What defines the bear community?

By | 2013/04/05

I watched with some bemusement today a fairly lengthy and at times quite heated argument regarding whether or not someone in drag should compere a “Mr Bear” style competition. Personally, drag doesn’t do a lot for me, but it’s clearly popular for some people, and it’s clearly something that gets heatedly discussed in the bear community almost every time it comes up. Yet some parts of the bear community equally embrace it.

At times, the arguments became so strident that I couldn’t help but think:

There’s so much butt-hurt in that, it’d stop a power bottom.

Name calling, histrionics, finger pointing at the policies of different clubs, insistence on being inclusive, insistence on sticking to (paraphrasing) core values, and insistence on what the term “bear” means.

It reminded me of a snarky comment made last year by some semi-adonis (is that like a Sans Serif?) bemoaning “fat men” calling themselves bears. As far as he was concerned, only hairy muscled men were entitled to be called bears.

There’s so many definitions that people try to apply to bears that it’s somewhat ludicrous:

  • Masculine
  • Celebrating masculinity
  • Not effeminate
  • Hairy
  • “Outcasts” or “everyone else”
  • Muscled

Drag doesn’t normally appear in that list, but over the last couple of years I’ve equally heard some remarkably astute and intelligent men whom I respect a great deal describe much of the bear scene as “masculine drag” – e.g., “leather drag”, “country man drag”, “lumberjack drag” – take your pick of any of those and a whole lot more.

But it occurred to me today that there’s only one definition that actually works for the bear community. And I expect I’ll probably annoy a lot of people by saying it.

The bear community is defined by not knowing its own identity.

So many community groups identify by a common, agreed definition of who they are or what they are.

Bears? It’s almost like a collective noun for “all the rest”, but even that’s not entirely accurate.

Each bear club that creates a mission, and policies, and goals, is entitled to follow those espoused beliefs, but to me it seems the only true definition of a bear community is the lack of agreed definition.

One thought on “What defines the bear community?

  1. Luke

    The bear community – or any community for that matter – shouldn’t be defined at all by anything cosmetic or physical. Bear is a state of mind, and the ‘bear movement’ came into effect because as gay men, we were sick of being stereotyped as ‘just another homo’ with those associated traits mostly exaggerated by pop culture.

    I’m proud of who I am, as a person, and I thought myself a bear long before I had a big beard and grew a belly.

    Bottom line, nobody has the right to define anybody – people should define themselves, whatever that definition may be.

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