VicBears put in a tremendous effort to coordinate and bring us year after year an entire week full of exciting events known as Southern Hibearnation, or, as I like to call it, the bear open season.

Members of the bear community from all over Australia, and even overseas, gather in Melbourne for this magnificent event. It doesn’t matter if you identify as bear, grizzly, polar, red bear, cub, panda, otter, musclebear, wolf or any other classification.

Chances are, in June, you might attend and enjoy at least one of the many events at Southern Hibearnation. Or, maybe like me, you will submerge yourself in the bear culture for the entire week.

In theory, the “bear community” organised itself back in the ’80s in response to an unwelcoming attitude from the rest of the gay community. Long story short, these guys got together because they didn’t fit the popular mould of the time.

However, there’s plenty of discussion about the bear community being as, if not more, cliquey as any other group from the GLBTI community.

I identify as a “bear”. My experience is very subjective, based on the fact that I’ve felt very welcome in the bear community. But I admit there’s room for improvement. For instance, I’ve witnessed how rigid concepts such as masculinity (whatever version you choose) can be used to quickly disregard people who don’t fit the moulds we create.

I recognise that, physically, I’m attracted to furry guys and I consider this when choosing mating partners. But I try not to stop there, as this will enormously limit the opportunities for good times, and there is nothing wrong with a “balanced diet”.

Online, we don’t often concentrate on the characteristics that we look for. Instead, we can be very upfront about what we don’t like. There is a lot of no fat, fem, Asian, Black, smooth, hairy, short, and the list goes on.

For Southern Hibearnation 2012, I invite the entire bear community to welcome everyone with open arms. It doesn’t matter who or what you are. If you come to Melbourne and/or are participating in the events that VicBears organise, make an effort to talk to people, smile at others, and say “G’day!” After all, the main objective is to have a fantastic time and support the Anti-Violence Project Victoria.

The LGBTI community is already discriminated against, so let other groups do that for us. Remember how the bear community started: we didn’t fit in a mould, so let’s not make others feel the same.

Let’s have a gay time and Happy Southern Hibearnation 2012 to all!

INFO: www.southernhibearnation.com

By Carlos Sepulveda.

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