This weekend was the annual GayDays event at Walt Disney World in Florida. I attended this along with attending Tidal Wave for the first time. Tidal Wave is an event in the area that hosts the bear community. For the past few years, I’ve found myself accumulating a fair amount of prejudice towards some problems in the bear community, and I’ve kept my distance as a result. When I realized this some time ago, I decided that I wanted to unpack that and evaluate just what it was that I was denying myself.
The process of identifying and admitting prejudice is a difficult thing to do. We build behaviors based on our perceptions. When negative perceptions build over time, it’s amazing how quickly they can be prejudiced toward new people, events, and locations based on their association with a specific label. The bear label is the one I found in this case. Admitting this to friends was difficult, but thankfully it was received with love and understanding.
My Weekend Experience
I was grateful to get several nights at the pool party with my friends in the bear community. It was awesome to meet up with them and actually get into the pool instead of just lounging around the lobby like I have done in the past before paying to enter the event.
Throughout the night, I got to walk around and check out the crowd. I was always greeted in a friendly way by attendees when we made eye contact. This was a refreshing observation, since my past experiences in the bear community had been largely an environment of judgment and rejection. I realize that this event is an isolated experience, and my anecdotal evidence is far from representative of the larger body of the community, but what it helped me realize is that my prejudice was affecting people that it shouldn’t have, and it needs to go away.
It is a continued goal to prevent this type of behavior from happening, which is why I am writing about it in this entry. I think that we do not speak about learning moments as much as we need to as a community. I also hope that once I get around to revisiting this blog entry in some time that I will be able to say that I have made a measured effort at unpacking this prejudice and moving further into the bear community if I would like to. I see the beauty that it brings to those that call the community home, and I have a deeper appreciation for that now. I’ve also realized the behaviors that played a role in creating this prejudice, and hopefully this will keep me from building prejudicial walls in the future with new endeavors.