The Brisbears held their annual Mr Bear QLD competition this month. Four men – Fanta, Hugh, Letsma and Steve – took part in the contest, with Steve winning the coveted title.
At the competition at the Sportsman Hotel on October 18, Mr Bear QLD 2018 Alan handed over his title and remarked on his incredible year as Mr Bear.
“I want to thank everyone for embracing my weirdness and loving the complex, unusual creature that I am. This past year, you touched me with your generosity.
“The Bears community helped me raise over $3,700 for the Black Dog Institute.
“I hope I have done each and every one of you proud. I’ve tried my best to show the values of acceptance and inclusivity that made me a part of the Bear community in the first place.
“I hope you all make Steve feel as loved as I have felt.”
QNews.com.au spoke to the four entrants (pictured below, left to right: Fanta, Hugh, Steve and Letsma) ahead of the competition. We asked them what joining the Bears had done for their lives.
Steve says joining the Bears made him a much more social person in addition to boosting his confidence.
“I can only speak from my own experience but coming from Toowoomba and attending Brisbears events, I felt very welcome. I’ve made so many new friends since joining and I’ve never felt so accepted and loved.
“I want gay men to feel loved and included in something bigger.
“I want them to know you can be whoever you want to be not what society or popularity dictates.
“I’d also love to be the voice of someone who was once shy and struggled with social anxiety that if you push through, you can overcome it.”
Steve said he was the happiest he’d ever been after being announced as Mr Bear QLD 2019.
“The road to self-love and self-acceptance has been a long one. But all I can say is, it started with meeting the right people who are ‘my kind of crazy’ who made me feel so welcome and loved from day one.”
Fanta loves that the Bears bring together such a wide range of people.
“Participating in the Bear community has allowed me to spend time with amazing friends who show me more about life.
“Brisbears accepts people as they are, whatever their age, size, disability or anything else.
“They guarantee you’ll feel welcomed and have a great time.”
Hugh said Brisbears brought him out of his comfort zone.
“I am a deaf person and so social isolation is an issue for me. But the best way forward is not to feed the black dog. Brisbears pulled me out of the shadows and while putting yourself out there is hard work, the work is rewarded.
“I entered Mr Bear to show others that in this community a disability is no bar because the Bear community does not discriminate.
“I’ve been deaf all my life and I’ve faced challenges because of it. It all works out in the end one way or another, and being part of a supportive community helps it work out for the best.”
Letsma came from a conservative family in Malaysia and Brisbears provided his first exposure to the gay community.
“I was raised in a conservative social environment, so it was an incredible feeling being accepted as who I am.
“The Bears do not turn anyone away. We don’t judge or criticise.”
Letsma encourages other men to join the Bears or just come along to one of their regular events.
“Everyone is accepted and made to feel at home. If you take the first step to come out to our events, you’ll fit right in.”
To find out more about Brisbears visit their Facebook page here.
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