Credit to: Chris Reed/Stanley Hughes

The advancements the bear community has made over the years in terms of visibility both in the gay and straight world really is profound given how we were treated like outcasts about as recent as ten years ago.  Mainstream media has covered us in many different facets on television, music and the movies, and the terminology we have developed is now said all across the world.  Our themed events grow larger in size each year, which also allows for a bigger population to experience all of this in some sort of capacity.  The increasing amount of bears who inhabit the culture has also developed some sort of drawn line in the sand when it comes to weight in our community.  This is something that is very visible in cities like Manhattan, and it is something that is hard to turn a blind eye to.

Although this has been a topic that has been mum over the years, the division has become more clear as I navigate the social gatherings, outlets and more in my city and beyond.  A couple of weeks back, there were two different major bear events happening in one night.  One was happening in Midtown, and the other all the way in the financial district.  I attended the one downtown, which catered more towards a mixed group of “bear” types, including husky, otter, muscle and more.  The other event, however, seemed to be very muscle heavy as I combed through the photos and had a hard time finding anyone who didn’t have a six pack or an Adonis-like figure that attended.

Nothing wrong with either side here.  We should embrace our bodies regardless of who we are no matter what, but it is very noticeable how weight plays a big part of the separation in this community, just as race does and many other factors.  Do we tend to gravitate towards men who look just like us, or does fear drive one’s ability to chat with someone who doesn’t look like them?

Outside of the major bear events, even a night at the local bar can really showcase how we all factor in.  The muscle bears hang out downstairs at Gymbar whereas the huskier dudes tend to populate Rockbar, yet I rarely see either side come together for friendship, relationships, or more.  What really drives this?

Outside of these events, there was a conversation I had recently that sort of sparked all of this.  I recently hung out with a friends with benefits.  This guy was in pretty good shape, yet had a thing for huskier type of dudes.  He mentioned that admitting something like this was “coming out of the closet for a second time”, as it comes with predictable judgment from men who look like him.  Is the fear of the unknown from the people you surround yourself with the reason why this happens in the first place?

When I attend events that showcase all different types of bears populating, I embrace it.  This hopefully happens all over the country, however it is somewhat minimal in Manhattan and other major cities that I have visited.  I asked my friends what their thoughts are on this, and the answers were quite colorful in either agreement or disagreement.

“It’s been this way. And they do mingle. Some people have their cliques. Other have no hang-ups. Just depends who your with but it’s everywhere.”

“It’s interesting you say that. I tend to like bears, but if I go to some kind of bear event I go in expecting that the bears will tend to gravitate towards each other and gloss over me. Not a judgement or complaint or anything, I just always chalked it up to everyone having a type that they like. But it didn’t occur to me that they were subcategorizing among themselves.”

“I mean, is it THAT strange that a subculture built on body type would then break off into other subcategories? Though I sometimes bemoan the lack of a large gay population here, it forces us to befriend and accept gays of all body types.”

“Pretty much it’s just comes down to sexual attraction. Guys go to bars to hook up, or at least window shop, as well as to hang out with their friends, many of whom they have previously hooked up with, let’s be honest… The “clone” attraction (like attracted to like) is nothing new in the gay community.”

“I have a very diverse group of friends with different body types. At events we hang out, I like people based on their personality and are they fun, do I enjoy their company? Never once was it “oh they have muscles”, or “oh that belly is huge.” I think that when you let down those walls or barriers, that’s when you can appreciate people for who they are, and yer quality of life will be enriched for it, that’s when you will feel sense of community.”

So what does this break down to exactly when it comes to weight?  Is it a “clique” thing?  Is it really based on sexual attraction?  Or is it something else that divides us when we really should be united in all fronts?  What are your thoughts?






  1. You present a great question. As a “chub” it has even become more of a faction. Granted in attracted to several types of men, there is no reason that we can’t talk with others and be friends. I find this rarely happens. I believe that because maybe they don’t want to give off false hope for me for talking to me, that they are interested in me sexually, when they are not.

    Then I have heard the theory of the “chasers” are afraid of being judged for loving heavy guys.

    Let’s put the stigma aside and just be one community.

