Bear is a subculture in the gay/bisexual male communities and an emerging subset of LGBTQ communities with events, codes and culture specific identity.
Bear in LGBTQ communities is a metaphorical reference to the animal of the same name with similar notable features. These features include the animal's hairiness, its solid proportions, and its physical power. The bear is both fat and powerful, and the reconciliation of these two qualities is at the heart of the Bear concept's appeal. Bears are typically very similar in appearance to the ideal of the North American lumberjack. A romantic conflation of the bear and the lumberjack image provides the Bear trope its metaphorical appeal.
Physically, bears tend to have hairy bodies and facial hair; some are heavy-set; some project an image of working-class masculinity in their grooming and appearance, though none of these are requirements or unique indicators. The bear concept can function as an identity, an affiliation, and an ideal to live up to. There is ongoing debate in bear communities about what constitutes a bear. There is more acceptance of tattoos and body piercing in the bear community, although this acceptance varies from member to member. "Bears" are almost always gay or bisexual men although increasingly transgender men and those who shun labels for gender and sexuality are also included within bear communities.
Bear is often defined as more of an attitude than anything else - a sense of comfort with our natural masculinity and bodies that is not slavish to the vogues of male attractiveness that is so common in gay circles and the culture at large.
The Bear community has spread all over the world, with Bear clubs in many countries. Bear clubs often serve as social and sexual networks for older, hairier, sometimes heavier gay and bisexual men, and members often contribute to their local gay communities through fundraising and other functions. Bear events are common in heavily-gay communities.
There are many bear flags. By far the most popular is the International Bear Brotherhood Flag. This flag is Copyright © 1995 by Craig Byrnes. The colors represent the fur colors and nationalities of bears throughout the world and it was designed with inclusivity in mind. Craig allows individuals and clubs to freely use the flag for non-commercial purposes, and markets a line of Bear Flag merchandise.
Some terminology relating to the Bear community includes:
>>>> Admirer/Chaser - a term that refers to someone who is sexually or romantically attracted to Bears. Admirers/Chasers can be of any weight, hairy or hairless and any age.
>>>> Bear - a hairy man with a stocky or heavyset build and facial hair. Can be clean shaven and of any age.
>>>> Manatee – a hairless man with a stocky or heavyset build.
>>>> Chub—a heavy set gay man. May or may not be a bear.
>>>> Cub - a younger (or younger looking) version of a Bear, typically but not always with a smaller frame. The term is sometimes used to imply the passive partner in a relationship.
>>>> Daddy bear - is an older guy sometimes looking for a daddy/son relationship with either a younger Bear, Cub, Otter, Wolf or Chaser.
>>>> Goldilocks - A female, often heterosexual, who is often in the company of bears (a bear's fag hag). Also can be referred to as an Ursula.
>>>> Gobi Bear - A heterosexual male who is bear friendly.
>>>> Gummy Bear - A bear who dates or is exclusively attracted to other bears. As in, "They stick together like gummy bears."
>>>> Leather bear - A bear with a leather fetish.
>>>> Muscle bear - a muscular version of a Bear. A muscle cub is a younger or smaller, yet muscular, version. Can be hairy or hairless and of any age.
>>>> Koala bear - a bear with blond hair
>>>> Panda bear - a bear of Asian ethnicity. A panda cub is younger version. Usually hairless.
>>>> Pocket bear—a short Bear.
>>>> Polar bear - a silver- or white-haired Bear.
>>>> Otter - a man who is hairy, but is not large or stocky - typically thinner, or with lean muscle. Slimmer version of a Bear with little pockets of fat like love handles or a tiny gut, but not as lean as a Wolf.
>>>> Red bear—a red-haired bear. Also known as a Ginger Bear.
>>>> Spirit bear - a Bear that approaches his sexuality and 'inner bear' from a spiritual stand point. Usually rooted in various international and cultural references and traditions. Notably present in pagan communities where being gay is predominantly accepted.
>>>> Wolf - A lean, masculine gay man who is attracted to bears and involved in the bear scene.
>>>> Woof - A greeting often used when a Bear spots another Bear in public and wants to express physical attraction. He might make a growling noise ("Grrr!") or say "Woof!"
>>>> Bear run - a gathering or circuit party for Bear/Cub types and their Admirers.
>>>> Bear soup - a swimming pool or hot tub full of bears which usually includes lots of group cuddling and frolicking. These are common place at Bear runs.
>>>> Bearwich - a menage a trois consisting of two bears and an admirer. Also common at Bear runs.