What is a bear?

"Bear \'bar, 'ber\ n, pl, Bears: a gay man whose disposition is rooted in contemporary male culture (decidedly not in contemporary gay male culture) that emphasizes and celebrates secondary male characteristics such as beard and body hair." -- Richard Bulger, original publisher of Bear Magazine

The Bear community is a subculture in the gay community. Bears are gay men with stocky or heavyset builds, and usually have hairy bodies and facial hair. Bears often exhibit an outwardly masculine appearance. (Wikipedia)

The above is for all of you that must have a standard definition. But a bear is so much more than this. Actually, Bear, when used to describe this subculture within the larger gay male culture, can be a look, an attitude, or a way of living!

The bear temperament

Many men, when they first realize that they are gay, don't feel comfortable with the prevailing standard defining stereotypes of what a gay man should be or look like. (Just open an OUT magazine or browse through a RSVP cruise brochure for examples!) Skinny, hairless, gym-buffed bodies and moussed-up hair on guys who are trying to stay forever young, just don't fit us. We're often average Joes or blue-collar-looking guys. Many of us have facial hair. Many of us are attracted to guys with body hair. While many of us like a Bearish physique, not all Bears are big. Like bears in the wild, we come in all sizes! Most of us prefer men who act masculine, are physically affectionate (Bear hugs!) and who are low/no attitude. Spending time with good buddies whom we can count on is more important to us than how we are going to get to the next circuit party.

In short, like their namesake, Bears are natural and enjoy all the imperfections of being a man's man. As the tag line title for Bear Magazine says; "Masculinity without the trappings!"


The Bear Movement does have a history! The Bear Movement got started about 20 years ago. Interestingly, it started in several place around the world (Sidney, Australia; Kansas City, Kansas; San Francisco, California; and the DC/Baltimore area, among others places) almost simultaneously. Often modeled after Levi/Leather and motorcycle cubs, local clubs started springing up everywhere. Everybody likes to feel part of a group and to socialize with like-minded friends-especially Bears! These Bear clubs, which are usually open to anyone regardless of facial or body hair, provide an opportunity for socializing and frequently assist local charities by conducting fund-raising event. Bear clubs in the DC/Baltimore area have raised tens of thousands of dollars for local AIDS and gay/lesbian nonprofit groups over the last few years. Most Bear clubs sponsor a wide variety of social activities; pot luck dinners, theater or movie nights, card game nights, camping trips, scuba diving, white water rafting, snow tubing, bungee jumping -- something for everyone! There are now over 400 Bear clubs around the world in more than 100 countries.

Bears around the world

So how do all of these Bear clubs connect up to form a movement? Well, ever hear of a "Bear Run"? Bears congregate at Bear events often called a "Run" and these take place all around the world. These events usually take place over 3-4 day weekends and involve incredibly fun activities -- lots of good food, contests, sight-seeing, sale of Bear merchandise, etc. In February 1999, the Bears of San Francisco hosted their annual International Bear Rendezvous and over 1,200 men from all over the world attended. Spanish Bear runs have recently had more than 2,000 attendees.

The Internet has been a tremendous tool for keeping the Bear movement growing and connected. There are hundreds of sites on the Internet for Bears. Many local Bear clubs have Web sites. Chances are there's a Bear club in your neck of the woods! Check out some of the Bear resource links in the results of a Google search.

So, come out of the woods! BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE! WOOF!