Turtle’s Own Words: Going Bare-chested in Pittsburgh

 

Frick Dog
Frick Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 2016. Our first outing after receiving confirmation from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police legal department that female bare-chestedness is legal in Pennsylvania.

Gingerbread came up to visit Pittsburgh last weekend.

We’d just gotten the confirmation from the city’s legal department that female bare-chestedness was legal, the culmination of a conversation that began with her trip to Pittsburgh in December to talk to some of the officers from the police force.

(The response from PBP Legal Department read: CONCLUSION There is no City or State law which expressly prohibits or even addresses the act of appearing bare-breasted in public. Based upon the information provided to the Law Department, the City does not appear to have any legal grounds under the City Code or Title 18 (i.e. the Commonwealth’s Crimes Code) to cite or arrest women for being bare-chested without any additional sexual or criminal behavior associated therewith. The City is preempted from regulating criminal conduct on its own so we only have state law with which to work.)

This visit we were going to test the grounds for the first time officially.

If you’d have asked me when I was 15 if I thought I would be walking around Pittsburgh bare-chested, I would’ve been infinitely confused and sent into a pit of befuddlement. My mother raised me to always care about what others thought of you, so I had body image issues for a while and a lot of anxiety doing anything that might have made me not ‘under-the-radar.’ A year or two ago, starting with my sister’s support and later walking around my dorm floor bare-chested, my inhibitions started to vaporize, along with a lot of reflection.

I’ve done several peaceful bare-chested stints around Pittsburgh before, most under the protection of hundreds of scantily clad bikers on the Pittsburgh Underwear Bike Ride (I don’t wear bras, what can I say?). One of my solo stints, in November 2015, however, landed me threatened with disorderly conduct by Pitt campus police, which is what spurred me to contact Gingerbread through her blog for help. I had also done two other uneventful outings, one sitting on a bench bare-chested sewing my pants, and the other walking through a local park with my sister. However, to avoid police miscommunications and all, I put off any more bare-chested bike rides and walks until we got the confirmation from Pittsburgh Police of our assertions in writing.

MARCH 22, 2016: CONFIRMED.  BEING BARE-CHESTED IS LEGAL FOR EVERYONE IN PENNSYLVANIA!!!!

Frick 1
Frick Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 2016. We had a peaceful, warm, uneventful evening. We met a lot of friendly couples and families and several awesome dogs. The police saw us and left us alone, a great confirmation of the understanding.

Four days after receiving that confirmation, on a Saturday morning, we went to the police station of the zone we were going to take our walk later that day. I was super nervous about interacting with the police, but Gingerbread did the talking (I observed for reference for future interactions) and the officers went with it. While waiting for the day to warm up, we went to the local bike co op (my love my life) where we met our mutual friend (he was the one who showed me Gingerbread’s blog), then rode down to the park.

Being bare-chested in public doesn’t make me nervous anymore. Especially after frequenting crowded music festivals where no one cares if you’re bare-chested, you stop worrying. The weirdest part for me is how to seem normal about it when I take my shirt off. I feel like that moment where I take my shirt off in an area where I know people aren’t used to it is when everyone’s eyes accidentally look at me and are like ‘Woooooaaaa what?’ Either way, we got to the park and decided to set up camp in a field. This way, if people wanted to avoid us, they could see us from afar and detour, or if they wanted to approach, they could. I felt calm after my shirt was off. I thought I should take off my fingerless bike gloves too, but I would’ve felt more exposed without them on than I felt bare-chested (the consequence of spending half my time on a bike).

Note from Gingerbread: Plus the gloves were just so punk.

We played Frisbee, largely uneventfully except for the polite and curious couple we talked to and the nearby police (who watched, then left.)  We also met Frisbee Ninja when I accidentally shot it straight at a passerby, who caught it nimbly. He joined us for a bit.

Leaving the park (calling it a day on our bare-chested excursion since it went so well and was getting chilly with the shadows) I didn’t really feel like I’d done too much. After all, this was how I liked to be, it was normal for me to be bare-chested. Still, realizing that this is uncharted territory and that we had a successful and positive excursion was great. It felt good. I also realized that while going bare-chested in Pittsburgh had been the goal of the day, it wasn’t even really the crowning jewel.  

