That’s a word you see in many newspaper articles about naturism, as in many people giggle when the subject of nudists is raised.

Yes, nudists are seen as a somewhat quirky bunch — if not swingers — by much of the world’s population, and the idea of stripping in a social nudism situation makes some uninitiated people giggle.

Another word that caught my attention recently in an article about naturism was “pensioners,” as in “Naturist pensioners are hitting your telly — but will the Great British Skinny Dip convince you to strip off too?

That headline appears over an article in Britain’s Mirror newspaper. It is reporting on a documentary about the efforts of Andrew Welch, the marketing director of the British Naturism organization, to draw more young people to naturism. Welch has started something called the Great British Skinny Dip, a nationwide event held on a September weekend. And the fact that a TV network aired a doc about his efforts shows he is at the very least raising some awareness about naturism, if not stifling some giggles.

But the Mirror article portrays most British naturists as “pensioners,” and says naturism is dying out in the U.K. Think about that for a moment, and think back to when you were, say, 20 years old. Would the idea of stripping and joining a bunch of over-60 people in a social nudism setting have appealed to you? I fear the word “pensioners” in an article about naturism might elicit more groans than giggles, and probably won’t draw many young people to naturism.

On the other hand, the Telegraph does a more thorough job with its report on Welch’s efforts and the documentary. It doesn’t use the word “pensioners,” but it does say this about Welch:

“It’s his job to change minds and address the reputation surrounding a pursuit many dismiss as distinctly odd, conducted at best by elderly eccentrics with an unnerving love of volleyball, or at worst by sex-crazed elderly eccentrics with an unnerving love of volleyball. In reality, they barely even play volleyball.”

And instead of the word “giggles,” it uses “sniggering” in a direct quote by Welch, as in “… we are serious and sensible … we are not going to take all this sniggering any more. Laugh if you wish, but listen to what we have to say.”

I bet a lot of people sniggered when they read that comment.

The Telegraph article goes on to point out that Welch is actually only 51 years old, and that he has “excelled” in his efforts over the years to promote social nudism. It touches on the legal aspects of social nudism, and the need for places where people can practice social nudism in peace. It even mentions the “LGBT” term, in a quote:

“…We want people to follow the lead of LGBT groups and feel proud of it. It isn’t the same, I know, but that spirit of pride and equality is something we need to share.”

Part of the “LGBT” term is used in another report related to Welch’s documentary. The Sun, among others, picked up on the plight of Christine Wright, whose story was told in the film. She was a schoolteacher who was outed to school administrators as a naturist by some “busybody,” and forced into early retirement. In other words, she was a victim of discrimination if not by the school, then certainly by said “busybody.” Christine says this:

“Sometimes I think we’re in the same position the gay community were in 20 years ago. In that although there was nothing unlawful about it, there are some people that think it’s not very nice, and those people that although they’re in a minority they seem to shout louder than the tolerant people that are around.”

Amen to that.

Those comments are, perhaps, the most telling about the plight of naturists around the world: We face a lot of discrimination, much more, in fact, than the LGBT community (of which I am a member) has faced in some ways. And we naturists will never win the rights won by LGBT people anywhere.

Yes, we can follow the lead of LGBT groups and feel pride, as Welch suggests. But forget about equality. It’s never going to happen. Naturists will always be forced into social settings reserved specifically for them, with warning signs for the general public. Think of clothing-optional sections of beaches, for example, as semi-closets, with signs on the doors warning people that naked people are lurking inside.

Let’s be real about this: naturists yearning for a future when we can be naked in most public locations are dreaming. We will always be restricted in where we can appear in our natural state — and in some countries, there will be no such options at all.

— Jillian

Photo: Public sign in Lago Vista, Texas. (Source: Tripadvisor.ca)