protest of proposed ban
by David-Elijah Nahmod
Self-described urban nudists gathered in Jane Warner Plaza at Market and Castro streets over the weekend to protest the anti-nudity ban proposed by Supervisor Scott Wiener.
The mood of the rally, dubbed a nude-in, was generally upbeat, with some of the nudists expressing concerns over their right to express themselves. The nudists were primarily male, though a small number of women participated in the afternoon event. The age range of the nudists varied from people in their 20s to senior citizens. About 100 people, including a few clothed supporters, were in attendance, the majority of whom were in the buff.
Desmond Perrotto, who is not one of the nudists passersby have observed in the plaza for the past two years, organized the Saturday, October 20 nude-in. Perrotto, a Mr. SF Leather titleholder, feels that Wiener's proposed law goes too far.
"People come to the Castro to be gay," he said in a telephone interview with the Bay Area Reporter before the rally. "People feel safe here."
Perrotto expressed concern that if the nudity ban passes, it could impede the ability of leather community members to walk to the bars in their chaps, which do cover their genitals but expose their buttocks.
Wiener said it was doubtful that would happen.
"My intent is not to interfere with people's ability to wear chaps," Wiener said last week. "I don't see any chance that the police will stop someone on their way to the Powerhouse."
Wiener told the B.A.R. that he intends to meet with members of the leather community in order to address their concerns. He also said that "a strong majority" of neighborhood residents supported the ban.
"I've heard that businesses have been affected by the presence of the nudists," Wiener said. "I don't have the numbers, but I've heard from the Castro Theatre that the nudists are negatively affecting their attendance."
Castro Theatre general manager Keith Arnold did not respond to emails seeking comment on the issue. The B.A.R. stopped by the theater at the conclusion of the nude-in and was told that he wasn't at the theater that day.
The nudists and Wiener have been in disagreement since the issue came to a head this summer. An increasing number of nudists congregating in the Castro correlated with the rise in complaints about their behavior and led Wiener to determine that his proposed nudity ban is warranted, he told the B.A.R. in an interview earlier this month.
A naked mad handed out a flier at the nude-in that accused the supervisor of lying. The flier further claims that Wiener's supporters are "a handful of well-heeled yuppies and neurotic prudes." The nudists are fearful that street fairs and parades will be targeted if the ban passes, though the proposed law specifies that such events would be exempt from the ban.
Erin O'Neill is a 57-year-old lesbian who's lived in the Castro for 22 years. Though fully clothed at the nude-in, she expressed her support for the nudists.
"I don't have a problem with naked people," she said. "I'm more concerned about affordable housing. I've never seen anything sexual here."
George Davis is perhaps the best known of the nudists. The former mayoral candidate raised eyebrows when he campaigned for office in the buff in 2007. He considers nudity to be a right, and has no problem if children in the neighborhood see him nude. He opposes putting clothing on children.
"Making children ashamed of their God-given bodies is child abuse," he said, as he chatted and posed for photos in his birthday suit.
Jack Millam, a local gay father, took issue with Davis's statement.
"I take abuse seriously," Millam said. "For him to minimize abuse tells me that he's not thoughtful about abuse. Abuse is oppressive. As a gay man in a gay community, I'm bummed out. As a gay man with children, I'm comfortable with my boys being exposed to nudity within a private safe space. I want them to be comfortable with the human physique, but it has to be in a safe and private environment. I have an issue with this because it's not safe. They're advertising their nudity. It's performance."
David Lago, who is not gay, is father of a 2-year-old daughter. He also took issue with public nudity, and with Davis's statement.
"Public nudity is not a gay right," Lago said. "It's a choice made to draw attention to his campaign. It is difficult for me to support people or causes which encourage that type of thoughtless, radical, offensive behavior. I feel that Mr. Davis is out of touch. The right to censor what children can or should see is a personal choice of the parent that reflects the values, beliefs, and culture they wish to instill in their children."
Lago specified that he supports same-sex marriage, but that the nudists "undermines my confidence in the movement as a whole and the leadership [and] direction it's taking if they choose to support radicals like Davis."
Perrotto is mindful of the feelings of these and other parents, and is hopeful that a compromise can be reached.
"Parents have rights," he said. "But teach your children that the body is not shameful," he said. Perrotto agrees that lewd behavior, such as engaging in any kind of public sexual activity, should be addressed by the police. Some of the Castro nudists have begun wearing cock rings, and Perrotto said that, too, should be an issue for police to determine if local laws have been broken. Under current rules a person can be naked in public as long as they are not aroused.
He pointed out that there are already local laws in place regarding such conduct, and that there's no need for Wiener's proposed law.
"Just standing on a street corner is not lewd," Perrotto said.
The nudists vowed to continue fighting for what they believe is a basic civil right. They urge supporters to converge on City Hall Tuesday, October 30 at noon for a clothing optional art show. Their intent is to display nude works by local artists, as well as classical nude paintings. According to a flier handed out at the nude-in, the purpose of the art show is "to remind the supervisors that the human body is sacred and beautiful, and that an attack on our right to be nude is an attack on sacredness, beauty, love, freedom, art, and creative self expression."
"I completely support their right to protest in the nude," said Wiener. "I don't agree with the statements, but we are an open and diverse neighborhood, and we need to embrace everyone."
The Board of Supervisors will hold a committee hearing on Wiener's proposed ordinance Monday, November 5.