Question: Am I a bear? Find out now!

Question: Am I a bear? Bama Boi Blues wants to know!

"Am I a bear?"

This is the question I've been asking myself lately. Often when I look in the mirror after a nice shower or  when I'm brushing my teeth, I can't help but wonder if I indeed fit within a subculture that within itself has a slew of labels and discrimination to make anyone not part of that community feel less than adequate. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the term "Bear," it is just one of the many labels to describe a certain type of gay or bi male (cis or trans) within the gay community. Bears are described to be big, burly, muscular, rugged, masculine, and of course, hairy - kind of like an actual bear, I guess. It's not just the physical attributes that make up this subculture, but the attitude or the hyper-masculine swag one must possess to really have that bear-like quality, supposedly.

Question: Am I a bear? Bama Boi Blues wants to know!

However, if I should embrace my bear necessities, I wonder what physical and mental attributes would qualify me to identify with this group? The idea that I may be a bear just confuses me. What constitutes a bear, and do I really want to be labeled as such?

Honestly, I just don't seem to know, but let's figure it out real quick.

1. I am burly - I think I have a decent frame to support my stocky build. Broad shoulders and a decent manly back (whatever that is), helps make my body appear more muscular than I probably really am. HWP is what they call it on Craigslist, which means "height weight proportionate," but let the docs tell it, I'm am too heavy for my height of 5'4". Either way, I think I carry my weight well. Speaking of weight . . .

2. I'm a thick/stocky/beefy fella, but I have no ass and I've never claimed to have one, but I like my thick thighs and my meaty chest. I've never wanted to be too thin because I like the weight, but I also know that I'm short, plus, I want continue to wear my weight well. I could be fitter, and I do kinda hate my belly, but what's crazy is that I don't think of myself as fat, although those who dedicate their lives to being hot and fit, or just naturally skinny may think otherwise. I think I'm average all around, which over the years, I've become fine with. It took me a long time to love my body as best as possible, and like anything, it's a work in progress. 

Question: Am I a bear? Bama Boi Blues wants to know!

However, I am also aware that body-shamers still exist within the bear community. Either you're too fat, not muscular enough, or too thin. I don't know, it's all stupid to me, and for those reasons alone, I don't want to further subject myself to being immersed in a community that looks to ostracize an individual just because he doesn't meet certain physical attributes. Wasn't it due to the same type of discrimination that made for the creation of the bear community? I'm already in the gay community, and there's enough discrimination out there for me to experience without tacking on the label of bear to my sexy-man resume.

3. Hair everywhere? No. Yeah, this should have been number one, but this is where I get confused about the makings of a gay bear. Is it all in the hair? The most hair you'll see from me is my epic beard, now that I've chopped off my locs. That's it! I have no hairy pits, and I have a regular amount of pubes downstairs.

No hairy back, ears, nose, or ass. And my chest has some sprigs of hair chilling on top of my chest tat, and my belly has a faint trail down to my navel, but still, not too hairy.

4. I'm not hyper-masculine or butch. I'm just an average guy that falls in between the BSRI scale, with a slight tilt to masculine. I have my moments where I become the Hulk, but I also have my cute and cuddley moments too! Also, I'm not just attracted to other burly butch guys. The lucky guy that catches my eye is just lucky. Whether he's tall and lanky with a little feminine edge, as long as we vibe well, and the attraction is mutual, all is good.

Question: Am I a bear? Bama Boi Blues wants to know!

I never want to shun any guy for being different from me. Listen, to some, I may be too short, too black, too fat, and too average to even be considered for a Skype session, but if that's the problem, I shouldn't want to talk to them in the first damn place. The idea of masculinity within gay culture pisses me off. It's like, it's coveted heavily, and since it's played up a lot within bear culture, it kind of turns me off. 

5. I'm black. Now, I'm aware that men of color within the bear community exist; however, this particular sub culture of the LGBTQ community lacks diversity. And, I know what you may say, "Oh, but it's a culture of various rugged looking men with different degrees of girth and age. Diversity shouldn't be an issue." Well, you're wrong. 

