Meet Soen Trueman, Mr. Bear Gran Canaria 2024

We sit down with the current reigning Mr. Bear Gran Canaria, Soen Trueman, to discuss Bear Carnival, the competition, and his goals for his title year. Get to know this new leader of the bear community and spirit of community and activism that resides within him.

BWM: Please tell us a bit about your background.

Soen Trueman (ST): Hi! I’m Soen Trueman (aka Soen One), I grew up in the wilds of Northeast Scotland and currently live in the small city of Winchester in the Southwest of England.

I originally went to university to study software engineering, but later in life I developed a passion for psychology and neuroscience and so I’m currently studying neuroscience online at Harvard. I have a ton of hobbies that keep me busy too; I’m a qualified drone pilot and film aerial photography for my local pride, I host two podcasts, I DJ and also you might know me as a gogo bear! And absolutely thrilled to be adding Mr Bear Gran Canaria to my long list of roles.

Soen Trueman, Mr. Bear Gran Canaria 2024

BWM: What drew you to the bear community?

ST: I’m trying to remember what came first, going to a bear club or eventually becoming a bear myself!

Actually, I remember now; on one of my very first trips to London after moving to England was to the legendary night club XXL (When it used to be in the old railway arches at London Bridge – And when I used to be somewhat of a twink!), and I actually really enjoyed the atmosphere there; people were there just to dance and have a good time, regardless of who they were or regardless of their body types, or what they wore. There was no attitude, just people making friends and having a good time. And I really enjoyed that – It was eye opening for someone fresh off the boat from Aberdeen – Where we did have gay clubs, but nothing at all like London’s scene!

During my late 20s I fell pretty ill with a brain tumour (it was benign, luckily), and also developed severe fatigue, which meant that I was bed-bound for most of my late 20s and 30s. During that time, I put on a lot of weight, clubs like XXL really gave me a safe, welcoming space where I could unwind, when my health would allow; even if just for a single evening every 6 months.

Eventually in my 30s I could travel more and was absolutely blown away by Sitges bear week when I first attended in 2017 – I felt the same energy, the same vibe of the bear community of being open and accepting, no matter who or what you were, no matter how you looked. 10,000 people just there to have a good time, to socialise, no matter your body type, no matter your story, and I fell in love with that energy, with that tenet.

BWM: What made you want to compete for the title of Mr. Bear Gran Canaria?

ST: There are really two reasons I wanted to compete – Love, Empowerment and Bear Carnival. (Now there’s an epitaph if I ever need one).

Firstly, over the years, the bear community has lifted me up in moments of my struggles, when I’ve not been well, or when my body confidence has been left in tatters due to all of my health issues. And I wanted to try and return some of the love and kindness that has been shown to me over the years, by hundreds if not thousands of people in the bear community. Whether that’s people just listening to my story, people helping me out, dancing with me at a club, or just hanging out. When your body confidence is really low, just something as simple as someone saying “You look great” can make a whole world of difference. And I want to repay that love to people who are now going through what I did 10, 15 years ago. Just to say “You are enough”.

And the second reason is empowerment – The bear community inspires me a lot, because each one of us faces difficult challenges every day; whether it’s health, or body confidence issues, or simply being gay each and every day. And that requires real inner strength. Personally I’ve had to overcome body confidence issues, some crippling health issues, depression, anxiety, abuse, but all of these things made me so much stronger, to the point where I want to use this strength I have built, this new-found confidence to fight for the things that are unequivocally right – And to stand up and represent others when they cannot fight for themselves. Whether that is homophobia, transphobia, disability, racism, or sexism. The human race shares 99.6% of its DNA; and there will always be more to unite us than to tear us apart.

