Bear Culture
Pages 10

Bear as a gay male self-identity developed in the late 1980s and 1990s. In part a response to the AIDS epidemic and in part a manifestation of the aging baby-boomer generation, gay men who first chose the term bear sought a masculine self-image, suggesting a large or husky body, a prevalence of body hair, and a generally friendly and sanguinary attitude. “Coming out” as a bear follows a strategy similar to the “coming out” of the 1970s gay liberation movement. A striking parallel may be found between bears-asattitude and the Utopian ideals of the original gay liberation movement. Early bears proudly proclaimed being “average,” masculine gay men, neither effeminate queens nor hypermasculine leathermen. In fact, many of them were former clones, now heavier and graying at the temples.