How Long Should You Wait To Tell The World You're A Nudist?

First in a series

Have you ever thought about why you enjoy being a nudist or naturist so much? If so, you probably used terms like a "sense of freedom," "pleasure," "relaxation," and "self-acceptance." Or, you may have thought of naturism as a safe, natural and healthy environment for children. It could be the welcoming atmosphere no matter which club or beach you visit or the friendly, supportive, and caring friends you have met. You probably can think of many more reasons. Surely you have wished that everyone could feel the same as you and that you could say without reservation "Hey world, I'm a nudist!"

Acknowledging an alternative way of life (or "coming out") as a nudist or naturist may make you feel vulnerable because you are sharing personal information or feelings with others without truly knowing how they will react. Many naturists keep their nude activities secret from their parents, children, other relatives and even friends. They often worry that someone will accidentally find out, or that people will ask about the "camp" they go to on weekends, ask to be invited or say they want to come along on one of the next trips. Unfortunately, when you can't be totally honest, you find yourself lying, making excuses or being forced to tell the truth under very unfavorable circumstances. This is not only stressful but also harmful to relationships, especially if the other party finds out and recognizes your lack of trust in them. In addition, keeping your nudism a secret gives the appearance of an admission of guilt..."Why else wouldn't you have told me?" Most agree it would be far more beneficial if naturists could discuss their mode of living openly and without fear of repercussion.

There are many benefits to being "out." These are just a few examples:

  • Allows you to retain integrity knowing you are being genuine with family, friends and those you care about.
  • Being truthful and open can produce feelings of trust and confidence that build strong bonds.
  • Eliminates the anxiety about having your nudist activities divulged by an individual who accidentally discovers your involvement while browsing the Internet.
  • Allows you to feel comfortable with your way of life.
  • Eliminates the fear of meeting a friend or coworker at a nudist event.
  • You can freely speak of your activities with pride and enthusiasm.
  • Puts you in control of how and when you share your information.
  • You can be an advocate for nude recreation and recruit different populations such as families, friends, and young adults.
  • Facilitates full participation in all aspects of nudist activities and use of one's full name or a photo in nudist publications.
  • You won't feel guilty because you prefer to be with your nudist friends because you can invite your non-nudist friends to join you.
  • Lastly, once most of your friends know, you will have the pleasure of watching others' reactions when you casually mention something that suggests you are a nudist.

As each person publicly discloses his or her nudism, it begins to create a more positive opinion among non-nudists. Friends, relatives and colleagues will now realize they know someone who both practices naturism but is also the very same person they may have known for years and have come to admire, respect or love. Additionally, as nudism becomes a more understood and acceptable mode of living, it helps to alter the archaic restrictive rules that governments and societies have foisted upon the nudist community. In turn, it ultimately leads to a more safe, secure and nonjudgmental existence for all of us who enjoy the right to be clothes-free in appropriate places.

Barriers To Acknowledging Your Nudism

Of course, there are instances when not disclosing that you are a nudist seems to be the safest choice. Some naturists do not expect to ever reveal their nudist activities because they work for employers or belong to religious organizations that would never approve. Today, the Internet and social media such as Facebook and Twitter are rapidly eroding the expectation or guarantee of privacy, and the chance of someone's "cover being blown" increases almost daily. Sharing that you are a nudist is a serious decision, especially if you are part of the group who would suffer unacceptable consequences even if your admission were proper and sensitively framed. This population includes teachers in communities with moral turpitude laws, employees of religious groups or small privately owned businesses with strong dogmatic opposition to nudity, and individuals whose relatives have deep-seated religious or cultural views against nudity.

To better prepare for unexpected disclosure, people who might encounter punitive responses should analyze potential situations and plan their responses in advance, using some of the strategies that will be shared in future articles. For example, they may consider gaining experience and confidence by telling a few people with whom they feel safe. If they have friends with influence on an employer or organization, they should consider them allies and include them as well because in sensitive situations, it is often effective when a respected individual states, "I've known for years that he was a nudist. You've always considered him a valuable employee/member. Nothing has changed, so what is your concern?"

An important objective when discussing your naturism is to promote knowledge, a positive attitude and comfort with the fact that you enjoy nude recreation and believe it to be a normal, wholesome activity. It is tempting to try convincing people that they too should become nudists and perhaps at a later and more opportune time you might consider the challenge of inviting friends to experience nude recreation. However, your goal at this time is acceptance. Disclosure is not an all or nothing process. You can initially come out only to your "safest" friends and then, as you feel comfortable, progress to others. Before you know it, you will be sharing with numerous friends. And what if one of them tells someone else? No problem. They will probably do it in a casual conversation that implies they are totally cool with it—and they will have saved you the effort of telling the person yourself.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, most of us are much safer out in the open than living with a secret. Often, individuals whose nudism has been disclosed without their permission recognize too late that being secretive has given their opponent total control of how their way of life was revealed. You can begin the sharing process by asking yourself, "Why am I a nudist?" It's amazing how many people can't answer that question! Just think about it, write it all down and then edit it into a 30-second "elevator speech" that you are prepared to give should the situation arise. This technique is just one of many that will appear in the next issue's Part II to help you inform people you are a nudist, feel less vulnerable when you are doing so, and produce a more positive outcome. As for how long you should wait to tell people—by the end of the series you should be able to answer that question for yourself!

How Long Should You Wait To Tell The World You're A Nudist? (Part 6)

Sixth in a Series

Part VI

A particular challenge for many people is sharing their nudism with their boss. Part VI addresses some considerations as well as strategies that will promote successful disclosure to an employer.

Telling your employer

There are two principles to keep in mind before deciding to tell your employer. First, discretely check company policy on outside activities such as social activism in the unlikely event that your activity might be considered against company protocol. Second, voluntary disclosure to your boss should always occur off company property in a social situation so the boss can consider it "unofficial" and feel less obligated to report it if he or she feels it violates company policy.

Many nudists stay secretive because they think this is the safest protection from an employer finding out and reacting negatively. Perhaps that was true prior to the Internet and social media, but today much private information is readily available online.  Thus, if you can acknowledge your naturism by your own choice and on your own terms, you can control the message, the time, the place, the atmosphere and the readiness of the recipient. However, if you allow someone else to disclose your nudism, it may be done in a very negative fashion, requiring the difficult action of damage control. 

If you know your employer socially, you already have a good start. If not, consider developing a social friendship through a company sports league, religious or volunteer organization, PTA or other group that your boss participates in. Then find a private time (outside the office) when you can converse without interruptions. Unless you are certain the boss will be personally accepting of the disclosure, use the techniques described for difficult situations.

Recognize that your employer may need to defend you if someone “outs” you to him or her, so provide key messages that refute common objections. Your goal is promoting the employer's comfort and support so if someone reveals your nudism, your employer will naturally respond, “Oh, I’ve known that for ages---I’m surprised a savvy person like you didn’t know it as well. What’s your point, anyway?”  The informer, who has probably reacted negatively to the discovery and assumes the boss will too, is now on the defensive, and by not anticipating an unconcerned or indifferent reaction from the boss, is unprepared to respond. If the individual's opinion differs from that of the boss, it may cause fear of disapproval---something most people avoid...and lead to the informer's development of more favorable attitudes.

Keep in mind that disgruntled employees have used discussion of nudist activities as a basis for sexual harassment charges, so those activities should never be discussed on company property, especially if you have any supervisory control over others.

Other strategies

Obviously, you can use any of the techniques described throughout the series in a variety of situations where they seem appropriate. Cognitive dissonance and social norming are two additional techniques to convince doubtful people of the validity of your nudist activities.

Cognitive dissonance describes the psychological discomfort (or dissonance) that results when an individual's knowledge or beliefs differ from what the individual actually does. Discomfort occurs when people want to be truthful about their nudism because of their positive experiences and knowledge but they either publicly deny it because they fear rejection, or they remain silent when hearing disparaging comments about naturism. Reducing discomfort requires speaking up about their nudism, rationalizing their silence, ignoring the message or discrediting the messenger.  While the most positive resolution is speaking up, many people find reasons that are not always valid to justify their silence or they simply pretend the misinformation doesn't bother them. 

Cognitive dissonance also occurs when credible new information challenges an individual's existing beliefs or attitudes.  For example, when people admit to friends or family that they are nudists and then get a negative response, they can deliberately create discomfort by asking whether learning this fact changes the listeners' feelings or opinion about them.  The listener must then weigh the conflict between caring for and thinking positively of the individual against the negative beliefs about the new information. The resolution requires accepting the person along with the new knowledge or rejecting the person, a less desirable response.  Often, one hears the following compromise resolution: "I am totally OK with anything that makes you happy, but it isn't something I am interested in."

Social norming recognizes that people belong to, identify with and want to feel part of a group. They generally uphold the group's social norms (that is, their beliefs, behaviors and attitudes) and are hesitant to do things or hold opinions that alienate them from their peers. Thus, if individuals are uncomfortable with your nudism but discover that their peers, people they respect, or the group you are telling are OK with it, they are less likely to set themselves apart by opposing it.

Individuals may also be influenced by credible evidence that social nudity is more widely accepted than they realize, particularly when their peers have accepted this as well. TNS and AANR both have data by respected pollsters that demonstrate society’s broad acceptance. AANR occasionally plants tidbits in popular publications like “more people would like to visit a nude beach than learn to play golf on their next vacation.”  Memorizing similar brief catchy 'sound bites' and being ready to quote them when appropriate will strengthen your position that "nude is normal".

Whether acknowledging you are a nudist or responding to a comment, act as if most people already support you and your naturism is simply a new and interesting personal dimension that you have chosen to share with others.

Part VII is the last article of this series.  It includes two final strategies and addresses ways to reflect on, evaluate and even enhance the approaches you have used to tell the world you are a nudist.  Sample statements are included to reinforce positive reactions you may have gotten.

Editor’s Note: This article and other articles in this series are based on the work of the Joint AANR/TNS Ad Hoc Committee on Sharing Your Naturism.