Man and his bear
Ink drawing on paper 2.7 1 x 29cm
In male gay culture, a bear is often a larger or obese hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity. Bears are one of the many LGBT communities with events, codes, and a culture-specific identity. However, in San Francisco during the 1970s, any hairy man of whatever shape was referred to as a ‘bear’ until the term was appropriated by larger men, and other words had to be used to describe hairy other-shaped men such as otter (slim), cub (young bear on the way), or wolf (hairy, medium build).[failed verification] The word manatee describes a big, hairless man, i.e., a bear without hair.
The term bear was popularized by Richard Bulger, who, along with his then partner Chris Nelson (1960–2006), founded Bear Magazine in 1987. There is some contention surrounding whether Bulger originated the term and the subculture’s conventions. George Mazzei wrote an article for The Advocate in 1979 called “Who’s Who in the Zoo?”, that characterized gay men as seven types of animals, including bears.
The bear concept can function as an identity or an affiliation, and there is ongoing debate in bear communities about what constitutes a bear. Some bears place importance on presenting a clear masculine image and may disdain or shun men who exhibit effeminacy, while others consider acceptance and inclusiveness of all behavioural types to be an important value of the community.
The bear community consists primarily of gay or bisexual men. However, as LGBT culture and modern slang has taken on a wider appeal in modern society, it is possible to call a hairy and burly straight man a bear, although they would not be strictly part of the gay bear community. Increasingly, those who shun labels for gender and sexuality are also included within bear communities. However, heterosexual men who have bearish physical traits and are affirming of their gay friends and family (or their gay fans, in the case of a celebrity) may also be informally accorded “honorary” bear status. A smaller number of lesbians, particularly those who are butch, also participate in bear culture, referring to themselves with the distinct label of ursula