Is Nudism a Right?

I’ve recently come under fire for comparing aspects of nudism to the LGBTQ+ community, which you can read about in two of my posts, Heroes of Naturism and Nudity, Censorship, and Discrimination. More than a few Redditors accused me of being insulting and several “fuck yous” were lobbed my way. Now, social media has never been a place for nuanced discourse, so this really didn’t surprise me, and any attempt to clarify my position, I knew, was a lost cause. Of course, I never suggested adding an “N” to that list of oppressed letters, even though you have to wonder what the “+” in LGBTQ+ is for. I readily admit, nudist discrimination in no way approximates to what other groups have had to endure.

Before I was married, I thought I knew something about racism. I’d shed my share of tears watching Shindler’s List (gets me every time) and Amistad, but hearing threats made against my wife because of where she was born exposed me to a dimension of hate I could never have imagined, and I still cannot say I know what it’s like to be anything other than a straight white dude. At the same time, I think it absurd to try and qualitate discrimination, to be dismissive of people’s personal ordeals because they do not fall into a certain category. It suggests sympathy and compassion are commodities that cannot be wasted on movements that are not trending. As you are reading this, a genocide against the Uyghur people is being committed, which draws comparison to the Holocaust, but how much sleep are you losing over the Uyghur people? Those claiming I have insulted the LGBTQ+ community seem to have forgotten, or never really bothered to read up on, the history of these movements. They fail to realize that gays were denied protection because gayness wasn’t a race, and when homosexuality started to gain acceptance, the trans community became the next group not to “qualify.”

The main argument I hear against nudists being afforded acceptance, is that nudism, unlike race and sexuality, is a choice. But in many parts of the world, people are made to suffer for their choices. You can be jailed for becoming a Christian, Muslim, Protestant, or Catholic, and in Islamist nations, choosing to be an atheist can mean a death sentence. In America today, families are torn apart by the choices made by Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Scientologists. The Jewish people, who have arguably endured greater oppression than any group in history (I think the American Indian suffered more, but who’s counting?) could have avoided their fate by choosing to convert (though this was not an option with the Nazis). Finally, Christians have made the case that while those in the LGBTQ community cannot help being who they are, they can choose to hide it. Choice, then, is not the determining factor when we consider how we should treat people.

As far as I know, a nudist has never been lynched or beaten or killed for being a nudist. But nudists have lost jobs, been jailed, and have even been threatened with the loss of their children. They are also, almost exclusively, censored. In Islamist countries, a woman daring to expose too much skin can be raped, forced into marriage, or stoned to death. The closest parallel between nudism and LGBTQ+, for me at least, is the way nudists fret about being discovered. Is something wrong with me? Should I tell my parents? What if my friends/family/co-workers find out? These sentiments are shared by almost all marginalized groups, but not every person has had the same experience, and therein lies the problem. For a lot of us, nudism is just a silly passtime, something they stumbled upon as young adult after visiting a clothing-optional beach one day. My story is a little different.

Is this image pornographic?

Growing up, I was extremely shy and insecure about my body. When I was a young, a close male relative molested me, which made me even more paranoid and anxious, and I probably didn’t look in a mirror for nearly a decade. Discovering nudism on the islands of Greece was a revelation. It greatly helped me overcome my feelings of body dysmorphia, and whenever the family was away, I was quick to strip off my clothes, to live in a way that felt normal to me. Nudism was more than just a fun thing to do, it became a big part of my identity. But for nearly half my life, I hid this part of myself, knowing my conservative parents would never accept it. Without the Internet to guide me, I often worried I was suffering from some mental disorder. I sincerely feared I would be locked away in some institution should they find out, because I didn’t know nudism was a thing. It took me almost ten years to work up the courage to tell someone, and when my parents learned about it, my mother spent a week in tears and my father threatened to disown me. To this day, twenty-five years later, they’ve managed to deal with it by pretending nothing happened. I never bring it up and they never ask. My wife, who is not a nudist, makes me keep it a secret. She insisted I unfriend her from Facebook, lest her family discover me, and I often have to listen to disparaging remarks about nudists from the people close to me. A friend showing me the World Naked Bike Ride on his phone remarked, “What a bunch of perverts!” and a coworker, indignant over our local nudist club, said, “Those people can do what they want, but leave the kids out of it!” Another coworker told me that if I have pics of children on my phone, no matter how innocent, I am unquestionably a pedophile.

Now, if an LGBTQ person were to read this story, would they find nothing relatable in it? I have a feeling they would. But to get a better perspective on this, I decided to interview my friend, Marie, the trifecta when it comes to being special, equal parts nudist, pansexual, and trans.

