“Gay comes in all shapes, sizes, strengths, and personalities. Just like straight does. It shouldn’t be news that- guess what – some gay people don’t fit your stereotype.”-Donna Brazile
A bear is a hairy gay or bisexual male-identifying individual that is often heavy-set, but can also be muscular. Bears are often highly masculine individuals and rather rugged in stature, but the physical hairiness and larger body type is what mainly characterizes bear culture.
Cubs and Clubs
Gay or bisexual men with bigger hairy bodies often hang out in the same settings as other bears. There are also younger counterparts called cubs, that can be less hairy and smaller in frame. Cubs are often partners of a bear, which is how they gain acceptance and access to bear culture and clubs. Bear groups can sometimes be modeled similarly to biker clubs, and can often have a level of hierarchy. Hairier and bigger bodies are the common requirement of bear gatherings. Bears can be very muscular as well, though that is commonly not a requirement for acceptance. Having a rugged masculine attitude can be a must for some bear groups, but that’s not always the case. Cubs are often allowed to be more effeminate in nature compared to the mainstream rugged bear culture.
Participating in Bear Culture
Bear culture has become way more common in pop culture nowadays, and isn’t that hard to access. There are conventions, clubs, websites and adult films dedicated to gay bears, which will make it easy for anyone trying to connect with bear communities. One thing to remember is that not all bear communities are the same, and some have different standards of what a bear is. They don’t all accept more overweight individuals, and some have higher standards as for what they consider masculine behavior befitting a bear. Hairiness is the one defining trait of bears and seems to be a common denominator across the board for bear culture. Not being a bear doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily be welcomed into bear culture, but you may not be allowed into every type of bear club or event.