USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘subcultures’
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What is a Gay Bear?

My informant is a 20 year old gay film student who self-identifies as a bear. Gay bears are loosely defined as masculine, bigger, hairier guys who are into other masculine, bigger, hairier guys. Here he tries to define what a gay bear is:

“So the bear community if you don’t already know is a community of gay men who tend to be on the heavier side of life. And uh, weight, like, there’s no specified weight that makes you a bear, there’s a lot of schools of thought on it and the jury’s kinda out on it, but um, people tend to think that it’s just bigger guys. Muscular, heavy, just big. But really the biggest, uh, the biggest component is hair. Hairy men, hairy gay men, are bears. ….That’s not a good quote. But the bear flag is a nice little piece of folklore, it consists of uh, orange, black, brown, and uhm… orange black brown colors, more, and those are supposed to be the colors of, all the different colors of body hair, all the different possible colors of body hair on men.”

The informant knows about the bear identity and the bear flag through friends who are bears, but initially (especially in high school) gained most of his information about bears through the internet, because “nobody really talks about gay culture in high school, let alone bears.” As he said, the jury is out on what really defines a bear, and the definitions of the identity is in itself so diverse and numerous that anyone you ask will have a slightly different concept of it. However, here my informant references a semi-official (though born out of folklore) bear “flag” to identify gay bears more with hairiness.

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