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!!!!
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.