Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ten Years of Gen-X Bears: A Look Back

Originally Posted on July 26, 2005

This week marks the Tenth Anniversary of my signature work, Gen-X Bears. It is something I am very proud of and embarassed by at the same time. Looking back, I wanted to compile the most important moments of this strange trip that enabled a whole generation of gay and bisexual men to become a part of an emerging subculture.

Let's look back, shall we?

The Beginning (July-December, 1995): Sometimes, it was like jump-starting an old Buick, but a BBS hosted the original X-List, members were trickling in either by invitation or by choice. Events were paltry, but workable. Somehow I figured out that an international movement cannot acheive success by doing things a few miles from home...Concord, California. On the other hand, I suddenly became a local organizer to a global one with X-List subscribers from around the world. I had to think of something...and see how many frequent flier miles I can use to do so...and where to go with it!

The East Coast Swing (January/February, 1996): This was my first highly successful trip. It was also my first experience with snow. For a Californian who never been up to Lake Tahoe or Mammoth Mountain, the snow on the streets of Philadelphia was a welcome change. Visiting DC for the first time was also fun, considering that I would become a resident of the area towards the end of that year. Coming back to Philly to a reception that was unbelievable! I met a long time friend, Rob Harmon, whom I miss dearly! Finally, a last stop in Phoenix for a brief meeting with local guys. Sadly, it was back to the Bay Area and to my regularly scheduled life.

International Bear Rendezvous (February, 1996): IBR was amazing! I met a lot of great guys that weekend from Jeff Glover (one of the guys behind the "Hairrison" street fest in San Francisco) to Jonathan Cohen (author of Bear Like Me). It also gave me an opportunity to set up yet another big event with a couple of the Bears LA board members attending one of the premier bear runs in the world.

Coming Home to Southern California (Spring/Summer, 1996): This was a bridge back to my hometown  through the work I was heavily involved with. The first trip was a whirlwind into San Diego and Long Beach. A brunch with Bears SD was a huge success! Then, we were invited to the Bears LA Bear Bust at Pistons. Certainly, it was counter to the movement's ideals, but if you had guys that were drinking age and over, why not join the other bears?

Saying Good-Bye to the Bay Area (July, 1996): A picnic by the local GXBers in Golden Gate Park was an appropriate way to say farewell to my nine year run in my dad's playground. In the Bay Area, I came out, got involved, fell in love for the first time and began the journey called Gen-X Bears. Bridges were burned and mended, but it all came true that afternoon. Sadly, I would never return to the place that gave this movement it's light.

My First Meeting With Scott Schumacher (November, 1996): If there was a moment when you found a friend for life to share your work and passions with, it was in Thanksgiving 1996 in Long Beach. Scott tells this story better than I do, but I will say that, as a result of this magical final weekend in my native state, he is my closest friend today. That Saturday night, I left for DC and he left for Santa Rosa only to head to Minnesota by the end of the year. We both left with a commitment to GXB and an enduring friendship.

The Move to DC (December, 1996): This relocation was important for many reasons. It truly enabled GXB's permanent presence in the DC Area and solidified the creation of Gen-X Bears International. We created regular programming through weekly luncheons on Saturday. Sadly, I found myself concentrating less on my own needs than of the movement. Later during my time in DC, the friends I met earlier on would re-emerge into my life at a time when it was needed.

The East Coast Gathering in DC (April, 1998): Wow! OK, the hotel most of the guys stayed at was in the bad part of Northwest, but the fun we had was extraordinary!

My first trip to Minnesota (July, 1998): and meeting with the local GXBers. It is awesome to see that they have emerged to become friends in the long run and to now become part of the local community. Scott was there along with KJ (Grizzlies softball, TCGHA...etc.) , Chris Josephes (North Star Regional Rodeo) and a cast of several whom I would see on a regular basis today.

Toronto (November, 1998): My first trip across a border for GXB. While Scott, Iain Bennett and J.P. Kucera hashed out GXBI's Constitution, I contemplated letting go of this work. I'm glad I didn't. Otherwise, it would be, as Stockard Channing would say, "an anecdote."

The East Coast Gathering in Boston (April, 1999): I wasn't there, but they tell me it was the height of GXBeardom. Terry Jamro and the guys pulled out all of the stops on this one! This was the pinnacle of the movement.

DC-v-GXBI (Spring/Summer, 2000): As I waited for Grace Jones to appear on Pennsylvania Ave NW the night before the Millenium March, events that almost destroyed a movement were happening several blocks away. A subsequent call from Tyler prompted an impromptu lunch meeting in Ballston. As I lived in the DC Area, these involved friends, acquaintances, haters and precieved enemies. In the end, the DC guys created their own entity apart from GXBI. Today, I embrace both organizations as part of a family that was spawn from this movement.

The Brunch in Chicago (February, 2001): My move to Madison was to cure me of my soul (riiight). I miss the excitement of the city, so a ride down to Chicago in time for a GXB Brunch was in order. It was a pivtoal weekend as I met some of the Midwest's big GXB players, including my now prior publisher, Tom Wray. I was also reuinted with some of the Minnesota folks. It was the highest attendance for a brunch in Chicago fo GXB. I made some new friends out of it. It also prompted yet another controversy that again could have destroyed the movement.

The Last Big Event for GXBI (Spring/Summer, 2001): It was held in New York. Again, I did not attend, though Matt Johnson and Carlos De Leon from Chicago did and gave me an insight on a movement that was fighting for relevance yet waning in vitality. Perhaps it was my interpretation of what was about to happen in the next few years.

Ten years on, I am grateful that there are a few dedicated groups and a select number of individuals who truly believe in the movement, its motivations and its relevance. I am also grateful how much this movement has influenced the way parts of the bear subculture operates and welcomes others to the fold. When I talk to another GLBT resources and mention GXB, it flutters my heart to hear them acknowledge its place in the history of the community. This is where I get really embarassed.

From a personal level, I am proud to say that I started this thing. Maybe that is the great reward in life.  In knowing that I have gave thousands of people a space to come out, explore their sexual identity and the bridge to create a life's worth of friendships, this journey was well worth the joy and the pain.

Here's to the first ten years of Gen-X Bears! Thank you for being a part of the ride!

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