Ryan Shea's picture

Why I'm Officially Done Writing About The Bear Community

I have been a card-carrying member of the bear community for almost fifteen years, and even though I am still considerably young (32 years of age), I’ve had enough experience within it to get a true understanding of what the f**k is really going on.

Part of the reason why I journeyed into writing online many moons ago was to have a platform where I could openly discuss the myriad of issues that are going on in this community. It wasn’t for me to vent per se, but to chat about the hot button topics that are discussed online, in bars, and on a friend to friend basis. A lot of mainstream gay publications don’t really discuss bears, as they skew towards the muscular/jock/bro types, so there was this part of me that so wanted to be a voice for the thousands of us that feel like we aren’t heard.

That voice today is officially closed after I finish the last words of this article. The way I began writing this piece may come off to some as egotistical and narcissistic, but its more of just an introduction of what’s to come as I have reached my end when it comes to the jaded, cruel, and evil mindsets that have taken over this community.

Let’s begin on a high note. For starters, there are endless amounts of men who are fantastic examples of being a standup kind of person. I know many of them and many I have yet to meet and probably never will. They run the gamut when it comes to who they are, whether it’s their chronological age, background, geographical location and more. Bottom line: they are the good ones. And we have at least one of them in our lives (hopefully) who are there to cheer us up when we need it and better the world around us.

What’s started to become a festering, nasty problem in our community since the millennium are the individuals who do nothing but spew venom, hatred, unnecessary shade and so much more for whatever their reasons may be. I have been apart of this myself, but that’s not the focus. The amount of people I know who have told me their own personal horror stories that go on in the bear community and how some of us treat each other makes me really wonder why we even use the word "community" in the first place.

Just this year alone I have seen the following: blatant racism happening in person and online (telling an African-American man that you like “the way they smell” for example). Staying on that topic, which is still very much a pink elephant in our community: having older white men try to explain to men of different ethnicities why brown and black don’t belong on the rainbow flag and not listening to their answers which are completely justifiable. Let’s also discuss how the percentages of men who are not Caucasian are still painfully small at all the major bear runs across the world, and how they feel like the outsiders in a community that was built on having everyone fit in. And when they are there, they feel like they are being fetishized for one reason or another and not wholeheartedly wanted for their mind and spirit.

There’s also been a ton of men who have cried for help on social media as the ones that they are in relationships with are mentally, emotionally and physically torturing them. This isn’t bear specific but has been brought up by men in our community several times. The line between fantasy and reality when it comes to the kind of relationship you want to engage in gets blurred sometimes, and this is still an issue that gets thrown to the side quite a lot and not dealt with seriously. Using the angry or sad button on Facebook when someone is clearly asking for help isn’t helping them at all. In other words: we need to be there for each other if we are really going to keep calling ourselves a community, but there’s more to come on that.

Then there’s body shaming, which at this point I’ve written about ad nauseum. The term “bear” isn’t just one body type, it’s many and I think that’s a wonderful thing as from an outsider’s perspective, it would mean that we are a lot more accepting. Except, LOL, we aren’t. When there are countless men complaining about how they were body shamed at an event that is supposed to do the complete opposite, then there’s a problem there. Do I think 100 percent of those situations happened in real life? No, we all have our insecurities and these sorts of things can play mind tricks on you, but they do happen, and I’ve been witness to it hundreds of times over several years. As I’ve said before: body shaming makes you a d**k.

I never wanted our growing culture to ever feel like we need to be in a “kumbaya” state 24/7/365, but there should be some happy medium where we can accept and appreciate each other for who we are. A lot of men in this community have turned into bullies, which seems like they have just become the person who did this sort of behavior to them growing up. LGBTQ people have a history of being tortured endlessly during our middle and high school years, and some do a complete 180 and act this way towards others in our community once they find a clique that could be deemed popular (and ultimately above others) for several reasons. And before anyone says “oh that’s crap” … it’s not. It exists. The scene on the Real Housewives of New York City when Kelly Bensimon tells Bethenny Frankel “I’m up here, you’re down here” happens all the time. It’s juvenile and pathetic, in my honest opinion.

