I am someone who has been associated with the bear community now for about eleven years, dating back to when I went to college in Providence. Yes, I am young (31 years old), and still have a lot to learn in my life moving forward, but something that has become so glaringly obvious is the divisions and huge issues this community still has today. I have written about us in so many capacities over the past four years in an effort to talk about the four or five massive pink elephants in the room, and yet I still see the same bullshit shenanigans happening on an almost daily basis.
Let's take a look at the most obvious of them all: racism. Whether you want to admit it or not, this is an issue that not only affects bears but gay men as a whole, and let's face it... the world. Anytime you go to a bear run, you will find that it is primarily white men with a smidgen of other races thrown in there, as if its some sort of hairy edition of Where's Waldo? Even a lot of the promotional posters as of late, albeit it a local bar or big event showcase white hairy men as if this is the cover of a porn film from the mid 90's. If times have changed, and diversity and inclusion is a huge matter in all of this, why haven't we caught on yet?
The stories I hear from men of color are really is starting to sound like a broken record, in that they are denied instantly in our community due to the color of their skin. This isn't just sex, it goes into the friendship rounds as well as the diversity aspect is still trying to find its place yet with the resistance many have felt it can seem impossible. It's why many who don't fit the bear standards don't bother showing up to these events as they fear they will be isolated with no one to talk to. It's pathetic, quite frankly.
I even heard about an incident that happened at a popular bear event this past summer, where a white guy approached a man of color, sniffed him, and said "I love how you guys smell". I don't think there is a big enough reaction to say just how terrible that is to say to another person, but then again this whole year seems to embolden people like that, so where does that leave us? I'm not too sure.
Division also seems to happen when it comes to body types, as many men in the bear community feel ostracized for being categorically "bigger" dudes in a sea of muscle that has inhabited our world. This sort of mentality doesn't bother me, yet I can see why it bothers others as this community started off as somewhat of the outcasts who didn't fit the cookie cutter gay body mold in the 80's and 90's.
The word bear has become very skewed nowadays, as it almost has become a state of mind similarly to what a "daddy" is, yet anytime something in entertainment highlights fit and hairy men, it then leads to others saying "Why is it always them"? They have a point, as our culture feeds off of the vanity of good looking and in shape people, but I do have to wonder if they would still be complaining should a show be greenlit for bodies like theirs (and mine) and they would still find problems in something with it.
Then, there's the infighting. I'm not sure if this is something that has gone on for as long as the community has been around, but the emergence of social media makes it a lot easier to see the bickering, shade and gossip that plagues us. Most recently, I saw a huge battle on Facebook as there were two different popular bear runs happening in the same weekend. One accused the other of booking it as the same weekend as theirs on purpose, and this led to a whole ton of insults thrown on both sides that kept going for two days or so.
Some might see this as a fun "get your popcorn and watch" type update, but its troubling that an innocent mistake can lead to such venomous behavior by men who are GROWN. I truly feel that some gay men were teased and ridiculed growing up, and now that they have found a comfortable and some might say "powerful" spot in the bear community that they have the right to throw nasty jabs and insult one another. I graduated high school thirteen years ago and would've thought that the mentality would've changed by now. Not so much.
Keep in mind here folks, I'm just the messenger who sees this stuff happen all the time. Of course, there are a ton of fantastic men in our community that are doing good for us and for others, thousands of them. If I was billing our community as a vacation spot, what I would try to do is not promote a "kumbaya" type of setting (because that's completely unrealistic), but somehow find a way ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, and when they find that seat, that they feel welcomed. Call me crazy for being an upbeat person, but a lot of the negativity in this community can easily be solved if we just simply listened to each other without lowballing, degrading, offending or excluding.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
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