The Maryland Topfreedom Conversation (Hi, neighbors!)

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Ocean City, Maryland, September 2016. I’ve gone bare-chested in Ocean City between 20 and 30 times in the last two years. By and large people ignored me, as they should.

I just received an E-mail from a female Marylander which opened with, “Hello… today I saw the OC Coastal Dispatch article regarding [topfreedom] and it mentioned you…”

And I was like… the what??

Because that’s one of my local papers!

And then I was like, well that would explain the blog metrics today 🙂

Sure enough, Shaun Soper (who I have always respected as a professional journalist, and still do) of the Coastal Dispatch wrote a factual, non-sensational, accurate article about the Attorney General of Maryland’s pending opinion regarding the legality and constitutionality of female bare-chestedness and equal protection.

So… for all of you Ocean City/Eastern Shore residents visiting my blog for the first time as a result of Mr. Soper’s article, welcome!  Thank you for stopping by.

A couple things about this blog… first is that we pride ourselves on a civil conversational tone in the comments section.  You will find people with differing opinions, but we respect each other and refrain from name-calling or vitriol.  I have never not published a non-spam comment I’ve received, no matter how hostile or mean, but people will hear your opinion much better if it is delivered with considered and mannerly language.  If you “yell” all they will hear is the volume.

Second is that many states around the country already allow women to go bare-chested and in these places a lot of women are indeed going bare-chested.  It’s not really that big of a deal any more, to be honest, even though it felt new at first.  It normalizes and gets boring very quickly, as it should.

Anyway, nutshelling the situation in Maryland, basically Maryland’s constitution protects gender equality with the highest standard in the nation, namely with an “absolute prohibition” on gender discrimination.  This means there exists no justification for treating genders differently when making or enforcing the law.  None.  Only a few other state high courts uphold this standard, and in each of those states, women can and do go bare-chested, including Pennsylvania (and Washington D.C. which doesn’t even use that high standard.)  You can see photos of yours truly walking through Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and the District elsewhere on this blog.

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Ocean City, Maryland, September 2016. One of the young women on the blanket behind us removed her top several times this day, while standing. We didn’t interact at all. Why would we? It’s normal behavior.

Maryland’s indecent exposure statute, which keeps being characterized as “vague” really isn’t vague at all, legally speaking.  It simply says indecent exposure is a misdemeanor without defining the crime.  That is on purpose, and was made that way in 2001 by the Maryland legislature to revert the code back to something called English Common Law, which is basically what the law said at the time of our country’s founding in the late 1700’s.  Lawmakers do this when they want to “reset” or “reboot” a law, and basically wipe out preexisting court cases.  In this case, indecent exposure cases had gotten conflicting results over the years so they just started over.  There is no precedent at all, before or after the reboot, in which a female has been charged, tried or convicted of being simply bare-chested without some other criminal behavior (like being high and assaulting a police officer or something knuckle-headed like that.)

Thing is, the constitution precluded state lawmakers from making gender designations, so they wrote it in this purposefully gender neutral language.  That’s awesome for topfreedom supporters, but the troubling thing is that law enforcement officials I have talked to over the last two years have actually contended that because it is not written that female bare-chestedness is expressly legal, it must be illegal.

Ponder that.

Where else in all of American law is something not defined as legal or illegal assumed to be illegal, as opposed to legal?  The law doesn’t say you can swim in a pool…which means that behavior is legal.  Criminal code describes crimes.  If it isn’t written, it isn’t a crime.

Anyway, old habits die hard.  Police would neither agree that bare-chestedness was legal, nor arrest me so I could test it in court, so we’ve been in this weird limbo for two years. Which is why I have spent the last two years trying to find a way to have the Maryland Office of the Attorney General render an opinion on the topic.  I won’t bore you with the process (someday I will, but not tonight), but finally about a month ago the OAG agreed to render an opinion at the request of the local State’s Attorney.  They said it would take several months to complete.

