The Radical Transformation of the Gay Bear Man
I’m not alone in the stance I’m about to take here; a lot of in-shape older guys like me I’ve spoken to feel the same way. And I’m ready for those stale jelly donuts to be thrown at my car and some more hate mail (“how can you be so insensitive, closed minded….”) flood this site. But fuck it.
When I was coming out, bear meant only one thing: a beefy, built-like-a-brick-shithouse, masculine-as-all-hell gay man, with plenty of fur, if not a prerequisite, certainly preferred. Today, the term “bear” has been triangulated and sliced up like a piece of deli style hard salami into muscle bears, cubs, otters, and “Big Men.” While a great number among this sub-set of gay demographics still fit the classic traditional, gay porn fantasy of Tom of Finland (even if Santa Claus for some of them is their steroid supplier), the Jenny Craig failures, who besides the “something extra” are often effeminate, effete and smooth to boot, have seemingly overtaken the franchise. Hey, I find a bit of belly on the right humpy guy sexier than a six pack, but these guys, as many under 30’s as there are over 40’s, are not just beefy or humpy or chunky or pleasantly plump or a few pounds overweight, but morbidly obese. “Morbidly Obese” means they’re walking time bombs for stroke, heart attacks and the like, and contribute to the ever higher health care premiums all of us pay, even those of us who take care of ourselves. (Check the National Institutes of Health or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services websites if you wanna know how many pounds morbidly obese is.) Fat under 30’s would rather hide behind all these “bear” labels than face facts.
Now I see these so-called “bears” at Bear events, often in chummy circles, bobbing in the pool like their own buoys, enabling one another to eat that extra helping of fries like druggies edge on their fellow meth heads to take another puff. They seem content, yea, maybe even happy in their own skin and God bless ‘em if that’s true. (I think the only way they’re gonna lose weight is when the docs lop off a limb because of advanced diabetes.) I can understand the comfort they find in surrounding themselves with their own kind, since many of them I’m sure were grossly overweight from a young age and were ridiculed for it. Hell, I was the second shortest guy in my class and am still branded by the humiliation of being picked last for every fucken team in high school. So, guys, I know the feeling because I LIVED it too.
But, having said that, I’m also pretty pissed on how the image portrayed by these full figure guys – the multi-layered look, shall we say – has largely superseded what bear means in the eyes of the rest of the Gay Community. They are NOT bears as far as I’m concerned; they’re just Fat Men (those of you who follow my blogs know I call a spade a spade) who have pirated my pride as a still muscular, still in-shape and still pretty hairy gay man who fucken sacrifices what he eats and works out to make it happen – there’s no magic bullet.
Is it a symptom of us baby boomer gays growing older just like the larger straight men’s population of America? (Check out the middle age spreads at any mall on a Saturday afternoon.) Our sub-culture’s version of the obesity epidemic spreading among our youth? A sign of rebellion against the twink swimmer build boys or gym bunnies? A carryover from the Sixties “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.” mentality? A mod twist to the “chubby” in “chubby chasers” terminology of a bygone gay era?
Whatever the reason, and you have no problems with your body image, fine. Just call yourselves something else – O.K.? (maybe Full Figure Guys?) – and leave me my “bear.”