BEARS

 

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Hyper Masculine Gay Men
 

Bear is LGBT slang for those in the bear communities, a subculture in the gay/bisexual male communities and an emerging subset of LGBT communities with events, codes and culture-specific identity. It can also be used more generically to describe a physical type. Bears tend to have hairy bodies and facial hair; they are burly, hefty, stocky, husky, rustic, and natural; some are heavy-set or muscular; some are chubby; some project an image of working-class masculinity in their grooming and appearance, though none of these are requirements or unique indicators. Some bears place importance on presenting a hypermasculine image and may shun interaction with, and even disdain, men who exhibit effeminacy.  

 


The bear concept can function as an identity, an affiliation, and an ideal to live up to, and there is ongoing debate in bear communities about what constitutes a bear, however a consensus exists that inclusion is an important part of the Bear Community. Bears (also called ursines) are almost always gay or bisexual men, although increasingly transgender men (transmen) and those who shun labels for gender and sexuality are also included within bear communities.

 

LINKS:

Wikipedia: Bears (Gay Culture)
The Complete Bear
New York Magazine: Grizzly Men

Resources for Bears
Monty Python: Lumberjack Song

 


Bear Origins: Bikers and Lumberjacks

 

Bear in LGBT communities is a metaphorical reference to the animal of the same name with similar notable features. These features include the animal's hairiness, its solid proportions, and its physical power. The bear is both fat and powerful, and the reconciliation of these two qualities is at the heart of the Bear concept's appeal. Bears are typically very similar in appearance to the ideal of the North American lumberjack. A romantic conflation of the bear and the lumberjack image provides the Bear trope its metaphorical appeal.

Lumberjacks were romanticized and fetishised in gay culture long before the arrival of the Bear concept, and the Bear concept retains strong traces of this older ideal. Lumberjacks appealed to gay men at aesthetic levels but also for the fact that they were working class, and for the fact that their isolation from urban society (and hence from mainstream gay culture) opened up a fantasy of both secrecy and liberation, within an idyllic, rural, North American setting. These metaphors also lend themselves to the idealization of natural physical appearance and preferences over more glamorized ones despite the convenience many bears may find living in urban settings.

The self-identification of gay men as Bears originated in San Francisco in the 1980s as an outgrowth of gay biker clubs like the Rainbow Motorcycle Club, and then later the leather and "girth and mirth" communities. It was created by men who felt that mainstream gay culture was unwelcoming to men who did not fit a particular "twink" body norm (hairless and young). Also, many gay men in rural America never identified with the stereotypical urban gay lifestyle, and went searching for an alternative that more closely resembled the idealized blue collar American male image.

 


Bear Terminology

 

Bear - Hairy gay man

Grizzly - Heavy set and hairy gay man (big outdoors type)
Otter - Lean and hairy gay man
Panda Bear - Hairy or heavy set Asian gay man

Black Bear - Hairy African American gay man

Brown Bear - Hairy Hispanic gay man
Polar Bear - Silver, white or gray haired gay man

Ginger Bear - Hairy red haired gay man

Koala Bear - Hairy blonde haired gay man

Bruin - Hairy athletic gay man

Cub - Young hairy gay man

Chaser - Non hairy man who likes hairy men

Goldilocks - Heterosexual female in the company of bears (fag hag)

Woof - Greeting used by bears

 

  


History of Gay Male Sub Culture

 

The Bear Book : Readings in the History and Evolution of a Gay Male Subculture by Les K. Wright (Editor)

 

From Michelangelo's David to Calvin Klein's hunks in briefs, the cult of the beautiful male body has been at the heart of much of gay culture. But there is more to gay life than buffed pecs and rippled abs. Les Wright's The Bear Book is a surprising collection of sociological and literary essays about gay bears: hefty, bearded men who look for the same attributes in their partners. The gay bear phenomenon started more than a decade ago--in response to AIDS, some commentators note here--and has become a defining identity for many gay men. The Bear Book examines the range of bear culture--bear magazines, bear clubs, bear web sites--and in doing so explores how gay male culture evolves in response to the needs of its members and to the broader culture.

 

Also Available:  The Bear Book II : Further Readings in the History and Evolution of a Gay Male Subculture by Les K. Wright (Editor)

 

 


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Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama