Fifty Shades of Gender Identity

| May 1, 2015 | 19 Comments

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.

gender identity issues sexual orientation lgbtq young naturists america

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.

understanding gender identity brain sex young naturists america

Illustration showing gender is in the mind & not defined by reproductive organs

gender identity graphic guide sexual orientation nonbinary spectrum biological young naturists america

Guide to what gender & gender identity is and isn’t

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!

Young Naturists & Nudists America

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Category: Feminism and Women's Issues, Nudist Blogs, Sex Positive

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Guest blogs written exclusively for Young Naturists America.
  • mpathefferan

    AirBathe 

    OMG, thank you for such a positive and supportive message!  I truly appreciate your comments!  You have a great understanding of the complexity of the gender topic!

  • AirBathe

    The world is coming around, quicker than I would have expected, to
    understanding that binary gender labelling is not particularly helpful,
    and that every person is at least a mix of physical gender, gender
    identity, and gender preference.
    The more we learn about,
    experience and are aware of each other in each of those gender
    dimensions, the more everyone can be comfortable being somewhere along
    the spectrum in-between, rather than trying to match the extreme ends,
    or even straignt-vs-LGBTQ buckets.  Sort of seeing gender in Pantone
    colors, instead of black and white or grays.
    Personally, I
    wasn’t attracted to the YNA “Men Only” group, despite being easily
    tagged as a classic straight male. My non-sexual non-medical interests
    in fact tend to spill far outside the binary gender stereotype.  “Men
    Only” is trying to be exclusive but, even applied to me, is a hopelessly
    fuzzy notion. If the group was organized “only for people with penis
    plumbing”, I would think anyone with interest or expertise in the matter
    would be welcome.  If the group was “only for people interested in
    things that males are interested in” — well, even adjusting for how
    that’s defined,  Pat should definitely be accepted long before me.
    The
    point is that it seems to me that any controversy stems from not
    clearly defining and/or narrowing the nature of the group along, at
    least, the lines of the three basic gender dimensions. Naturists can and
    should be leaders in understanding that gender is not binary, that it
    is really and simply a matter of respecting each person and the unique
    mix of attributes that define them. 

    Two one-sentence
    stories. I worked on a theater production in Boston a few years ago
    where, faced with binary accommodations, the gay-guys and straight-women
    used one dressing room and the lesbian-women and straight-guys used the
    other.  On a nude beach near San Francisco, I became friends with a
    couple who eventually shared a secret — he was a young priest who
    identified as female and she was a nun who identified as male (so why was he the priest?) Allowed
    to self-organize in new ways, the world is wondrously diverse. 
    Meantime, one shouldn’t get angry if the old-fashioned title of a
    Facebook group is “misunderstood.”  Open the spirit, think it out, and
    welcome Pat.

  • AirBathe

    The world is coming around, quicker than I would have expected, to understanding that binary gender labelling is not particularly helpful, and that every person is at least a mix of physical gender, gender identity, and gender preference.
    The more we learn about, experience and are aware of each other in each of those gender dimensions, the more everyone can be comfortable being somewhere along the spectrum in-between, rather than trying to match the extreme ends, or even straignt-vs-LGBTQ buckets.  Sort of seeing gender in Pantone colors, instead of black and white or grays.
    Personally, I wasn’t attracted to the YNA “Men Only” group, despite being easily tagged as a classic straight male. My non-sexual non-medical interests in fact tend to spill far outside the binary gender stereotype.  “Men Only” is trying to be exclusive but, even applied to me, is a hopelessly fuzzy notion. If the group was organized “only for people with penis plumbing”, I would think anyone with interest or expertise in the matter would be welcome.  If the group was “only for people interested in things that males are interested in” — well, even adjusting for how that’s defined,  Pat should definitely be accepted long before me.
    The point is that it seems to me that any controversy stems from not clearly defining and/or narrowing the nature of the group along, at least, the lines of the three basic gender dimensions. Naturists can and should be leaders in understanding that gender is not binary, that it is really and simply a matter of respecting each person and the unique mix of attributes that define them. 

    Two one-sentence stories. I worked on a theater production in Boston a few years ago where, faced with binary accommodations, the gay-guys and straight-women used one dressing room and the lesbian-women and straight-guys used the other.  On a nude beach near San Francisco, I became friends with a couple who eventually shared a secret — he was a young priest who identified as female and she was a nun who identified as male.
     Allowed to self-organize in new ways, the world is wondrously diverse.  Meantime, one shouldn’t get angry if the old-fashioned title of a Facebook group is “misunderstood.”  Open the spirit, think it out, and welcome Pat.

  • mpathefferan

    influence culture wear less mpathefferan livefyrebob  I used to receive the TNS magazine “N”, but it’s been years.  But what a great article!  This was the key paragraph …..

