Is bare-chestedness legal here? (Part 1, know your laws.)

Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NYC, NY, Summer 2015.
Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NYC, NY, Summer 2015.

I hear this question a lot.  The answer of course varies from state to state, city to city.

Let me be clear, I have never been arrested and do not wish to be arrested.  I am willing to be arrested, but I have no desire whatsoever to actually be arrested.  I have spent the last two years learning the laws that affect gender equality and bare-chestedness so that I can find soft spots to appear bare-chested enjoyably and also have conversations that keep me from getting arrested or even having the police respond in the first place.

I always start by researching state laws and local ordinances before I go for a walk.  This is usually pretty easy by searching with the keywords, “Indecent Exposure,” “Statute or Law” and “Maryland,” for example. Then I look for the actual code, not just articles or forum conversations on the topic.  I want to know what the language says exactly (as a result I almost always know the law better than the police do.  More on that in a future post.)

Knowing the law makes me feel empowered and comfortable when I walk, which is what I want to feel and what I want people to see.  It also allows me to answer questions with substantive answers when people approach me.

Note: I always thank people for approaching me with questions or comments, even the ones who don’t agree with or feel comfortable with what I am doing.  Having civil conversations deescalates fear and allows us to hear each other, which allows us both to share the actual content of our conversations with other people later.

Understanding law in general can be challenging, especially as it relates to federal law vs. state law vs. local ordinances.  I didn’t pass the BAR (but I know a little bit) and this is what I have learned so far.



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