It’s an organization based on fun and camaraderie, but it has been a lightning rod for sexual prudes. Now seemingly free from persecution, the group turns its attention to having fun and expanding its membership base.
Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity (TNT!MEN) is, as the name implies, a social group for men who enjoy being nude together. Since its incorporation in 1997, it has held events like naked bowling, basketball and volleyball; naked book club, potluck dinners, yoga, massage exchanges and monthly naked dance parties.
TNT and the late Janko Naglic, legendary former owner of the Barn nightclub, won a court case legalizing nudist events in bars after the Barn faced charges in 2000 under the Liquor Licence Act. Naglic was charged with allowing disorderly conduct for permitting nudity at TNT!MEN’s private naked dance parties.
One of TNT’s early members, lawyer Peter Simm, was a key figure in the fight against Toronto City Council to get official clothing-optional designation for Hanlan’s Point in 1999. Hanlan’s Point has since become so successful that Tourism Ontario actively bills it as a vacation destination and Toronto attraction. From the beginning, the group’s goal was simply to host fun events for guys who like to be naked together; it wasn’t envisioned as a political or activist organization. But, partly thanks to TNT!MEN, Toronto has an enviable reputation as a sexually liberated city. As with all member clubs, the TNT!MEN membership is aging, so the group works hard to make overtures to the next generation of nudists.
I became a card-carrying member of TNT!MEN myself last year and am proud to be a part of this friendly organization of about 350 members and more than 2,000 non-member supporters.
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BERT BIK: THE FOUNDING FATHER
Bert Bik, 58-year-old co-founder of TNT!MEN, has always been a nudist. He grew up in the Netherlands where the culture is very comfortable and open-minded. Bik’s family never discussed nudism — it was simply a fact of life. It was not until elementary school that he became aware of social constructs that make some people uncomfortable with nudity.
“In Grade 3 we had swimming lessons,” he says. “I went for the first time with the whole class, took all my clothes off and jumped in the pool. People were horrified.”
Bik “behaved” after that, going nude only in places like his home and at the public beach. When he moved to Canada in 1974, he had to go back in the closet with his nudism. He eventually moved to Vancouver and visited the famous clothing-optional Wreck Beach.
“It was an eye opener for me; finally I could be myself,” he says. When he moved back to Toronto, he had the opportunity to be involved in the formation of TNT!MEN, and he has been on the board of directors or involved with the group ever since.
NUDISM, NATURISM, EXHIBITIONISM:
THERE IS A DISTINCTION
- A nudist is someone who will go naked when the opportunity allows it — at designated beaches, at home, at social events, etc.
- A naturist is someone for whom being naked is a lifestyle — they will be naked wherever they can be. They are often environmentalists with a focus on healthy living. There are naturist communities with their own churches, their own schools and the usual facilities of a small town.
- An exhibitionist gets naked for shock value or sexual gratification.
“I have no shame about my body or anybody else’s body,” he says. “We were all created beautifully, and that’s basically what it’s all about. Clothes have two purposes: to enhance what we already have and to give us warmth. That’s it. In most societies, kids are taught that they should cover up. It causes a lot of shame issues: You should be ashamed when you get your first pubic hair, when you get your first wet dream. But there’s nothing to be ashamed about because that’s how we were created. Our group has allowed people to see other people naked and to realize that there’s nothing wrong with it. There is a perception that if you are naked, there must always be a sexual element to it. But that’s not at all true. It’s like in any group: people want to be sexual, fine: go to a corner and have fun.”
Bik seems to want to downplay the politics, and it’s understandable.
“Ever since the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in December 2005, allowing sex in clubs, the backrooms have re-opened, people are more relaxed,” he says. “We don’t have to police our own parties saying ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that.’ TNT!MEN is an organization focused on one thing: fun.”
NATHAN GREY: THE YOUTH CONTINGENT
At 27, Grey has been a TNT!MEN member for two years. He’s sat on the organization’s board of directors since October 2009.
“I started going after a couple friends of mine joined,” he says. “I had been going to the Alibi underwear parties, then a couple friends I met there told me about TNT!MEN. I like being naked. I’m a nudist. For me nudism is being comfortable in your own skin and not caring what people think.”
Grey has added a much-needed injection of youthful energy to the aging demographic of TNT!MEN.
“I joined because I wanted to bring in a younger audience to show that we are interested in some of the same things as the older crowd, that there is a young demographic for this,” he says. “I was on one of their posters. I’ve started a Facebook page, reaching out in ways that young people are more apt to follow. We’ve done postering at Ryerson and at U of T. We’ve changed up the music a bit; before it was very retro, now it’s a bit more modern. We even have reduced fees for students.”
1996: Naked Dance Parties are held periodically at the Barn nightclub by nudist group Toronto Canada Area Nudists (TCAN).
1997: Bert Bik and four others splinter from TCAN to form Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity Inc (TNT!MEN), a not-for-profit social men's club.
1997: TNT!MEN's Monthly Naked Dance launches at the Barn nightclub. The first party attracts 39 attendees. Within three months, the number swells to 100.
