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Monday, February 20, 2012

Bears Go Wild!

We gay men have always had to make our own communities. In the past we did it as a way to protect ourselves from a world that hated and persecuted us. Now we do it based out of our strength.

So we've just had the third BearNZ Week, and it was a lot of fun. A big vote of thanks to the guys at Urge for running such a great event again. They make it look so effortless, but it takes a lot of work to get this week running so well.

There were guys from the UK, the USA, Australia, and of course lots of locals and out-of-towners.

I didn't go to everything, but I really enjoyed the events I made it to, and met some cool guys along the way.

I went to Bear Drag, but didn't run - I made that mistake last year, when I stupidly said to Alan from Urge, "I will if you will" and quicksmart he said "You're on!" Embarassing photos followed, I learnt my lesson, and was happy as a supporter this year.

Mr Urge Bear was packed as usual, great fun, and kudos to all the guys who entered, and a big congratulations to David Morris from Wellington for winning the title.
(Pic above lifted from the wonderful LOLCubz)

The Tri-Nations Dance was great, somewhere between 300 -400 guys I guess, all hot, sweaty and mostly shirtless, and a wide age range of men.

I really value having men-only events; it is just good to be able to relax and be ourselves. There are rumours that this year the security guards weren't quite as intrusive or alert as last year, and certain dark corners saw acts of wanton debauchery, but if you put hundreds of hot sweaty near-naked men together, well what do you expect?

And on Sunday, they held the closing bbq at a private home - at least 40 guys showing up and chilling out in Grant and Brian's garden, relaxing and winding down after the week. No tickets, no wristbands, just an honesty box by the bar, delicious food brought with raffle proceeds, guys of all shapes and sizes chatting and just hanging out.

And for me it showed the good side about the bear world. It is relaxed, friendly, welcoming, and non-judgemental. You don't have to be beefy and hairy to take part. You don't need to spend 7 days a week in the gym, or grow a beard, or do anything special really. It is a very inclusive and supportive group of men to be with, and I am really glad of that.

The debates about "community" and just what it is raise their heads every now and then here, and there isn't an easy answer to it, but Bear Week shows that this community is strong. But we wouldn't be without all the work that the guys from Urge and others put in. You do need events, you do need things that give people a reason to come together, and they provide that, but they do it so well because they are so tied into the wider gay world here.

And changing tack just a little, this is my fear around the proposed idea for an Auckland Pride Festival with a parade again. Unless it has deep roots into all the various queer communities here, it won't work. It will just be a beige, bland piece of Auckland City marketing - "Look, we tick the "diversity' box!"

I have an idea of just how much planning and work went into getting Bear Week up and running, everyone involved had full-time jobs elsewhere and working their arses off, often for free, so to get a full two-week festival going is going to be an immense challenge. It won't happen without hundreds of volunteers, and I really wonder if they can find them. Given the huge problems and bankrupticies and acts of embezzlement and bastardry we've seen associated with previous big gay events, like Hero here, and Mardi Gras in Sydney to name just two.

But Bear Week worked beautifully - it is  raltively short, targetted, relaxed and fun.

Thanks so much guys, and I'm looking forward to next year.




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