It just so happened that my weekend layover in A'dam coincided with Amsterdam's Bear Pride! Now, since from a conversation I had a couple of days later I realized not everybody might be familiar with gay bear culture, here's a brief explanation:
Bears are, generally, gay or bisexual men (and, increasingly, transsexual men) with heavy-set bodies, often hirsute. Generally speaking, the bear movement provided a space for men who did not fit a slender, low-fat gay ideal, and who had become themselves a discriminated minority within what was already a discriminated minority (gay men).
Of course, as all human communities are, things are more complex. Subcultures that place too much emphasis on hirsuteness effectively discriminate against some ethnic groups that do not traditionally exhibit much body hair. Subcultures that focus too much on masculinity and muscularity end up discriminating against the minority that first formed the bear community based simply on a heavy frame and not necessarily on internalized homophobia.
Anyhow, despite that, in general a bear is a big man (whether a cissexual man or a transsexual man), and bear communities offer the opportunity for a different standard of beauty. Bear communities everywhere hold parties, events, pride weeks... And so, what I found in A'dam was, precisely, a Bear Pride Week!
Having taken a nap at my hotel after my exploration of the city and its Jewish quarter, I walked to one of the parties: the election of Mr. Bear Netherlands 2016! A'dam being a somewhat small city, it was a very nice 20-30 minute walk. Which gave me the chance to enjoy the canals at night...
And now, back to Mr. Bear Netherlands 2016, which took place at Club Church.
Inside it was all bears! And since these were Dutch and European bears, they were TALL. I'm not a bear under any definition, but right there and then I also felt so tiny! But I got just in time to see most of the election process.
They had interviews (of course, in Dutch, which means I couldn't follow what the contestants were being asked). They had a couple of numbers with the three finalists. And the finalists had to do some solo numbers too. Oh, and they had to give one loud growl/woof at the end. I'm glad to say (going back a bit to that introductory part where I talked about possible discrimination within the community) that one of the finalists was neither hirsute, not muscular, nor white. Cool!
And after the new Mr. Bear was chosen, the now ex-Mr. Bear gave some words, sang a song, threw teddy bears, and had a last group photo with Mr. Bear 2016 plus former Mr. Bears from other places like Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg!
All in all it was good fun. There was another party following this, but I was just way too tired - and completely out of place, not being neither hairy nor heavy - and called it a day.