Trans man competing in Mister Bear is here to have ‘stupid fun’: ‘Bear is a way of being’

A photo illustration composed of images of Bappie Kortram, a Black, fat, trans model and designer based in the Netherlands.

A history-making trans bear is part of the movement fighting back against deeply engrained fatphobia, and he’s here to celebrate trans tummies and have “stupid fun” at Mister Bear Netherlands.

Many cultures worldwide have primed people from a young age to believe that being thin is ideal – and that being fat is to be avoided at all costs.

The trans community isn’t immune to this, and there’s a growing movement of people spreading awareness about the ways in which weight stigma and fatphobia intersect with the policing of trans and non-binary bodies. 

One such person is Bappie Kortram, a Black, fat trans man living in the Netherlands.

A visual designer, model and advocate, Bappie is creating a space where fat trans people can love themselves on social media. This year, he also becomes the first trans man to enter Mister Bear Netherlands at Amsterdam Bear Pride. 

Bappie thought entering the competition would be “stupid fun”. It was also a way to celebrate feeling more comfortable in his body post-top surgery, and being given the bear label after he told his girlfriend he was going to “f**k some boys”.

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“This friend of mine, who was also in the bear community, posted a story that apparently you can sign up to become Mister Bear Netherlands, and I was like, ‘This is so amazingly wholesome, stupid and fun and I should just sign up – just f**king do it – because I have nothing to do in June’,” Bappie tells PinkNews.

After he signed up, Bappie was informed that he was the first out trans man to enter.

“Being a first, it’s not bad, but it would be more fun if it was the first year with more trans bears – a lot of them – at once,” he says. 

“That’s the danger of being first … Gottmik did so well on Drag Race that the next trans man who wants to do it has a huge bar to go over. And if Gottmik did terrible as f**k then any other trans man would immediately be compared to that. 

“If I f**king blast through it and win, the next trans man is going to be like, ‘F**k, I have to do great’. And if I go through and f**king ruin it, then I ruin it as the face of the trans bear community, and the next time a trans guy wants to enter, [people] will go, ‘Oh, will you bomb like Bappie did?’ 

“So, it’s smarter to be like not only am I here as a trans bear, [but it will also] be fun.”

Bappie Kortram, a Black, fat, trans model and designer based in the Netherlands smiles as he wears a cream-coloured beanie hat in a shirtless photo
Bappie Kortram wants to “make a small dent in the community” and broaden the way society thinks about bears. (Instagram/@tranyewest)

Bappie wants people to be “broad in the way of thinking” about what it means to be part of the bear community, joking that “bear’s a way of being”. 

“There are femme bears, them bears who are non-binary,” he says. “There are bears who even if they try their darndest will not get enough hair, but they still want to be part of the community.”

He adds: “Even if I don’t make it, I want to make sure I make a small dent in the community. 

“There are so many more types of bears who want to come out. There are bears who want to wear makeup and still be fat and hairy.”

Celebrating the beauty and breadth of trans bodies is something close to Kortram’s heart 

Social media can often be a cruel place where hate and bullying thrive, but it can also be a source of community and love. 

Traditionally, fat has been used as a derogatory term to attack people of a larger size or weight. However, the term has been reclaimed by activists since the 1960s, to combat weight-related stigma, medical fatphobia and anti-fat bias. 

Currently, fat acceptance and liberation is a social movement aiming to make body culture more inclusive and diverse in all its forms. 

Bappie has built a thriving, loving space both online and offline for fat and trans people, creating the hashtag #TransTummyTuesday for people to share pictures of their stomachs and bodies in an affirming environment.

He initially shared his pictures online because he was only seeing images of white, thin people when he saw a trans hashtag on Twitter. He wanted to build a table for fat trans people and Black trans people to have fun celebrating themselves. 

“Mostly focusing on fun because the trans body is very political, the fat body is always political, the Black body is always political,” he says. “I am pro-fat liberation, but I’m not as great as other fat trans people who are into fat liberation.

“I was like, ‘Let’s just have some stupid fun for once in our lives. Just very stupid f**king fun with hopefully zero consequences and just see where we can go with it’.”