Legal Challenge

Testimony Against HB 469 – Donna McIlwain

My name is Donna McIlwain. I am a 58 year old mother of two and grandmother of 3. I work at Case Western Reserve University as a secretary in the School of Medicine and have a master’s degree in Education. I taught elementary school for a total of 15 years. I live in Cleveland Heights and pay local city and state taxes in Ohio. My interests include swimming, biking, reading, playing bridge, square dancing and I’m a practicing nudist. I am telling you all of this to establish that I am a socially active member of the community in which I live and one of my interests happens to be nudism.

One facet of our decision to move to Cleveland was the fact that there were ample opportunities for nude recreation in the Cleveland Area. We had contacted Northcoast Naturists (NN), a non-landed club and read about both Green Valley and NN on the web and in a naturist publication. Alan and I had decided that a naturist lifestyle was important to us. This was something we wanted to pursue in finding a new home.

I am an active member of Northcoast Naturists, and have been the Women’s Outreach Chairperson for over four years. We enjoy the swims twice a month as an opportunity to meet and socialize nude with many friends. We take snacks to share, plan camping trips, counsel people who have questions on nudism, lead discussion groups, and attend a variety of workshops on various topics from healthy foods to skin cancer. At these swims we also attend activities ranging from square dancing to yoga to reflexology and Qigong.

Once a month there is usually an event in the home of one of the members. These vary from card parties, wine tasting and ice cream socials to chocolate parties and trivial pursuit. The fascinating thing about these events is the complete lack of sexual overtones. Before I became a nudist, when I attended cocktail parties, Christmas parties, and many social events, there was much more drinking, flirting, sexual comments, and often a casual attitude about marital fidelity. At NN socials, the discussions are on more general topics – people, music, books, club events, and the activity itself. Couples sit together and enjoy each other’s company. Family values and caring for others is a way of life.

I am here as a voting citizen of Ohio to express my concern over HB469. This bill threatens the way of life I have described. We would have serious reservations about continuing to live in a place that would so limit our freedoms.

As a woman there is another issue I would like to address briefly. Annually our club has planned a hike to remote areas of Cuyahoga National Park and a canoe trip down the Tuscarawas River. In these activities we respect the rights of others to the extent that we select times when we don’t expect others to be there and we have cover-ups handy if we should encounter "textiles" (our name for non-nudists). When this happens I resent that as a woman, I feel the need to cover up my top, when the men do not. In the heat of summer, when I am basically enjoying the breeze and sun on my body, wearing a top becomes unpleasant, sweaty and sticky. At present for me, this is a social issue and a matter of personal choice. This bill would take away my right to make that choice. I have never been an open activist for top freedom for women because I hadn’t really experienced a desire to be top free. However I do value my right to exercise that freedom if I want.

Seventy years ago men gained the right to go topless on the beach. Within five years it became a non-issue. In many Western countries women’s going topless on the beach is just such a non-issue. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that men and women shall be treated equally under the law unless there is very good reason why not. Yet bill 469 is trying to take away women’s right to enjoy the topfreedom that men in Ohio have had for so long. You might have to make men cover their nipples if you want women to have to do so. Really, it is the person who cannot handle seeing a bare breast – male or female - who has a problem. When people in Cleveland were polled by the Plain Dealer over their concern about women going topless on the Lake Erie beaches, the majority of the public’s reaction was, "Who cares?

Being a nudist is not about wanting to flaunt your body, or being seen by others. We don’t want to offend people who might find the body unacceptable. But we do want to meet, socialize and take part in many activities both indoor and out, in a non-sexual, legal atmosphere among other people who enjoy this type of activity. Please do not include us in the broad language that equates nudity with sexual behavior in HB469.