    What people think about us is important. It doesn’t matter how many laws we can fight, or how many beaches we can designate as clothing-optional, or how many resorts we have. If the general public doesn’t like us, we have a tough road ahead. (Currently, they don’t like us.) I believe that the primary reason that people don’t like us is because they don’t understand us, followed by the opinion that we are a rare group. The solution is to educate. We need to show that there are a lot of us, that nudity itself isn’t bad, and that we are good people just like them.

    …… how can we expect society to accept us if we don’t educate the public and gain their acceptance.  In turn as nudists we need to be open to understanding the perceived minorities within our own community and be accepting of those different.  We sure can’t expect others to care if we don’t show a caring attitude ourselves!

    Thank you so very much for bringing that article to my attention, and your understanding and support!

  • mpathefferan

    JaiowynRobinson 
    Oh wow, how to answer all that, and I know I’m not qualified knowing it took me years of counseling and introspection to come to terms with myself.  As well, my disphoria manifested itself in agitation and sexual anxiety, and it may be totally different for you. 

    The hardest part, and again this all just with me, was coming to acceptance of a female body with a male mindset, psychologically male in gender.  Once I came to terms with the body being just a shell for who I am inside, starting with total separation then beginning to appreciate it more and gaining comfort with it.  Being a nudist from a young age may have had a factor in this.

    Then again the hardest part was sexually.  Hard as you try, and as sexually active as you can be, you never truly reach satisfaction in giving pleasure to women because your mind knows something is missing, sexual feelings and expectations of your mind that will never happen.  Again, this was all with me, my personal battles. 

    If you can treat the body as a shell, as I do, and maintain the appearance others expect, friends and society will be accepting. For me there was comfort in reaching that realization, the body as a shell, because then you know the outside looks normal and pleasing, the true self within you remains covered except to those you show personally.  Luckily, your friend has seen, accepts and supports the you inside! 

    I hope just something in this rambling answer gives you maybe hope and perhaps guidance in your journey!

  • JaiowynRobinson

    so how would a woman overcoming transexualism in a preoperative hell ever find comfort in nudity,when our disphoria makes us uncomfortable in our own skin? my director and her husband used to be nudist, or at least visit on retreat. so curious about it as a way i may connect with her on some level. she totally supports the whole trans thing, i wanna suport the whole nude thing too!

  • mpathefferan

    influence culture wear less livefyrebob I like that, and so fitting!  I’m not trying to be an activist either, just gain acceptance and find my place.  I’ve find it, but the door is locked, so I continue to knock!  But I hope others will benefit from my bringing my quest out in the open.

    Thank you for posting these eloquent words of encouragement!  Truly appreciated!

  • livefyrebob

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake … .”

    “Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”  Peace Pilgrim

  • mpathefferan

    All-Nudist.com I mentioned the issue with single males and admittance to resorts in my article.  It’s long been a problem.  But as you stated, “we are essentially conservative when it comes to changes in a system that has worked for generations.”  So, with that attitude the issue will not find resolution.

    The question remains, is the group based on sex or gender?  Which is more important to the members?  The way you stated I wouldn’t be trusted.  You have the membership placing their trust in one another based on their having a penis, rather than their brains, their thoughts, their personalities, or what they’ve shared in the group. I’m sure that’s not true, it’s an easy out to deal with a new issue without having to understand a complicated topic and those involved.

    You describe the nudist community as being more accepting of everything about individuals than in the textile world.  I truly believed that, but It isn’t showing in your comments!  If the nudist community wants to grow in acceptance in society, then we must also understand and accept the members within the nudist community.  That doesn’t happen by ignoring those that are different, not taking the time to understand them, or just not caring!

  • mpathefferan

    All-Nudist.com pipermac5 When I made my request to join the group, I stated my case to the admins, but thought like any other group, the decision would rest with them.  I had no idea that my request would be put to the entire membership.  I do think if I had just been added to the group and made my own simple introduction, everything would have went smoothly.  But it’s not my group to run, and not my place to question their reasoning.

  • mpathefferan

    influence culture wear less I was speaking statistically, numbers I had seen from AANR a few years ago.  Nearly half the registered AANR members were singles, the majority of which were male.  I wish I had still had the actual percentages quoted in the Bulletin, it was an article dealing specifically with male singles and admittance to resorts.

    122º and I thought Palm Springs was hot?

  • pipermac5

    All-Nudist.com pipermac5 Yes, had the admins not heralded her presence from the ramparts, she would have largely gone unnoticed. What saddened me was how quickly the discussion turned vicious. All human-decency went out the window as people tried to out-shout each other.

    Our detractors don’t really have to attack us, because they can simply watch us duke it out among ourselves. We may disagree on certain things, but we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

    If she can deal with the kinds of personal issues like I raised here, she is certainly welcome in the group, as far as I am concerned. Of course I also have a blog full of “personal issues” which are open to the whole wide world. I am human, and I am a human with issues.

    Great suggestion that she look into jillian’s blog. She is a good writer.

