There are a number of naturist organizations for gay men out there. Are there corresponding organizations for lesbians? Not really. Why is this?
I expect that a lot of it has to do with the fact that most naturist clubs are always open to couples and single females, but restrict the number of single males who can join. I’ll talk more about this another time, taking a look at what this means for gay men. For now I want to take a talk about the different organizations that cater to gay men and why the segregation of groups exists.
(From Wikipedia) Gay naturist groups emerged in the early 80s in the major metropolitan areas of the U.S. Places like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Atlanta saw the first unaffiliated local gay naturist clubs. In 1983, Gay and Lesbian Naturists (GLN) was formed in affiliation with The Naturist Society. GLN’s first gathering was attended exclusively by men. In 1992, GLN broke away from TNS to become the independent organization Gay Naturists International (GNI). International Men Enjoying Naturism (IMEN) was formed in 1994 by a former employee of GNI.
Nowadays, even smaller metros like Minneapolis-St Paul have naturist groups catering to gay men. In the Twin Cities, that group is called Naked Minnesota. It is exclusively for males, and while straight men are welcome to attend events, but in all likelihood the membership is strictly gay and bisexual men.
(From Wikipedia) GNI and IMEN function similar to TNS and AANR: they include registries of local groups and help new local groups organize, and hold annual gatherings. A number of larger regional gatherings are held by other groups as well, including the CMEN Gathering (by California Men Enjoying Naturism*), the East Coast Gathering (by Philadelphia Area Naked Guys), and the Midwest Male Naturist Gathering.
Looking for a local gay naturist organization? Check out these resources:
Is it a good thing that gay naturists have segregated themselves? I don’t know that a value judgment is really possible; the segregation has both positive and negative aspects. I do think that in some ways the segregation reinforces the differentness of gay men in some ways. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing – we all have commonalities and differences. Also, this is not to say that non-gay naturists are bigoted; in fact, the opposite is probably true. Rather, my point is that this type of self-imposed segregation suggests that gay men are different from other naturists, and that they might not play well with others.
So why the segregation? As I mentioned above, one reason is that so many naturists organizations restrict the membership of “single” males.** While a gay man might be in a relationship, for the purposes of membership, a male without a female companion is generally considered single. Another reason for the segregation is that some gay men express emotions ranging from mild discomfort to outright disgust with the female form. As a result, they are unlikely to attend mixed-sex naturist events. This sort of attitude is not substantially different from the “I went to a nude beach and the old fat people were gross” perspective.**
What about sex? Aren’t gay men sex hounds? Do their nude events just devolve into orgies?** I don’t think so. Any naturist organization worth its salt wouldn’t allow that type of behavior to occur at a club event. I’ll address this topic more fully in the future, but for now I just want to point out that gay naturists come in the same shapes and sizes as the general naturist population.** It’s not as if bunch of muscle-bound pretty boys looking for action wouldn’t be able to find that activity via other venues. I should also clarify that I am not asserting that people with less than perfect bodies aren’t interested in sex.)
What, if anything, can or should be done to address the segregation between gay-oriented and non-gay-oriented groups? Is it an issue that even needs to be dealt with? Probably not. It’s unlikely that those venues and organizations with single male limits will change their policies soon (for better or worse). And for those gay men who are uncomfortable around nude females, it could be intimidating to attend a mixed-sex event. But these attitudes and policies can change over time. One good way to address the subject is by holding interorganizational events. Minnesota Naturists and Naked Minnesota sometimes hold joint events, for example.
What do you think? Is the separation of gay naturists okay? It’s a primarily self-imposed segregation, not something actively or ideologically enforced by non-gay groups. Even if all naturist groups had no membership restrictions, it’s likely these groups would still exist, because they serve a particular segment of the naturist population. In economic terms, there’s a demand for these groups in the naturist market. There’s nothing to stop Asian naturists from starting their own groups; there are a number of Christian naturist groups that might be uncomfortable for a non-Christian to attend.
I guess one way to look at it is not as an issue of segregation, but rather as a case of specialization.
* Site includes a soundtrack; see my post on naturism and the web, as well as Nudiarist’s post on the same topic.
** I’ll address these topics in later posts.