Bear community
"Bear" is a LGBT slang term that refers to members of a subculture
In sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong.- Definition :...

 in the homosexual and bisexual
Bisexuality is sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical or romantic attraction to both males and females, especially with regard to men and women. It is one of the three main classifications of sexual orientation, along with a heterosexual and a homosexual orientation, all a part of the...

 male communities and to an emerging subset of LGBT communities
Gay community
The gay community, or LGBT community, is a loosely defined grouping of LGBT and LGBT-supportive people, organizations and subcultures, united by a common culture and civil rights movements. These communities generally celebrate pride, diversity, individuality, and sexuality...

 with events, codes, and a culture-specific identity. It can also be used more generically to describe a physical body shape
Body shape
Human body shape is a complex phenomenon with sophisticated detail and function. The general shape or figure of a person is defined mainly by skeletal structure, muscles and fat...


The term "bear" is credited to Richard Bulger
Richard Bulger
Richard Bulger is credited with coining the term "Bear" in 1985 as a description for heavy-set, often bearded and hairy gay men, eventually creating Bear Magazine in 1987. He was a pioneer in the publishing of erotic photography and stories for what grew into today's bear community...

, who, along with his then partner Chris Nelson
Chris Nelson (photographer)
Chris Nelson , photographer and co-founder of Bear Magazine in the 1980s, was the photographic pioneer in the gay-oriented erotic photography of mature men with hairy bodies and facial hair...

 (1960–2006) founded Bear Magazine
Bear Magazine
BEAR Magazine is a periodical specifically geared toward gay men who are — or who admire — "bears", i.e., men with facial and/or body hair. It was initially published in San Francisco, California in 1987 by Richard Bulger and his partner Chris Nelson and marketed to the bear community within the...

in 1987.
Bears are heavy-set
Overweight is generally defined as having more body fat than is optimally healthy. Being overweight is a common condition, especially where food supplies are plentiful and lifestyles are sedentary...

 men and are often characterized as having hairy
Androgenic hair
Androgenic hair, colloquially body hair, is the terminal hair that develops on the body during and after puberty. It is differentiated from the head hair and less visible vellus hair, which are much finer and lighter in color. The growth of androgenic hair is related to the level of androgens in...

 bodies and facial hair
Facial hair
Facial hair is a secondary sex characteristic of human males. Men often start developing facial hair in the later years of puberty or adolescence, approximately between 17–20 years of age, and most do not finish developing a fully adult beard until their early 20s or even later...

; some are also muscular; some attempt to project an image of rugged masculinity
Masculinity is possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to a man. The term can be used to describe any human, animal or object that has the quality of being masculine...

 in their grooming
Personal grooming
Personal grooming is the art of cleaning, grooming, and maintaining parts of the body. It is a species-typical behavior that is controlled by neural circuits in the brain.- In humans :...

 and appearance. Some bears place importance on presenting a hypermasculine image and may shun
Shunning can be the act of social rejection, or mental rejection. Social rejection is when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all...

 interaction with, and even disdain, men who exhibit effeminacy
Effeminacy describes traits in a human male, that are more often associated with traditional feminine nature, behaviour, mannerisms, style or gender roles rather than masculine nature, behaviour, mannerisms, style or roles....

. The bear concept can function as an identity, an affiliation, and there is ongoing debate in bear communities about what constitutes a bear, however a consensus exists that inclusion is an important part of the bear community.

Bears are almost always gay
Gay is a word that refers to a homosexual person, especially a homosexual male. For homosexual women the specific term is "lesbian"....

 or bisexual men. Increasingly, transgender
Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles....

 or transsexual
Transsexualism is an individual's identification with a gender inconsistent or not culturally associated with their biological sex. Simply put, it defines a person whose biological birth sex conflicts with their psychological gender...

 men (trans men
Trans man
A trans man, transman, trans guy, or FTM is a transgender or transsexual man: a person who was assigned female at birth, but who identifies as male....

) and those who shun labels for gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

 and sexuality
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

 are also included within bear communities.

Younger or smaller men who identify with bear culture may also be labelled as cubs.

Events and activities

At the onset of the bear movement, some Bears separated from the gay community at large, forming "bear clubs" to create social and sexual opportunities for their own. Many clubs are loosely organized social groups; others are modeled on leather biker
Motorcycling is the act of riding a motorcycle. A variety of subcultures and lifestyles have been built up around motorcycling.-Benefits:Robert M. Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a paean celebrating motorcycling...

