The last few months have been a whirlwind for Gauge Xavier.
Last summer, he was named Bear of the Year by the Dallas Bears, while simultaneously rising to the position of vice president. Then in November, the president, Ray Farias — who also happens to be Xavier’s best friend — had to step down from his duties for health reasons. Suddenly, Xavier was president of the group.
“I had no plans on being president,” Xavier admits. “I’m trying to respect what Ray started, but also leave my own mark.”
There are big shoes to fill in any case. Before Farias, Wayne Davis had served as president of the Dallas Bears for six years; Farias had been groomed to take over when Davis stepped down. Now Xavier has to take over those duties with little preparation.
“It’s been a challenge, but luckily Wayne and a lot of other legacy members are still involved. I lean on them for a lot of support. I actually asked Wayne to step in and help run” the Texas Bear Round Up, the Dallas Bears’ big annual convention of hirsute and/or big-bellied men and their admirers. The event, which takes place every March, has grown exponentially in recent years.
“Last year we had 1,708 attendees,” Xavier says. “This year we hope for between 1,800 and 2,000. We’ve actually had to split it into a ‘day host hotel’ and a ‘night host hotel’” to accommodate all the guests.
If that was all Xavier had on his plate, it would still be a lot. But in addition, he recently founded Team Friendly DFW, a group dedicated to “giving a new face to HIV awareness and eliminate the stigma of HIV,” Xavier says. The process started this summer at the International LeatherSir convention in Dallas, when Xavier met with former Mr. Michigan Leather Dave Watt, who founded the Mr. Friendly Project in 2008. The Dallas chapter was established in September — a month or two before Xavier learned he’d also be president of the Bears. (All of these, by the way, are volunteer positions.)
“We’re just getting started so we can file for our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. We will start out will grass-roots training — re-teaching people how to approach and talk to people with AIDS and HIV,” Xavier says. “Our base [at first] will be bar outreach, but we want to be more of that. We reach out to the entire community — not just the gay community. We have meetings scheduled with LULAC because [infection] numbers are on the rise in the Hispanic community. We have partnered with the Resource Center to be our testing arm, and the Dallas Bears are already helping out.”
But first there’s Friday’s underwear auction (“we have 14 models, of all different shapes and sizes — even a straight man!”) and on Saturday, the Dallas Bears are hosting their first-ever Casserole Cook-Off at the Round-Up (a twist on the typical chili cook-off). Then it’s hunkering down for TBRU.
Just a typical week lately for Gauge Xavier.