Bear Carnival is, as the Brits would say “something a little bit special”. What a lot of bear events lack is something to do during the day… It’s either pool, or beach, or Grindr, rinse and repeat… And whilst I do enjoy going out partying at night and meeting new people and hearing their stories, it can be a bit soulless sometimes. So when I first booked Bear Carnival last year I was surprised at the wide variety of different activities and events that happened during the daytime – Whether that’s a boat trip, or going to the spa, or bowling, or the waterpark, or a tour around a coffee plantation or… well, you get the idea. There was almost something every day that I wanted to attend. And in the evening, go out in the Yumbo Centre and meet your friends, grab some drinks and swap stories of shenanigans occurring that day. This year there were 70 activities spread across 3 weeks – which is incredible.

BWM: How was your experience competing? What was the process like?

ST: I had an absolutely fantastic time competing against 7 other contestants, and actually I was so excited to enter that I submitted my entry form almost a full year ahead of the 2024 finale!

The competition takes place in 4 stages – First is a meet and greet with the judges which is just a relaxed get-to-know each other introductory session with the organisers, judges and other competitors.

Second, there’s a mini briefing where you are told the basic rules, you swap contact details, and also vitally important – Choosing a wingman who will keep you sane and sorted during the finale. For my wingman, I chose someone who I had only met a few days prior, but we got on like a house on fire, and we loved each other’s company, so big shout out to Adam [Nunez] for being my wingman!

On the evening of the finale – This year held at the excellent Axel Beach Maspalomas, we had to do a “party game” (which was kept secret) and then our “talent”.

The party game this year consisted of hundreds of different sized balls being thrown into the kid’s pool, and the contestants and their wingmen (wingpeople?) had to gather as many balls as possible, in any way possible – But the rule is you must be carrying them. Big balls were 5 points, medium were 3 and small balls were 1 point. Adam and I scored something like 76 points (I can’t remember the exact number, I blame the vodka). It placed us firmly in the middle of the pack.

And for the finale, you go up on stage, do a meet and greet with the lovely Miss Brandy, and then onwards onto the talent section.

Now the talent section was always going to be a tricky one for me; as whilst I’ve got a few talents, none of them are easily shown on stage in front a few hundred thirsty bears (No, not like that!). So I had to come up with something. Originally when I submitted my entry, I said I would do standup comedy – but that was a huge risk as, despite being allegedly quite funny in person (don’t look at me in that tone), I’ve never actually delivered jokes on stage, so it was a big risk. But actually, serendipity herself arose on stage in a 120-year-old theatre in the south of London (And no, serendipity isn’t the name of a drag queen…).

I gogo dance for London’s (in)famous Beefmince nightclub a couple of times a year; I believe my official title is Head Gogobear..! So for one of their Big Balls, I actually came up with four outfits that I wanted to dance in over the course of the evening, and one of them happened to be a Viking – And people quite liked it – It was very basic, it was a harness and a furry mantle (which sits on your shoulders) and not much else, but everyone seemed to like it. And I thought, well, if people liked it, and I do generally look like a viking (it’s been said many times over the years!) that I might as well lean into my Scandinavian heritage – You’ve got to play the cards you are dealt!

So over the next two weeks I added some more parts to the outfit, some custom gauntlets (which go on your forearms), another layer of furs, a harness with a jewels in the middle, and this time wore it to the annual Boatmince boat party, and I’ve never had such an amazing reaction from the partygoers and even members of the public on the pier stopped me to have pictures taken, and really, really loved that. For someone who had struggled with body confidence issues most of his adult life, having people – strangers –  come up to me and ask me for my photo was such a massive confidence boost.

So really, I thought… Well, if people love the Viking outfit so much, what if I were to turn that into a strip tease, because that would definitely feed the hungry bears and so the idea was born!

BWM: What are the responsibilities associated with your title?

ST: Whilst really role is in part to help promote Bear Carnival and Gran Canaria as a destination – But with Bear Carnival already being a hugely popular event with thousands of visitors, I came to realise that as Mr Bear Gran Canaria, I can help bring some of that attention to the smaller, newer events, such as Oslo Bear Weekend, or RVKBear, helping kickstart these events and help bring bear communities together in smaller regions. In London (and in the UK as a whole), I am blessed with such a strong, well organised bear community, and I absolutely adore getting involved with grassroots efforts to support LGBTQIA+ people; whether they’re bears or not – Because a lot of of them share the same underlying themes of supporting mental health, body confidence, and simply being comfortable of being who you are.

