Denver GoTopless Day may be entering its sixth year, but there's a lot new about the event, scheduled to take place downtown on Sunday, August 26.
This year, the get-together, which attracted more than 1,000 people in 2017, has a new starting location: Skyline Park. And in addition to the traditional parade down the 16th Street Mall, which will find marchers heading toward the State Capitol building and Civic Center Park, there'll be a full musical lineup and a slew of other happenings.
To get more information about the gathering and the body-positive meaning behind it, we reached out to Mia Jean, who's co-organizing the event with Matt Wilson. She took part in the following Q&A via Facebook Messenger and provided many of the photos seen here.
Westword: How does Denver GoTopless Day take a stand against body commercialization and what you've referred to as unjust double standards?
Mia Jean: It always amazes me how often I will find someone who will challenge the idea of topless equality yet do not bat an eye at a Victoria's Secret billboard or happily browse an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. It’s how nudity, sexuality and healthy boundaries and respect have been mentally framed for us. What we hope to do is promote a healthy attitude toward all bodies. All mammals have nipples. Nipples feed offspring. And as far as know, nipples have never started a war.
As the saying goes, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." And sometimes it is a hot Colorado day, and I want to, perhaps, read a book at the park without my shirt on. Not because I want attention, (quite the opposite), not because my dad didn’t love me (my dad was awesome), but because it's a warm day and I would like to be comfortable like my male counterparts are allowed to be. Psychology and history have taught us that desensitization happens very quickly. The more you see women topless in everyday society, the less and less you notice.
One of the main misconceptions about Denver GoTopless Day over the years has been that the activity is against the law, when, in fact, it's perfectly legal in Denver. Are first-time participants commonly surprised by that — and do some of them take convincing that what they're doing isn't going to get them in trouble?
Yes! Especially as not all GoTopless events [across the U.S.] are able to be "fully topless," meaning that pasties are required. During some years, people have been kind enough to hand out copies of the current Denver laws, which can ease some people's apprehensions. This year, we have our own pamphlets with the exposure laws printed in them.
Like last year, we'll have park rangers as well as Denver Police Department who are assigned to the event, as well as having several sets of "assigned" eyes constantly scanning the park. I think the feeling of being "exposed" for women, especially for the first time, can be very intimidating. I understand and sympathize, because even I was topless for a first time! But this magical thing happens at DGT: You have all these people around you supporting the same cause, and ALL these other women are topless — and you see people get brave!
One of my favorite memories is from 2015 while marching down 16th Street. The outdoor patios are always full, and I spotted this group of women sitting outside and one of them got a very excited look on her face. She motioned for someone to come over and asked what was going on. I quickly explained what DGT was, to
which she quickly asked if she may be arrested, and I pointed out a nearby officer and told her that in the great city of Denver, toplessness is LEGAL. She jumped up from the table, took off her shirt and bra, and happily marched with us, assuring her friends that on the loop back, she would return! It was absolutely INVIGORATING to see someone become instantly inspired. It’s all the motivation I need to continue to participate and organize such an amazing event.
Over the years, you've talked about having a positive relationship with law enforcement. How have the organizers managed to cultivate that relationship, and have the interactions between activists and law enforcers been mainly positive?
We have indeed worked hard to foster good relationships with the law enforcement and forest rangers involved in the event. We now have officers and rangers assigned to our event, and we always introduce ourselves and talk with them before and after the parade. DGT has always made it a policy and standard to somewhat "police ourselves," meaning that if you see anything off, notify us or a nearby officer. If someone for any reason becomes in any way disruptive or appears to be acting in an inappropriate way, immediately people will try to step in and begin to de-escalate a situation and alert someone. I can say that it rarely happens. DGT has been overwhelmingly positive. Our number-one priority is to keep all participants safe, and we are incredibly happy to have excellent officers and rangers there to facilitate that.
What are some of the other common misconceptions about Denver GoTopless Day, and what is the truth behind them?
I’d say the top three would be, "Will I get arrested?," "Can I participate without being topless/fully topless?," and the question I hate the most, "What if my boobs 'aren't pretty'?"
For number one, no, you will not arrested for being topless, but I think we have covered that one enough.
Number two is ABSOLUTELY! We encourage all participants, and those who support the cause and want to just come check out the event, please do! We are an all-inclusive rally, no matter who you are or how much or little you are clothed. We simply ask that you support the message, that you are kind and courteous to everyone else, and that you come with an open mind. Every year we hear from people who were really nervous but decided to come and had a blast! You’ll likely leave with new friends, cool pics and a new zest for equality!
Question three is my least favorite question. It resonates with me so much to have instant phobia that a part of my body be compared, or worse, me comparing myself to everyone there. The very best part is...you will see every single kind of boob at Denver GoTopless! Big, small, lopsided, male, women, transgender, children, young, old, saggy, perky and just about everything in between. It wouldn’t be much of an equality rally if we promoted "stereotypically attractive female breasts of women between the ages of 18-22 who got turned down for ANTM [America's Next Top Model]."
We strive for all breasts to be set free! And ladies, most importantly...please recall the last ten topless men you saw. I would wager that a very small fraction fit the mold of "stereotypically attractive men." The double standard thing HAS to stop. For every comment a guy makes on a woman’s social media along the lines of "Put your shirt on and have some decency, you SLUT!," the same guy has three photos of himself in a dirty bathroom mirror with the hashtag "#Swoll." Pinky promise.
Body painting is available again this year. Why has it become a staple of the event?
I think body painting can serve a lot of purposes, entertainment being one. We have some great artists who love to embellish the bodies of the participants who wish to participate. It is a great way to meet new people, talk about why you are there, and get some great body art!
It can also serve as some extra coverage for those who feel more comfortable. We try to stress that anyone wanting to participate is free to wear AS MUCH or AS LITTLE as they wish, with the exception of exposing genitals, of course! So you are welcome to go fully topless, with body paint, pasties or your favorite shirt!
Body painting also offers a chance for people to bond over topless equality and to further feel a part of the rally and the movement. Whatever your reason, we encourage you to enjoy art or to BE art!
You've also added several new attractions, including live music. What led to these changes, and did feedback from participants help inspire the new features?
We always strive to take in to account participants' suggestions. Our Facebook page stays fairly active after the event, and we encourage all participants to share not only what they enjoyed, but how we may do things better next year. Through Matt’s hard work, we now have a website, denvergotopless.com, where we will be adding a lot of good information!
Are a wider variety of people taking part now than when you first got involved?
Denver GoTopless is always striving to be more inclusive. We want everyone to know that ALL are welcome at the event, regardless of race, sexual identity, religion or creed. Last year, we experienced quite a bit of growth, and with it, more people from different backgrounds, which we love. I think that more people are getting involved: the Women’s March, the Me Too Movement and the marches for reproductive rights. Going to rallies and participating in marches is becoming more mainstream once again. Voices and showing up makes a difference, and I will ALWAYS encourage that.
Is there any concern that the event could grow too large and lose some of the spirit of camaraderie and shared purpose that's marked it thus far?
Personally, I would love to have it grow as big as possible and for us to eventually start a Colorado Springs GoTopless! I don't think the spirit or message is lost with large crowds. I feel it shows growth in the equality movement as well as shift toward acceptance.