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Where the RVA Bears Are

"We want everyone to get along as a group and a family. We're there for each other."

GayRVA Staff | April 9, 2014

It can be hard to find connections in the LGBTQ community here in Richmond. Between the state’s conservative social outlook and the up’s and down’s of the community right here in RVA, finding those with similar interest isn’t always easy.

But when it comes to being a bear in Richmond, a new group has sprouted up and they want to make sure other bears here know there’s a place for them.

Meet Bud Ashworth, Ed Deale, and Bruce Matthews, two of the founding members of RVA Bears. As the name implies, RVA Bears is a group designed to serve all members of Richmond’s bear population.

“Bears are people who love a hairy guys, or love of big guys. Admirers. There’s smaller guys, otters or wolves,” said Ashworth from his basement just south of the river. “It’s a mind-set, like the leather community.”

Ashworth’s basement was serving as the RVA Bears’ meet up spot for that week and it was cozy and inviting to say the least – the open bar and wall full of vintage vinyl didn’t hurt either.

The RVA Bears started up back in August of last year. Many of the members had participated in past Richmond-based bear groups, but they said those groups had mostly tapered off or switched to only digital meet ups.

“Even though you spoke with people on-line, you never really met them,” said Matthews. “It was talking to your computer with no social interaction. We’re all about social interaction.”

These meet ups and social gatherings are at the core of the RVA Bears. They go out to dinner, have movie nights and potlucks, they plan day trips and even work on occasion with a DC-based Bear group called 495 Bears. “Doing things together, going places together, hanging out together. It’s a lot more fun that way and a lot more personable instead of the cold screen,” said Matthews.

The group is still in its infancy, but it already boasts about 30 members. To help legitimize their endeavor, there’s an application process and a small fee. The money goes towards the events they plan and a special RVA Bears T-shirt in planned for the near future.

When the group first started meeting up, it was dinners at the then-open Nu Nightclub. Matthews recalled the first night was almost too much fun. “We laughed and had such a good time… we actually hated to leave.”

And even though Nu has closed, they’ve since moved their gatherings to other venues. A night at Nacho Mamma’s last month was similarly a blast according to Ashworth. “It was great, it was the camaraderie, which is the whole purpose of the club.”

Ashworth and his fellow RVA Bears are working hard to keep the social aspect of the group alive. Often these kind of clubs can come off as cliquish and these fellas are working hard to fight that.

“There’s always gonna be people who know each other,” said Ashworth. “But we’re working hard to make sure everyone is included and everyone gets along.”

One thing was made clear about this group, however, it’s not a place for people to hook up.

“We’re adults, you’re gonna do what you gonna do,” said Matthews. “But we’re not gonna have an event for that purpose.”

Ashworth echoed that sentiment. “We’ve seen relationships develop and we’ve seen relationships break up… we can’t stop that.”

But for those looking for friendship and good times, the RVA Bears will welcome you with open arms.

“We want you to be honest, and we want you to be part of the group and make it grow,” said Matthews. “We don’t want someone with a hidden agenda. We want everyone to get along as a group and a family. We’re there for each other.”

These feelings of family are pretty genuine. Watching this group of guys laugh and tell stories in Ashworth’s basement, you can tell there is a bond there. “Our core group is very strong and very close,” said Matthews. “I can’t imagine going a day with at least thinking about these guys.”

You can find out more info about RVA Bears by visiting their website here, and you can reach the RVA Bears via email at buddybear424@yahoo.com.