Should LGBTQ add an ‘N’?

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Photo: Laurence Barnes (Instagram: fkklad)

I was wrong.

Three years ago, I proudly severed myself from the two famous ‘n-words’ that typically describe our community.

‘Naturist’? ‘Nudist’? ‘Nah…no way. Let’s do away with those labels. I’m ‘normal’, and I want everyone to know I am – because that’s how I feel inside.’

It was an authentic sentiment at the time. I wouldn’t have written it if it weren’t.

But in late 2018 and early 2019, I was harassed and discriminated against in two major areas of my life, no matter what I called myself. The pain from those experiences gave me clarity on who I am.

The first situation was at home. I moved into a new shared house in Sydney. After initially saying my at-home ‘naturism’ would be fine, one of the housemates decided they actually weren’t OK with it, even though I had already moved in by then.

I have a text message from them saying this: 

“What possible reason would a normal person have for exposing themself in front of other people?”

What I went through with this person gave me a big ‘aha’ moment. I’m also LGBTQ, and I know what discrimination is like, so when I was literally being asked to put my clothes on it felt like someone being asked to not be gay. It felt that fundamental.

At the time, I tweeted my raw feelings on NudeMovement – without context, which unfortunately is an adorable bad habit of mine:

Now I’m telling the story.

Let me describe more what the full force of being discriminated against is like. Once someone decides you’re in the ‘bad’ person category, based on your identity, they treat you as a subhuman.

What this housemate did to me was horrific. They started to hurl abuse towards me about things completely unrelated to nudity. It was pure hatred. I’ve now learned that people who commit discrimination – like this person – are often ‘normal’-seeming people, who typically have very quiet and polite personalities.

That’s what’s appalling about discrimination. It’s a type of ‘rationalisation’, an example of which was most Germans’ views during Nazi rule. It doesn’t require a lack of empathy – it’s not psychopathy – it’s just ‘bad beliefs’, like Sam Harris cogently explains in the example of terrorism committed in the name of certain religious beliefs.

Suffice to say, I moved out of that place.

Photo: Zihnioglu Kamil/​Sipa/​Shutterstock

The second situation was at work. I was harassed and discriminated against specifically about going nude in public. I won’t get into too much detail, but at work I was directly challenged by my boss about my ‘nudity’ many, many times. I now realise their behaviour was grossly inappropriate and did not belong in the workplace whatsoever.

I never minded defending myself – every single time it happened – but I now realise it was abusive because of the power structure of the workplace. Your superiors who have the power to fire you at any time should never harass you about your beliefs or personal life, when it has nothing to do with either the workplace or any of its policies. In fact, it’s illegal.

But that was only half of what happened to me at work. The worst stuff was from one of my other superiors. It took me months to realise that I was being severely workplace bullied, and in a health-impacting way. This person simply hated me, and once I looked up the legal definition, I saw it was clear and demonstrable ‘bullying’. I had no clue what it was because this never happened to me before, but the experience was bad enough that I had to formally complain to HR and see a psychologist as a direct outcome of the situation.

All because I choose to live openly as the person that I am.

“Naturism is a being word.”

Once I experienced true discrimination, I finally realised the truth:

I am a naturist. I am a nudist. It’s who I am, no matter what. It’s part of my identity.

When I started Nude Movement, the whole aim was to make social nudity ‘cool’ again – repackage it, strip it of problematic pejoratives or preconceived notions, and appeal to the young ‘mainstream’ by making it a completely new thing – rebellious, even.

But now I’ve lived in the real world some more. It’s become clear that Internet fads and social media crazes are not going to cut it if we want to gain real rights to be who we are. We’re being persecuted, and I’m not going to just smile back at the camera anymore.

I said ‘be who we are’ – not ‘do what we do’ – because this was my epiphany when being discriminated against.

Naturism is a being word. I don’t ‘do’ naturism. It’s not just a hobby to me – a past-time – a ‘lifestyle’. I don’t just do it for cool-looking Instagram pics to say, ‘Ooh, look at me’, and I don’t do it to be part of some ‘cool club’ or cliquey group.

Naturism is my identity. It’s who I am. I desire and feel it every day.

And I feel betrayed when I’m forced or pressured to cover up – because that’s not who I am.

To quote GLAAD:

The phrase “gay lifestyle” is used to denigrate lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals suggesting that their orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured”.

I am also now offended if someone reduces my naturism to the word lifestyle. It may be a ‘lifestyle’ to you, and that’s totally fine. But to me, my naturism is me. It’s not optional.

All this time, I’ve been running away from the problem. I’ve been letting other people control me by controlling my fear of whether I’m seen as ‘normal’ or not.

But no matter where we run away to, people are discriminating against us regardless. They’re beating us over the head, with a club called the ‘n-word’.

This stops now.

I’m going to start taking up that club, and raising it in the air with PRIDE.

I will now say, “You can’t use that against us anymore! That word belongs to US. WE OWN THIS WORD – not you!”

We must reclaim our labels for ourselves, and be 100{e45938c5a1c30250a5e473607eceae4e9f667004ca64d9f7f2a58b14c86e82d0} proud of them. And if people are against us, then they’re bodyphobic bigots. We even have legal protections against this.

So should LGBTQ add an ‘N’? Not in the sense that we should join the chaos that is the LGBTQIA+ alphabet soup. I’m saying we could draw a string from their bow.

We have rights, and it is time to stand up for ourselves. Now is the time.

We’re 20 years behind LGBTQ in gaining real rights worldwide, and it’s time for us to step up. We’re not the only ones saying anti-discrimination is the way forward for our movement.

Discrimination, marginalisation and minority-ness is the overwhelming experience for the naturist right now – far more than LGBTQ people.

The question is, will you stand up?

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