Earlier this week we presented our recap and photos from World Bear Weekend and as promised we will bring you features celebrating the newly crowned World Bear Royal Family. We kick things off with haifisch, World Pet 2023.
BWM: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
haifisch: I go by haifisch (all lowercase) and use she/her pronouns.
I’m a 29 year old, white, Queer, cisgender woman who practices relationship anarchy. Born and raised in Ohio, I have had a service heart since high school. I have degrees in bioethics and microbiology. I’m very lucky to have a husband and partner who support all of my ambitions, as well as two giant dogs that keep me grounded. My entry into the public kink scene was in 2017, and I’m always learning more! From the start, I have been an active volunteer for various events, and founded the Cincinnati Queer Slosh in 2021. I thoroughly enjoy educating, especially in the form of knowledge sharing or discussion panels. In 2022 I earned the inaugural Cincinnati Critter title and have used that as an opportunity to begin dialogue about inclusivity in the pet play community. More recently, I’ve joined Cincinnati Leather’s board and have begun teaching to professional groups about non monogamy in healthcare settings.
BWM: What drew you into the Pet Community? Which animal do you identify with?
haifisch: I was drawn to pet play early on in my journey. For me, it was a way to slip into a headspace that didn’t require speaking, thinking, or higher brain function. My first identities were feline oriented – as a woman, I felt that I had to be a kitten. I was a ginger cat that liked to lounge around and occasionally cause mischief, then a big cat (think snow leopard) but with rainbow coloring.
Pony play had always interested me, but I thought it wasn’t accessible as a fat woman. I had only seen slender females portrayed in this kink. Additionally, the prohibitive cost of the heavy harnesses and the nature of the play being agility or strength based, I had shied away. But the more I explored kink, rope in particular, the more I discovered that kink is for everybody. It is what you want it to be. So I took the aspects of being a pony that I enjoyed, and made them more glittery and Queer – a unicorn was born!
BWM: What made you want to compete for the title?
haifisch: During Cincinnati Leather Weekend 2022, I met Zach Gillette and Pup Zeo, the reigning Mr World Bear and World Pet at the time. We spoke about World Bear Weekend and I fell in love with their vision of inclusivity and charity. At the time, I was still in the middle of my title year, but it gave me something to think about. Competing for a World title would allow me to network and advocate in a way that could positively impact more of our community. It would give me the opportunity to redistribute funding to those who needed it most, which is something I’m very passionate about.
BWM: How was your experience competing? Tell us a bit about your fantasy presentation and the meaning behind it. Please also tell us about your work and PrEP advocacy.
haifisch: Competing was a bit of a whirlwind! From driving 15 hours (one way) with a Suburban packed with 6 Queers and a Uhaul attached, to the three days of required appearances. I’m grateful that we had such a supportive class of individuals competing – our dressing room was a space of laughter and respite. Our contestant handlers and the staff who ran the weekend provided the scaffolding that we needed to show up and show out. Everyone involved should be incredibly proud of themselves.
My fantasy started as a joke, like most of my antics! I have a medical fetish, and enjoy consensual non consent. As a pet, veterinary play is something that really gets me going! The idea was to have an oblivious unicorn lured into a forced insemination exam. But the more I thought about it, and the timeliness, the more the fantasy became important to me. Yeah, medical play gets me off, but as a woman in America, the notion of forced pregnancy is a real threat. I am lucky enough to have had access to surgical sterilization, but not everyone is that fortunate. The scene was truly a representation of who I am – a bit silly and eccentric, edgy, with undertones of socio political commentary.
Which ties right back into my work. I am a sex positive person and celebrate pleasure. But we have to be risk aware – to protect ourselves and protect our community. Professionally, I work for a queer non profit healthcare organization that centers HIV care & prevention, gender affirming care, and providing a welcoming healthcare home to all. I’ve worked in the pharmacy field for about 8 years now, but currently serve in a more behind the scenes role where I ensure we maintain accreditations, licensing, and other auditing items to allocate as much funding as possible to patients who are unable to afford care. I’m particularly passionate about preventative medicine, especially when it comes to HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is one of our biggest tools when it comes to ending the HIV epidemic. I’d like to help change the perception of PrEP as a medication only taken by promiscuous individuals, to the sign of a commitment to personal and community responsibility. I’m passionate about working with people to find ways to get access to PrEP, as well as educating folk as to why it is not just a medication for gay men.
BWM: What does winning this title mean to you, specifically?
haifisch: Personally, it validates that I am welcome and wanted in spaces that I don’t feel traditionally represented in, as a woman and a non-puppy pet. It is confirmation that I am on the right path, and doing meaningful work that is important to my community. While I’d love to say that I’m above needing validation, it does ease my mind and help combat negative self-talk.
