Each year around this time of year, with the city’s colleges and private schools out for the summer and public schools about to be, we like to hold a picnic in one of Central Park’s quieter spots for students and recent graduates, to celebrate several things: the end of another school year; the fact that in New York it is legal for women to go topless anywhere a man can; and the fact that this equal right applies equally to all women, regardless of age, race, background, body type, sexuality or any other attribute.

Why is this last point important? Well, in terms of age, we’ve found that girls and young women often feel uncertain whether the law really applies to them, and this lack of certainty and lack of confidence too often leads them to curb their own exercise of the freedoms they’re entitled to. No young man, having just finished a year of high school, would ever question whether he’s entitled to take his shirt off for a game of frisbee in the park — but ask his twin sister if she’s got the same right and you’re likely to get a different answer.

In terms of race, women of color often (and understandably) are uncertain that they’ll be treated with as much tolerance as white women — by either random passerby or the police — if they choose to go topless in a public place. And queer women sometimes worry that, if they are perceived as such. their rights might not be respected as much as those of their cishet sisters.

And of course the intersection of two or more of those identities can lead to higher anxiety still, and an even greater tendency toward self-policing.

So: our student picnic, where we specifically reach out to young women who might not otherwise even have heard of our group, and go out of our way to put together an event that’s diverse in as many dimensions as possible. It’s not “virtue signaling” — it’s a project to deliberately assemble a group large enough and diverse enough that everyone can feel comfortable within it, and then give first-timers who might never otherwise try outdoor toplessness a chance to do so. (It also doesn’t mean we don’t care about diversity the rest of the time — it’s always important to us. But we think it’s good also to make a special extra effort from time to time.)

We also invite some of our longtime members, to act as guides and ease the newcomers’ transition into the world of body comfort.

To jump to the happy ending: this year again, as in all previous years we’ve been doing this, we had a wonderful time. None of the random passerby who wandered through the glade we quietly took over gave us more than a passing glance, no one complained, and no one was made to feel uncomfortable. As for our new members themselves, everyone was friendly and warm and open, and by the end of the event, everyone was gladly exchanging contact info and pledging to stay in touch.

Some were so comfortable, they left the park with their breasts uncovered, relishing their new freedom.

As one new member told us after, “It was my first time and it felt very normal to just be outdoors with bare skin. I was surprisingly very comfortable and I hope to muster up the courage to do this more often when I’m alone in public.”

Alone is tougher, of course — people are more likely to give a hard time to a woman who’s by herself than a group of ten or twenty women. There is safety in numbers, and strength, and solidarity. But alone or in groups, we are so glad to see that more women are discovering the pleasure of what we do and mustering the courage to do it themselves.

So…how about you? Would you like to try it sometime? If you’ve been curious or tempted, even if you were also unsure or nervous, please take a moment and email us. We’re at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’ll find the event — small or large, more private or more public, only topless or fully nude — that’s right for you.

Now is the time, while it’s warm out and while a little voice inside is saying, “You can do that too.” You can. It’s your right. Let us help you discover it.