Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Impact the Men of Naked Camp Can Have

By: Chris Gonzalez, Mr. Bare Bear 2018

Picture this:

A young 25-year-old is running around the streets of Manhattan with bleach blonde hair and a gay pride scarf tied around his neck, scrambling to find a charter bus near Port Authority in a sea of charter buses, and 14 men he has never met before to check-in, board, and transport them to an undisclosed campground in the middle of the Poconos for a week of naked camaraderie. Little did he know that some of the men on that bus ride would become his distant second family in a matter of a week, after being awarded the title of GNI Bare Bear 2018. 

It’s been surreal. It’s been unbelievable. And it’s been difficult. 

Being a title holder for an event that you TRULY believe in has been the most rewarding experience for me; because of the exposure, I’ve gotten to really challenge people’s standards of what naked camp is and my views on body inclusivity.

In the midst of my title year, I moved from one state to another starting my life over completely at 26. I moved for the wrong reasons, and had to live with my decision for the time being. At my lowest, my mental health and self-worth plummeted. A title holder is supposed to be confident and upstanding. A title holder in my eyes was Brian Becnel, Ralph Bruneau or Jonathan Kharfen, all of whom I looked up to for inspiration to keep pushing forward.

In the past few months, I have hosted Bare Bear’s Summer Solstice at OZ Campground in Unadilla, GA and attended Go Naked Weekend and Atlanta Bear Fest. I taught Bear Yoga (clothing optional, OF COURSE) and worked to raise money for the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to providing emergency resources and hotlines for LGBTQ+ youth in times of mental health crisis; because within the past month, I used the resource personally.

All of this to say: I love GNI. It was the freest I have felt in my entire life. It saved me. It has saved me, numerous times. The messages from that second family I gained at camp during my times of crisis came at the most necessary points in my time of transition to Atlanta, and that’s why I am pushing forward. If one more person can experience the love that flows through the mountains of the Poconos every August even just once in their life, it could very well save them, as it did me. 

So smile a bit brighter. 

Smile a bit longer.

Send that message to that friend you haven’t talked to in a while…

You never know what good you might be doing for someone else. 

-Mr. Bare Bear 2018, Chris Gonzalez

Instagram: @dancingcub

**Please consider donating to The Trevor Project at

Wisdom from Mr. GNI 2018

by: Rick Bach, Mr. GNI 2018

Hello Gents, Men, Boys, or however you fit.

For anyone who is reading this and hasn't been able to join us for The Gathering yet, do try. It can change your life, big words, but true.

Congrats to the guys who made it to Australia. We were with you in spirit . . . can only imagine.

The Gathering is on the horizon, our time together in a place of celebration and community. Let your Freak Flag Fly guys.

The anticipation of any vacation can be the best part, but The Gathering takes it all, before and after. So, plan your accessories, oil your leather and feed that joy savings account that will pay out soon.

Remember, The Gathering is your place of no judgment, expression in any way you can think of and a place to treat others the way you want to be treated. 

This, of course goes without mentioning the tremendous stature of nature and the numerous offerings of activities.

Feed that soul!

Cheers, Rick
Mr. GNI 2018

Saturday, July 13, 2019

2019 GNI Board of Directors' Election

The results of the 2019 GNI Board of Directors' election is in! We had three (3) very qualified candidates running for one (1) position. We would like to thank the three candidates for running as well as everyone who voted in this year's election. Over 22% of our members cast their ballot this year.

And the winner is ...

Brian Becnel joins the board for the first time! He will be serving a three (3) year term starting in August.

Brian Becnel 

Here's a little more information about Brian:

I've been a member of GNI since 2010. To say that it was a life-changing event is not being overly dramatic. GNI and The Gathering was the most significant catalyst on my journey to self-acceptance. Growing from a challenging childhood, coming out a bit later in my life, at age 43, my divorce process and impacts on my children, GNI and my brothers at The Gathering were there for me.

