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As Bear Féile makes its annual return to the Dublin scene, Nigel Connor looks at bear culture and the paradoxes that come together to make up a bear.

Many moons ago, when I was a baby gay (to use Panti’s terminology) I was introduced to a very handsome young chap (HYC) in the Bernard Shaw pub in Dublin. This HYC was a Mayo man (like myself), a fan of Murder She Wrote (seemingly important to 21 year-old me, as it has stuck in my mind to this day), funny, smart and most important – seemingly interested in me.

After a few (probably many) drinks in the basement of some trendy spot on Wicklow Street, I looked to see how interested my HYC was. Turns out – not at all! I’m not sure what I said but his response remains crystal clear in my memory – “You’re a cub and I’m more into bears, older guys – big guys”. I was floored; I wasn’t even sure what a cub was. Having already mentally picked out curtains for our future home, this was not the response I was looking for.

My HYC, possibly to soften the blow, informed me that maybe in a few years I would be his type. For a considerably long time this encounter cemented for me the notion that being a bear boiled down to nothing more than sexual preference or a body shape. Similarly being ‘boxed off’ into categories such as bear and cub crystallised for younger, more impressionable me, what I perceived to be a lack of solidarity and cohesion within the queer community.

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About GCN

Will St Leger contrasts the disparate standards of sexual health services offered in Ireland and the UK; five of the LGBT+ community's most ardent female activists speak with us ahead of International Women’s Day; Ciara Mc Grattan catch-up with the gladiators of the Gay Games 2018; we coax some members of the Bear community out of the woods to tell us about their cuddly culture; PLUS all the best news, gossip, comedy and much more!