One of the biggest gatherings in the Europen bear calendar is Germany’s annual Bear Pride Cologne.
This year’s event – celebrating 35 years of the Cologne bears community – has just drawn to a close after six days of events. The festival combines club nights and gay bathhouse parties with local sightseeing, exhibitions, and talks.
One of the highlights of Bear Pride is the annual election of Mr. Bear Germany, which took place at an event at Essigfabrik last Friday night.
What a night! Thx for all your support
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Mr. Bear Germany 2020 was awarded to Bryson Kelpe, 35, who lives in Cologne with his husband of the past 3.5 years. The runner-up, dubbed Mr Vice Bear, was Jens Nitsche, 42, of Hamburg.
Bryson is a student studying for an MSC in mental health recovery. He’s previously worked as a behavioral health counselor & nurse in HIV/AIDS and mental health recovery. He says this was his first time entering a national bear beauty contest.
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“I love the bear community and how accepting they are to me,” he told Gay Cities. “Playing rugby with the Cologne Crushers inclusive rugby team gave me the confidence to apply to be a candidate. I applied because I wanted to show that bears come in all sizes and shapes. I also wanted to promote my themes of stigma reduction – mental health and HIV are my professional areas – and diversity in sport.”
He says of winning, “It was overwhelming and wonderful all at once.
“I was overwhelmed by the support of the Köln RSV (Cologne Rugby Club) and my team the Cologne Crushers. Having my husband and the other Cologne Crushers inclusive rugby players there made it a treasured experience. It was amazing to have the support of a wide range of bears, both local and from around the world at the election party.”
Bryson is a passionate advocate for queer wellbeing and stigma reduction. He posted photographs of himself wearing an AIDS Memorial T-shirt over the weekend. It’s an Instagram-based project that commemorates those lost to HIV, and Bryson says it’s important that alongside the partying, Pride festivals retain a political edge and remembers those who have gone before.
“The first pride events were a protest including Stonewall and other protests. Germany has a rich history of queer (LGBTQ+) advocacy and queer research all the way back to Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld [famed, gay, sexologist from the early 20th century].
“Bad politics have hampered the health of queer people. Facebook with it’s PrEP advertising policy ban is also bad for health. The AIDS Memorial online is special to me because its theme is, “What is remembered lives”. I have had the obituaries of friends posted to the AIDS Memorial and friends post their stories there.”
Winning Mr. Bear Germany made this year’s Bear Pride extra special for Bryson, but he says he had an amazing time besides that.
“Bear Pride in Cologne is special to me because the city is so welcoming and accepting. Everyone is welcome at Gentle Bears, the local bear bar here. Cologne has the oldest bear club and they do events with other organizations too. I like the spirit of cooperation and inclusion.
“Also, Bear Pride here is the beginning of Christmas markets and that makes it a magical time of the year.”
Schwule jenseits des „jugendwahns“
Die Wahl zum Mr. Bear Germany 2004 ist der H�hepunkt der Bear Pride Week, die nach dem CSD das gr��te Event der K�lner Gay-Community ist. Eine ganze Reihe von Programmpunkten erwartet die B�ren. So gibt es eine Vernissage, die B�rensauna, die Bear-Hug-Party eine Aids-Benefiz-Veranstaltung und vieles mehr. Was unterscheidet diese Veranstaltung von vielen anderen schwulen Events? „Hier pr�sentiert sich die ansonsten eher im Hintergrund stehende gro�e Mehrheit der schwulen Community“, so Pressesprecher Michael Zgonjanin. Im Mittelpunkt st�nden „normale“ schwule M�nner jenseits des „Jugendwahns“ schwuler Hochglanz-Reklamemagazine. Gefeiert werde nicht ein weiterer Fetisch, sondern ein Lebensstil, ein Gef�hl. Die Veranstaltung sei „zelebrierte schwule M�nnlichkeit mit einem gro�en Herz“.
Die seit 1989 ausgetragene Mr. Bear-Wahl findet am Samstag in der M�lheimer Stadthalle im K�lner Osten statt. Dem Sieger winkt eine Reise nach Mauritius – au�erdem darf er mit B�ren aus aller Welt um den Titel International Mr. Bear k�mpfen. Im letzten Jahr holte Klaus beim International Bear Rendezvous in San Francisco als Erster den Titel nach Deutschland. Bears Cologne Mr. Bear 2003