-patch clubs, with a strict set of bylaws, membership requirements, and charities. Bear clubs often sponsor large yearly events—"Bear runs" or "Bear gatherings" like the annual events such as HiBearNation in St. Louis, Missouri, International Bear Rendezvous, CBL's Bear Hunt, Bear Pride, Texas Bear Round Up (TBRU) in Dallas, Orlando Bear Bash, drawing regional, national and international visitors. Many LGBT events attract a significant bear following, such as Southern Decadence in New Orleans. A feature at many bear events is a "bear contest," a sort of masculine beauty pageant awarding titles and sashes (often made of leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

) to winners.
One example of a bear contest was International Mr. Bear, formerly held each February at the International Bear Rendezvous in San Francisco. It attracted contestants, often with local titles, from all over the world. The first International Mr. Bear was held in 1992 and the last in 2011. The contest included bear, daddy, cub and grizzly titles with the contestant who receives the highest score winning the bear title, regardless of what type he is. Example: "Mr. Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 Bear, 2006."

Gay "leather-bears" have competed in leather contests, and "muscle-bears" are another subculture noted by their muscular body mass.

The bear community has spread all over the world, with bear clubs in many countries. Bear clubs often serve as social and sexual networks for their members, who can contribute to their local gay communities through fund-raising and other functions. Bear events are common in areas with large gay communities.

The gay bear community constitutes a specialty niche in the commercial market. It offers T-shirt
A T-shirt is a style of shirt. A T-shirt is buttonless and collarless, with short sleeves and frequently a round neck line....

s and other accessories as well as calendar
A calendar is a system of organizing days for social, religious, commercial, or administrative purposes. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months, and years. The name given to each day is known as a date. Periods in a calendar are usually, though not...

s and porn movies
Pornographic movie
Pornographic films are motion pictures with the purpose of promoting sexual arousal in the viewer, often featuring depictions of sexual activity. They are sold and rented out on DVD, shown through Internet and special channels and pay-per-view on cable and satellite, and in adult...

 and magazines featuring bear icons, e.g., Jack Radcliffe. Catalina Video
Catalina Video
Catalina Video is an award-winning production house of gay pornography, founded in 1978 by William Higgins. The company was primarily a distributor for Nova Studios in 1982. In 1987, Scott Masters was hired as its head of production, and he began making films for the studio...

 has a bear-themed line, the "Furry Features Series." Other adult studios who feature bear-type men are Bear Magazine
Bear Magazine
BEAR Magazine is a periodical specifically geared toward gay men who are — or who admire — "bears", i.e., men with facial and/or body hair. It was initially published in San Francisco, California in 1987 by Richard Bulger and his partner Chris Nelson and marketed to the bear community within the...

, 100% BEEF Magazine, BearFilms, Bear, Butch Bear, Raging Stallion, and Titan Media.

As more gay men have identified themselves as bears, more bars
Bar (establishment)
A bar is a business establishment that serves alcoholic drinks — beer, wine, liquor, and cocktails — for consumption on the premises.Bars provide stools or chairs that are placed at tables or counters for their patrons. Some bars have entertainment on a stage, such as a live band, comedians, go-go...

, especially leather or western bars, have become bear-friendly. Some bars cater specifically to bear patrons.


As the bear culture has matured, it has subdivided itself, and many claim that discrimination has increased within the bear community as some men who self-identify as "bears" or "musclebears" do not welcome higher-bodyfat men (see chub
Chub (gay culture)
A chub is an overweight or obese gay man who identifies as being part of the related chubby culture. Although there is some overlap between chubs and bears, chubs have their own distinct subculture and community...

) at their events. A common criticism of the bear community is that some self-described bears tend to exclude men who do not fit their standards of what a "real bear" is. Fat (or lack of it) is a political issue among bears, some of whom see their overweight condition as a form of self-acceptance
Fat acceptance movement
The fat acceptance movement is an effort to change societal attitudes towards fat, obese, and overweight people.- Background :...

. Some also note a lack of racial diversity in the bear community, perceiving hirsuteness
Androgenic hair
Androgenic hair, colloquially body hair, is the terminal hair that develops on the body during and after puberty. It is differentiated from the head hair and less visible vellus hair, which are much finer and lighter in color. The growth of androgenic hair is related to the level of androgens in...

 to be a standard of physical attractiveness
Physical attractiveness
Physical attractiveness refers to a person's physical traits which are perceived to be aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. The term often implies sexual attractiveness or desirability, but can also be distinct from the two; for example, humans may regard the young as attractive for various...

 that genetically
A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

 favors white
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

 men aesthetically
Body image
Body image refers to a person's perception of the aesthetics and sexual attractiveness of their own body. The phrase body image was first coined by the Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst Paul Schilder in his masterpiece The Image and Appearance of the Human Body...