Question: Am I a bear? Bama Boi Blues wants to know!

Just like discrimination within the overall LGBT community exists, it's just as thick within subcultures like the bear community. Ageism, Sizeism, and Racism run rampant up in that bitch. Basically, if you're not a white, semi to muscular, hairy, hyper-masculine, cis-gendered gay or bi male, you have no right to even think about hitting up any gay bear centered events. You will be shunned and made to feel inadequate in most cases I've read. Not cool at all. Hell, even in media, once again, when it comes to depicting aspects of the LGBTQ community that rarely highlighted, like the bears, you don't see many men of color.

AND one more thing, I have read different articles that discuss the issue of discrimination within the bear community when it comes to those God awful apps like Scruff and Growlr. I want no parts of it. Fuckers.

So, what conclusion have I drawn from all of this?

Question: Am I a bear? Bama Boi Blues wants to know!

Nothing! I still have more questions!

Is there a certain meat to hair ratio requirement that I have to have. Do I only reach bear status when I become a certain age? I mean, I'm 28, so I'm not quite a spring chicken - hell, to some youngins, I'm already on Daddy status lol. More than likely, I'd probably be a cub - not quite a bear, but close enough. As cute as that sounds, I pay rent, so calling me a cute and cuddly cub won't fly.

For that matter, when did otters become popular, and how the hell do you differentiate between these fucking animals? For that matter, why do bears bark at each other? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of being a bear if you're going "woof" at a sexy thick hairy mammal? Wouldn't that be more of a wolf or dog? And because of porn, I don't think I'm kinky enough to be considered a bear. 

Most bears seem to be into leathers and straps and metals. Go back and look at all those pics. Okay, I do have my moments of kinkiness, but it's subtle. I enjoy rough housing and man musk, with a slight underwear fetish, but that's just means I'm a guy with kinks. Everyone has a kink or two!

So, I'm coming up empty. Not that I want to be considered a bear.Nothing's wrong with it, but again I've seen bear porn, and it's kinda fucked up lol, just kidding.

In the end, the decision is mine to make, and it's not about what you're called or labeled, but it's what you answer to. Coming across a forum, a user asked a similar question to mine, and there was one response that stuck out to me:

You're only a bear if you choose to be a bear. Looking like a bear doesn't mean you have to identify as such. Labels are for pricks. Just be you. That's much more attractive.

I can't help but think about the things that make me attractive to other men. It's been a progression, from seeing myself as a meek and insecure "fat" guy to a semi-confident "burly" male. It's all been a matter of perception, along with self love, and the love of my ex. The negative things I've seen in myself, others haven't seen. So, I don't think of myself as a bear or a cub. I'm just a cute, black, and burly average Joe with an awesome beard and an affinity for sexy men in jockstraps. 

Would that description work on Growlr? LOL, I'm just kidding. I wouldn't even dare. BUT, if I did, would this picture work for my profile? PEEP the beard and chesticles! LOL, I'm done!


(All images courtesy of Noodles and Beef - NSFW)

Each One, Reach One Moment: #SpeakOutHIV Campaign

I spend a great deal of time watching YouTube videos, sometimes to a fault. I never get any work done because I'm busy watching a "Let's Play" video, or watching people do even more basic things via Buzzfeed videos.

With that said, amid the attention grabbing videos, featuring countdown lists of all things random, the ad above somehow crept through on my TV screen, and I'm glad it did. After seeing the ad run in between the several videos I binge watched, I was inspired to learn more about this particular campaign.

The Greater Than AIDS Organization, which is a leading public information response to the U.S. AIDs epidemic, is responsible for this ad and many more videos on their YouTube channel. Greater Than AIDS was established in 2009, and in 2013, the organization launched the #SpeakOutHIV campaign

Per Greater Than AIDs' page about the Speak Out campaign:

#SpeakOutHIV is an LGBTQ youth-driven social media initiative from the Greater Than AIDS Speak Out campaign to end the silence and stigma around HIV. The campaign started with personal stories recorded by young gay and bisexual men in a digital storytelling workshop in Washington, DC, and the movement has spread across the U.S. calling those affected by HIV and allies to #SpeakOutHIV. 
So far, 6,000 individuals have shared their stories through this wonderful campaign, including both those living with HIV and those who are negative. The Speak Out campaign's goal is to "Bring HIV out of the closet" by encouraging open dialogue about the epidemic, which will hopefully encourage more people to share their stories to further educate the masses and lessen the stigmas surrounding HIV. This is great!

