Adapted from The Naturist Talks featured on Naked Wanderings.
These [mock] interviews are always fun (I've done them twice before - once to give sex advice from the perspective of a nudist, and once on the subject of common taboos). They have a little bit of the feeling of those old MySpace quizzes, where you get to talk about yourself and then share that information with others, but with a little more substance (since we all know how vapid those MySpace quizzes were), and the opportunity to spread awareness of an alternative lifestyle. So, without further ado, let's begin!
Tell us something about yourself.
Since I'm a bit of an "internet personality" (not saying I'm famous, but I do have a "brand"), I try to make an effort to guard a lot of the private details of my life that random strangers on the internet don't really need to know (without being excessively paranoid, I'd like to think). But I'll say that I'm in my early 30s, and live in the northeastern quadrant of the United States. I'm unconventional in a lot of ways; I live a largely reclusive lifestyle, and in addition to being a nudist, I am also transgender, and an erotic model and photographer. That last one, in particular, gives me a unique perspective on nudism, but while my views probably don't represent the majority of lifestylers (on the other hand, I am a genuine nudist, and not a swinger - not that there's anything wrong with that), I certainly think they're worth sharing.
How and at what age did you become a naturist?
As I've recounted on my blog before, I have memories of enjoying the illicit thrill of nudity going straight back to my childhood; although those opportunities were few and far between back then, and I didn't have the proper vocabulary to describe them, since I didn't know about nudism at the time. In my adolescence, those experiences merged seamlessly with my sexual awakening (because I didn't have anybody to tell me not to interpret those experiences in a sexual light, and they seemed no less taboo - not that I have any regrets about that). I don't know if this is how I developed my exhibitionist tendencies, or if those tendencies were what caused me to have those experiences. Regardless, it's interesting to note that, among other people, I was so reserved as a child that I didn't even like to wear sandals because I thought they were too revealing! (Sometimes people do change). On the other hand, maybe that's why I feel nudism is so liberating. You can just let it all go.
It wasn't until after I had graduated from college, when I heard some friends and acquaintances joking about going nude around the house, that I discovered that nudism was an actual thing. Then I got really curious, and did some research, and started going nude whenever I could - mostly in my room, or when I was home alone; occasionally, I would walk the streets late at night. That was when I started identifying as a nudist (mainly in anonymous online communities), but it was a couple years later that I finally found a sympathetic friend to join me on a visit to the nearest nudist camp. We both enjoyed it, and the rest is history. Now, I'm out and proud to all my friends and family on Facebook, and this is our eighth year in the social nude recreation scene!
Is naturism allowed in your country and what’s the public opinion?
I don't know how illuminating this answer will be considering that I live in the United States, but I'll answer it anyway. Nudism is generally permitted by law, albeit only on private (and isolated from public view) property. There are nude beaches, but they always seem to be in jeopardy, their existence riding largely on the momentum of tradition. Otherwise, public nudity is widely frowned upon, although you'll occasionally have protests like the World Naked Bike Ride, or a Spencer Tunick art installation, that tend to go off [mostly] without a hitch. But these are widely understood to be special exceptions, and do not reflect everyday attitudes. It's not illegal to be a nudist in this country, but it does tend to carry a social stigma; as a result, some nudists keep their lifestyle a secret for fear of losing friends, family, or their job (although the extent to which these fears are well-founded is uncertain - Americans are a neurotic bunch). Overall, I'd put us pretty high on the world index of naked freedom, but that doesn't mean we don't still have a lot of room to improve.
What do you think is the best and worst thing about naturism?
I suspect that my answer to this question will be controversial, because I'm not what you would call a conservative or traditional nudist. But I'm still going to be honest. I'd say the best thing about nudism is the occasional opportunity to see a beautiful person naked - in the flesh, as it were - the likes of which you rarely get to see even (or especially) given the sexually-saturated nature of our culture and media. The feeling of being naked and free is great, and runs a close second, but it's the hope for a chance to get that rare glimpse of heaven that got me hooked on the lifestyle once upon a time, and keeps me coming back year after year.
As for the worst thing about nudism, I'm going to say it's the community's allergic reaction to cameras. I understand why nudists shun cameras, but as a photographer, it makes me supremely sad to think about how hard it is to document the lifestyle (you'll notice that every picture I've used to illustrate this post was taken indoors, in spite of the fact that nudism thrives outdoors), and that so much beauty is being kept hidden away from the world because a lot of people are self-conscious about their image (despite how laid-back nudists are supposed to be) in this digital age.
And because I mentioned a second choice for the 'best' category, if there was a second worst thing about nudism, it would have to be the conspicuous lack of younger people. Sadly, nudism deserves its modern reputation as a refuge for aging retirees, when I would prefer it to be the pinnacle of health and fitness that I've seen in faded advertisements from ages past.
Do you consider yourself a naturist, a nudist or an occasional nudist?
You've probably noticed by now that in every question that uses the term "naturist", I've replaced it in my answer with "nudist". Much can be said about the subtle distinction between these terms, although practically speaking they amount to synonyms, one of them being more popular in Europe, and the other in the United States. I consider myself a naturist because a love and respect for nature is part of my enjoyment of being naked, but at the same time, I prefer the term "nudist" because it seems less pretentious. It doesn't try to hide the fact of nudity behind a distracting allusion, which actually seems contrary to the straightforward honesty that I like about this lifestyle.
Do you find it easy to make naturist friends?
Outside of nudist resorts, I find it very hard. But inside, it couldn't be easier. I don't have experience with a lot of different nudist destinations, but the experience I do have leads me to believe that nudists are typically very friendly people. Occasionally, they can be a little too friendly, but this is not usually the case. I am introverted, and very shy (in spite of my reputation online, perhaps), so I don't make friends very easily (although I have been generally liked throughout my life, possibly because I'm attractive). But after eight years, I feel as if the regulars at my nudist camp of choice are like another family to me, and they always seem genuinely happy to see me, even if sometimes I can't make it more than three or four weekends a year.
What’s the best tip you have for beginning naturists?
Just do it! There's a lot to learn from engaging in nude recreation - especially socially - and it'll widen your perspective of the world, but it's all stuff you can pick up on the fly. I understand that it can be nerve-racking to take that first skinny dip, but you'll thank yourself for doing it sooner rather than later. Nudism, in my experience, tends to be a very relaxed, welcoming environment, and all those things you're worrying about are really not that big a deal. (Yes, I am including erections). Be friendly, follow the rules, and you'll go far. And if you find out you don't like it after all, well that's one more thing you've learned about yourself!
Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
I realize that I'm probably not the best advocate for body acceptance, and I probably give off mixed signals, but I'd like to stress that nudism is not about what you look like. You don't have to be "fit" or "attractive" to join in. Nudists are just average people. Most of them are not going to look like magazine models (and again, this is where I'm not such a great example for the lifestyle), and I can pretty much guarantee that whatever you look like, you will not feel unwelcome or out of place. Nudism is for every body. Working out to get to the beach is a part of textile culture; nudists don't care what size or shape you are. So don't wait to enjoy the benefits of the lifestyle just because you feel your body's not perfect. Nudism wants you to be naked and free right now!