Community wise, winning the title feels like a triumph in representation. I am able to show other women and non cis males that we deserve to take up space as well. We are celebrated for more than just our maternal characteristics, and worthwhile even if we don’t identify as Mama Bears (shout out to Mama Bears – they do so much for us as a collective). It also gives me the opportunity to show other pets that there is no “one true way” to exist in your headspace. All species are valid!
BWM: What are the responsibilities associated with your title?
haifisch: First and foremost – charitable fundraising! During this year I will be supporting a local nonprofit, Caracole, which has been fighting HIV/AIDS in the Greater Cincinnati area for more than 35 years. Currently, Caracole provides much needed harm reduction and preventative services that are key in ending the HIV epidemic. (More info about Caracole can be found here: https://caracole.org/history/)
I am responsible for coordinating the pet mosh and round table at next year’s World Bear Weekend, as well as promotion and education throughout my title year. Knowledge sharing is a passion of mine, so I look forward to disseminating and obtaining new information throughout the next year!
BWM: What are your goals for your title year? Where will you be appearing?
haifisch: My goals begin with starting conversations – about HIV, about women in bear spaces, and about non-puppy pets. The more we talk about these issues instead of skirting around them, the easier it becomes to collaborate on solutions! I’ll be teaching about inclusive and accessible pet play, fundraising for a local HIV organization, and continuing to show up in Bear spaces and encourage other women to attend with me.
My calendar is still early days, but there is a list of events that I will definitely be attending! I would love to add more to my itinerary, so if you need someone with my particular brand of absurdity, please reach out! I keep my monthly appearances updated and pinned to my Facebook profile, and my Fetlife event list is always up to date. Below are the events you can expect to find me at!
- Co-hosting Cincinnati Queer Slosh on the third Tuesday of each month
- ISQCCBE Coronation XXXII, November 4, 2023, Cincinnati, Ohio
- North American Bear Weekend, February 15 – 18, 2024, Lexington, KY
- Leather Leadership Conference, March 8 – 11, 2024, Atlanta, GA
- Ropecraft, May 23 – 27, 2024, Chicago, IL
- Twisted Tryst, June 13 – 16, 2025, SE Ohio Campground
- World Bear Weekend, August 1 – 4, 2024, Lexington, KY
- Cincinnati Leather Weekend, August 16 – 18, 2024, Cincinnati, OH
- Dark Odyssey: Summer Camp, August 28 – September 2, 2024, Maryland
BWM: What are some important issues you feel that need to be addressed in the pet community?
haifisch: Great question! Currently, I see two issues that should be prioritized: inclusivity and accessibility.
I have seen a lot of change to become more pet inclusive and less pup centric in the last few years. It’s something that truly warms my heart, but I don’t think we are done by changing Puppy titles to Pet titles. My biggest suggestion would be one that I use often myself, when I am a part of a majority in a community: there are times to take up space and times to make space for others. Uplift the voices of others, especially when you notice that you are the only one in the room talking. I believe that by centering non-pup opinions and listening to what those individuals need in order to feel welcome, we can make great strides in increasing our diverse species representation.
Accessibility is something that I am passionate about in all aspects of life, but I see a need for more consideration in pet events. Moshes are typically not designed for critters who can’t get on all fours and roughhouse or those who may get overstimulated. As wonderful as all of our gear is (and I adore my custom bridle harness by Slow Burn Leather), much of it is financially inaccessible. Talking about how to get into headspace without actions or accessories that are traditionally viewed as “necessary” to self identify as a pet, is something we can do a lot more of!
I currently teach a class called “Beyond the Bark: Inclusivity and Accessibility in Pet Play” that addresses these issues. Reach out if you would like to talk about them and brainstorm solutions!
BWM: What are your feelings about the bear community and do you consider yourself a part of it?
haifisch: In a few words, when I think of the bear community, I think of: family, warmth, authenticity, and primality. My first bear event (North American Bear Weekend) made me feel so at ease, welcomed, and at home. I love talking with bears, sharing space with them, and learning from them. I am grateful to have been welcomed into the pack.
I absolutely consider myself to be a part of it, although not necessarily as a bear myself – more like a fellow feral creature who has joined the party at the watering hole. I see the “bear” community as inclusive of all wildlife, which is why I feel it is a safe(r) space for me to exist within. I’m so glad that I took the leap and jumped in!
BWM: Where can we find you? Websites? Social Media?
haifisch: All of my socials are updated on my linktree! I am most active on Facebook, IG, and Fetlife. My DMs are open on each platform, but I do ask for a little patience when it comes to responding – if I don’t respond in a few days, feel free to ping me again!
Also, if you click your heels three times while standing in a pool of glitter, I may appear!