It all boiled down to the fact that I basically kept going out bare-chested and telling the authorities about it, fully willing to be arrested.  But each time I did, I also offered the more mature and reasonable alternative available in the OAG opinion process and so finally they agreed and requested the opinion.

Maryland constitutional protections of course apply to state and local laws, meaning if the state can’t discriminate, neither can local governments.  I suspect the local governments will still try, or have some serious conversations about how to create discriminatory laws, but the fact remains that the Maryland constitution and high court says clearly men and women are to be treated equally under the law.  No exceptions.

So to the Marylanders here for the first time, thank you for visiting and reading.  Please feel free to read through other articles.  I especially recommend watching my unedited YouTube videos of me walking and biking through Georgetown in Washington D.C. or playing catch at Assateague National Seashore because you will find a public almost completely unaffected by my appearance, which is my goal.  At its core, topfreedom is about creating equality, reducing victim blaming, bullying and body-shaming and to promote body positivity and autonomy in girls and women.  No one is saying women should go bare-chested.  We are saying we should have the choice, as men freely do.

Neither Maryland nor Ocean City will be remotely inventing the wheel on topfreedom or gender equality.  Female breasts are healthy, nurturing body parts.  It will feel new at first, but it will be normal and okay very quickly.

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Ocean City, Maryland, Sept. 2016. I make no special efforts to behave differently than any other beach goer. We have several pictures with this back ground and they are all identical… no one cares what I’m doing. This day did end with a complaint from a passerby to a lifeguard though… my first in two years. Which was a huge favor because it allowed me conversations with beach patrol leadership, police leadership, and finally the State’s Attorney for the county,which led to the Attorney General opinion request. I wasn’t arrested (because Maryland law allows it) and I was finally able to have the conversations I’ve been asking for for years.
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16 thoughts on “The Maryland Topfreedom Conversation (Hi, neighbors!)

  1. Having clarity around the indecency laws of Maryland (and Pennsylvania) would be great. I’m a naturist male and would love to be able to simply swim or go boating nude without fear of prosecution and ending up on the sex offender list. Perhaps if you get to testify, you might seek clarification of non lewd simply nudity as well.

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    1. Hi: Thank you for visiting and commenting. The law in Pennsylvania is clear in this regard. Maryland will be clear in time and probably in the same way. The exposure of genitals is illegal, bare-chestedness is legal. Female bare-chestedness conflates to male bare-chestedness, not to complete male nudity. I wrote on article on this topic a couple months ago… read here. Thank you and be well. C

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    2. you folks might enjoy knowing the Washington law and how it has come to be applied. The washington state law re IE is that IE is intentional and obscene exposure of body parts in a way a person, you, would know is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm. So, different persons get to go nude or nearly nude depending on the context and what is considered reasonable and whether or not he or she would know or regard his or her exposure as being a cause of reasonable affront. However, 20 or 30 some years ago, the police would have interpreted the law more strictly . . . but since it became known and discussed publicly the “reasonable affront” qualification, then, things are dramatically more liberal in Seattle . . . So, if the law is not defined, and if you were challenged, you could say that you wish the washington state definition to be applied or considered!

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      1. I took a look at the wording of the Washington state constitution and indecent exposure law. The constitution is clear enough, but the I.E. law is not. Specifically, it refers to exposing one’s “person”, whatever that is, but then explicitly allows breastfeeding. Here are the respective texts:

        Washington State constitution
        ARTICLE XXXI
        SEX EQUALITY – RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
        SECTION 1 EQUALITY NOT DENIED BECAUSE OF SEX. Equality of rights and responsibility under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.

        Indecent exposure law

        RCW 9A.88.010 Indecent exposure.
        (1) A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm. The act of breastfeeding or expressing breast milk is not indecent exposure.
        (2)(a) Except as provided in (b) and (c) of this subsection, indecent exposure is a misdemeanor.
        (b) Indecent exposure is a gross misdemeanor on the first offense if the person exposes himself or herself to a person under the age of fourteen years.
        (c) Indecent exposure is a class C felony if the person has previously been convicted under this section or of a sex offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030.

