings exclusively for gay and bisexual men. After the Stonewall Riots of June, 1969 (see my post, Stonewall Riots: March to Freedom –click title to view), as gay rights became a worldwide struggle, it didn’t take an eternity for homophobia to surface and awareness of homosexuality to erupt into blatant discrimination.
Gay naturist/nudist clubs grew exponentially in the years following the Stonewall riots and the birth of the Gay Pride movement. In the late 1970’s well into the 1980’s, these organizations promoted the growth of the clothes-free lifestyle within the burgeoning Gay community and discouraged homophobia within the naturist/nudist community. Despite their efforts, many “mainstream” naturists/nudists continued to equate the same gender loving nudist organizations as nothing more than a venue for gay sexual promiscuity refused to consider them as a “legitimate” representatives of the gay movement’s interest in the international naturist/nudist movement.
As the AIDS pandemic unfolded in the 1980’s, the general public’s perception of the gay community changed from one of condemnation and hostility to one of benign acceptance and as the heroic struggle against AIDS continued into the 1990’s, this reluctant co-existence increased into a gradual admiration and even tolerance. The election of Bill Clinton as U.S. President in 1992 represented a historic milestone in the USA, as for the first time, a sitting U.S. president was not only welcoming of its GLBTQ peoples (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer), but also offered them a slice of the proverbial “American Dream,” in addition to extending to them the chances to openly participate in the process of government.
The late 1980’s and into the 1990’s, a number of entrepreneurial gay-friendly enterprises began that offered clothing-optional amenities. They were well received and became quite lucrative and successful. The traditional naturist/nudist holiday destinations and resorts noticed this phenomena as they saw their own revenue dollars sprout wings and fly out the window. Suddenly, their policy of shunning male same gender loving guests began to lose its “moral” justification and by the late 1990’s, the scramble began toward trying to re-capture a market they discounted and marginalized for almost twenty years.
During this same time period, a major breakthrough in the naturist/nudist community occurred when the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) welcomed Gay Naturists International (GNI) into its membership. An “olive branch” from the mainstream nudist community was extended to and accepted by same gender loving male bare practitioners. A semblance of naked harmony had been achieved.
Change is never easy to accomplish and most times happens slowly. The same is true for naturist acceptance of gay participation in clothes-free activities and events. There are a few naked resorts and associations that discourage gay participation through gender-ratio policies, male/female admission policies, etc. These destinations do not blatantly discriminate but the intent is present when one “reads between the lines.” Fortunately, such practices are slowly eroding as nude and clothing-optional resorts and facilities are scrambling to compete for the shrinking amount of naturist/nudist dollars from private establishments and shifting interest in the more cost-effective public and popular clothing-optional public beaches.
Policy changes and “official” recognition are good and set the standard for inclusion of all nudists into the naked community, no matter which gender they are attracted towards. However, attitudes are a “learned” behavior and not every individual naturist believes that bare same gender loving men belong among “normal” (heterosexual) nudists. Discrimination isn’t limited to just the naturist/nudist culture and like our African-American, Hispanic heritage, Islamic and differing abilities nudist brethren before us, it is through patience, tolerance, understanding and perseverance that we will overcome these obstacles.
Is Gay Nudists Day relevant in today’s world? I think so. As long as we have residual attitudes against us, we need this bare observance to remind us all of just how far we have come and where we next need to go. Until then, its incumbent upon us to stay focused, stay bare and to persevere! In the immortal words of the Black civil rights anthem, “we shall overcome!”
Addendum: This thought occurred to me late last night/early this morning. This observance was created in response to homophobia. I wonder how the bigots fell about that fact?
Happy Gay Nudists Day!
Author’s Note: The inclusion of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this article in no way implies that disease is in any way associated with a person’s preference for nudity or clothing. It was used here to illustrate how that disease helped to overcome barriers between the gay and the dominant heterosexual communities. Grief is an emotion and it is through our shared experiences that we all begin to see one another for what we all are: human.