I wasn’t there – but, weeks later, I’m getting a full picture of what went down in San Francisco over President’s Day Weekend.
International Bear Rendezvous, for the uninitiated, is one of the biggest confabs for the aforementioned gay male subculture. It was 1996 when I popped my head into this run – seeing a plethora of guys who took what was considered a fetish into a viable community of like-minded gentlemen celebrating their humanity with the world. These were men who walked the line between masculinity and sexual orientation. It was a place where I found my identity without reprisal.
It has worked out for the most part. There is also delicate balance when I talk about the people from my past and the people I associate with (lately – sometimes begrudgingly).
Still, IBR remains a magnet for the stories that continue to be told. Through technology, these stories are brought to wanting ears. Granted, these are stories you’d rather not tell your grandchildren, but they do whet the appetite of those far from the scene confirm either positive or negative feelings about their ilk.
What prompted this posting was that I finally got to listen to Kevin Smith’s Smodcast from IBR featuring Bear-identified filmmaker Malcolm Ingram (#108 for those keeping score). The lucky people at this event (they recorded it in front of a live audience) got a chance to hear some very interesting stuff on both Smith and Ingram as they ramp up the release of the Bear Nation documentary. They also got to pick up Smith’s new toy likeness called the “Bear-Y Curious Kevin Inaction Figure.” Not bad for under $18.00. It’s available online, BTW…
If you want another view from IBR, listen to both parts of The Inappropriate Couch episode #53 – featuring my old friend Alan, his partner Jake and their travel “nightmare” - along with the usual crazy stuff that William delivers for you (and, then some!). I love William’s podcast as he and his guests boldly go where many conversations usually stop among friends. That’s why I listen to it - the humor.
If you can’t get enough of the big ol’ Bear Run in San Francisco, Brian from the 619 Bearcast tells the tale of fun mixed with bouts of not-so-good health. Brian also mentioned the presence of a new Bear Magazine, now produced by the publishers of 100% Beef. On 619’s episode #60, he discussed the message from Bear’s editor stating how the magazine will be geared towards a certain element of the subculture. In fact, the editor’s message railed against the ideal that the Bear community was inclusive of body types and championed channeling the community towards a more muscle bear-type aesthetic. Needless to say, Brian, along with the rest of the 619 Crew, was appalled by the view of Bear’s editor.
Fifteen years ago, I was brought into this subculture identified as a brother amongst these men. Yes, I was a chubby bear and did not fit the desirable aesthetic – but I felt welcomed for the most part into this community. Today, I continue to maintain a good number of friendships with Bear-identified gay/bisexual men. Brian, J.D., Justin, Vito and Mark aren’t the only ones appalled by this editorial statement. I, for one, am extremely offended by it.
Not all stories I’ve heard were not from that special weekend in San Francisco. Still, the stories of this community come from points far and wide – and through other mediums. Through an episode of the Bears in the City podcast, I began to follow the video podcast called Friday Night Furlosophy. Brisbane-based bear community leaders Jason and Malcolm do a “point-counterpoint” theme based on technology issues (so far), all driven by Bundaberg rum and cola. I’m not saying they do this drunk and raw (though you have to wonder about Jamie Foxx’s crew on The Foxxhole (Sirius XM) every Friday evening with the stash of Bud Lights at hand), but it can border on slapstick humor. Well, they do slap each other sometimes…
When listening and watching these tidbits of Bear life, I’m always appreciative of the humor that comes out it. Yet, I’m also questioning the climate of this subculture and whether it is OK to associate with certain elements of it. One does not want to be embittered due to some negative experiences they’ve encountered along the way. Nor does one have to be untrue to themselves in order to gain elevation in such a community.
Perhaps this is where I can avoid the soapbox and honor these voices and images for giving me a picture of a life once familiar. Maybe it's the best way to approach my feelings about my subcultural identity in the context of my current life situation. Rather, I can only hope there is a path to peace in the community and a want of being united to finish the job of universal equality for all GLBT people.