Comments sections on social media alone also breed toxicity. I’ve done my best to not read them, but they can be downright cruel. If one person stands up for another, you then have 5-7 other men telling them they are wrong and to pretty much stop typing. There are also ones who say disgusting and tacky things about men they despise on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posts, which is hardly if ever justifiable. When did we become the teenage girls who overtly judge everyone and are mean? What does it help, as grown men, to annihilate someone’s character who you’ve never met before and don’t know?

Am I an innocent Pollyanna who has never done any of these things before? Hell no. But I can look back on things and realize when I hurt someone or said something terrible about them that shouldn’t have left my mouth in the first place. I was immensely jaded for many years in this community (primarily to how tough the NYC scene can be here), but you get older and find those lovely “gems” that become your true friends and you realize that all the drama, bulls**t, and other things that encompass the bear and gay world are simply not worth it.

As stated before, there are some fantastic guys in our world and I’m happy to know plenty of them. But this is a community that needs a lot of help, and I believe we are at a point of no return if that doesn’t shift quickly. If I can close with anything it would be this: be kind. This world is rough enough as is for the LGBTQ community, that infighting, hurtful words and so much more are only exacerbating that. My hope moving forward is for that sort of mindset to stop and for us to just truly enjoy each other for being our unique selves. I mean, isn’t that what makes us different and awesome in the first place?


This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject.

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Well this article and the responses are both remarkably insular, ageist and ridiculous. To pretend that any of these things are problems specific to the "Bear Community" and not problems with the LGBTQ community at large is the equivalent of an ostrich with it's head in the sand.    None of the issues cited are problems specific to Bears but rather can be applied across the board to both LGBTQ and American society as a whole.

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Why are you using "teenage girls" as a derogatory description in you rail against "isms" and shaming culture?

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The most obvious black mark against the bear community is the one that most older West Coast bears don't want you to talk about, cos they're his friends.

The co-designer of the flag is a convicted paedophile. I mean I can get the whole idea of chicken, that ages can be slightly blurry, but 15 years old is way too young for a 40-50ish (He was around that age, or older) man to be messing with...but this isn't spoken about. 

Oh no. Keep the merchandise and money stream rolling...*eyeroll*

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Oh and that Philly flag was a shitty idea for several reasons - but among the A-bears and the Woke bears it was presented as a fait accompli - don't like this flag? YOU RACIST! Err....right. More groupthink/don't debate virtue signaling...which I know the alt-right has hijacked that term, but as someone on the hard-left I side-eye those who claim to be progressive then don't actually change their life.

That whole 'Hey LOOK I'm down with these causes (but I don't actually stop me buying Apple or frequent that homophobic/right-wing company, stop me from driving, or not go to events and take drugs which screw up those communities!' schtick. It's tired. Armchair activism of the highest. Seems to be popular in white gay men in their 40's-60's atm, maybe just trying to be down with the kids, or just be SEEN to do something. When actually doing nothing.).

Whereas I was like - that reads as a bear flag? Or leather? Looks bad too. And it was spearheaded by a straight black 'Diversity Officer' and a straight PR company/design agency. It wasn't from our community. There are better designs out there, anyway with the power fist, which has more of a shared history with the LGBTQ...And it was a Philly issue, other parts of the world are different...don't apply a US race relations template abroad? Nothing against a queer POC flag, more rainbow variants the better...but there has to be a wider debate before dragging and dropping the Philly flag - Copyright that design agency btw, so it's turning public into private - onto the Gilbert Baker and making it the 'default'.

That's what the fans of the flag seemed to be pushing for, rather than just a variant...and no you can't bully people into doing that without proper consultation.

But hey, I was automatically tagged as a racist for pointing those things out. Hmm.