I've had the distinct honor and joy to be GNI's official photographer at each Gathering since 2015. This honor has afforded me a unique opportunity to engage with so many of our members at The Gatherings over these past few years. Prior to becoming your official photographer, I had the pleasure of being the assistant editor for the Informer and becoming the editor for the BuffBuzz digital newsletter (and blog). In 2016, I was given the most extreme honor of being named Mr. GNI. 

I believe in our organization and our mission. I've experienced firsthand the impact our brotherhood can have on another man going through any number of life's challenges. If elected, I believe I can use my passion for GNI, my own passion for a nudist lifestyle, along with my compassion for others as catalysts to bring our organization's goals to fruition.

Congratulations, Brian! Because Brian's new duties will take signficantly more time, he is resigning from the editor position of the BuffBuzz online blog. Here's a parting word from Brian.

Farewell letter from Brian Becnel:

Several years ago, I had the honor of volunteering as GNI's Assistant Editor of the Gay Naturist Informer. Three years ago, the GNI Board asked me to head up the new format for GNI newsletters (email communications) with launching the BuffBuzz online blog. Serving in these capacities has been my honor and pleasure.

Executive Director's Note: I would like to personally thank Brian for his unending commitment and volunteerism in GNI. With his departure as Editor of BuffBuzz, he leaves some big shoes to fill, but we are excited to have Brian serve in another exciting capacity. He's not going anywhere and you will still see him at camp with camera in hand when he's not attending to board duties. Let's wish Brian the best in his new role!
 ~ Rick Johnson, Executive Director

Oh, (Naked) Canada

The month of June is known to many as pride month. Truth be told, I am proud every month, every week, and every day of the year. I am a proud gay man, a proud naturist, a proud Canadian, and a proud Kingstonian. And I was very proud to represent and promote GNI and The Gathering at Kingston's Annual Pride Festival on a beautiful sunny Saturday, June 15th, 2019.

While I was unable to be completely naked at Kingston Pride (rules, rules, rules), my scantily clad wardrobe and a large Naked Camp poster, nonetheless, drew plenty of attention. Additionally, a few hundred postcard marketing materials, with full frontal nudity (thank you to Gene Evangelist for designing these eye-catching cards for me) were distributed to men (and some women!!??) who were intrigued by our Naked Camp event. In just a few short hours, I talked up GNI and The Gathering to dozens and dozens of people who wanted to learn more. There is no question that The Gathering is very unique, and no other event even comes close to what The Gathering has to offer. Speaking to so many people about The Gathering further elevated my excitement and enthusiasm, more so because I realized that The Gathering was just two months away!! Clearly, this excitement and enthusiasm made a good impression on those with whom I made contact. It was truly an honour and privilege to represent GNI at our local Pride festival. 

Other exciting naked events I participated in this past June was the Toronto World Naked Bike Ride on June 8th, where I rode my bike through the streets of Toronto. On June 23, I marched in the Toronto Pride Parade with the TNTMEN (Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity) naturist group. Both events were experiences that left me with a profound sense of pride and gratitude. I certainly plan to experience many more events like this in the years to come.

I wish you all a great and safe summer and I look forward to seeing you at The Gathering in August.

Naked Hugs.

Paul Rado

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Excursions Announced for GNI Australia 2019

Great Barrier Reef & Daintree National Rainforest Tours

GNI is super excited to announce the details of our two excursions planned during GNI AustraliaFebruary 21 – 28, 2019! We’re heading “down under” and hope you join us, too! There is still time to register and we have availability so if you’re looking to get out of the frigid cold of the northern hemisphere, we’re going to be having heaps of fun in the southern tropics. Take a look at these excursions; these are only two of the exciting activities we have planned throughout the week!

Click here to Register!


Great memories are built on great experiences.  Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most incredible experiences a person can enjoy. With much of the reef’s color and marine life visible within a couple of meters of the water’s surface, snorkeling offers all swimmers, regardless of their skill level, the opportunity to see this diverse eco-system up close. Giant clams, stingrays, Maori wrasse, cods and colorful parrotfish, are just some of the hundreds of species you will encounter during your visit.