It was just a really awesome day, with really awesome people, bikes, good food and shared stories, and of course, some bare-chestedness. I felt like the coolest part of the day was getting to show Gingerbread and her fiance some of Pittsburgh through my bikey lenses and seeing how much of our lives and values overlapped. Also, riding in a group of four at the end of the day felt so empowering on the road and spurred what was probably my happiest moment of the day.

Can’t ask for much more than a Saturday of bikes with friends.

~ Turtle

https://mail.google.com/_/scs/mail-static/_/js/k=gmail.main.en.KAG1eRZHr9o.O/m=m_i,t,it/am=PiMeCZj_e38wrjME0EofqDDvvee7J-Vnzz3-f2cCROpVwP_N_h_A_8HetIUC/rt=h/d=1/rs=AHGWq9CWTrSDCFZEynT9qzaGorqABQSsPQhttps://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&view=bsp&ver=ohhl4rw8mbn4https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&view=bsp&ver=ohhl4rw8mbn4

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Chelsea Covington Mar 21

You up?

Angela Urban

Mar 22

to me
Hey, sorry I don’t have wifi at home. Stu mentioned you’d be in contact. My number is 412-608-6914 if that works better than email.

On Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 10:36 PM, Chelsea Covington <breastsarehealthy@gmail.com> wrote:

You up?

Chelsea Covington Mar 22

I was going to text you but I didn’t want to wake you if you were already asl…
Angela Urban Mar 22

This is awesome! Thank you so much for all of this 😀 I am free this Saturday…
Chelsea Covington Mar 22

That’s great. I’m emailing back and forth with Officer Stevwing to see if we …
Angela Urban Mar 22

Sounds good! Sure! I’m really warm-blooded and heat up a lot when I’m biking …
Chelsea Covington Mar 22

Sweet. Your sister would be awesome to have along. And yes we are bringing bi…
Angela Urban Mar 22

Cool! I’m usually rushing around on main roads, but I know a lot of the side …
Chelsea Covington Mar 22

Stir fry and eggs sounds great. No big fuss. We are easy. We can certainly dr…
Angela Urban Mar 23

Cool! Sounds good. Dusquesne isnt awful pretty as a campus, but near it is an…
Chelsea Covington Mar 23

He seemed to say that they would only spread the word among the police if “so…
Angela Urban Mar 23

Sounds good! In that case i think the bike trail is a good idea. Away from th…
Chelsea Covington Mar 24

May I have your address? We are looking at the map of pittsburgh and trying t…
Angela Urban Mar 24

It is 5 bayard rd pittsburgh, pa 15213. Theres a little loop of parking surro…
Angela Urban Mar 24

Also my sister cannot come, but Stu and I are discussing the addition of mayb…
Chelsea Covington Mar 24

Okies 🙂
Chelsea Covington Mar 28 (13 days ago)

Couple things, great email from Stevwing, I cc’ed you on my response. He says…
Angela Urban Mar 28 (13 days ago)

Awesome! I will keep in contact with zone 4 and contact the university police…
Angela Urban Mar 28 (13 days ago)

Also, here is my draft to the university police (found the chief’s email, heh…
Angela Urban Mar 28 (13 days ago)

Also can I mention Jeff in my article thing? If I do, how do I do that? I don…
Chelsea Covington Mar 28 (13 days ago)

That’s an awesome email. Good job. I think I would only suggest just giving h…
Angela Urban Mar 29 (12 days ago)

AGH I SENT IT AAAAH so nervous
Chelsea Covington Mar 29 (12 days ago)

Even if they don’t agree at first, they pretty much have to agree eventually….
Angela Urban Mar 30 (11 days ago)

how long do you think I should wait until i send it to another member of the …
Chelsea Covington Mar 30 (11 days ago)

I usually wait a week. Chiefs are busy, typically. He may be out of the offic…
Chelsea Covington Apr 4 (6 days ago)

Okay, I posted my article for the Pitt trip. It looks good.
Angela Urban Apr 4 (6 days ago)

Awesome! I have a little article written up myself, I just wana proofread a bit

Angela Urban

AttachmentsApr 4 (6 days ago)

to me
and here it is! leme know what you think/if you think i should add/take out stuff or if there are grammar errors or such
Attachments area
Chelsea Covington Apr 4 (6 days ago)

