“Am I a bear?”
This is the question I’ve asked 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 as 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 have to really have that bear-like quality, supposedly.
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’ possibly a bear just confuses me. What constitutes a bear, and do I really want the label as such?
Honestly, I just don’t seem to know, but let’s figure it out real quick.
1. I am burly – My frame is decent 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 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 to 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 is, and like anything, it’s a work in progress.
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. 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 created 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 only attracted to other burly butch guys. The lucky guy that catches my eye is just lucky. Hell, he can be tall and lanky with a little feminine edge. As long as we vibe well, and the attraction is mutual, all is good.
I never want to shun any guy for being different from me. Listen, to some, I’m too short, too black, too fat, and too average to even be part of 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 couldn’t possibly be an issue.” Well, you’re wrong.
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?
Nothing! I still have more questions!
Is there a certain meat to hair ratio requirement that I must 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 for a bear consideration.
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. I’m not looking for a bear consideration. Nothing’s wrong with it, but again I’ve seen bear porn, and it’s kinda fucked up, LOL! I’m 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, done!