The Bear Association of Iceland Hosts Bear Party Night at Gaukurinn.
After nearly 7 months of inactivity because of covid, Bangsafélagið, the Bear Association of Iceland, is coming out of hibernation. The group last got together during Reykjavik Pride in August of 2020, another low period for cases between Iceland’s first and second waves. With case numbers low and restrictions eased, bars have opened. The Bear Association welcomes members of the community today, Thursday, March 18th at 18:00 for a Bangsapartý, or Bear Party, at Gaukurinn.
Founded in late 2019 by a group of nine people, Bangsafélagið began by creating and hosting events in Reykjavik after the end of Bears on Ice. Soon they solidified a four-person team to handle the planning and daily operations of the group with various volunteers helping out as needed.
“Reykjavik Bear is the natural continuation of its predecessor – Bears On Ice -, the annual bear event which opened the doors of Reykjavik to the local and international Bear community for a weekend of exceptional fun for 15 years. After one last event in 2019, it was decided to close the chapter and pass on the torch to a new generation.”
Their main event, Reykjavik Bear, is scheduled for September of this year and promises 3 parties, 2 tours to the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon, and a brunch to top it off. Tickets aren’t currently on sale until proper plans are solidified because of travel restrictions. However with travel opening to tourists from outside of the Schengen area, if they’re vaccinated, the news is looking good.
For today’s event, beer and wine will be offered at happy hour prices until 19:00. Anyone who admires bears or wants to support the community is welcome to attend. Note that covid rules are still in place, and all guests are expected to follow the guidelines. If you’re not feeling well, it’s best to stay home!
GayIceland chatted with Sigurður Júlíus Guðmundsson and Andrés Pelaez, two of the board members, to catch up on all things Bear before their event.
“This will be our first get-together since September. We did a small party for the community the same weekend as the Reykjavík Bear festival should have taken place last year. But since then we have been unable to do anything due to the pandemic.”
“The bear community has been mostly underground for years and we are only taking our first steps out from there now. We feel that this has a lot to do with mainstream body shaming that goes almost unchallenged in Iceland.”
What type of events does Bangsafélagið host?
“So Bangsafélagið is in charge of planning the Reykjavik Bear event in September. This event in normal times would welcome well over a hundred bears from all over the world for a weekend of activities and parties. Apart from this, Bangsafélagið also organizes smaller parties like the one coming up tonight (this Thursday), which we call Bangsapartý. During Reykjavík Pride 2020 we also held a grill party in Klambratún. We have and will continue to play an active role in Reykjavík Pride and we will continue to find new and fun things to do with our community throughout the year. These events are aimed at encouraging members of the bear community to come out and meet other fellow bears and also to give much-needed visibility to the bear community in Iceland.”
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for the Icelandic Bear community? Visibility?
“Oh absolutely. The bear community has been mostly underground for years and we are only taking our first steps out from there now. We feel that this has a lot to do with mainstream body shaming that goes almost unchallenged in Iceland. But it is time for us to come out and be proud of who we are and what we look like and showing people that it’s not only ok to be big and hairy or any other way but it’s also ok to find us attractive and lovable.”
What do you think contributes to the general body shaming here in Iceland?
“This issue has been around for decades, if not longer. The main problem is that people that look different are pushed to the side so easily and we have become used to it. It’s so difficult to make your voice heard when you have been taught all your life to hide and fade into the background. But being part of a community that not only accepts you but celebrates you gives you the confidence to be who you really are and not accept being pushed to the side anymore. Now we also hope to join others who have been outspoken about body shaming and hopefully show people that we really don’t all need to be the same size or have the same look to be accepted and loved.”
What’s your take on bias or judgment from within the gay community?
“Nowadays, the queer community is dealing with a sort of implicit bias that is born and reinvented every day on social media. The guidelines for being physically attractive and youthful are highly unrealistic and a vast majority of the LGBTQI+ population cannot relate to that life experience. We all have stories about being rejected for the way we look in some parts of our lives. But you would think that being rejected for the way we look or just what we are should be rarer within the queer community, but on the contrary, it seems to be much more visible.”
Has either of you experienced adverse reactions from other members of the LGBT+ community?
“I remember when I was 25 and partying in what was called Barbara at the time and this guy comes up to me and starts hitting on me,” says Sigurður. “We talked for a bit but eventually, he asked me about my age. And I told him I was 25. And he just said “oh wow, you are THAT old?” and walked away. But we also have this idea that everyone likes the same thing. It is even expected. I was terrified of letting people know I was attracted to big guys. Coming out as gay was one thing but admitting [my attraction] was a whole other coming out story. And I have found that there are so many others who prefer bigger people, but society still seems to think that being with a big person, or any person who doesn’t fit that tight stereotypical beauty mold, was not the first choice, while in fact it most definitely was for many people.”
“We talked for a bit but eventually, he asked me about my age. And I told him I was 25. And he just said “oh wow, you are THAT old?”
Is Bangsafelagid connected with other bear groups internationally?
“Bangsafélagið has no formal connection yet. However, we have befriended our fellow bear associations in Paris (Les Ours de Paris) and in the Czech Republic (Prague Bears) and have talked with a few others as well. Although the pandemic has slowed this down like so many other things, it is our goal to reach out more and create more connections moving forward.”
What should we expect at tonight’s event?
“We hope that we will see many people coming to meet for a drink and a great time together. I think it’s fair to say there is a craving for human interaction and now is the time to see old friends and make new ones too! We also encourage everyone to support Bangsafélagið so that we may raise awareness of body positivity and visibility to our community. Stay tuned for more information on events, especially for Reykjavik Bear in September. See you all there!”