·            1.5 hour journey to the outer Great Barrier Reef
·            Visiting three reef sites on either Agincourt or Opal Reefs
·            New and comfortable vessels with ample exterior and interior seating
·            Morning & afternoon tea
·            Tropical cold buffet lunch
·            Filtered water, tea and coffee are available all day (please note: hot drinks will not be served while vessel is traveling)
·            All snorkeling equipment (mask, snorkel, fins, Lycra suits or wetsuits, flotation devices and prescription masks)
·            Guided snorkel tour
·            Interpretive reef talk
·            Return bus transfers from Turtle Cove


·            Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (the vessel is not licensed but you can BYO alcohol)
·            Scuba Diving

ITINERARY: (based on visiting 3 reef sites)

·            7.45am – depart Turtle Cove
·            8:15am - Board vessel at Crystalbrook Marina Port Douglas: Once guests board the vessel, they are asked to remove their shoes (and place them either in an allocated shoe container on board or in their own bags) and are fitted with a mask, snorkel and fins.
·            8:45am - Vessels depart Crystalbrook Marina. Guests are welcomed on board, an outline of the day announced and safety briefing conducted by the crew
·            10:15am - Arrive at first reef site. Divers will be briefed while travelling to the reef. Once moored, divers are ready to go while all other guests are joined together for a snorkel briefing. Morning tea is served before moving to our second reef site
·            11:55am - Second reef site. Snorkeling and diving available. Lunch is served and an interpretive reef talk is conducted by one of the crew. Guests can join in on a guided snorkel tour.
·            1:40pm - Third and last reef site for the day. Snorkeling and diving available. Afternoon tea is served.
·            2:45pm - Vessels depart outer Great Barrier Reef
·            4:15pm - Arrive back at Crystalbrook Marina Port Douglas & transfer back to Turtle Cove


The tour provides professional supervision and tuition with a comprehensive snorkeling safety brief and guided snorkel tour. Flotation devices such as noodles or life jackets and in water assistance is provided, catering for first time snorkelers. All snorkeling equipment is provided. Bring extra beach towels.


We will depart Port Douglas to the incredible World Heritage Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Known as the oldest living rainforest in the world at 160 million years, your day consists of spotting crocodiles in the wild, marveling at the beauty of the area from Alexandra Lookout, sampling delicious tropical fruit ice creams and taking in the rainforest from the forest floor with informative rainforest walks. The guides have extensive naturalist experience (note: not naturist) in this amazing area and enjoy sharing these natural wonders with you. If you're lucky, you may just spot a cassowary.


-                   Experienced guide
-                   Pick up & drop off from Turtle Cove
-                   Comfortable vehicles with air-conditioning and large windows for great visibility
-                   Cooper Creek Wilderness Cruise – 1 hour cruise
-                   Guided Rainforest Walk
-                   Alexandra Lookout – view the mouth of the Daintree River & the Coral Sea
-                   Cape Tribulation Beach – where the rainforest meets the reef
-                   Daintree Ice-cream factory (optional ice-cream at own expense)
-                   Mossman Gorge
-                   Morning Tea
-                   Lunch
-                   Insect repellent
-                   Umbrellas
-                   Onboard library
-                   Applicable National Park Fees


·            Ice-cream at the Ice-cream company
·            Additional drinks at lunch

·            7:15am - Guests are collected from  Turtle Cove
·            8:00am - Mossman Gorge. Guests explore the spectacular rainforest so close to Port Douglas
·            10:15am - Cape Tribulation
·            10:45am - Morning tea
·            11:30am - River cruise on Cooper Creek
·            12:45pm - Arrive at lunch location and possibility for a swim in the creek. Time and weather conditions permitting
·            2:00pm - Daintree Ice Cream Company - guests may purchase a tropical fruit ice cream at their own expense
·            2:20pm - Walk through one of the pristine boardwalks in the Daintree National Park
·            3:10pm - Arrive back at The Reef Marina
·            4:30pm - Guests will be dropped back to Turtle Cove

If you’re in the United States, the US dollar is strong which makes this event much more affordable. You can also still find some good deals on flights to Australia, but don’t delay in making those arrangements now before all of the good deals are gone! See you “down under!”

