Hey aren’t you a bear?
I’m seeing from the stats that some new people are finding this blog, people who may not have any other experience of me and they may want a bit more information.
And if you’re coming over from tumblr, I’m guessing that you have some sort of bear-ish affiliation or interest. Most of the people who follow me on there seem to be bears. So let me tell you a bit of how I see myself:
I’m now fifty years old, and for the last twenty of those years the primary identity I’ve subscribed to has been that of “bear”. This started from the first time that I heard the term being used in the gay community, which was late 1980’s San Francisco. In a gay bookstore on Castro Street (fuck, there used to be three different ones there) I ran across an issue of a half sized sex zine called Bear and picked it up because the guy on the cover looked like Richard Locke, one of my favorite porn stars. Once I got it home, I saw a few things: not only gay porn that showed guys that I thought were hot (and actually kind of resembled), but also the fact there was a local scene where these guys congregated. It was while before I worked up the courage to go to Bear’s old offices on 16th and Valencia. I don’t know what I thought or hoped that I would find there, but I seem to remember buying a t-shirt or something. A couple of years later an official bear store opened up south of Market, and I picked up the shirt that wore to the 1993 march on Washington. Supposedly there was a gathering of bears there, but I didn’t find it, just picking up on the intrigued looks from some of my fellow attendees.
In the intervening years I’ve seen the bear community grow and splinter, bear magazines come and go, the arrival of huge “bear runs”: gatherings of guys that can range up to a thousand. As always, once there is are enough people clustered around a group to constitute an Inside, I myself trying to find the edge. When I moved back to New York in ’96, there were two organized bear clubs running, one started by a friend. I got involved with both and then drifted away. I went to the two monthly bear sex parties that were running at that time as well, meeting up with a number of men who remain my best New York pals today. I haven’t taken part in an organized bear centered activity for years, but almost all of the queer guys that I play with or know socially would be classed as some variety of bear, whether or not they identify that way.
So yeah, in the absence of other sorts of identification you’d have to call me a bear. I’m a hairy, chunky guy with a beard. Who is mostly known as gay by the majority of his social circle. Or at least was, until the last couple of years, before he started growing his hair out and attending BDSM events where straights and queers mingled, and returning to the bisexuality that characterized his earlier years and watching that bisexuality mutate into something he’s been calling “pan” for lack of any better monicker.
And now, I’m some sort of happy, monstrous hybrid – a guy who lusts after other guys with guts and tats and beards, a guy who prides himself on his cock sucking skills for both bio and strap-on (there’s a real difference in technique), a bear who’s sitting in his office at work with a pair of frilly pink panties on under his work clothes, just because he knew it would amuse his friend, the head of a lesbian leather family. A guy who finds himself increasing playing with transmen and wonders just what shade of “Daddy” he is from day to day. A guy who beats on and gets beat by straight identified men and blows the occasional drag queen.
When I’m around gay guys, I still feel most confortable in bear contexts. But it’s a big world, and I’ve come to find that there are a lot of other places I can be comfortable in as well.
These days, it’s more often the straight people who have learned to call me a bear; it’s still kind of a novelty for them. But for me it’s an identity I wear lightly. It clarifies some things and obscures others and it’s just not expansive enough to touch on my essence.