        It would really help to have some case law here.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It is one thing to ask for the case law and another realize that the normal application of case law isn’t what is going to happen “here.” 30 or 40 years ago, there was a case in which the Washington state supreme court said that the law meant you had to cover those body parts which other people normally and instinctively tend to cover, approximately. Going by that definition, a person could make the case that the law refers to not showing breasts, butt, genitals and pubes. However, Seattle is a more liberal city that a lot of the rest of the state and there began to be some regular streakers at a yearly Solstice parade. The streakers got away with things for 2 years and were arrested the 3rd year and a lot of the crowd booed the police and then the local DAs choose to not bring charges, based on a lack of intent to be obscene. Things were still in chaos and flux for 5 years. The police and the city tried to threaten and intimidate both the streakers and the parade organizers who began to somewhat condone and tolerate the streaking, and the streakers began to wear body paint as if being artistic, which muddied the waters still further. I sued the chief of police in 2003 asking for a federal court order to tell the police to not off the threats, given that given the nearly 10-year record of the bicycle streaking, it could no longer be considered a reasonable affront to viewers. The suit did not go anywhere in court but it was all over the papers and people started to think about the law and realize I was right and the police (and the city) backed off completely. With that, people going nude or topless at 2 isolated city parks became gradually normal and wearing thongs became accepted even at the main family-and-kids-visited park in the north half of the city. Part of that was another lawsuit I filed against the state, in which I provided an affidavit stating that I had informally asked 7 persons who lived in King County . . . if they were walking or playing at Greenlake . . . and if I were sunbathing or walking in a thong and if pubic hair was visible . . . would they consider it to be a cause of reasonable affront. 4 of 7 said no; 1 of 7 said the law was very unclear, with a smile; 2 of 7 said they would have to think about it. Basically, if I were put on trial, I could put my doctor on the stand to help testify that he had told me my attire in that situation was not a cause of reasonable affront. However, I live in a rich and conservative suburb. Could I wear a half-see-thru mesh thong while at the park in that neighborhood? I don’t know; I have never tried. The police “here” are exceptionally nice and they would probably just talk to me and solve me by strongly encouraging me to wear more, while the police in Seattle itself have simply learned that it does not help anything to pay me any extra attention, given that they have learned I am both harmless to others and I do not engage others in conversation or interaction without their smiling or making eye contact first. So, there is Seattle and Bellevue and Kirkland and there is Yakima and Spokane. Seattle police are understaffed and overworked. They can hardly get the local prosecutor to prosecute shoplifting of less than $750 and the police and crooks know it. People who walk at the lake have gradually accepted that there may be a small bit of brief near-nudity and a woman in fact was breast-feeding one day this summer and another woman did top-free sunbathing a year ago near top-freedom day. This year and in 2015, there were gals who went top-free for top-freedom day at another park–this one is more populated than the clothing-optional parks but with fewer kids than Greenlake. Police were present and did not interfere or say anything discouraging in 2015. In 2016, police did not show up. Maybe that is slightly easier (from the point of view of mental peace) since there are fewer kids under 14 at that park. Anyway, Seattle police are not trying to go by the older case law. Seattle police “try” to prevent conflict and keep 1 in 500 calm . . . and tell the public that a person topless bike-riding or sunbathing is not concern . . . Seattle police would stop a guy from going nude at the sidewalk of a school or even just flashing his butt in the direction school kids at schools . . . but people of all ages now tolerate near-nudity at some parks, when done with the attitude of our friend Covington: present, but not combative or confrontational.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Topfree is legal in many places. However the police will cite someone for exercising that right as “disturbing the peace.” Screaming insults into a crowd are not the same as doing yard work on one’s own property. This is not a matter that depends on an individual police officer’s personal opinion.