The vid above features young people who are living in Georgia, as they Speak Out about HIV. It's powerful and informative, and I encourage you all to give the video a watch!

What surprises me most is that these videos are not getting the views they deserve, so I ask you to check out, not just the video above, but also check out the other vids on their YouTube page, share them, and be sure to support this campaign in every way possible! 

To learn more about the #SpeakOutHIV campaign, please click the banner below. You can also go to Greater Than AIDS' website to learn more about the organization.

Each One, Reach One Moment: #SpeakOutHIV Campaign

Bama Boi Blues: What do I have left?

Bama Boi Blues: What do I have left?

I'm sitting here looking around my living room, sighing at the mess I've made over the weeks in here.

Clothes are thrown about, an empty bowl full of grape stems sits on the floor, stacks of bills on my end table, and me on my couch looking around my once comfy area, now wasteland.

All of this mess is an outward expression of an inward thing. And although I don't need Niecy Nash to come and clean house, I do need some miracles to happen to clean my mind.

You know, when I had quit my job last year, I thought I had a decent plan as to how I'd go about blogging hardcore, and networking, and just marketing the hell out of my writing skills and abilities. Unfortunately, I didn't reach that moment of clarity and hustle until a few months leading up to the new year. Always a day late and a dollar short.

Reality has been slapping me around a lot lately. I'm no golden boy. It's humbling but frustrating. Back on the hunt for a 9-5 just to literally stay alive, and I can't help but feel that I'm failing rapidly. And it's not just with this blog, but I feel the same way with my other blog The Jive Report, yeah, I'm finally putting it out there.

Maybe there's some sort of upside to all of these failures. Maybe what I lack in financial gain, I made up for with more knowledge of the blogging business. I often wonder if I'm lacking tenacity, or true drive. Could it be that I'm waiting on my account to reach zero before I realize that I'm going to be out on the street? What do I have left? Honestly, what do I have left?

Love life was given up, and prior to that, my job was given up. All I have left to give are my material things and the rest of my money to pay off any debts. And if I were to finally give all of that up, I wouldn't have much left, except a clear conscience. Well, I believe I'd have a clear conscience, but I'd honestly feel like I truly did fail.

Stress leads to illness, and since I'm already a mental mess at times, I've opted to only stress in small bursts. No, it's still not ideal, but at least I'm able to be productive enough to push through it all.

I wrote all of that several days ago. Today everything hit me like a ton of bricks. Today, I cried. I was up the previous night, well into this morning, and all I could focus on was how much I've sacrificed in order to get to this point, with nothing to  show for it. The tears wouldn't stop. I found myself grieving to achieve clarity.

My life has changed. I chose a path, and  I've tried to stick to it for the most part, but it's cold in these streets, and the more I think about it, the lonelier I feel. It's sad because I actually entertained the idea of moving back to Alabama, knowing I wouldn't be happy there.

I also caved a little and texted my ex that I missed the bond we  once had. Per usual, early morning text messages between us goes from semi-sweet to bitter in a matter of three messages. Throughout our exchange, more and more things became abundantly clear about me. I feel broken again. 

It's like I'm picking up where I left off about 5 years ago before he came into the picture. I was healing, and although he didn't interrupt the process, I lost track of how I was healing myself as an individual. Now, he wants to know if I completely want him out of my life. I told him to forget about me, but I'm in a bad place to try and make such final decisions without being contradictory.

But it's not about him. I'm all over the place, and I need to try and focus on my career. I need to focus on being more faithful in believing in myself. However, I feel like I've just been giving everything up that served important purposes in my life - love and security. What do I have left?