1998: Toronto Police harass the Barn for hosting TNT!MEN dances. A party is busted for liquor violations for allowing disorderly conduct. But there are no such problems, just a group of naked men. TNT!MEN lawyer and member Peter Simm meets with Barn owner Janko Naglic, Naglic's lawyer and Toronto Police superintendant Aidan Maher. They agree that TNT!MEN will sell tickets off-premise at Pegasus and Spa Excess, to create the atmosphere of a private club. The Barn is charged again, even after Maher is presented with a legal brief showing why the charges will not hold up in court.
1998-2000: While awaiting the outcome, TNT!MEN goes underground, hosting hotel parties, house parties and bowling.
May 12, 1999: Toronto City Council votes to restore the official clothing-optional designation at Hanlan's Point Beach, largely due to Simm's work. The story is picked up by Reuters, making international headlines. The TNT!MEN membership base grows from 150 to 350 people almost overnight.
Jun 2000: The Crown dismisses all charges against the Barn, setting the precedent that decriminalizes naked events in bars. After a brief party on the steps of the courthouse, Naked Dance is organized at the Barn in time for Pride 2000. Approximately 440 people attend.
Pride 2000: In what seems to be retaliation by police, seven men are arrested for marching nude in the Toronto Pride parade. The Crown dismisses all charges, saying they were not nude (they were wearing shoes) and that the men were in an environment in which people expect to see nudity.
2000-Oct 2004: TNT!MEN Naked Dances run monthly at the Barn without incident, even after Naglic's brutal murder. The Barn closes for renovations in January 2005; TNT!MEN moves to Slack Alice.
2005-2009: TNT!MEN events move from Slack Alice back to the Barn, then to George's Play, then Alibi, then Gladaman's Den.
Jun 2009: TNT!MEN moves to its new permanent home, Goodhandy's.
Grey’s efforts are paying off.
“When I first started going, it was just me and my friends,” he says. “The others would be older. Now, there are 20-somethings constantly.”
Bik says that before the party moved to its current location at Goodhandy’s, average attendance hovered around 110 people, but now it averages 160 people.
Grey is always trying to convert his friends. He tells them it’s just a regular party, just like hanging out at Woody’s, having a couple beers with your friends. “Except you’re naked.”
TODD KLINCK: EXHIBITIONIST
I had heard of TNT!MEN for most of the time I've lived in Toronto, but it never really registered on my radar as an organization I wanted to be involved with. Maybe it was because I didn't go out during the afternoon (when their monthly dances have always been held), or maybe it was a subconscious belief that the group was only for older guys. I had also heard rumors (false) that the group was anti-sex — something that I have since seen much evidence to the contrary!
But when they contacted me in early 2009 to ask if they could use my club Goodhandy's for their Mr TNT!MEN contest, I didn't hesitate to say yes. I love any organization that pushes the boundaries of social norms and for that reason alone, I was thrilled that they were coming to my home.
TNT!MEN, like many long-running organizations, has moved their monthly Naked Dance from venue to venue for various reasons. The unfortunate murder of Janko Naglic at the Barn caused them to move to Alibi. Alibi closing down caused them to move to George's Play temporarily, and then to Gladaman's Den. When they told me they were interested in moving permanently to Goodhandy's, I knew it was time to go to one of their events.
I was nervous. That might sound strange, coming from someone who has done porn and been in the sex trade, but getting naked in the afternoon with a bunch of strangers was oddly disconcerting. I have never considered myself a nudist. I sleep fully clothed, I rarely walk around the apartment nude, and my trips to Hanlan's Point (the clothing optional beach) were quite honestly more motivated by a desire to cruise the bushes than a desire to bond naked with nature or be free with my body in front of others.
I had a couple shots of vodka to get my courage, and I took a cab to the party. Once I had checked my clothes and started walking around, I immediately felt comfortable. I've gained weight over the years, so my own body image issues were a concern — but the vibe was so mellow, the guys were of all shapes and sizes, and there was no judgement.
I started to get an erection at one point, and because it was at a venue where there was no sex area, I hid under a table. I realize now that of the three categories of nudism, I am an exhibitionist. I have always had a difficult time keeping my dick down when nude in public settings, like in the shower at the gym. I now know that I get off sexually on being naked. Many nudist organizations will frown upon exhibitionists like myself, but TNT!MEN makes it clear on their website that it's OK to get hard.
Now that TNT!MEN has made Goodhandy's its permanent home, it's my favorite monthly party. And unlike my staff, I go naked (except for shoes) and have a really good time. I bus the tables, I plunge the toilets, I pause to grope a couple of cocks here or there, and I genuinely enjoy being nude. Being a voyeur as well as an exhibitionist, it's also a bonus to get a chance to see 150 different cocks all in one place. It was a bit awkward at first, getting used to the idea of being naked in front of my staff, but I told them all that they had to just accept it and it worked out just fine.
I never knew about this side to my sexuality. I knew that I liked sex, I knew that I liked showing off, but I didn't know that I would ever enjoy being naked with 150 strangers.