Denver Go Topless Day 2017, a rally and parade along the 16th Street Mall, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 26. Details are below. Plenty of first-timers are expected to join the gathering, which celebrates equality and demonstrates against the idea that it's okay for men to appear topless in public but either distasteful or (in some locations) illegal for women to do likewise. With that in mind, Mia Jean, a longtime DGTD organizer who served as our guide for last year's edition, offers her thoughts on the get-together as a whole and what marchers should or shouldn't do if they want to reflect the true spirit of an event that's predicted to draw even more than the 1,000 folks fellow planner Matt Wilson says participated in 2016.
Here's our Q&A, conducted via Facebook Messenger.
Westword: Last year, Denver Go Topless Day attracted far more people than in its history to date. Why do you think so many took part?
Mia Jean: I believe there are several contributing factors to why DGTD had so many participants last year — the first being that via social media, word of mouth and print/television coverage, we are able to reach more people every year. We work really hard to get the word out to as many people as we can, as well as encouraging people to bring their friends and family and post on social media. This will be the first year that the Denver rally is listed on the Go Topless registry, which we are immensely proud of. Lastly, I believe we are seeing a surge in people not only wanting change, but demanding it, and they are willing to go out and demonstrate for it. The Women's March ignited such a fire in people, and the energy has snowballed. As we all know, the topless-equality movement is only one vein in a network of inequality issues. We are seeing a surge in people who are coming out more often and in much larger numbers, and we are hoping to capitalize on that. I think its amazing to have crossover at these types of rallies and protests since they are all part of the larger issue of basic inequalities.
What were the most memorable moments from last year, from your perspective?
Honestly, the first thing I think of as being memorable was being simply AMAZED at the amount of people that were present. I felt this incredible wave of pride and joy when I arrived and saw all of these people gathered in the same place, and who were just as passionate as I was about topless equality; it brought a tear to my eye. I am always exhilarated to see people that jump up and join the march who just happen to be downtown. I have seen people ask what is going on from an outdoor patio, jump up from their lunch group, run out of a restaurant and join us for the rest of the march! At the end of the rally last year, I saw a lovely mom who had brought her daughter of about ten or eleven. Both were sporting awesome body paint and big smiles and told me that they had a really great day. That was more than enough for me to know we are going in the right direction.
Were there any negative reactions from bystanders? Or was the response completely positive?
This will be my third year participating in DGTD, and I can count on one hand the amount of negative comments I've personally heard. As far as issues with the general public, I am unaware of any. Overall, we have had an extremely positive response. I made it a point to mention before we started the march last year that people who are not aware of the event, who just happen to be out, will very often stare. They may make a rude comment. While sometimes you can have a knee-jerk reaction to something like that, we encourage people to keep positivity in the forefront of their minds. Education is a big part of what we are here to do. I am happy to answer questions. After all, many people just don't understand. Questions lead to dialogue, and dialogue leads to understanding. At the very least, don't say anything, or smile! I also encourage the "princess wave"!
One aspect of the event that Matt Wilson sees as particularly meaningful is the presence of men and women making a statement about equality side by side. What about that aspect reinforces the message you're trying to send?
Having men and women stand together, side by side, does send a powerful message. It gives pause to those who see this as a "women's issue," when in reality, it affects all of us. It is going to take commitment from women AND men to make the shift toward equality. Before we leave for the march, Matt and I like to speak to the crowd individually while standing side by side. My hope is that this sends a message of unity, as well as having male participants.
What would you say to people who are thinking about taking part in the event but are a little hesitant that might encourage them to join in?
Comfort is KEY. We have people in costume, pasties, regular shirts/tank tops, body paint and, yes, even feathers! A lot of male participants cover their nipples with tape or censor bars to highlight the fact that only female nipples are restricted on social media. I only recently got out of Facebook jail myself...for posting a picture from DGTD 2016 AND FORGETTING TO COVER A NIPPLE. Feel free to Google Denver Go Topless (Westword's video from last year is a great example) and get a feel for the event! The most important thing is that YOU ARE THERE!
What are the most important dos and don'ts for participants?
Make new friends.
Ask before taking photos when possible.
Ask before touching people/respect people's personal space.
Try to educate about our mission and goal.
Post video/photo/live stream with hashtags.
Be an asshole.... I wrote and rewrote answers to this question, and this was really what it came down to. Honestly, though, it's been my experience that people are happy, pleasant and receptive.
Do you expect that the size of the crowd will be even bigger in 2017 than it was in 2016 — and if so, why would that be important?
I expect the crowd this year to be the largest yet. As I stated before, we all work diligently to get the word out through a variety of avenues, but more importantly, the political climate is prime for progressive rallies and protests. I definitely want to make the most of the exposure so that we are helping to progress the movement. The more participants we see, the more people shining a spotlight on the issue — and that is vital for it to continue to grow and change. The end game [will be] when we no longer need a rally or protest because it will be legal everywhere for women to go topless in public without fear of arrest. We also want to see destigmatization of women choosing to go topless in public.
The Denver event seems to be getting national attention. Do you think that will help the Go Topless Day concept spread even further in Colorado and beyond?
The Go Topless/Free the Nipple movement is international, but we would love to see our numbers grow for DGTD every year, until women have the same topless rights as men. In the process, we can address how we hypersexualize women while at the same time slut-shaming them.
Since Fort Collins is still fighting the court ruling against its nudity ordinance, would you like to see a Go Topless Day there as a form of protest or civil disobedience?
I would be interested in seeing something happen, but an event outside of DGTD. I feel that with the Denver event gaining such momentum, to move it for a year could cause a lot of confusion. It takes a lot of planning to gather the amount of people that we are seeing attend, and we are now, I feel, getting into a fairly good rhythm. That being said, I am totally on board with staging a protest or rally there to make a statement.
What would you advise people who want to take part to bring — and not bring?
SUNBLOCK. Seriously. Especially your nipples, if you go topless. If you are doing body art before the march, such as body paint, bring your tip jar! Let people show their gratitude for your beautiful art! If you are a first-timer, or just coming to see what Denver Go Topless is all about, bring an open mind. I am completely confident you will have a wonderful and educational experience! But don't bring things that are prohibited by Colorado laws, which can be found here.
Continue for specifics about the August 26 event, courtesy of Matt Wilson:
• We'll meet up at the Bannock Street end of Civic Center Park, between 14th and Colfax, starting at 11 a.m. for meet & greet, news interviews and body painting. (I suggest parking farther down and parallel to thw 16th Street Mall, then riding the free Mall Shuttle up to within a block of Civic Center Park.)
• Between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., we'll start our march down 16th Street Mall and back. We set a mellow pace, to allow for streetlights and traffic, and so as not to leave anyone behind. Usually takes around 45 minutes to walk.
• Upon our return to Civic Center Park, we'll gather for a group photo with the Capitol Building in the background.