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.

Image

“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?

Image

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.

Advertisements

Album Review: ‘The Make Up’ by Dan Paul

1danpaul

The Make Up, the newest album by Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Dan Paul, is a brooding affair from the Texas native and rising pop star.  That’s not to say it’s all dark and maudlin – far from it. But there is a constant thread of quiet self-reflection. Themes on the album cover familiar territory of love and introspection – lost love, new love, new self-awareness, etc.

On ‘Come Clean’, the lead-off track and recent single, Dan Paul shed’s some skin to a slinking percussive line, setting the tone for this sonic rebirth. The ten songs effectively meld sadness and redemption, without ever feeling mopey. The songs read like entries from a journal that Dan Paul has allowed us to read.

In the title track, he sings “It’s the make-up, not the markers, that make up all of man”, playing with entendre (Dan Paul is an out and proud gay man, and has been known to perform in rock n roll drag) with regard to masks, as well as all the parts of our history from which we’re composed.

1dpbw

Dan Paul has made a beautiful, simmering pop record that gets better with each listen. The musicianship is subtle yet masterful, never overpowering the message or the vocals. Several tracks, such as the album’s standout cuts “You and Me Right Now” and “A Subtle Casting”, are particularly gorgeous. The latter is stark and sleepy affair that haunts long after the album’s quiet finish.

Standout Tracks: Come Clean, All My Life, Etta James, You and Me Right Now, City Romance, A Subtle Casting

DOWNLOAD the album on iTunes or find it now on Spotify.

1dprcol

To learn more about Dan Paul, visit him online at:

danpaul.tumblr.com
itunes.com/danpaul
facebook.com/singingmyheartout
lulu.com/spotlight/danpaulroberts
youtube.com/user/SirDanPaul

1dpreyes

Lady Gaga – Born This Way…Apparently Into Controversy

Lady Gaga’s hotly anticipated new single – and title track to her forthcoming third album – “Born This Way,” was released today, two days earlier than expected.  She was set to debut it at this Sunday night’s Grammy Awards show.  Only hours old, the track is already swarming with controversy.

I am torn on this one.  I guess you could say I am definitely “Team Gaga” as it were.  (Did I seriously just make a weak Twilight-derivative reference?  Shoot me now.)  Do I think it’s the best/strongest track she’s ever released?  Not yet (as of this writing, I’ve only heard it once).  But, it’s catchy as hell (the refrain has been stuck on a loop in my head for over an hour) – which brings me to the first controversy.

Controvery #1 – Ripping off Madonna?

All day while I was at the office (where I’m unable to stream audio/video over the network) EVERYONE was blowing up Facebook with their mixed (albeit, seemingly more positive) reviews.  A very recurrent item was how similar the track is to Madonna’s 1989 hit “Express Yourself.”  *sigh* As if the Madonna/Cyndi Lauper comparisons ad nauseum for the past 30 years weren’t bad enough…  Some also say there are elements of “Ray of Light,” “Like A Prayer,” and “Vogue.”

You decide:

Okay, I’ll bite – the hook is very reminiscent of “Express Yourself.”  The other references are a weak stretch at best, I think.  “Ray of Light”?  Seriously??

Gaga obviously borrows rather liberally from Madge.  But, welcome to pop music.  Tori Amos borrowed from Kate Bush.  Joan Jett borrowed from Suzi Quatro.  PJ Harvey borrowed from Patti Smith.  And who cares?  She’s not aping Madonna – if anything, the references are both homage to, and natural progression from, the Queen of Pop.  Songs sound alike.  There are only so many compositions/combinations you can do without something sounding like something else.

Controversy #2 – Questionable lyrics.

Gaga is already taking heat for some questionable lyrics charged by some as racially insensitive.  The lyrics in question (in bold):

DON’T BE A DRAG, JUST BE A QUEEN
WHETHER YOU’RE BROKE OR EVERGREEN
YOU’RE BLACK, WHITE, BEIGE, CHOLA DESCENT
YOU’RE LEBANESE, YOU’RE ORIENT
WHETHER LIFE’S DISABILITIES
LEFT YOU OUTCAST, BULLIED, OR TEASED
REJOICE AND LOVE YOURSELF TODAY
‘CAUSE BABY YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY

Okay, I get why some might see these as insensitive.  However, so far what I’m seeing online is nothing but speculation on the intent of the lyrics.  And speculation is only an assumption.

