What is the Bear community? In gay culture, a bear is often a larger, hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity. Bears are one of many LGBT communities with events, codes, and a culture-specific identity.
NZâs Bear community, says âPapa Bearâ Paul Heard, is all about inclusivity. The community back in the days saw that for many gay menâs culture as âa space they were left out ofâ and then helped to emphasise this approach that âanyone is really welcomeâ. Among the sub-terminology of what a Bear is are Cubs, a younger version of a bear, Otters, a slimmer or less hairy bear regardless of age, Pandas, a bear of Asian descent, Polar bears, older bears whose facial and body hair is predominantly or entirely white or grey and even Ursulas or lady bears.
Heard (second from right above), a co-organiser of Bear Week during Auckland Pride which kicks off tonight, feels it's not necessary to stick to the 'ideals' of rugged masculinity. "We can camp it up, we do the drag race down at Coco's Cantina and its just a great time, these blokes dressing up and just really having a good laughâ.
Self-proclaimed Cub, 20-year old Peter*, sees the Bear community as a way of being himself, where âIt has really helped me to feel like Iâve belonged in this space, ya know, to be able to see people who look like youâ. Being a bigger guy, he says, had always made him nervous of coming out, where he âdidnât really see what I was in the stuff I saw about gay people, I didnât see myself as a part of those peopleâ. The exploration of Bear communities helped him to recover his sense of place and identity where âit gives a comfortable space for us, like with all the twinks and hunks, to fit inâ.
Bear New Zealand Week runs alongside the first week of the Auckland Pride Festival 2017. There was a Bear New Zealand tent inside the Urge Events Beer Garden at yesterday's Big Gay Out and a meet and mingle at the Dogs Bollix in Newton tonight. The drag bear race tomorrow is a must-see, and there's Underbear party on Wednesday night. Thursday theyâll be having a Bear Comedy Night with the Mr New Zealand Bear 2017 competition at Dogs Bollix on the Friday. Saturday will have the Tri Nations 2017 party at the Dogs bollix and a closing BBQ on the Sunday.