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

MAL 49 Reflections

By Jonathan K. 
Mr. GNI Leather 2018

Jonathan K, Mr. GNI Leather 2018
Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) 49 has come and gone but things feel very different for me. Although I had attended MAL five times, I was anxious about going this time, since I would be there as an International Mr. Leather (IML) contestant, your Mr. GNI Leather 2018 titleholder. Should I edit myself, tone myself down to a degree more ‘fitting’ of an IML contestant? I bugged a friend about it the evening before my departure and he was very understanding suggesting that I “just be myself”. I thought how wonderfully supportive of him. This is why these leathermen mean so much to me.

Upon arrival at the MAL host hotel, I met my roommate outside, my friend Joe Gebbs who is Mr. Fire Island Leather 2017 and Northeast Handler 2019, and we went to check in. Right beyond the front door, I saw friends and went to say hello. Walking down the steps, other friends greeted me. It was a good 15 minutes of hugs, kisses and promises to catch up during the weekend before I arrived at the check-in desk. And in those 15 minutes, everything changed. I was no longer anxious; I was great! I was with my leather brothers and sisters and with them I could ‘just be myself’.

Waiting for our room, we met up with my sash granddaddy, Ralph Bruneau, Mr. GNI Leather 2016 and Mr. IML 2017, and LeatherWerks’ Bear Man. After registration, I went down to LeatherWerks in the vendor market to purchase specific Wesco boots for IML and caught up with my sash daddy, Brian Ballone, Mr. GNI Leather 2017. My thought is, if you’re going to compete, give it your all and look your best.

Within 20 minutes of opening, the vendor market was packed and remained so for the rest of the weekend, as was the hotel Lobby. It was filled with sexy leathermen from around the world and is truly a remarkable experience. I met many of my IML brothers for the first time and we all started a bonding process that grew quickly over the weekend. After a Drummer party, a Rubber Cocktail Party, later followed by more of the continual lobby socializing, I decided at 1am to call it an early evening.
Current & Alum Mr. GNI Leather: Alan, Dave, Dan, Brian, Jonathan, Ralph,  & John

The rest of the weekend flew by faster than I have ever experienced. Saturday was incredibly busy with IML related events and GNI’s first Pocono Eagle Boots & Bourbon Partyfor the year. My IML brothers and I were introduced to the IML production team, our den daddy, our judges and the contestant application process. Group photos were followed by the always entertaining Onyx Fashion Fundraiser and a private IML brother party hosted by Christopher Booth, Mr. DC Eagle 2019. After a brief break from formal leather to very satisfying near nakedness, I had to don formal once again for the evening Leather Cocktails and Parade of Colors, celebrating all the various leather clubs that have members attending MAL. Though naked is beautiful and provides an amazing sense of freedom and grounding, men in full formal leather are equally beautiful, exuding a generous sense of kinship and leadership.

Saturday evening, I was lucky to finally have my naked moment, our Pocono Eagle Boots & Bourbon Party. GNI President, Dan Marrs, Marketing Director, Gene Evangelist, and I had been promoting the fundraiser party for over a month and the result was a sold out success. Dan’s selection of bourbons were stellar and all the guys did indeed come in boots, one guy in Uggs!

Sunday was equally busy with a leather brunch social followed by the Mr. MAL Contest and the Parade of Current Titleholders, including myself. Six brave leathermen competed for the title, each showcasing their inner strengths, charisma, and contributions to their local leather communities. Emërson Anicëto, Mr. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish 2019, won the title.

 By the time the contest was over, photos were taken with our IML brother, Emërson, and I was once again happily stripped down to a bare minimum; I decided to just hang in the lobby with my brothers and sisters, old and new friends. I heard later that the closing dance party at a separate venue was amazingly fun and I briefly regretted having missed it. I love dancing with near-naked, sweaty and fragrant men. Men are beautiful and we should celebrate that in positive and loving ways. MAL weekend is packed with concurrent activities and you can’t do everything. I was happy to relax, chat, be frisky, observe floggings and other mild BDSM activities, as well as watch the Patriots/Chiefs game listening to the lack of enthusiasm when the Patriots won, and submerse myself in what is arguably the most unique and enjoyable aspect of the weekend - just being in the lobby.