My Latino Voice writes:

How do we define “chola?”  Urban Dictionary defines it as:

“hardcore latina gangbangers. They usually have thin, arched, angry looking tattooed-on or penciled-on eyebrows, brown or dark red lip liner, ‘Monroe’, eyebrow and nose piercings, tats, Converse or Nikes, flannel shirts, lots of gold jewlrey (with their name and crosses), crunchy gelled or moussed hair either down or gelled in a high perfect ponytail either straight back or gelled in a design, and they go out with cholos. “

The more traditional Dictionary.com gives us a similar meaning:

“–noun: Chiefly Southwestern U.S. (esp. among Mexican-Americans) a teenage girl who associates closely with a gang of cholos or is the girlfriend of a cholo.

But is this how Lady Gaga meant it?  It appears she is associating “Chola” with being of Mexican-American descent, which is what has angered Latino groups like Chicanos Unidos Arizona.

The point of contention for me in the above is this:  “It appears she is associating “Chola” with being of Mexican-American descent…”  Well, yes, to the writer it does seem to appear that way.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that assumption is true.  She also doesn’t mention “bears,” “butch gay men,” etc. – only “drag” and “queen,” but seems to me the long is trying to include all LGBT people in its message.  And well…cholas exist, so simply making reference to this group of people (to me) is not racist.  She didn’t say anything negative about “cholas.”

The term “Orient,” however, is a bit out-of-date and generally frowned upon to use anymore.  But why?

According to one internet user:

It’s just such an old word that was used with negative connotation before, which is why a lot of people do not like it.

also, it is a word that was quite Eurocentric because one of it’s meanings involves being in or facing the East. Since our world is round, who is to say what country is “east” or west”.

edit: people call those from france, etc. European because they are from the continent of EUROPE! duh. if there was a continent called ORIENT then it would be fine, but no- the continent is ASIA. again, orient/oriental stem from a Eurocentric (definition: centered on Europe or the Europeans; especially : reflecting a tendency to interpret the world in terms of western and especially European or Anglo-American values and experiences) point of view

Racially insensitive?  Obviously, to some.  Not so, to others.  From the same ask/answer page as above:

I’m Chinese and have never had a problem with the term Oriental. (beats the sweeping generalization “Asian” by a mile) Lately I’ve been hearing that it is indeed racist, mostly from Americans. Why is this so?

For me, I guess the question comes down to intent.  Let’s not forget, Gaga is no stranger to courting controversy in her art.  Remember this line from “Bad Romance”?

Work your blonde.  Benet Ramsey will haunt like Liberace.”

Controversy #3 – The deluxe edition will be available exclusively at Target.

Now this is an interesting marketing choice.  I’m withholding judgement until someone inevitably asks Gaga why Target?  You no doubt remember the furor last year over Target’s contributions to a Minnesota political-action group that distributed funds to an anti-gay candidate.

In an article I read today on the deluxe version, I was a bit disappointed that Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, made NO reference to the controversy, or the choice to distribute this exclusively at Target of all places, in light of the recent uproar over the Minneapolis-based retail giant.

He only offered this in a news release:

“Target and Lady Gaga together is a win-win.  The partnership provides us with an opportunity to really engage the fans early and widen our reach on the album promotion.”

Blah, marketing-speak.

So, what’s your take?  Gaga promises Born This Way will be “the album of the decade.”  We’ll see.  Hey, if so, I’m all for it.  In the end, I think she’s produced an extremely catchy dance song with a liberating message, regardless of various interpretations.  And while I’m loath to compare her to Madonna, her boundary-pushing style and artistic output in relation to her kindred pop-mother Madge is hard to ignore.

Born This Way is released May 23, 2011.

*One last thing – Gaga’s “people” insist the bare-assed shot is merely a teaser, and not official cover art.  However, Target seems to think otherwise, at least at the moment on their site’s dedicated BTW pre-order page.

2/11/11 8:56 pm CST – via Twitter:

ETCanada Lady Gaga’s Born This Way is officially #1 Worldwide, hitting #1 in all 22 iTunes countries.

Who ever said a little controversy wasn’t a good thing?