Fifty Shades of Gender Identity – Nudism From A Gender Misfit’s Perspective
Guest blog by: Pat Heffernan
As nudists and naturists in a textile-dominated conservative society, we deal with acceptance battles individually and as a group daily. I’ve certainly had my share of personal acceptance battles in social circles and especially in the workforce. I’ve always dealt with sexual harassment in the workforce on my own, dealing with the individual head on, rather that involving the employer and eventually becoming a nuisance myself. Most of the harassment was the result of various coworker’s knowledge of my being a nudist and it has only toughened me!
I’m not new to this. I’ve been a nudist for 27 years now.
Being of a different sexual orientation than most of society approves of or understands has made life even more difficult. Being a lesbian along with being a nudist, I feel as though I’m even further out on the fringe of society.
You see, while I’m different, I don’t believe that I should hide or be dishonest about who I am. I have enough to deal with in living my life, without trying to live different lives in different circles. I’m sure many others in the nudist community face personal honesty issues as well, if they find themselves living two different lives, inside and outside the gate.
I’ve always been open and honest about who I am as an individual. The way I see it, if someone truly wants to know me, the truth will come out anyway. Why waste my time or theirs by hiding?
So, for honesty’s sake, there are gender-based acceptance issues within the nudist community as well. The most common of course is the ongoing issue that single males still face with many resorts. While trying to maintain a gender balance in nudist resorts, some still stick to the waiting list practices or simply do not accept and/or permit singles to visit, and that usually means single males.
OK, it’s an old topic, but one that shouldn’t be forgotten. Perhaps we have to realize and dare I say… accept the fact that the nudist community has a different gender ratio from society as a whole. There are more male than female nudists, but, based on my worldview, all nudists should have the right to participate on an equal basis.
The nudist community is supposed to be about acceptance and everyone playing together “naked.” Like most of us I use the words naked and nude interchangeably, but consider nude meaning a choice in dress. I prefer to be truly naked before everyone, and let people get to know me inside and out.
However, within the nudist community as in society in general, people tend to think gender is easily defined by body parts alone; as in people with penises = men, and people with vaginas = women. But it’s much more complex than that. Yes, I’m talking about LGBTQ and any other letters you want to string together. This group is comprised of individuals that don’t necessarily fit the standard “one size fits all” approach to gender and sexuality. Most people don’t know how to define or understand how they fit in socially. That is why most will lump them up together, rather than letting them choose their gender association individually.
So, with the mention of the LGBTQ group, and how gender is defined, the old nudist definition based strictly on body parts is very inaccurate. The nudist definition has been totally wrong from the get-go. It confuses “gender” with “sex” – sex defines male and female based on body parts, while gender is actually based upon the individual’s mindset. It’s time the nudist community catches up with the education mainstream society is gaining through the current media attention concerning current gay and lesbian rights issues.
Gender is as different in definition and determination as the individuals themselves. Even within the LGBT community, each group tries to establish levels… how gay, how lesbian, how male, how female. At the end of the day, it simply doesn’t work. Individuals can’t be grouped and categorized.
I work as a professional in the workforce, in a construction-related position which is considered to be predominantly “masculine” in nature (working with subcontractors, even sometimes handling a forklift). I have lived with the same woman for eight years now. I have a couple guns, know how to use them and enjoy shooting. I have a motorcycle – a sub 4 second crotch rocket I enjoy riding. I hang out some evenings with the guys; dirty jokes, sports talk, discuss relationships and sexual encounters with women past and present. I enjoy looking at and flirting with women. I don’t have biological issues that affect me participating as a nudist, just like any other guy (other than my having a vagina and not a penis)!
Did I mention I’m female? No, because that’s purely the biological definition of my sex, not an indicator of what shade of gender I have assumed in life. I may have a female body, but I have a male-oriented mind and associate primarily with men. I maintain a feminine appearance as it makes life in society much easier. That said, as those who know me will attest, I don’t associate as a woman. I think much the same as, and relate better socially with men. I’m in one of those grey shades of gender. While I use the lesbian term, that doesn’t define or describe my gender shade either, only my sexual orientation.
And so we come to my recent experience within a Facebook group of Young Naturists America (YNA) as a gender misfit. Unfortunately, within the nudist community, the definition of gender is way behind what society and most people are beginning to truly understand – it’s based upon the individual and not on a body part (or lack thereof).
In my heart and mind, my gender shade skews heavily to the male side of the spectrum. Only my body is biologically female. However I’m not changing that as I’m happy with the body I was born with. It has taken many years of counseling and personal introspection for me to be able to say that. My mindset, orientation, likes, dislikes and social interactions are masculine in nature.
Knowing who I am and where I belong, and looking for a smaller nudist group with tighter bonds and a more personal atmosphere between members, I approached Jordan Blum about joining the “Men Only” YNA Facebook group.
I knew I threw a curve-ball at Jordan. But I stated my case (perhaps not in accurate enough terms) and asked to join. I had chat interviews with both Jordan and Brandon (another group member), discussing orientation and gender association. They both thought and agreed I would be a good fit. I still believe to this day myself, I would be a good fit!
Both Jordan and Brandon took the idea to the group – that is where it all started to fall apart. From what I know, over the repeated pleas and explanations of the admins and some of the group members, everything basically fell back to body parts and the fact that I present myself in appearance as female.
Sorry, but it’s hard to do otherwise in a nudist environment. I’m honest, I applied naked from the heart, but what was understood was appearance and I present as a female biologically.
What I didn’t have was the opportunity to answer questions or explain my gender reasoning in this level of detail; in short I failed to educate those participating in the decision that common terms concerning gender and orientation don’t accurately describe the individual. Everything fell upon the common terms of female and lesbian, with no understanding of my masculine gender association, and my request was denied, twice!
This is where my discussion comes full circle. I’ve tried my best to explain only the person in question can express their shade of gender whether male or female biologically, and I’ve put myself out there naked for everyone with my failure and rejection. I do this with the hopes to expand the philosophy of understanding and acceptance from within a nudist community, which I think failed me as a supporter in return. It was surprising to me at the very least.
As I said, I’ve openly promoted nudism and dealt with acceptance for being a nudist within society, and have been open about being differently oriented sexually out in society. But not being accepted from within the nudist community, especially from a segment of YNA, was a first for me, and certainly painful.
If it’s all about the love, then acceptance comes first and I hope others will benefit from my story.
I am thankful to Jordan for allowing me this large platform to put forward my case. I hope that with time, the nudist community will learn to let go of the stereotypes and learn to be more open minded and accepting of those who may look or be a bit different. I hope that after they read this, the people in the “Men Only” group will see that they may have made a mistake by prejudging me. Who knows, I still remain hopeful they may allow me to join!