Many guys have complained about ‘event drop - that horribly depressing feeling of having to return to everyday ‘reality’ once an amazing experience has ended. I used to suffer from that after every event but somehow I’ve learned to overcome it. There’s always the next event to look forward to. There’s always another occasion to hang with my leather brothers and support one another through whatever it is, good or bad, that life brings us. And maybe this high I’m riding from my GNI Leather title is sustaining me every day, making me happy and grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience and encouraging me to be the best I can be every day.

Through the Looking Glass

By Rick J., 
GNI Executive Director

If you’ve been around GNI long enough, you may remember the days when we published a quarterly newsletter known as The GNI Informer. GNI started publishing a newsletter for its members many, many years ago; the first known version of our newsletter was a small publication called The GNI Quarterly in the early 90’s. The fledgling publication didn’t formally become The GNI Informer until Spring of 1995. I had the pleasure of digitizing back issues of The GNI Quarterly from 1992 (the oldest edition we could find) to 2000 and converting them to a digital format that can be read on a computer or mobile device. These back issues, which we thought were long gone and unavailable, were provided by long-time member and previous board member, Steve Ericson. Steve sent me his stash of newsletters knowing that his contribution would benefit all members and for that, we are sincerely grateful. This was a huge project to undertake as each issue had to be scanned, files imported into our software to create digital publications, digital files uploaded to the GNI server, and the Member Directory pages updated to include links to the various issues. This process repeated itself over 30 times and took almost a month to complete.

A step back in time

What was really amazing for me was to go through each issue page by page and to read the important news of the day. These back issues are rich with GNI history and frames the foundation of many of the policies that we continue to observe today. From deciding sexual policy issues, ruminating about first-time naked experiences, to the announcements of the loss of our GNI brothers at a time when antiretroviral drugs were not readily available, The GNI Quarterly and GNI Informer back issues provide a fascinating tale of our history. It truly is a must-read for everyone who wants to know more about the organization. You’ll see ads for businesses that supported naturism; many are no longer around. You’ll read about stories of legislation in the 90’s that threatened our sacred nude beaches and naked swimming holes and thanks to the hard work of The Naturist Action Committee, we continue to enjoy many of those same places today. You’ll peruse the issues and recognize the faces of men still around today but were 25 years younger. You’ll read about the struggles that GNI faced, the adversity and challenges we overcame, and recognize the deep and unwavering commitment by any number of men and volunteers who served the organization to make it what it is today.

One of the most eye-opening revelations for me personally was when I came across an advertisement in 1997, 1998, and 1999 for Gay Naturists Australia (no affiliation to GNI). This was an event organized by a group in Australia that hosted an event similar to The GNI Gathering. And it was held at Turtle Cove in Cairns, Queensland – the same place where we are holding GNI Australia, February 21 – 28, 2019! I’m including a screen shot of the ad found in the Spring 1999 issue of The Informer. While I was at Turtle Cove in 2016, I heard about GNA from other men who were at the resort. They gave me a brief history of GNA and hoped that GNI would help resurrect an event that was lost when the event got too large and needed more people to help organize it. GNI is recognized as a leader in naturism and event planning and with the board’s approval in 2016, GNI started to plan for GNI Australia 2019. We have some really fantastic things planned so if anyone is still interested in coming, don’t hesitate to sign up now.

Do yourself a favor. When you have a few minutes, log on to the Member Directory and click on “The Gay Naturist Informer” navigation link. You’ll find “The GNI Informer” 1990-1999 and 2000-2013 issues when the last GNI Informer publication was published. I encourage you to read all of the issues at some point, but for those who really want to gaze through the looking glass of time, spend some time in the 1990-1999 section. 

Enjoy the read. I did!