"Bear" Culture & White Gay Hegemony

As I have grow older, I developed more of a body type that is a defining factor for the 'bear' subculture of mainstream Western (American) gay society. I have some issues with this label, especially because I do not identify as a 'bear' nor do I identify with many of the aspects & interests within this gay subculture.

Bear culture may have originally formed as an answer to the vibrant femme presence that most people thought of as "gay". Bears tend to perfer to present as hypermasculine by growing beards, cultivating more muscular or fat heavy bodies, not shaving their body hair (popular in mainstream gay culture), & dressing more "straight" among other things.

The irony of the bear image is that it is very specific, which seems contrary to it's first incarnation as a down-to-earth answer to starving twink bodies and gilded drag queen fabulous. Men are judged as non-bear based on body weight (even too much fat can be non-bear), their facial hair and body hair, among other identifiers.

Another issue with the image of what is "bear" is that generally bears are seen almost exclusively as White men. There have been many incidents of people of color who find bear body types attractive or who identify as bears who were unable to gain access to a certain online community. There is also a large reflection of the "no Blacks, no Asians" trend on profile sites. This echoes the implicit racism in mainstream gay culture as well.

While bears may have originally presented as your average man who happens to desire other men, who is "working class" and "just another one of the guys", this has shifted greatly. Bear culture tends to side with mainstream gay culture which has a backbone in upper middle class capitalism (classism), racism, economic marriage equality (heteronormativity) and body image issues (who gets to define a bear?)

I take issue with this, especially the issues in presenting another White face of the gay community. I also take issue because I do not identify as gay, whereas bear culture is disproportionally full of gay men. Bisexuals, transpeople and people who idenitfy as queer or otherwise may not be as accepted in bear communities.

Even though now I reflect more of a bear-type body, I remember when I tried gaining access to bear culture and community as a thinner man and was denied many times by men I found desirable.

This is why I do not identify as a bear.

1 comentario:

  1. I think our gay interpersonal alliances need to focus more on bonds of friendship and cameraderie and less on sex. We need to be united but we can never be united based on our sexual desire for each other because different people like different races, ethnicities and body types. I am a black Latino male and I am currently reaching out to the gay community for more than just relationships based on sexual attraction. I'm getting into politics and advocating gay rights and gay mental health and wellness. In this regard I seek to cultivate vibrant platonic relationships based on our mutual LGBT condition, and no based solely on sexual desire and recreational fun. I think that when you reach out to other gay men socially for nothing but sex and recreational cameraderie, of course some will reject you because both you and they are fixated on satisfying sexual fetishes and seeking out certain sexual demographics (bear, twink, etc). I say, let's desexualize some of our interpersonal relations and seek common ground on more than just sexual desire.