  • All-Nudist.com

    pipermac5 Funny thing; if Pat hadn’t identified himself as a man in a woman’s body, no one would have known the difference.  Apparently, only by addressing that issue and seeking help/support from other nudist/naturist men was a problem encountered.
    And we wonder why there are so many closets full of folks just dying to come out, but afraid of the reaction!
    Suggest looking into Jillian Page’s blog.  A he who is now a she and a recent convert to social nudism. http://jillianpage.com/

  • mpathefferan

    pipermac5 Hi Steve!  Sorry I don’t recognize you from my brief tenure in the group.  I admire your guts, it takes a lot to discuss the personal issues you described in such an open forum.  It was a bit scary for me to write on such a personal level about myself.  I found it interesting that you were able to overcome being able to open up to a female doctor concerning your issues.  Good for you!  It’s about the quality of the doctor and not the sex of the doctor, something I’ve dealt with a good portion of my life. 

    Truth be told, from my short tenure as a member of the group, and from what friends have told me it did get nasty.  But, when the idea was presented the consensus was overwhelmingly positive, when I was added the discussion for quite a while was welcoming, that is until one member turned it all upside down.  

    I don’t say that every topic in the group will be for me, just as they won’t interest every single current member of the group.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t topics I don’t have knowledge of, and could contribute with the rest of the group; from resort discrimination towards single males to anxieties that affect sexual performance.  

    So I welcome a chance to be part of your group, your world.  I know I can handle it, and look forward to an opportunity to prove myself.

  • mpathefferan

    therealtruth Bigender is a bit different in that it encompasses the possession of both gender states mentally almost in a fluid state changing from male to female to match with the environment and social context at the time.

    That isn’t me!  I don’t associate as a female, only my body is female.  I do comply with societal expectations for appearance with this body, but my mindset and communication do not change.

  • mpathefferan

    GBSmith Thank you for your kind words!  I put myself out there, every layer peeled back with the hopes of succeeding in explaining something very complicated from the perspective of one unique individual.

  • therealtruth

    I believe the term used in the community for the topic is bi-gender.

  • pipermac5

    I am part of that YNA group you were attempting to join. While I did observe the discussion, I didn’t get into it. Yes, it did get VERY nasty VERY quickly, which was why I eventually turned off my notifications for that topic. I had no real objections to your joining the group, but I do understand why many men did. Let me try to explain, as an older man, who has identified as a man all my life. My four children are in their 20’s and 30’s.

    There are things that men have trouble talking about, even with other men. Some of those are: sexual-equipment-related problems, sexual-performance problems, male-health problems, etc. I have some of those problems, and up until about six years ago, I wouldn’t even discuss them with my wife, let alone around a woman I don’t know. That had to start changing when I developed urinary-tract issues, and was assigned a female urologist. For my own good, I had to get comfortable discussing anything to do with my male equipment with her. I have had a female urologist continuously since then, and yes, she has treated me for sexual problems as well as the urinary-tract issues. 

    Most men would hesitate to discuss these kinds of issues with other men, let alone with a woman. They are just too “personal”. We have been taught that our “privates”, and anything to do with them, is PRIVATE. Men have to be cajoled into even talking to their doctor about these things. I am pushing 60, and only became a full-time nudist about 2 1/2 years ago, so I have had a lot of years as a man with the typical male mentality. 

    Yes, for many men, it DOES matter what is between your legs, because we DO have problems that are specific to what is between OUR legs. My specific problems are: a) Chronic urinary retention, b) Low testosterone levels, and c) Erectile dysfunction. As a result, I am: a) Catheter-dependent, and b) Have a prescription for EDEX, as needed. You, and everyone else who will read this post, now know what 99.99% of the male population wouldn’t be caught dead telling anyone. “Thinking like a man” doesn’t even begin to address or understand all the male-specific problems we face. 

    Welcome to our world, of you can handle it.

    Steve

  • GBSmith

    This is a very thoughtful and interesting post and raises an issue that everyone deals with, deciding who we are and deciding if it’s worth letting others know.  Back in the day it seemed, not really, but seemed to be pretty cut and dried, gay or straight, male or female and then if needed, republican or democrat, tall or short, black or white, etc..   Letting others in on who you are can be like peeling back the layers of an onion with the risk that if you go one layer too far the consequences may be more that you bargained for.  Some are sure enough of themselves that they can make the decision before hand that if they open up and people are upset or offended then too bad, their loss but for some the risk of loss can be too great for work, family or a relationship.  For the author her situation was a few steps more complicated than people wanted to deal with but that’s a big failing of a virtual relationship/community.  It’s not possible to hear the tone of their voice, their mannerisms, appreciate their sense of humor or determine what they’re like other than by tweet or post.  I’m sorry for the hurt feelings and sorry for the loss the mens group has suffered in not knowing  the author as someone with lots of sides, only of which is gender.