"The Full Monty" is a British slang phrase that means "the whole lot." It also refers to a movie and Broadway musical about unemployed English factory workers who become strippers in order to make ends meet. To a lot of people, what makes "The Full Monty" such a hoot is the sight of fat, middle-aged and/or out-of-shape men removing their clothes in public. A society that is uneasy about the human body firmly believes that public nudity, if it is to exist at all, should be limited to the slim, the young and the muscular.
The idea that only super men and wonder women should be allowed to be seen in the buff is held by many so-called "tourists"; those who visit Haulover and other nude beaches just to "see the sights". Once they are there, they are disappointed and outraged by the reality of naturism: "ordinary" men and women who socialize, sun, swim, and picnic in the nude. From slim to fat, 18 to 80, you see them all.
I am a long-time nudist, who does my best to be naked as often as the law and courtesy allow. But I am in my mid-fifties, and overweight. All this does not keep me from enjoying the freedom and the pleasure of being naked. I am very happy with my body - though I am always trying to lose weight - and enjoy the freedom and comfort that the absence of clothes gives me. The same goes for all the naturist men and women who make Haulover and other nude beaches what they are today. Those who only want to see buff models in the buff should visit a sex club, or rent a DVD.
My life as a nudist goes back a long way, almost as long as my life as an out gay man. During the 1970's, nudism was generally associated with sex orgies and the bathhouse culture, and to this day the term "nudist club" is often thought to be an euphemism for "sex club". There is not a gay male nudist club around that doesn't have to deal with the issue of sex at club-sponsored events. Some clubs forbid sex altogether, others limit it to certain hours, and others allow it from the word go. "Safe sex", of course, is always a given.
My life as a nudist began in earnest in 1981, when I answered an ad in a South Florida bar rag that sought to establish a gay nudist club. The club was the Everglades Rawhides, and I became one of the founding officers. AIDS had not yet reared its ugly head, and the Rawhides did well during its first five years. The second half of the Rawhides' decade-long existence was not so good, as many of the early members died of AIDS complications and the club itself deteriorated into a private procuring service for its president. I was gone from the Rawhides by then, having temporarily dropped out of organized nudism for the pleasures of married life in 1985.
Though I was not involved in a nudist club for a while, I continued to bare it all at home and at clothing optional resorts like Key West's Island House for Men. In any case, my break from nudism ended in 1992 when the Gold Coast Bare Skins were created to replace the now-defunct Rawhides. Here again I became a "founding member", though other commitments have kept me from serving on the Board. Like other groups, the Bare Skins have had their good times and bad times, though it seems to be holding its own. I am also a member of Wildfyre, the largest group of its kind. These and others like them give me and other gay and bisexual nudists opportunities to have a good time, meet like-minded men, and be naked as often as possible.
Through my involvement with local nudist clubs, I became familiar with the naturist movement and naturist organizations, both gay and mainstream. I have been a member of GNI (Gay Naturists International) for over half a decade, though job obligations have sadly kept me from attending its annual summer Gatherings. I am also a member of South Florida Free Beaches/Florida Naturist Association, the entity responsible for making Haulover one of our country's leading clothing-optional beaches. Being on the fringe themselves, "straight" nudists tend to be gay-friendly, though of course they run the gamut. Some "family" nudist camps keep single men out, while others welcome gay men (and lesbians) with open arms. There are also naturist political action committees, for nudism remains a hot target for pressure groups and pandering politicians. Thanks to groups like SFFB/FNA, many naturists of all genders and sexual orientation can enjoy nude recreation in their own home towns.
Public nudity, like GLBT rights, is a controversial topic. Through the years religious bigots and their representatives in office have repeatedly tried to close down clothing-optional beaches, often successfully. Even Haulover and other resorts we take for granted remain at the mercy of the politicians and the developers. The fight for public and recreational nudism is not an easy one, but it is not without its benefits. At least it brought together all men and women who believe in individual rights, whether lesbian or gay, bisexual or heterosexual.
This post originally ran on September 16, 2008, on Bilerico-Florida; img flickr