Edmonton Pride - A Look At MOGII Community Past, Present and Future

Posted by Administrator on 6/12/2014 to Let's Learn Something New!

As we find ourselves in the middle of our local Pride Festival here in Edmonton, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the roots, present and future in a blog post about Alberta’s MOGII/LGBT*Q(IAP)+ rights, community, and celebration.

First, a little discussion about the above acronyms - LGBT is the most recognizable, and stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, Queer (IAP means Intersex, Asexual and Pansexual). There is a neat little acronym that has started to surface, and that we love; it’s called MOGII and stands for Marginalized Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex. It doesn’t use any reclaimed slurs, fetishize lesbianism or bias against any outliers beneath the rainbow.

The Pride Festival in Edmonton as we know it today started in 1981 with a raid on Pisces Bathhouse by police. 40 (yes, forty!!) gay men took offense to the constant harassment by police and marched down Whyte Avenue; nearly half of them wore disguises of some variety. This year, for reference, around 14,000 people attended or participated in the parade in downtown Edmonton. Pride Parades and Festivals across Alberta over the past five years have involved Prime Ministers (Joe Clark), Premiers, City Mayors, City Councilors, NHL Players, major (national) sponsors, renowned national and international speakers and performers and have gone from essentially organized protests to full on celebrations of MOGII culture.

Today, and in the future, Pride and MOGII culture acceptance continues to swell. A 2011 poll said that ¾ of Albertans support same-sex marriage and relationships, and 70% of Canadians have a personal relationship with someone who is LGBT. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. Upward and onward, Canada, upward and onward.  We, as Canadians have entrenched gay and queer culture into our own distinct ‘Canadianness’ – like Tim Hortons coffee or NHL hockey or bashing Steven Harper – and most of us have embraced it with open arms. Pride Festivals – like Edmonton and Calgary’s – continue to pop up in cities across Canada, drawing larger and larger crowds each year. There are at least 4 Pride festivals in Alberta, not including Gay Rodeos and other gay-centric events throughout the year. It’s certainly a far cry from forty gay men marching down the street wearing disguises.

To close with a personal comparison, I am more confused and put-off by purple potatoes that I am about homosexuality. I have the privilege of knowing and working alongside many wonderful MOGII people. I myself never had to struggle much with being openly queer. Liking girls and boys and birls and goys and everything between was just a thing that I did; sort of like putting pants on in the morning, I put on my queerness. For most Canadians my age, it simply does not register when someone ‘comes out’. I hope that someday this can be an international norm, but today – this week – I am simply proud that Edmontonians have Pride. 

Bear Culture: An Exploration

Posted by Administrator on 6/5/2014 to Events

This weekend, we are taking part in one the very first Beef Bear Bashes right here in Edmonton, Alberta. This event marks the opening of Edmonton Pride festivities, and celebrates a facet of queer culture often talked about but never truly understood.

To understand Bear culture we must look back to the eighties. Gay (male) culture was out, loud, and full of thin, wiry men who flamboyantly were reclaiming femme and feminine roles in their relationships with their bodies, society and the world (the common slang vernacular for these men were ‘twinks’). Completely subversive to the stereotypes of gay men being ‘girly’ or ‘sissies’, gay men were loudly proclaiming their right to shave their chests and fuck each other in the ass.

Like in many subcultures, there were gay men who did not fit this stereotype – big, muscly, hairy ‘manly-men’ who were also gay and who - for one reason or another – did not want to embrace the feminine, flamboyant stereotype. They instead embraced their broader frames, hairy chests, and raw masculinity; calling themselves ‘bears’ was fitting to the perceived nature of bears in the wild. While not turning their backs entirely on the subversion of societies’ views of gay men, they did veer to a new direction of renewed man-on-man love and all the testosterone that entailed.

At this time, there were many men interested in the idea of bears and bear culture, but did not specifically ‘fit’ the ideal model of a ‘Bear’ – burly (muscular or chubby), hairy, masculine man with testosterone oozing from every pore and action, often in their (at least) mid thirties with plenty of sexual experience and skill. This developed itself into many titles that fell under the umbrella of bear. ‘Cub’ for those that were younger or less hairy/burly, ‘Otter’ for the skinny or slender bear, ‘Polar’ bear for the older bear (dubbed due to the graying of hair), and some ethno-centric nicknames that are currently under debate due to their pejorative implications.  

Bear culture also defined itself like many other sexual minority groups of the time, with an oft-cited flag with a bear paw insignia, bear-centric groups that held pageants such as ‘Mr. Big Gay Bear (Place Name)’ or  ‘Cub of the Year (Place Name). Unfortunately, due to the AIDS epidemic in the late eighties and early nineties, many of these organizations fell apart as founders and senior members succumbed to the disease. They were also subject to infighting, as the old(er) members of the club had little transition (due to AIDS deaths) to the young(er) members of the club, causing a generation gap in the way membership and events were to be organized. Further discussion about the problems facing bear culture at this time up to the present can be seen in many gay and sexual minority communities to this day.

Moving forward from the negativity that was rampant in Bear Culture is something many organizations are trying to accomplish in the present. All-inclusive Bear Bashes like the one we are attending this weekend is just one such example. Bear focused groups across North America are reorganizing with inclusion in mind, attempting to move from muscle-focused to fat-inclusive; eliminating some of the rampant racism and setting up TNG communities for cubs and otters like you would see in other sexual minority groups.  This is a wonderful step in the right direction and we look forward to seeing the further growth of this community. Vive La Bear!

For more information on the Beef Bear Bash this weekend, please visit www.albearta.org