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.