Meet 2022 North American Mama Bear, Sunny Haynes

This year, the North American Bear Weekend (NAB) was held in Lexington, Kentucky from February 17th to February 20th. During the weekend, the North American Bear Contest was held, where the titles of North American Bear, North American Mama Bear, North American Cub, and North American Pet were awarded.

If you weren’t already aware, Mama Bears hold an important place in the Bear community. So, it’s no surprise that many Bear title contests are acknowledging our Mama Bears — As they should. The winner of the 2022 North American Mama Bear title is Sunny Haynes, who previously won the 2020 Virginia Mama Bear title.

We had a quick chat with Mama Sunny about her goals for her title year, and what it’s like being a bisexual Mama Bear in the Bear community.

Photo: Michael Haynes

Kyle Jackson: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Sunny Haynes: I am a bisexual woman who is married to a bisexual man. We have parented 7 children into adulthood. We are now empty nesters who are giving back to the community that has supported our own children.

KJ: How did you earn your place as a Mama Bear in the community before winning a title?

SH: I was awarded the Virginia Mama Bear 2020 & 2021 based on my advocacy and volunteerism within the LGBTQIA+ community. We have chosen to continue this type of recognition of local advocacy with the legacy of the title. Our current Virginia Mama Bear 2022, girl beffani, is a person who has stepped up in support of our local community.

Photo: Entendre – Chester Beltowski and Dane Breise
KJ: When/why did you decide to enter the NAB contest?

SH: I need help to bring national acceptance on the federal level to anyone of any gender identity and sexual orientation. North American Bear title supports this type of advocacy and with the support of the bear community we can continue to bring light to the inequalities and pass laws to protect our community as a whole.

KJ: What was the best part about participating in the contest?

SH: Meeting so many different people from so many different places and learning their stories. Historically, LGBTQIA+ histories are conveyed verbally and I don’t miss an opportunity to be a recipient of our history.

KJ: What are your goals for your title year?

SH: To bring more national awareness to our need to continue to demand protections on a national level so that we will no longer be open to discrimination.

KJ: Not only are you a Mama Bear, but you are married to a Bear, Michael Haynes, who also identifies as a pup? He performed with you in your fantasy scene, I believe. Can you talk a little about that?

SH: My husband, Michael Haynes, is a compassionate and amazing person who supports me in all of my endeavors. He is cis male who identifies as a bear. Part of his identity is that of a pup. It’s a simple form of a power exchange between the pup and handler. This form if play allows him to let go of his inhibitions and find a playful side of himself.

KJ: What are some important issues you think need to be addressed in the Pup/Pet and Leather communities?

SH: Gear is not necessary. All you need is a mindset and a willingness to embrace all of your identity. Pet play has nothing to do about biological animals. Pet players are just seeking power exchange relationships in a fun way.

All Photos by Entendre Photography – Chester Beltowski and Dane Breise

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.