What is implied in a guy being a "bear"?

I know from the boards that a bear is a gay man who is larger, hairier, more dominant ??? Please correct or clarify at will.

The situation is, generally at work I am a prude. I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about sexual things and generally speaking that is the atmosphere here. Of course people will reveal their sexual orientation through comments about their husband/boyfriend/partner, etc., which is a part of appropriate small talk about family stuff, kids, etc. But anything beyond that starts feeling uncomfortable to me.

So there’s a guy at work who bought a new mug. This being VT/NH, I wasn’t surprised and thought it was cute. Then he tells me “it’s a gay thing” and I should be on the lookout for bear emblem items or a bearclaw sticker on vehicles.

This is what unsettled me. I don’t care what sexual orientation people are (although I do reflect on it to be sure), but I don’t want to hear about their specific predilections.

Hence the question; how much is implied in the term? In telling me he’s a bear, what is he telling me? I was trying to think of a straight equivalent; is it the same as the married-to-a-guy woman in the next office saying…? What?

Gay, big and hairy.

Well, there’s an excellent chance that I’m wrong but I don’t think he was telling you anything about his sex life exactly - more like a bit of quirky pride at his identity.

Like how I have a “Grumpy” (7 dwarfs) mug at work because I’m kind of grumpy - ya know?

I’ve NEVER heard the term ‘bear’ mean ‘gay’. I’ve only associated and heard others associate it with being big/bulky and maybe hairy.

Usually it’s the kind of man you wouldn’t think was gay: Big, burly, hairy, likes hunting/sports, probably not a bottom. Think if John Goodman were gay. He may just have said it to unsettle your nerves or crack a joke. The opposite of a bear is a twink. Think Jack McFarlane.

While it’s certainly not a subject to discuss at work, he may have felt comfortable enough with you to do so. If you aren’t comfortable with the subject, let him know in the same teasing way “Hey whoa, TMI, workplace here.”

I never had the impression that “bear” said anything about specific sexual preferences; just that by itself, it meant “a large and hairy man”.

I know that it’s used usually within gay circles, and that there is a whole sector of gay menn who are proud to be bears, but is there anything inaccurate about a hetero man describing himself as a “bear”?

Yes, this is what I understand by “bear.” I don’t think it denoted “gay” 20 years ago, but it does to me now.

Second that. I don’t know if “bear” 20 years or more meant a particular type of gay man in mainstream slang, but now it does. Of course, if you say something like “He is a bear of a man” most would think he is a big, burly, hairy dude. But. Say something like “He is a bear” and the wink-wink’s and nudge-nudge’s and tee-hee’s come out since most are thinking “Ooooh…that kinda big, burly, hairy gay man.” At least that’s what I get from folks from my generation (Im in my 30’s) or younger.

Ditto here.

I figured they were just big, hairy and pessimistic about the market.

Oh, bull.

Just to show you that no matter how small a number of people you may think are into any particular thing, there are enough of them to form a group:

I first came upon the term “bear” about 15 years ago. Some friends and I had flown to Texas to ride roller coasters. That’s what we did – we traveled all over the country to go ride roller coasters. Lots of people do it, and of course there is a national organization for like-minded folks.

So, were in the park one day talking coasters with a couple of large, hairy men. We asked if they were ACE members, and we were told that while yes, they belonged to ACE, they were there for the Coaster Bear get-together.

So, if you ever think you don’t belong…that there’s no one out there like you, just remember – there is an national organization for large, hairy, gay men who love riding roller coasters. Don’t worry…you’re not alone.

So, all this time, Ted Nugent’s “Fred Bear” was about Gay Love in the woods?

Hmmm — maybe so.

Er… why is that inappropriate or even TMI?

It’s {the same as the married-to-a-guy woman in the next office [buying/ displaying]} a Chippendales mug. Best I could come up with and definitely IMHO

I suspect that it’s a way of saying, “This is kind of man I like to lick raspberry Jell-O off of.”

Gay culture does have a history of demonstrative if cautious language aimed at speaking clearly to other homosexuals while clueless straights wonder why everyone else is laughing. (Bear has definitely been around for a while now.)

Having a bear coffee mug is roughly equivalent to having a rainbow coffee mug. (So long as the Rainbow is in the shape of a… bear, I guess.)

A bear is definitely a big hairy gay man.

-Troy McClure SF, Castro resident

Not in every context, of course, and I wouldn’t think it’s known to all the mainstream at this point, but it’s definitely a big part of the gay community. Much to the chagrin of my big, hairy, straight roommate.

As for the OP, I think the bear mug (especially one as ambiguous as that one, it doesn’t even have the bear flag I linked to) is about as offensive and telling as this mug. It’s an innocuous nod to an inoffensive (sub)culture… nothing more.

I would say that ‘bear’ implies little about more specific sexual proclivities other than just gay. I agree completely that if he went around saying he was a top, for example, that would be workplace inappropriate, but I don’t think that’s the case.

As far as analogies go, I think it’s more parallel to being proud of a certain aspect of physical appearance - a woman with a mug saying “big is beautiful” or something like that.

Bear definitely has a connotation of “gay” for me. Burly, hairy, masculine*. Known to shit in the woods, if necessary.

    • Not sure if the word “masculine” is necessary for me. I identify wholly as a bear (even have the tattoo to to prove it!), but I’m going through some discovery re:gender, and currently identify as genderqueer. Trying to tell your friends, even the queer ones that you identify as a genderqueer bear is certainly an experience.

Huh. I guess I’ve heard the term “bear” applied to big hairy gay men, but all my life I’ve just heard it apply to big and hairy but gentle men. As in “teddy bear.” It never had gay connotations. But then again I never really had significant exposure to gay culture, I guesss.

Meaning what you like in others or what you offer?


In the Simpsons episode where Homer moves in with the gay couple, you can hear, off camera, someone asking “Who’s the Bear” when Homer walks into the gay bar. I almost fell off my chair when I heard it.

In Denver the old Minor League baseball team here used to be the Denver Bears. Nowadays you never know if the gentleman you are talking to in the old school Bears jersey is big baseball fan, or just a big ball fan.