Marie Willa Bobo-Smith

Nick: I would like to first ask you about your childhood. Growing up, when did you realize you were not like the other kids?

Marie: Hmm, that’s difficult to pinpoint because I was not allowed to socialize much with other kids because I was usually black, blue, and bloody because I was too girly.

Nick: Were you picked on a lot? Bullied?

Marie: I had some [kids] that my parents preferred to hang out with because they were the tough kids and my parents wanted me to act like a man.

Nick: So, did you feel, at the time, that you were not boyish enough?

Marie: I was always teased and bullied because I preferred girlie stuff like dolls, pretty clothes, etc … I absolutely despised the rough and tough tumble of boyhood.

Nick: Did you know at the time that you wanted to be a girl?

Marie: For me it wasn’t a matter of wanting to be a girl, it was more that I wanted to be like the other girls. I hated my parents for trying to make me be a boy. I was a girl. The wording is key there.

Nick: I see. It seems like your story is typical of that of the trans community. So I’d like to turn the focus to nudism. I know that attitudes toward nudity differ from family to family. In your family, how was the subject handled? Was it more open in your household or more of a taboo?

Marie: With my dad and stepmother, it was forbidden, but for reasons I only suspect. With my biological mom, it was allowed in the confines of the home, but had to be kept as if it was a dirty little secret that nobody could know, much like the fact that I thought I was a girl with a birth defect called a penis.

Nick: So, did you live mostly with your mom or your dad?

Marie: I lived with both from birth until 3, then with my father and stepmother until I was 10.5, and with my mom from then until about 16. I joined the army at 17. The year between 16 and 17 was split between them both. There was also a span of about 6 months when I was about 8 or 9 that I lived in Holly Hills Children’s Home.

Nick: So, when you lived with your mom, were you nude around the house? Did you consider yourself a nudist at the time?

Marie: Yes, I was always nude at home. Did I consider myself s nudist? Not really, I just hated the confines of clothes.

Nick: . . . and your mom was supportive of your near-constant nudity?

Marie: I didn’t know there was any such thing as a nudist, just the same as I didn’t know there was a thing called transgender. That side of my family were all pretty much naked around the house. But nobody could know, you know, dirty little secret.

Nick: So your mom was naked around the house too? Friends and family?

Marie: Yes. Everyone who came to our home knew that nudity was accepted. The “friends” were, um, how do I word this, chosen quite selectively. I was not allowed to to have friends over “in the house” because kids “talk too much.”

Nick: That’s a wonderful way to live! Now, did you feel that, by being naked, you were more comfortable with your gender? Since the human body, without clothes, doesn’t signify traditional gender roles?

Marie: Nudity taught me that all bodies were different, but I don’t think it really taught me body or gender acceptance, except as an acknowledgement that everybody was different and that I should accept other people’s bodies as they were without passing judgement; it was of absolutely no help in acceptance of my own body.

Nick: Would you say it was detrimental, in that you were more often exposed to genitals, including your own, which you felt didn’t fit who you were internally?

Marie: It made me extremely self-conscious that my body parts did not match that of other girls/women, but I figured it would all change once I hit puberty because I would grow boobs like the other girls and I could just figure out how to remove the birth defect called a penis, or push it back up inside of me, or tuck it out of sight so that nobody else would ever know I was born with such a hideous mistake.

Nick: Did you tell your mother how you felt about your gender and how did she take it?

Marie: She told me it was just a phase I would grow out of, and that all boys thought they were girls at some point.

Nick: I see. So you were accepted for your open nudity but not your gender identity?

Marie: Not quite. My biological mom accepted the nudity, none of them accepted my gender identity. My dad and stepmother tried to beat the girl out of me, whereas my biological mom tried to make me believe it was a normal phase all boys went through but grew out of. The dad and stepmother accepted neither the nudity nor the gender identity.

Nick: OK. So it sounds to me like you were burdened with two secrets. Outside of your family, did you worry people would discover you were a nudist or trans, or both?

Marie: Both.

Nick: Now, how would you compare these two aspects of your identity? Or do you even consider nudism a part of your identity? What are the similarities and what are the differences?

Marie: Once I hit puberty and my boobs failed to grow, I finally started to internalize the “Boys Don’t Do That” attitude, locked the girl in an internal cage, and started to develop the image of the man everyone told me I was supposed to be. I hated him for locking me in a cage like some dirty little secret. Nudism was exactly the same, a dirty little secret.

Nick: Who is the ‘him’?

Marie: The man I pretended to be.

