I’ve a belly, some people have hairy backs, some people are small, tall and some are not but we all are different. The LGBT community celebrates difference as they celebrate diversity while the naturists community simply accept difference and welcome diversity. Irrespective of sexual orientation, colour or creed, naturism offers a truly inclusive experience, an example can be seen when in 2019 the American Association for Nude Recreation celebrated Nudism Pride during which they highlighted the historical relationship between naturism and the LGBT community. The message of inclusiveness and diversity has been at the heart of the LGBT Pride and many agree a similar message of welcome and inclusiveness is found within naturism.
Before joining Irish Naturist Association, I recall many questions running though my head especially the “what if’s”. Somewhat shy I had enjoyed a few outdoor nude swims in Ireland and visited naturist beaches abroad but I still wondered what if I was recognised or what if I got an erection, or what if I’m the only gay in the group? These questions became my barriers and as the months and possibly years passed, I finally convinced myself and signed up to attend my first social nude event.
Thoughts now switched and I found myself wondering if this was an undercover dating group or something more strange? I remember that wintery Saturday evening arriving early and parking up within view of the pool building, as people gathered I was waiting until there was nobody at the door before I wandered over with the nerves of a typical child on their first day in school pushing the door open. Entering the building there was a buzz of conversation as those in front of me were still paying the entrance fee and someone was checking names off a list. In the distance I could see the pool, then to my surprise a lady walked out of the gent’s changing room on my right which I thought was odd as the ladies was on my left, followed behind her were two gents one of which had his towel over this shoulder and I was receiving a full frontal view. Taking stock and not to look in the wrong direction I followed in line and gave my name when suddenly I received a warm and very genuine welcome from Leticia who introduced herself. After some pleasantries I headed to the changing rooms and only then realised there is no dressing room segregation within the naturist community. I really was innocent in the world of naturism and my fears were unfounded. I felt I had missed out on so much because I had build up preconceived ideas that simply did not exist and too many questions.
To this day I have no idea how many of those who attend the INA swim’s actually swim as the majority of time can be spent on the sidelines in conversation putting the world’s wrongs to rights. I had taken the first step and I really enjoyed. Returning to the dressing rooms, the buzz and conversations continued and it was mentioned some were going to a local pub for a quick drink. A few swims and a few months later I found myself joining other INA members who in hindsight might be considered crazy as we wandered a snowy path in the Wicklow mountains on a cold January morning again putting the world’s wrongs to rights, building friendships and taking more steps into the joys of Irish Naturism.
During my first few events I remember still being concerned about the what-if’s and although more seasoned naturists will tell you concerns over erections and body stigmas do not exist, I must say this can be difficult not to worry. For younger guys (gay or straight) attending naturist events is great and it could happen sometimes to have an erection and yes, it can be embarrassing but always remember you’re not the only guy to have this concern, you are within a community of people who are acceptant, you are always encouraged to carry a towel and what worked for me was having in my mind an image that could focus attentions and quickly that erection was no-more.
I have never looked back from that first swim and I would encourage anyone to take that first step, the most difficult one. After that, you will discover people like yourself, perhaps even your neighbours (haha!) but definitely new friends from all walks of life with a common interest. Ask the initial questions on your mind but trust your instincts and take the next step, I believe all naturist groups are very inclusive, supportive, tolerant and acceptant, it’s a place where body stigmas, colour or creed are removed and people can feel equal.
See you soon!