Everything you ever wanted or needed to know
about Bears and their buddies.
What is a bear?
Superficially, a bear is a chubby, hairy, masculine, gay male who
likes beer and flannel shirts. However, according to many bears and
their admirers, the bear culture is not so much about physical
appearance, rather it is about living a particular philosophy of
acceptance, respect, and the celebration of diversity (Bill Picture, SF
Gate). Furthermore, a bear is a gay man who rejoices in his
masculinity (masculinity of a relaxed and undemonstrative nature)
rather than suppressing his true gender identity to assimilate into the
pretty-boy standards of much of the gay "community." A bear is,
well, a big teddy-bear of a man--gruff and bristly on the outside but
mellow and squishy-sweet on the inside. Bears are considered
almost universally friendly and likeable.
Those who study such things, theorize that the bear phenomenon is
a "maturation of the gay culture (Andrew Sullivan)" in that most bears
feel no need to take on conventional gay identities and display--they
are simply masculine dudes who really, really like other masculine
dudes. Bears see no conflict between being gay and being a genuine
man and therefore achieve a kind of identity-based personal
harmony that does not require any sort of outside validation. Unlike
much of gay cultural identity--which equates being gay with somehow
not being a regular guy--bear culture simply accepts the notion of
masculinity. That being said, most bears eschew politics--the politics
of being gay included.
So when and how did this all start?
The origins of the bear movement are unclear but it is believed that it
first began 15 to 20 years ago in San Francisco (of course!). It is my
belief--if we hold the theory of bear culture being a maturation of gay
culture to be true--that beardom evolved out of the ashes of the first
scourge of the AIDS epidemic. Years of burying dead lovers and
friends, years of fear and rage created a populace of battle-wearied
men that began to turn their backs on the hierarchal and carefully
orchestrated customs of gay society. The do's and don'ts and other
bullshit possibly seemed less important.
Hey! This sounds cool, but I'm not quite up to the physical standards.
Well, you're in luck. As in almost every other group, there exist
subgroups--in this case, if you're not old enough or hairy enough or
chubby enough or cuddly enough, you can be a cub, an otter and/or
Cubs are simply young bears. Cubs have all the physical and mental
attributes of a bear, they just aren't old enough to be a full-fledged
Otters are slimmer and less hairy bear-admirers (BA's?).
Wolves are bears that are typically more aggressive and OVERTLY
My oldest and dearest friend and I were discussing bears and he
lamented that although he is old enough and hairy enough, he is not
chubby enough to be a bear. I suggested we call men like him,
It should be noted that Bears come in all shapes and sizes. You
don't have to fit any specific category to be a Bear. All you need to
have is an open mind, sense of humor, a giving heart and a desire to
be with other like-minded people.
What do Bears do?
Well, every group is different and has their own way of supporting
their local community. The Wichita Bears focus mainly on GLBT
community support through hosting various fund raisers for local
groups and organizations. Through our fund raisers we are able to
donate several thousand dollars every year to agencies that support
food pantries, AIDS outreach and community support groups. We
are also socially Motivated. We meet for dinners at local restaurants
and attend local events, like the State Fair, Pride and entertainment
Where can I find Bears and their buddies?
You can find Bear groups all over the United States and the world.
If you are local to Wichita, Kansas, you can start with the Wichita
Bears, right here on this web page. Other "local" groups are;
Junction City Teddy Bears, KC Bear Mafia, KC Cave Bears, Green
Country Bears in Tulsa and of course Dallas Bears in Texas, just to
name a few.
Parts of the above information may be found at the following link;