, socially, and sexually
Sexual attraction
Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal refers to an individual's ability to attract the sexual or erotic interest of another person, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate choice. The attraction can be to the physical or other qualities or traits of a person, or to such qualities in the context...

 among bears. However, what appears as racial discrimination to some may be a result of the fact that, in the bear context in which hairiness is prized, Native Americans
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

, African peoples, East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

ns, and Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander , is a geographic term to describe the indigenous inhabitants of any of the three major sub-regions of Oceania: Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, these three regions, together with their islands consist of:Polynesia:...

s, among others, tend to have less facial and body hair than men of Caucasian
Caucasian race
The term Caucasian race has been used to denote the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia , Central Asia and South Asia...


Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

 devastation in San Francisco accelerated the generation gap between older and younger bear-identified men, peaking in the early 1990s, with few connections that survived between the two. Some older survivors claim that the current bear culture has become "shallow and catty," which is also their common criticism of mainstream gay culture. The allegation is that the younger bear community no longer reflects the culture's original function as a social alternative for primarily rural and blue-collar, traditionally masculine gay men. Moreover, the proliferation of bear pageants
Beauty contest
A beauty pageant or beauty contest, is a competition that mainly focuses on the physical beauty of its contestants, although such contests often incorporate personality, talent, and answers to judges' questions as judged criteria...

 and their title winners ("sash bears") runs contrary to the early bear community's identification with and admiration for unself-conscious masculinity.

Bear media

A variety of media has been established specifically to cater to bears. The Internet comic strip Bear with Me centers around the life of the bear Andy McCubbin, a rich entrepreneur and heir to the Howell/McCubbin fortune, and his friends and family. A vast majority of the other characters are also bears. The comics are created by Tim Vanderburg under the pen name Bruin. In Tim Barela's comic strip, Leonard & Larry, a majority of the male characters are bearded men, some self-identified as bears, most to not. Another webcomic, Blur the Lines, frequently features bearish men and the two main characters, Rick and Drew, associate with the bear community (The former identifies as a chub, whereas the latter identifies as a chaser/cub. See below for term definitions). The events and characters depicted in the strip are inspired by the life of the author and artist, Bob Kusiak, who is also involved to some extent with the bear community.


Some slang terms relating to the bear community include the following:
  • Cub – a younger (or younger looking) version of a bear, typically but not always with a smaller frame. The term is sometimes used to imply the passive partner in a relationship. Can be hairy or hairless.

  • Otter – A skinny bear regardless of age.
  • Kit – A skinny bear who is also young, i.e. `Otter Kit'.

See also

  • Bear flag (gay culture)
  • Castro clone
  • Chub (gay culture)
    Chub (gay culture)
    A chub is an overweight or obese gay man who identifies as being part of the related chubby culture. Although there is some overlap between chubs and bears, chubs have their own distinct subculture and community...

  • Leather subculture
    Leather subculture
    The leather subculture denotes practices and styles of dress organized around sexual activities. Wearing leather garments is one way that participants in this culture self-consciously distinguish themselves from mainstream sexual cultures...

  • Ron Suresha
    Ron Suresha
    Ron Jackson Suresha is an American author and anthologist of books centering on gay and bisexual men's subcultures, particularly the Bear community.-Biography:Suresha was born in Detroit, Michigan...

    , author of Bears on Bears
  • Stud (LGBT usage)
    Stud (LGBT usage)
    The word stud in LGBT-usage is a man who has a well built body and usually plays the top role. The word comes form the agricultural usage of the word which describes an animal that is not castrated, which means that it is capable of producing and offspring. In the usage, the word usually implied...

  • Twink (gay slang)
    Twink (gay slang)
    "Twink" is a gay slang term describing a young or young-looking gay man with a slender, ectomorph build, little or no body hair, and no facial hair. In some societies, the term chick or chicken is preferred. The related term twinkle-toes, which implies that a man is effeminate, tends to be used in...

  • XXL (club)
    XXL (club)
    XXL is a gay nightclub in London which primarily caters for the bear sub-group. The nightclub is situated at 51/53 Southwark Street, under a number of railway arches just outside of London Bridge being relatively close to London Bridge and Southwark. The club was founded by Mark Ames and his then...

External links

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