Self Identifying yourself, endless race issues- WHY?

Last month I experienced my first ever Bear Week, held in the historic Provincetown, Massachusetts.  I had the time of my life, and it was the first article that I have ever written about the bear community that was 100 percent positive minus a couple of restaurant snafu’s. The main purpose behind that article is to really make that week, and any event in life, what YOU want to make of it.  Just rely on yourself to have a good time and not outside voices that could influence your everyday decisions.  So when I went to go post about it on my personal Facebook page, and thank the many people who made the week amazing, I wasn’t expecting a debate to occur about the exclusion of particular races as an end result.  This was the comment that set everything off-

Ryan Shea, thank you for your work. I applaud your auto ethnographic script, however, there is an opposition to the experiences, in which you describe. To refocus one premise, one can make Bear Week what they want is a fallacy due to a multitude of factors. Although we attempt to hide it, the error of racial and economical differentiation it highly visible and widely practiced; often times these actions are unconscious efforts, while other times the conscious efforts are design to exclude. Case in point, racially, Bear Week has a number of ethnicities attending its function; instead of generating social activities that are diverse, one is left to select only from Eurocentric activities that are constructed and produced for the ease and comfort of those who subscribe to Eurocentric norms. Here, I do want to impress upon the notion that I’m not in favor of a dualistic event, however for an event of this magnitude, a conscious level of pluralism is expected. Secondly, to error of dividing participants along economic lines is highly documented by the accepted practices of location, location, location. Mind you, I know this is a widely accepted practice in US society and the reflection at Bear Week evidence this practice; still it promotes an air of eliteness and “A” bear list status. These two examples are minor grains of sand to a major beach of social inequalities of Bear Week, yet participants wallow in the joy of second citizenry of this event. Now, personally I’m a decent person, who has been described as easy on the eyes, in addition, I like to believe I’m socially well adjusted and very capable of engaging others. Even with these very desired qualities, many times I found myself marginalized, left out, and over looked. Initially, I didn’t have a response, however after much internal analysis of the external factors, I hypothesized that ethnicity and economics are major contributors to the pervasive inequalities presented by Bear Week facilitators and it’s participants. We can not excuse injustice, regardless of how it comes about. With that being said, these particular injustices regardless of how they are packaged must be underscored and addressed – so to look at what doesn’t happen as a lens for action, it becomes evident that it is not solely incumbent on the individual to make Bear Week what they want it to be, instead an examination into the institutionalized practices of Bear Week to motets might reveal a better way to organize the event so to truly offer an experience where one can own it, thus having access to the same levels of enjoyment as other participants. Truly, I am sympathetic to the participants, and as a participant I can see the joy in the surface of the event. But once there’s time for reflection, one can not escape the idea that if I wanted make Bear Week what I want, am I getting what I paid for…and Bear Week as advertised was certainly not it.

That was a lot to take in for one, but the gist of what this particular person is saying is that Bear Week, and many bear events, are not really what you make of it, it is what they present that you have to deal with.  So if you aren’t of a certain ethnicity, financial or “popular” status where you are considered a bearlebrity of sorts, then this event really isn’t designed for you.  I find this very troublesome for so many different reasons.  For one-  the outside voices that I neglected to listen to while I was there that pretty much said this entire event was Muscle Bear 101 wasn’t completely true.  Were there Muscle Bears?  Sure, but for the most part they were incredibly friendly and didn’t go by the Manhattan type attitude which is if you don’t look like us than you can fuck with or us.  That is just one part of this.

The second part is race, which is something that has had more of an open discussion in recent years.  A big debate I saw happen on some particular Facebook pages was the scandal surrounding last year’s Bear Week cover photo, which was all white men.  Several people of color and Caucasian men scowled at this and were quite offended, claiming that this further proved a general mindset that the bear community is white designed and doesn’t particularly advertise any men of color as being apart of it.  After a lot of back and forth about this, it seemed to have some sort of an influence as the 2015 cover photo now features men of many ethnicities.  Now the new problem is that several people are saying that there are no hairy men in this photo, and the bear community is known for obviously being hairy.  OY VEY.

My general response is the following to all of this-  Why care?  Why do we let a simple photo dictate what we do with our lives?  I am a shorter blond cub with a bit of weight on him.  Did I see that in a photo with only 7 MEN?  No.  Do I let it affect if I show up to something or not?  No. Do I see both sides on this when it comes to the race issue- yes I absolutely do.  My personal thoughts is that the photographer should go to the Boat Slip during Tea Dance and take a massive photo from the top of the deck where you can see every type of guy down below.  That way if there is someone who doesn’t feel like they fit into this crowd due to size, color or whatnot, they can find something in that particular picture.  Sort of like a Where’s Waldo of sorts, although from my POV it really shouldn’t have to happen that way.

I think the issue in today’s society when it comes to self identifying yourself not only in the gay, bear or any type of community is resorting back to your middle school years where you feel like you want to belong.  In other words, conform to where you feel comfortable in that particular position that you are in.  This goes way beyond Bear Week, it can be so deep as to how someone operates in life.  At what point do we stop dealing with this whole mob mentality in life and really just go into something without fear of rejection due to how one looks?  Are we really that shallow of a society where someone’s skin color or financial status determines what land they can actually freaking walk on?  I think if that answer is true than we have a lot to work on as a community.

What do you think about this? 


  1. I agree with you….conform to where you feel comfortable in that particular position that you are in.  This goes way beyond Bear Week, it can be so deep as to how someone operates in life.  At what point do we stop dealing with this whole mob mentality in life and really just go into something without fear of rejection due to how one looks?

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