|Lions, Tigers and Bears! Oh Yeah!
It has been a long winter but today it seems like spring is on its way! I recently spent a week in San Francisco where it seems it is spring at least once a day. I was there for classes and the city never seemed more beautiful. Just by luck I happened to be there for International Bear Rendezvous. Bears came out of hibernation from all over the world to meet in that wonderful city. Unfortunately I was working a little too much to enjoy the festivities as much as I would have liked.
What are Bears? Bears are a wonderful group of men who aren't the buffed pretty boys that so many of us wish we were. They have a beauty all their own. They are generally a little bigger, a little more burly, maybe a bit more hairy, they are not Twinkies! They are a group of men who are beautiful in their own way. They generally tend to be very happy, healthy and very accepting. You won't get much attitude from a bear unless you dish him some and then you will wish he was hibernating. You may get a big bear hug from one of them but what is wrong with that? We could all use a good bear hug. I sure do!
If you haven't guessed it yet, I am fascinated by bears. Maybe it's the facial hair. Maybe it's the comfort they project. I'm not sure. But they get my vote. One thing that they get my vote on is their general comfort in being who they are and letting you be who you are. This comfort translates into many things. One thing that this personal comfort often translates into is SAFETY! You remember from many of my articles that a healthy self-esteem often translates into a healthy body or at least doing what you have to keep yourself safe.
The bears as a community have created a community where safety is expected. Each one seems to look out for himself and for the others around him. They are truly a community minded group of men! While I was in SF, I saw safe parties advertised by some of the bear groups! I attended a few events but my favorite was the "BearHugs" party. Three men open up their old Victorian house once a month. Hundreds of men attend this event which attracts a wide range of guys: from radical faeries to leathermen. However, most of these men would call themselves bears.
I had a chance to talk to the guys who run this monthly party. They informed me that the main purpose was to bring the gay community together and provide a safe environment where guys of all different shapes, sizes and groups can get together and have fun. They think by bringing together a community of gay men, it teaches men about safer fun and personal responsibility to take care of each other.
I walked around for a bit after I talked to these men and I was so proud to see the prevalence of safe sex supplies! They weren't just laying there they were being taken and used!
Remember before you let a bear into your honey pot (or anyone else for that matter), make sure that they do it safely. You may be surprised to see that they are one step ahead of you! If you need to find out what safety means, call me, email me, come see me at CAMP Rehoboth or stop me on the street when you see me. I cannot "bear" to let these questions go unanswered!
CAMPsafe is here for you!
Sal Seeley is Program Director of CAMPsafe, an HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention program funded through a contract with the Delaware Division of Public Health. Free, anonymous HIV testing is offered at CAMP Rehoboth, 39 Baltimore Avenue. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Sal Seeley at 302-227-5620 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 2 March 11, 2005