Bear History: Secrets of Norwegian Bears
20 years of strong beliefs, solid organization and lots of fun!
On November 16th, the Norwegian Bear Club (Den Norske Bamseklubben) will be celebrating their 20th anniversary with a big banquet where 150 members and their guests, including representatives from many different LGBT organizations in Norway and from other countries will be present.
The Norwegian Bear Club has become one of the most well-known gay groups in the whole of Norway. We have earned our own, big Bear Stage in the Pride Park during Oslo Pride, the most popular attraction next to the main stage. Its popularity is due, in part, to our club`s philosophy where we invite all different types of artists - everything from teaching bondage on stage, playing crowd bingo, sing-along and musicals with professional popular artists.
Having won the prize for the best float three times the last 15 years, bears are the ultimate highlight of the whole Pride Parade. The combination of grown, masculine men performing under scorching sun as ballet or belly dancers seems to make an impression on the public - and yes, we are probably the only float that actually comes out with brand new rehearsed program, every Pride!
The Norwegian Bear Club is one of the few bear organizations in Europe that still has a (registered and paid) formal membership (about 300 men today).
What is the secret to our success? The answer is hard work, dedicated members and having fun together!
The group that started the Norwegian Bear Club consisted of some previous gay activists in addition to people who were dedicated to the ideals of the bear movement. There has never been an emphasis on appearances but rather on attitudes. Our bylaws state that anyone who feels at home in our club is welcome to become a member. In addition, they state that the main goal of the club is to create inclusive social meeting places for gay, bisexual and transgender people who define themselves as men. Our “come as you are” philosophy was definitely a success factor for many gay men who didn`t feel at home in the traditional gay scene. Majority of the original board members are still with us, 15 years!
The Norwegian Bear Club has always been very visible and outward. Thus through social contact and group identity, we have dared to do some pretty crazy things. We had our own ballet group for 5 years, performing mostly during Oslo Pride.
We have appeared naked and half-naked on our own calendar and in a reconstructed photo of a famous Norwegian painting which was exhibited in the Museum of Cultural History in connection with Norway`s 200 year anniversary.
This picture was hanging in the museum during the celebration. A picture of the Prime Minister is on the wall to the right. We had to get her approval to use it and she agreed!
Our success is mainly due to our ability to create many different types of social meeting places where gay men of all ages and appearances have felt at home. We have achieved recognition and popularity that is way above our expectations.
We hope that our experiences are inspirational to other bear organizations and groups in achieving their goals or equality.
Join John Earhart and members of Norwegian Bear Club when they are once again showing utmost advocacy standing for collaboration and equal rights for bears across borders, during their annual supportive event Bears Collaboration Meet-Up, at Estonian Academy of Arts.
(TB) Tallinn Bearty’s mission is to power bear brotherhood in a way that will advance equal rights for everyone, in or out of our own community, across borders.