BWM: What are your goals for your title year? At which events will you be appearing?

ST: So I have two main goals this year, one is to raise money for mental health charities, because I think now more than ever, I think people really need mental health services more than ever – and in terms of science, the brain and mental health is one area in which the science is still fairly young – And more than ever, we are beginning to realise that LGBTQIA+ people have their own unique requirements in terms of mental health and support, and I would love to be a part of that; whether it’s raising funds or using my psychology and neuroscience knowledge to help people directly.

And my second goal is simply to attend as many of the smaller bear events as possible, to raise their profiles and the excellent work their organisers are doing; for example, I attended the first ever Oslo Bear Weekend along with Mr Bear Poland, to really kick start that event, and what an amazing event it was. Who doesn’t want to drink an ice-cold cider in the beautiful sunshine having just emerged from a fjord-side sauna?

Keeping to a similarly Scandi theme, I will appearing at RVKBear over in Iceland, the well adored Brighton Bear Weekend here in the UK, Bearly Athens, Europride in Thessaloniki, Amsterdam Pride, Bear Pride Poland, and my beloved BearScots in Edinburgh, Scotland.

For a full calendar of events I’m attending, please visit

BWM: Tell us about some important issues you feel need to be addressed in the bear community.

ST: There’s a few things I think that are really important in the bear community, mostly centered around mental and physical health. I think in terms of mental health, I think we need to be more open and honest about depression, anxiety and particularly body image – And I’m increasingly finding that body dysmorphia is also an issue within the bear community, especially where people have lost or gained lots of weight quickly through other health issues – And I don’t think it’s something we talk about as much – And certainly something I deal with a lot myself.

And similarly, us bears often don’t get a choice in the way we look, something else often has other plans for our physical bodies; whether that’s mental or physical health, or simply genetics dictating the way we should be built – And I find that the traditional medical establishment puts every health condition that we may ever have is always put down to being overweight. It’s annoying and it’s simply not true – You are so much more than just your BMI. So I would like to see “bear orientated health” really start being discussed – For example, discussing how low impact exercise such as swimming or cycling can help improve your mental and cardiovascular health, regardless of how heavy you are; or preventative medicine such as supplements you can take to help with arthritis, or steps to reduce the risk of diabetes – Things that are body-weight adjacent, but without the overarching message of losing weight – Because it’s an option many don’t or can’t do for various reasons.

I think also the last issue that we need to address as a community is really “What makes a bear?” – I originally was drawn to the bear community, because it was a safe space free from judgement for being an overweight guy – But I’ve changed my mind on that in the last couple of years. I think being a bear is much more about attitude and identity; one that accepts the culture of acceptance and body positivity; a person that respects and is also a safe space for others. And a person that tries not to judge others on their looks. I think those things make a bear these days. I call it the “bear attitude”. For example, anyone can win Mr Bear Gran Canaria; whether you’re male, female, trans, non-binary, gay, straight, big or small – So long as you have that bear attitude. Despite being built on a bigger body image, I think we need to discuss as a community how we can be more inclusive to others that might identify as a bear, even though physically they don’t present as a bear – It’s a interesting conundrum especially in the age of highly effective weight loss medication such as Wegovy or Mounjaro. If you lose your bear physique, are you still a bear? I say yes, so long as you accept bear cultures and principles. Some will disagree with me here, but that’s okay, that’s what a community is all about, learning and evolving as things change, because all things do.

Keep up with Mr. Bear Gran Canaria, Soen Trueman, and check out his monthly Sinewave Radio Podcast by heading to his official website.

And make sure to take a listen to his other podcast Your Better Mental Wellbeing at Boots Online Doctor.

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