BEAR Is a Four-Letter-Word

…but not a dirty one. Not anymore, for me, anyway.  

In case you’re unfamiliar with the LGBT lexicon, (per Wikipedia) In gay culture, a Bear is a large, hairy man who projects an image of rugged masculinity. As a rising subculture in the gay and bisexual male communities, Bears are one of many LGBT communities with events, codes, and a culture-specific identity.


“Large” is a fairly contentious term, if well-intentioned. Basically, in same-sex parlance, a bear is a non-skinny, generally hairy dude who generally exhibits typical traits associated with masculinity. 

I used to be afraid of this term. I used to deny and run from it. When I was younger, in my twenties, I idolized my thin male friends, and wanted to be one of them. Alas, it was not meant to be. I was furry, and bigger than they were, and I hated it. At the time, I identified as gay, and in the “gay community” there is a visceral idolization of the thin, the tanned, the perfected, the artificial.  I wanted to fit in, I just wasn’t built to do so.

I associated bear with ‘fat guy’. No offense to men who identify as bears and relish the identity. This was really more about my own insecurities with my physical self. I didn’t think of self-identified bears as ‘fat guys’. I just didn’t want anyone to think of me as such. 

Flash forward to my early 30s, and I had gained a great deal of weight, becoming the ‘fat guy’ I so feared being. I’m still a stocky guy, but I have also lost over 100 lbs this year. Funny thing is, I now feel ‘stocky’ to be an accurate descriptor of my physical presence, rather than the ridiculously inappropriate descriptor it was – you’re not really “stocky” when you’re over 350 lbs and have associated health problems. 

Anyway, I digress. Truth is, though, by the standards of the lgbt term “bear”, that’s exactly what I am. I don’t identify with the “bear community” though, per se. I mean, I don’t attend bear pride events or sport the bear flag. Did you know bears have their (our?) own flag?


Yay bears.  Anyway, so yeah, but one can be something (if one prefers labels, which I generally do not) without being part of said community of something. But I don’t run from or fear the term bear being applied to me. Now, I kind of relish it, actually. I don’t usually refer to myself as one, but I associate the term positively with masculinity, confidence and self-assurance. So yeah, I wouldn’t mind being called a bear.

I think it has to do with a combination of losing weight, and still being a bigger man, but one who is much, much happier with his body than he used to be, and with the wisdom and self-confidence that often comes with age and time. I’ll be 35 on Tuesday, and I’m totally still navigating this crazy world I inhabit, and finding my place within it. 

And that’s okay.

Oh, and GRRRR, Woof, and whatever.


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