A Reference Guide to the Gay Bear Culture

Contrary to what some people believe, all gay men aren’t the same. We don’t all enjoy Broadway musicals, dress up in the latest fashions, or walk with too much honey on our hips. Not every single gay man turns his nose up in disgust at sporting events, outdoor activities, or manual labor. The gay male culture is actually a cornucopia of men with different tastes, interests, and body types. We are a microcosm of the American culture just like every other subculture in the world. Not every African American listens to rap nor do all Latinos speak Spanish and watch telanovelas (Spanish soap operas). To believe that every single person within any particular culture is representative of the culture as a whole is not only ridiculous but illogical.

Therefore in an effort to increase understanding of the various subcultures within the larger nomenclature that is the gay community, I have decided to write a series of posts aimed at explaining the different types of men who comprise the gay community at large.

Now, just to clarify, gay men sometimes uses terms and classifications to identify other groups within our own that often confuses our straight friends. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked just what is a bear? Once I begin the explanation and delve into the various categories within the bear subculture, their eyes either glass over due to the sheer excess of information provided, or they (and by they, I mean my straight, male friends) will ask what kind of bear am I?

For some reason, my straight male friends feel the need to be classified by the terms we use to describe other gay men. And from what I hear from my gay brothers, their straight guy friends pose the same questions to them. Perhaps it’s their need to feel included (no man wants to be left out of any team even if they really play for the opposition!) or perhaps they just want to see exactly how desirable they are to other men. Let’s face it, our straight male friends might not want to slip between the sheets with another man, but they want to at least know what their options were if they did.

Therefore as a nod to all my straight male friends, the first group I shall tackle are the lovable, affable Bears.

Bears

A group of Bears

Definition of Bear: Men in the gay community who have hairy bodies and facial hair. Many are stocky and/or muscular (generally larger in mass than any other classification of gay men in the community). They often portray themselves as the epitome of masculinity through their rugged appearance and demeanor.

Characteristics of a Bear: Typically, Bears are friendly, polite, and easy-going, a far cry from their animal namesake. Their larger body types contain some of the kindest hearts. If a bear were to accidentally step on you at a bar, he would be the first one to apologize and feel awful for potentially hurting you. However, just like their namesakes, a bear is a dangerous gay when provoked and prodded with a stick (no pun intended). Their size alone would be enough to take down an entire gaggle of gays. But unlike real bears, these Bears travel in packs. When you take on one Bear, the entire cave is threatened.

What Does a Bear Do in the Woods?: While Bears have a wide range of interests, they are some natural proclivities of the subculture that seem pretty standard. Most Bears enjoy food and drink. Beer is the alcohol of choice. Rarely, do you see a Bear sipping a Cosmo or calling himself a Vegan. They indulge in the simpler pleasure of life such as camping, laying in the sun, or communing with other Bears.

Bear Wear: Bears can often be spotted in the wild wearing open flannel shirts exposing their guts and hirsute bodies, combat boots, and baseball caps. They are not slaves to fashion. This is not to say that Bears don’t play dress up. (They are gay after all!) But they are more at home wearing lose fit, extremely casual clothing.

Bear Subcategories: The term Bear doesn’t apply to every single hairy gay man. In fact, within the Bear subculture  you will find an entire slew of different classifications.

  • Black Bear is a bear of African-American descent.
  • Brown Bear is a bear of Latin descent.
  • Chubby Bear is a bear who is heavy set and hairy.
  • Cub is a term used to describe a bear relatively younger in age. The term is also affectionally used to describe a bear’s husband/partner who fulfills the passive role in the sexual relationship.
  • Daddy Bear describes a mature bear, who is often looking for a Cub (or younger man) for a relationship.
  • Grizzly Bear means that the individual is extremely dominant and typically extremely tall, heavy, or hairy.

    Example of a Grizzly Bear

    Example of a Grizzly Bear "GRRROWWWWL!"

  • Koala Bear is a bear of Australian descent.
  • Otter describes a man who is hairy but not heavy. An otter’s build is leaner and muscular.

    An example of an Otter

    The Otter ready for a swim

  • Panda Bear denotes a bear of Asian descent.
  • Pocket Bear describes a bear of short stature.
  • Polar Bear is a bear with white or grey hair.
  • Wolf is a term for a bear who is rugged and outdoorsy but typically also a biker.

Bear Admirers: Those who are attracted to bears or hang out with them also have their own set of descriptions.

  • Chaser describes a man who is sexually attracted to heavy set gay men.
  • Goldilocks is usually a woman who hangs out with a group of bears. This is the Bear culture’s term for their “fag hag.”
Goldilocks

Goldilocks, the original Bear fag hag

As you can see, Bears and those that love them, come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and interests. If you want to learn more, find a Bear and befriend him. You’ll be glad you did.