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Monday December 11th 2017

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Stepping OUT: When in Rome…

By Jeanne Gainsburg

Some LGBT community groups have been more comfortable for me to visit than others. For instance, going for a walk on a beautiful day with the Women’s Hiking Group? Easy peasy. Chopping vegetables with the Men’s Cooking Group? A snap! Joining the ROMANS (Rochester Male Naturists) for one of their nude swims? Yikes!!!

For me, this was kind of like the time when I was 14 and my cousin Paul bet me $20 I wouldn’t jump off a 50 foot dive platform into a lake. I knew if I thought about it too long I would chicken out. For the record, I took the 50 foot plunge and Cousin Paul still owes me the 20 bucks. Loser. Well, last month I took the plunge with the ROMANS and I’m pleased to report that I had a blast!

The ROMANS meet the first Saturday of the month at a local diner for a clothed dinner at 5:45 p.m. I began my evening there, where I was welcomed warmly by the members (there were about 15 of them that evening) and I was able to gather some information about the group.

I found out that the ROMANS are a social group that began in 1991. The group was formerly known as Hosting Upstate Nude Guys or HUNG, but apparently, some found the name a bit intimidating. (LOL!) They welcome all men who are LGBT or LGBT friendly. Membership is around 30 men, ranging in age from mid-twenties to seventies. One man told me he travels all the way up from Brooklyn because he hasn’t been able to find a naturist group in the NYC area that is as fun and welcoming as the ROMANS.

After dinner, at around 7 p.m., everyone drove over to the Harro East Athletic Club on Andrews St. Because this nude swim was a combined event with Naturist Rochester, a family friendly, clothing-free recreation group, I was invited to attend. When I got there I headed for the women’s locker room (not that it mattered, as both locker rooms are open to everyone during these events). I admit I was nervous when it came time to strip down, but as I had learned at age 14, it’s best not to think about it for too long or dwell on thoughts like “the number of people who have seen me naked is about to triple.” So I got naked, took a quick shower and (GULP!) stepped out into the pool area.

There were about 30 people in the pool; only two of them were women. My naked walk from the locker room door over to the far end of the pool, where I spotted some ROMANS, seemed like a three mile trek, but by the time I had slipped into the water and swum over to the guys I was already feeling more at ease. These men are so comfortable with nudity that I found, before too long, it was easy to forget we were all naked.

I chatted with the guys and I asked them a couple of questions that were on my mind. One was, “If this is a family event, where are the children?” The men told me that Naturist Rochester used to have several families who brought along their children for the swim, but that they haven’t seen children there in many years. An interesting discussion followed about the heightened fear among parents of pedophilia and the misunderstanding that naturist groups are sexual groups. Sex and drugs are not allowed at any of these events.

I also asked the men, “Why nudity?” And I got these responses: “It’s fun.” “It makes everyone equal.” “I believe there is a bit of an exhibitionist in all of us.” “It feels good to swim naked.” “It’s something different to do.” “I have always loved to be naked, even as a kid.” “Conversations are real and honest when people are nude. There’s no bullshit.”

After a bit of hot tubbing, some of the guys decided to get a volleyball game going. I thought they were going to set up a net in the pool, but instead they dried off and headed for the gym. OK, just so you know, I have played clothed volleyball for over 30 years. Nude volleyball sounded comical, exposing and painful, but I was going whole hog that night, so I followed the men to the gym.

I was immediately placed on a team (these guys truly are so welcoming) and we started a game. Ready position felt extremely… um… revealing, there was no way I was jumping without my sports bra, and I didn’t even want to think about where I might get a floor burn if I dove, but we batted the ball back and forth for a while and had a lot of fun.

By the time we got back to the pool it had really filled up. There were a total of about 55 men and five women that evening. I took one more dip in the pool, said my thank yous and headed out. By 9:30 p.m. I was dressed, in my car and asking myself, “Did I really just play volleyball with 11 nude guys?” Yup, I did! And I still respected myself in the morning.

If you are looking for an opportunity to get out, meet some very cool people and do something a little different with your weekend, you should consider joining the ROMANS. These guys are a great group. The ROMANS’ shapes and sizes varied greatly, but their attitudes all seemed similar: relax and enjoy!

Dues are $15 a year for an individual, $25 for a couple. Dinner meetings at members’ homes take place once a month and require a $7 fee to the host for the food. Swims are free the first time and after that $12 for ROMANS. Some swims are men only. Other events include summertime nude camping, workshops at the Northeast Naturist Festival, nude dinner at a local restaurant, participation in the Gay Naturist International gathering in the Poconos, as well as clothed events at local museums, concerts, plays, etc.

For more information on the ROMANS, check out their website at: http://www.wnyromans.com or e-mail: elvishzlft@aol.com.