I love it. That’s really good. And I absolutely love that you celebrate the m…
Angela Urban Apr 4 (6 days ago)

I don’t mind at all! You can change that word, slip on my part and I totally …
Chelsea Covington Apr 4 (6 days ago)

We are watching the video now. We all look very happy. It’s fun to watch for …
Angela Urban Apr 4 (6 days ago)

Sounds great! Let me know when you post it. I’m excited too. I can’t wait for…
Angela Urban Apr 5 (5 days ago)

So your post about being in Pgh was shared on FB by like 5 of my friends 😄 T…
Chelsea Covington Apr 5 (5 days ago)

Wow. Yeah, it’s gone crazy on Facebook today. This happened only one other ti…
Angela Urban Apr 5 (5 days ago)

Even gotopless shared it (and covered our nipples :p but at least fb cant tak…
Chelsea Covington Apr 5 (5 days ago)

Ha. I am not the biggest fan of GoTopless but they keep trying to get me to j…
Angela Urban Apr 5 (5 days ago)

Yea, I feel. I don’t know how I feel about them really, but I follow them for…
Chelsea Covington Apr 5 (5 days ago)

Title IX coordinator? haha. That’s hilarious in a way. The chief of police is…

Angela Urban

Apr 5 (5 days ago)

to me

I didn’t really know what it was, but I knew it had to do with equality stuff. But that really is funny that he’s just like ”eeeeeeh cant talk about this take it away!”

Yea, I’m just worried that she’s gonna be like ok, whatever do it, but that no one will tell the officers and I’ll get harassed again.
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Page 1 of 2

Gingerbread and Jeff came up to visit Pittsburgh last weekend (March 26ish). We’d just gotten

the confirmation from the city’s legal department that female bare-chestedness was legal, thanks to

their trip to Pittsburgh in December to talk to some of the officers from the police force. This time we

were going to test the grounds for the first time officially.

If you’d have asked me when I was 15 if I thought I would be scampering around Pittsburgh

bare-chested, I would’ve been infinitely confused and sent into a pit of befuddlement. My mother raised

me to always care about what others thought of you, so I had body image issues for a while and a lot of

anxiety doing anything that might have made me not ‘under-the-radar.’ A year or two ago, starting with

my sister’s support and frolicking around my dorm floor butt-naked, my inhibitions started to vaporize,

along with a lot of reflection.

I’ve done some bare-chested stints around Pittsburgh before, most under the protection of

hundreds of scantily clad bikers on the Pittsburgh Underwear Bike Ride (I don’t wear bras, what can I

say?). One of my solo stints landed me threatened with disorderly conduct, which is what spurred me to

contact Gingerbread through her blog for help. I’ve done two other eventless rounds of sitting on a

bench bare-chested sewing my pants and walking through a local park with my sister. However, to avoid

police miscommunications and all, I put off any more bare-chested bike rides and walks until we got the

confirmation of our assertions in writing.

BEING BARE-CHESTED IS LEGAL FOR EVERYONE!!!!

Saturday morning we went to the police station of the zone we were going to take our walk

later that day. I was super nervous, but Gingerbread did the talking (I observed for reference for future

interactions) and the officers went with it. While waiting for the day to warm up, we went to the local

bike co op (my love my life) where we met our mutual friend (he was the one who showed me

Gingerbread’s blog), then rode down to the park.

Being bare-chested in public doesn’t make me nervous anymore. Especially after frequenting

crowded music festivals where no one cares if you’re naked, you stop worrying. The weirdest part for

me is how to seem normal about it when I take my shirt off. I feel like that moment where I take my

shirt off in an area where I know people aren’t used to it is when everyone’s eyes accidently look at me

and are like ‘Woooooaaaa what?’ Either way, we got to the park and decided to set up camp in a field.

This way, if people wanted to avoid us, they could see up from far and detour, or if they wanted to

approach, they could. I felt calm after my shirt was off. I thought I should take off my fingerless bike

gloves too, but I would’ve felt more exposed without them on than bare-chested (the consequence of

spending half my time on a bike).

We played Frisbee, largely uneventfully except for the couple we talked to and the nearing

police, though we met Frisbee Ninja when I accidently shot it straight at a passerby, who caught it

nimbly. He joined us for a bit.