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  3. Funnily enough, I read the article before coming here on the off chance you had written about it (it was linked by topfreeliving on Tumblr) and thought it was a very well written, factual, and thought-provoking piece. That, in itself, is an achievement because usually they are accompanied by some degree of sensationalism, whether in photographs or language and similarly in the comment section.

    I wish you well and hope the decision is to uphold the status quo, which is to allow for gender equality and not criminalise something which is, at present, completely legal.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. If Maryland local officials cannot establish a law that differentiates by gender, I am having trouble understanding how it is possible to prevent, by law, a man from entering a women’s public restroom.

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    1. Hi John: Thanks for writing. Based on my couple minutes of research, it doesn’t look like it actually is a crime to enter a bathroom that does not match your assigned gender. At least in most states. Maybe there are states where it is a crime, but I don’t think Maryland is one of them. It looks as if the only way to make it a crime is if it might be considered trespassing if a man, say, were to enter a women’s bathroom, someone were to complain to a security person, that security person asked the man to leave the women’s bathroom or leave the establishment altogether, and that man refused to do so, resulting in the security guard calling actual police, who, at least in Maryland, have to issue a warning on the first trespassing offense. If it happened a second time, then the man in the women’s bathroom could be arrested, but not for being in the women’s bathroom per se, but for being on said property without permission.

      Or maybe you are asking how I can have my cake and eat it too? How I can call for one set of rules for bare-chestedness and two rules for bathrooms? There’s a simple answer, which is for me, I’m okay if men and women shared a restroom. I don’t really buy the safety argument sometimes used against allowing transgender people to choose bathrooms, because it’s not like there’s a metal detector or guard at the entrance of the women’s bathroom. If a bad guy wants to do someone harm in the women’s bathroom, all he has to do is walk in and do the harm. It’s not the sign on the door that stops him. But it is interesting to think about how vulnerable we feel while urinating or defecating. That must be a very primal instinct. We can’t run or fight during that moment. So it makes sense that, if we don’t think much about it, it would feel threatening to have bathrooms open to whoever, but the fact is, they ARE open to whoever. Talking about it makes us aware of that, and that is unsettling. I heard a story once about some muggers who would walk up behind men using a urinal and take their wallets or money or whatever and run, because they had learned that men couldn’t bring themselves to chase them with their penises out or while urinating on themselves. Fascinating, really. Thanks again. Be well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your very intelligent answer. I understand your first point and am in full agreement with the second point (males and females sharing the same restroom). My wife and I are nudists. We go to a resort where there is no separate mens and womens, only one for humans. The commodes are in stalls with latchable doors and it works fine.

        Thank you for the work you do for topfree gender equality.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We experienced co-ed locker rooms in The Netherlands last year. It was awesome, actually. Very chill and respectful. Families, kids, elderly. So much cultural maturity on the topic of nudity and gender equality there. I wonder how much of bathroom fears boil down to people not wanting other genders to hear them pooping…

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I wasn’t sure what article to post this reply on 😄 But I was watching some old cartoon shorts online the other day, and found myself watching the 1960’s “Little Lulu” short called “Alvin’s Solo Flight”. What’s significant about this short? Honestly, not much. Just a normal 1960s animated short. But what was the astonishing part, and it took me most of the video to realize it, but the entire time they’re at the beach, Little Lulu is barechested, as natural as can be, even along her shirt-wearing male peers. It was very very refreshing to see a cartoon like that where it wasn’t even part of the plot, it was practically just showing it like “just a perfectly normal day at the beach, the way it should be”, and I really valued that a lot. (Now, I suppose the fact that she’s really young and had no physical appearance of any sorts probably helped, but even if so, it was awesome and amazing to see it portrayed so naturally, so realistically.) 🙂

    I hope you’re doing well! Things are going pretty okay on my end. I’m sorry to hear about the way things were at South Beach (in your later article) but I’m glad you had the good experiences that you did.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This is awesome. Thank you. It’s interesting to see the boys wearing tops and the girls not wearing tops. And none of the characters pay the slightest attention. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that production meeting. Good find. Thanks again.

        Liked by 1 person

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