2 min

Embracing Mr Ottawa Bear

There's a warm, fuzzy front moving into town

They’re big and burly, hairy and hefty and they’re heating up our snowy city.

The Ottawa Bears are competing for the Mr Ottawa Bear title. The winner of this masculine beauty contest becomes the ambassador of the Ottawa Bears, which spells fame within this small but sexy ursine community.

The contest is still in the works as the Ottawa Bears round up worthy contestants. Nicholas Brazeau is sponsoring the event with his laser-light company, Chikaboom. Brazeau has felt at home within the bears’ community for several years.

“I’m a little cub! I’m full of energy, very social and creative. My appreciation for bears goes back to the first time I saw my big, hairy farmer neighbour sweating on his tractor. He was shirtless in his jean-coveralls. I was about eight years old and I had to away run behind the barn. I realised that day that I was different from the other kids. Now what really does it for me is the smell of an unshaved man at the hunting cottage!”

Like other gay subcultures, interest in bears has waxed and waned. But our hefty and hirsute brethren have been with us all along. Bears are typically gay or bisexual men with hairy bodies, facial hair and quite often heavier-set physiques. The distinguishing qualities are debated within certain communities; what people agree on is that bears self-identify as such, and tend to have more masculine qualities.

The subculture originated in San Francisco in the 1980s as an outgrowth of the gay biker and then later the leather and “girth and mirth” communities. It was created by men who felt that mainstream gay culture was unwelcoming to those who did not fit the stereotypical gay body norm — being young, hairless and trim.

Initially, those with a penchant for the hairy manly-man had to travel to San Francisco to find a unique “blue collar” gay bar, filled with a masculine-identified crowd. But as more gay men identified as bears and the internet provide greater social networking, social clubs and bear bars sprouted up across North America.

The Ottawa Bears are one such club. The bilingual social group includes activities that run from the squeaky-clean games nights, movie nights, bowling and brunches to bar-socials and bear chasing. And all admit that there’s some seriously fun chasing that takes place between polar bears (older), grizzly bears (heavier), cubs (young bears), otters (small and sleek) and their admirers.

They’re currently recruiting members including through Facebook and the 2008 Mr Ottawa Bear contest takes place in January at Swizzles. All bears, cubs and otters who identify with the community are welcome to participate. Strut your stuff and perfect your nasty growl to win our city’s title.