Leaving the park (calling it a day on our bare-chested excursion since it went so well and was

getting chilly with the shadows) I didn’t really feel like I’d done too much. After all, this was how I liked

to be, it was normal for me to be bare-chested. Still, realizing that this is uncharted territory and that we

had a successful and positive excursion was great. It felt good. I also realized that the while doing this

was a goal of the day, it wasn’t really the crowning jewel or anything. It was just a really awesome day,

Page 2 of 2

with really awesome people, bikes, good food and shared stories, and of course, with some bare-

chestedness to spice it up a bit. I felt like the coolest part of the day was getting to show Gingerbread

and Jeff some of Pittsburgh through my bikey lenses and seeing how much of our lives and values

overlapped. Also, riding in a group of 4 at the end of the day felt so empowering on the road and

spurred what was probably my happiest moment of the day. Can’t ask for much more than a Saturday of

bikes with friends.

2 of 2
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24 thoughts on “Turtle’s Own Words: Going Bare-chested in Pittsburgh

  1. Your amazing journey continues to be one of courage and inspiration. We hope you continue with your wonderful mission of success and freedom for women everywhere and that society soon realizes that women’s bodies are beautiful vessels and not objects of sexual gratification.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So happy to see Turtle’s take on the day, too! I’m the mutual friend mentioned herein, and wrote my own post describing the events of the afternoon here:
    http://bus15237.blogspot.com/2016/03/bare-chestedness.html

    Men have an important role in normalizing. Study Ginger Bread’s posts, wrap your minds around her approach. Our job is to provide solid, rational understanding to people who can make a difference. There are other Ginger Breads out there, women who would be willing to take up the cause and make things happen, but don’t have the toolset she has so skillfully developed. Ours is to let them know this toolset is here, and gently urge them forward.

    I met Turtle and her sister on a group bike ride last October, and knew from listening to them that they were truly interested in this. I let them know this blog existed, then stepped out of the way. When Ginger Bread visited, I offered what information and help I could provide. I knew something of the political climate and media issues, which I think helped this not become front-page news.

    We don’t want front-page news. There is serious concern about moving too fast. We want to succeed, but that means slow, meaningful progress. No headlines, no protest signs, no yelling, no talking past one another. A frisbee here, lying on a blanket there, one at a time, telling people and quietly going about doing it, armed with the proper information and state of mind. That goes for both genders.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “We want to succeed, but that means slow, meaningful progress. No headlines, no protest signs, no yelling, no talking past one another.”

      Our society is so conditioned to thinking faster is better and that fighting the most obvious symptom is the best route to curing the disease. One of my favorite books is “Seeing Nature” by Paul Krafel. In it he describes how he discovered what he thinks is a relatively general set of principles for creating change, especially change for the better. One of the principles is, “Work high in the watershed.” The concept is that as you move down a causal stream conformity emerges and makes the causal stream ever more powerful. Any individual finds themselves powerless to oppose the causal stream. One person, or five people or even a hundred Femen blocking a street and protesting angrily in front of 200 riot police, with all the power that is backing up those riot police, are nearly doomed to fail. But Gingerbread talking peacefully to one upset woman about how harmless her breasts are to that woman’s children, has a high probability of success. Doing that over and over and over again, can divert huge amounts of causal stream, draining the power from behind those riot police. The riot police are only there, after all, because of the societal norms that motivate individuals (like the woman worried about her children above) to write to aldermen and congressmen. Drain away that motivation and the riot police just won’t show up. Instead a couple of bicycle police will show up to direct traffic.

      The second principle that Paul “discovered” is really just an old Judo principle, “Do not oppose but instead offer a new path.” The interesting thing, is that he discovered it while working to reduce erosion in a gorge. Instead of opposing the water, he offered it new paths, spreading out and dissipating its power (high in the watershed). The same thing is happening here. Gingerbread, is offering each person she meets a new path. Some take the new path, some don’t . For some the new path is tolerance, for others it is participation. Either divert the tiny causal chains that radiate from individuals. Instead of contributing to the conformist, intolerant, body-shaming mainstream, these individuals begin to contribute to the radical tolerance and body-positive new stream.