Nick: Oh, I see. I’ve known you a long time, and I know that long before you came out as trans, you were fairly forthcoming about your nudism. Is that because you felt nudism would be more accepted by friends and family?

Marie: You need to understand, that was a completely separate and different identity from who I actually am. I, a woman named Marie Willa, existed inside a cage inside the image of the man I projected. That image was a form of protection because I couldn’t handle any more beatings. So I buried the girl. I thought I buried her so deep that I could take it to my grave without anyone being the wiser. I was wrong.

Nick: So, you were abused by someone for expressing your gender identity?

Marie: My dad, stepmom, half-brothers, and other friends of theirs.

Nick: That is terrible, and I am sorry to hear that.

Marie: As an adult, I was accused of just being a pervert and a freak of nature for being a nudist and transgender. It was easier for people to accept me for being pansexual than it was for them to accept that I was a nudist and a woman with a birth defect.

Nick: So, would you say there are parallels between nudism and transexuality, at least in terms of how you were treated?

Marie: As a transgender woman, I am less accepted in the world of nudists. In society as a whole, I am generally not accepted for either. With that being said, If I am clothed with my make-up and hair done, I am generally accepted as a woman, if they don’t realize I am transgender, in public. As a nudist, I am illegal in public.

Nick: Given the current climate regarding the LGBTQ community, would you say there is greater acceptance of being trans than nudist, or vice versa?

Marie: Wow, tough question. As a transgender woman, I am generally not accepted by any group except for other transgender people, as a nudist, I am not generally accepted by any group except other nudist until you bring the fact that I am 6’2 with tits and a shenis, then I am not really accepted by nudists either and am regarded more as some sort of fetish. Again though, I could walk down Main Street, Anytown USA, fully clothed with my hair and make-up done and remain mostly unaccosted by people unless they figure out that I am a transgender woman, then I need to constantly look over my shoulder. If I walk down Main Street, Anytown USA while naked, I would be arrested and subjected to a psych evaluation immediately.

Nick: I see it sort of as a Venn diagram, where there is some overlap but also plenty of differences.

Marie: So which is more accepted? That’s really quite subjective with no easy answer. I am more likely to be killed for being transgender. I am more likely to be locked away in a psych ward for being naked in public.

Nick: Do you believe nudism should be a right? That people should be legally permitted to be nude where they want to be, barring they are not trying to overtly offend or shock people?

Marie: What’s really weird and frustrating is being the living embodiment of a sexual double standard. I believe that I should be able to do everything clothed people do: go shopping, out to eat, etc, only do it without clothes. It’s a human body and there is absolutely nothing inherently sexual or harmful in it, so why cover it up?

Nick: Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here! Do you think the LGBTQ community would be more accepting of nudism?

Marie: Oh gawd no, they have just as much of a hang-up about the naked human body as the cisgender heterosexual community.

Nick: Really? I am somewhat surprised by that.

Marie: They’re open to sexuality, not nudity. They are completely separate things. None of them, heterosexual or LGB, are accepting of transgender for the most part. To most of them, you’re born a boy or born a girl and that’s that; anything outside that binary is unacceptable.

Nick: It seems like trans is on the fringe of acceptance.

Marie: I have discovered though that a larger portion of them wish they “had the courage or body” to be naked around others. Both trans and nudists are on the fringe of acceptance.

Nick: On the one hand, I know nudism has been around forever, but on the other, it still seems greatly misunderstood and less acceptable to the general media than, say, being gay. We can have shows with two men kissing, but god forbid anyone sees a nipple on TV.

Marie: Sadly, I think it’s probably easier for people to accept nudists because nobody wants to accept transgender people. They tend to think nudists are all about sex and exhibitionism, which they might be able to wrap their head around, but transgender people are just insane freaks that should be eliminated.

Nick: What do you hope for the future?

Marie: My hope for the future? Hmm, I think my hope for the future is that all gender and sexual identities can live in complete acceptance in society as a whole and that people could be naked or clothed to whatever degree each individual feels is acceptable for themselves in public without fear of arrest or judgement.

Nick: I think having an open dialogue, like this one, and seeking an understanding of the other, is key.

Marie: Communication is one of the many keys to life. I think it’s also, more than likely, the main key that unlocks all doors of knowledge and acceptance. We are all human beings with more in common than people can generally comprehend and if we strip it all away, we are just left with each other and love. If we practice true, unconditional love for each other, there would be no more war, and we would create the heaven on earth that people have been seeking since time began for humans.

Nick: Can’t disagree with that! Thanks for your time and input.

To better understand her experience, Marie wanted to make sure I check out her poem, “Boys Don’t Do That,” which, I think, everyone should read. So please visit the link below:


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