Anyway they failed, saw exactly one Philly flag at Pride in London. A print out. Whereas the 'original' (well not the  truly original but the 6 stripe version it became) was everywhere.

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So you joined the bear community at 18? That's a fairly new phenomenon, when I was trying to get accepted in the cliquey world of bears in the 90's me and my best friend at 23 were usually the youngest by 20-30 years...we got laughed at for being 'rent' and the older guys just didn't really get us.  We paved the way...a few years after you couldn't move for younger cubs. But I gave up eventually trying to belong because I wasn't furry enough, big enough, bearded enough etc and it wasn't even subtly pointed out to me. I would never belong.

Coupled with the fact that bears stopped being chubby, and started being the muscle queens who used to mock us and tell us we were going to die young with our 'morbid obesity' - well they got older, grew a beard and took over with clubs and porn promoting this image. It stopped mostly being bigger older guys 40-50+ and started being younger, more sellable muscled bears, slightly stocky but never large...that's what you'll see advertising for bear events nowadays. It's more 'sellable'. A clone type.

But as others said here, nothing has changed. There were Heathers high school in-clique A-bears back in the day and there is now, even more so cos back then you couldn't wrap yourself in a bubble on the mailing lists and forums the same way as you can on social media, curate yourself a fawning peer group...it was ever thus, but today's tools make it easier. Oh and the virtue signaling, they LIKE to pretend to be #woke - surprised you came across those examples cos they publicly LOVE to be groupthinking how progressive they are....while secretly being racist, misogynistic and all the rest. Hypocrisy of the highest form - especially classism. "I am so woke and for BLM - oh but why can't you buy the latest iPhone? Let them eat cake!" Etc. FFS. No idea of their contradictions.

It got to the point I actually just removed 'bear' from all the stuff where I could, my email is one of the last vestiges left. I wanted to be me, not a cult...even though I like bearish men still, it's not my lifestyle. I don't need the indoctrination, pretend drug/sex buddies, bad music at XXL or similar, or the hypocrisy.

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You sound like Edmund White in his book States of Desire. Where every state he got laid in he wrote it's praises, and every state where he struck out he couldn't say enough about how horrible that state was. 
Your bitter.

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And you a sad anonymous commenter on a lonely website.

One who can't spell - it's 'You're' btw.

Nah not bitter, just real. You sound like you're about 12 years old, you'll learn. When you grow up, that is. Surprised you heard of Edmund White, actually.

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LOL  Perhaps you should take take the plank out of your own eye grammar nazi. LOL

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I don't mean to be dismissive, but this seems like the same conversation that's been happening for years about the bear community. People say that the bear community is supposed to be accepting of all body types but the images used to promote bear events always use a heavier, hairy, bearded white (or possibly Latino) man. If there's a group photo you'll likely see a token black or Asian person. And the bear events draw people who fit (or are attracted to) a few or all of those features. I see posts reminding people that bear events aren't "a contest", but that's contradicted by the way these events are marketed. Attendees come to the event expecting a specific body type to be celebrated.

It's interesting that the author mentions twice that he's been guilty of this bad behavior, including being "jaded for many years". I appreciate the honesty, but at the same time I wonder if he's just witnessing the same behavior he's exhibited in the past. Everybody has their own journey, unfortunately many people never move past being the sort of nasty person he describes.

There's no way to filter out shitty people from coming to bear events, no matter how many times you remind them to be considerate. The best we can do is call out bad behavior when we see it, try to police ourselves, and take care of those close to us when they're hurting.

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It was this way in the 90's too.  IMO, it's nothing new.  People are people.  Being a "bear" doesn't make you nicer, prettier, than other people.  If you're a nice person, you're a nice person.  If you're not, well, you're not.

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The title of this article unnecessarily is specified toward bears, these are the major issues among the gay community. Period. 

But this is part of the problem, targeting the minority instead asserting the truth about the majority. Change the title and share because it is honest and insightful in regards to identifying these issues.

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