      Another of Paul’s principles is that as you work, you will find there are many others working toward the same goal. This is the principle of hidden allies. It is all summed up in Paul’s Gaia’s whisper which I posted on SolSeed’s wiki: http://wiki.solseed.org/Weekly_Service_Call_Readings#Gaia.27s_Whisper_from_Reversing_Spirals_in_Seeing_Nature_by_Paul_Krafel

      Thank you, Gingerbread, Turtle, Bus15237 and all the allies who are emerging!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Those are just nicknames. I’m a redhead, so my friends call me Gingerbread. So I use that as my blogging name. My friend from Pittsburgh goes by Turtle for her online stuff. And so on with the other women too. Thanks for visiting the blog! Welcome. I hope you enjoy reading what you find here.

      Like

  3. Excellent account of your day. I hope it’s the first of many for you and many other women and girls who wanted to do it but weren’t sure how. Now you know you can sunbathe, read, play frisbee or just generally walk around top free completely legally, it must be a relief and lead to a genuine sense of excitement.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Turtle said: “…riding in a group of four at the end of the day felt so empowering on the road and spurred what was probably my happiest moment of the day. ”

    I looked back through my video from that day, and I do have the bike ride! We four had gathered at the Free Ride bike collective that afternoon around 2, and helped fix a few bikes. Turtle volunteers there, and Jeff also is pretty handy with bikes, so we helped several people work on their bikes. Then off we went to the park! It was only about a 10-minute ride from one to the other, but I turned the camera on, just because. I’m glad I did! It was a pleasant little ride. We even got a bit of a couple of motorists unhappy with an inadvisable turn at one point — which had nothing to do with us, though we had front-row seats. (You hear me really well throughout, as the camera was on a chest harness.)

    Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTkuCRxgNrA

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Have you ever tried walking in Rhode Island? It seems to be legal by state law. I just looked up Providence city ordinances which says it’s illegal in establishments serving alcohol (obviously not a park), but just defers to state law in regards to swimming. I couldn’t find any listings for RI county law. I’d love to join a group– I think they’re helpful for making anxious people feel at ease.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We were literally just talking about Rhode Island. That’s awesome. Must be a sign! Are you interested in walking bare-chested if we can secure a confirmation of legality? Would you be willing to help me talk to the police? It seems to work best if I can explain that I am contacting them because local women are interested in topfreedom … Feel free to email me at breastsarehealthy@gmail.com if you would prefer to talk there. Thank you for doing this research. It’s great and encouraging.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ginger Bread’s and Turtle’s efforts are paying off. Entirely independently of the March 26 outing, we have started to see a few bare-chested women riding in the monthly “underwear ride”. The Undies Rides started a few years back, since nobody was quite willing to take on the effort of forming a naked ride, but immediately, this became the biggest regularly held ride in the city. Lots of bras and bikins, but now we’re seeing a smattering of bare-chested riders, as well.

    Here is a quick video taken just a few blocks from the start of the ride. I think about 225-250 riders, about 40% of them female (rough estimate). Five of those are topfree. Can you find them all?

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Wow! Just found your blog and think it’s amazing. I’m a Pittsburgher through and through. I find your blog thoroughly inspirational and right on target. I’m a photographer among other things and have photographed women outdoors in the Pittsburgh area top free and never knew that it didn’t have the legal risks attached to it. I’m an advocate of top freeness and am always trying new and innovative approaches to photographing my models showing strength, courage, and the inner soul of the model and not just the fact that she isn’t wearing a top. I’ve also desired to do a shoot showing women in everyday situations and being topfree trying to draw more attention to their activities than their lack of wearing appareal. I believe this can be instrumental with public acceptence of this. I love what you’re doing. Maybe you’ll see me shooting some time. HA!

    Like

    1. So two things… 🙂 Welcome and thank you, and also please see the comment under the Why I Walk Bare-Chested Where Men Don’t thread from bus15237 who is also from PGH, is a dear friend, a long, long time supporter of topfreedom and was instrumental in our success there in PGH. He has a private FB link for PGHers to connect. Would you be willing to share some of your photography with me? breastsarehealthy@gmail.com or if they are online somewhere I’d love to look through them. I love the idea of doing normal things bare-chested for many reasons. I’ve not done any posed shoots, and if and when I do I owe first dibs to a friend in NYC who has been very supportive of me and the cause both, but I love the idea for what that’s worth to you 🙂 Keep in touch. Perhaps we shall cross paths up there in PGH someday.

      Like

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