14/11/2017 13:34 SAST | Updated 14/11/2017 13:34 SAST

Are You A Bear, A Cub, An Otter, Or Just A Twink?

A Mr Bearfest SA finalist explains what it means to be a gay bear in South Africa.

Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Gay subcultures move and morph at a rapid pace, but the ubiquitous "bear" and "twink" cultures have stuck around. The former typically refers to muscular men with body hair, while Wikipedia describes twinks as "having little or no body or facial hair, a slim to average build, or appearing to be younger than their actual age".

The communities involved are growing. But what is a bear really? And how are they different to twinks?

HuffPost SA spoke to some of the people involved in the upcoming Bearfest -- an annual event that takes place in Pretoria where the bear community gathers to do bear-related things -- in an effort to understand bear culture.

"Bearfest is basically a community-building event for the South African gay bear community that shows gay men that you can accept people for who and what they are," creator of Bearfest SA Chris Taute says.

Taute says that being a bear is difficult to explain, but at its heart the community is about being nonjudgemental. It's important, he says, because the gay community suffers from the perpetuation of body standards that many gay men find difficult to live up to.

"The bear culture generally tends to place little or no value on social stature or conforming to the latest magazine looks and styles, contrary to the main stream gay culture."

The programme for the weekend includes parties, cookouts and picnics, as well as a wrestling match that takes place in an inflatable pool filled with 80 litres of personal lubricant, water slides, and the main event on the calendar -- The Mr Bearfest SA competition.

#bearfest #bearbrotherhood #sabears #bearsfestsa #bearfest2017 www.bearfestsa.com

A post shared by S.A. Bears (@s.a.bears) on

Twenty-year old Mr Bearfest SA finalist Thatho Maseko breaks down what being a bear means to him.

"Not all bears are big or fat [chubby], there are otters that are slimmer, but just as hairy and rugged," Maseko explains.

"Then there are guys like me, whom you could call a cub, that can mostly be described as the younger and a bit smaller guy than a normal bear of the bear community," he says, laughing.

"But anyone who supports values such as having a good attitude to life, friends and helping the local community, is welcome in the bear community regardless of appearance. It is a philosophy of acceptance, respect, and a celebration of diversity. You don't have to look or be a certain way to be part of the bear community."

Follow the SA Bearfest Facebook Page for updates