  2. Other then your friend stealing his “coming out twice” line from bear city, it’s an interesting read.

  3. I believe it can be a mix of both sexual attraction, with a festive hint of “clique.”

    I say this because, from what I’ve learned from talking to other people that are involved in the community that tend to be older than I, is that they may have been shunned growing up, and now that the bear community is what it is today, it can be almost like a comfort zone for them. These men may hang out with other men that look like them because they can relate on levels past sexual attraction, but have been able to open up and show a vulnerability that can sometimes be ridiculed in the bear community as being “feminine.”

    Femininity and masculinity is an entire different conversation, even though there are some tangents that break off and touch the lovely piece you’ve written above.

    As a 26 year old chaser, who is 6’0, sort of average build, with little body hair, it can be difficult at these events catered to the bear community. I am fully committed to it, as I’m VP of a local 501(c)3 organization, the Derby City Bears, and I’ve actually described as your friend did above the “second closet” of coming out to the world that I am not into other guys who look like me, but quite the opposite, so to speak.

    The reason these events can be difficult, for me at least, is because I don’t look like most of the guys that are there. I don’t have a 6 pack, I don’t have body hair, and I don’t have even a cub/bear look to me. The way that I look gets overlooked and ignored by some people at these events because I don’t “look like a bear” or I’m “too skinny to be here.” These are quotes from some patrons that seem to have no problem finding someone to connect with.

    While I do have a type, and mostly that type sends to want someone who looks like them, I really wish this divide that does exist, would cease to exist. Just because I’m not your type, doesn’t mean I’m less of a person, or don’t have a right to participate in the comradery that is a foundation of the bear community I’ve come to love.

    I could go on for hours, but I do want to say again, that this article brings up lively conversation I’d be happy to continue on sometime. Cheers.

  4. Its been my personal observation that you have to be a muscle bear to fit in or nothing. I have not been on a date in well over 7 yrs. Every ad online states that you must be “HWP” or a “Muscle Bear”. Even the ads that are found on “bear” sites. If you have one ounce of fat on you, you are worthless to the gay community. I have asked out hundreds of men over the years and they have all said “you are too big for me”. I am 5-9 and weigh 235 lbs. because of this, I have been bullemic for 16 yrs and have also struggled with anorexia, just to get a man to sit across from me at a restaurant for conversation. there is definitely a division between the subclasses.

  5. This may come across as arrogant to some but we are all attracted to what we’re attracted to. When I started college I was 6’4″ and 135. I desperately wanted to be one of the big muscle guys . I finally decided to make it happen and hit the gym relentessly. And I got big . All of a sudden people who wouldn’t give me the time of day were tripping over themselves to get at me just because of my size. Of course I liked the attention and worked damn hard to keep it. It takes hours of sacrifice in the gym to maintain it. I’m 60 now and still work out a couple hours every day to maintain my size. Somebody told me once that they learned early on that muscle runs with other muscle and it’s true . Most times you need to be what you want to be with . People of any type tend to congregate with similar interested people. That’s never going to change . I would never date a feminine acting guy but I have many friends who are and they know I have their back if need be. Best compliment I ever got was from a young friend of mine who was a small guy and somewhat feminine who said “I love it when you’re out cause I can be myself and never worry bout anyone harassing me”. My point I guess is we’re all in this together as family but we’re all different and like differen things . I work hard at muscle so I can attract muscle . It’s what I like . Complaining about not being able to attract that kind of guy is like never playing football and wanting to be the starting quarterback for the Giants on Sunday

    • ^^^ALL OF THIS
      Now if Mr Shea could only find a new topic instead of these overly sensitive essays of some perceived animosity in the fat vs muscle dynamic the bear community apparently suffers from…

      We get it, Mr Shea. You’re a big dude with a chip on his shoulder. No? The tone and content of your articles suggest otherwise. The self-deprecating is becoming somewhat predictable as are the thinly veiled judgements against the muscle bear sect. Sprinkling articles with lines like “nothing wrong with either side” does not neutralize your personal bias.

      It should go without saying that if you don’t like something about your life, that energy would be better spent changing it instead of bitching into your own echo chamber. Full disclosure: like the above poster, I was also a super tall gangly thing that wasn’t attracting the type of guy I was after. I did my research, committed in the gym (and kitchen), and now feel much more comfortable in my admittedly “muscle chub” body complete with a stellar sex life with members of my pursued type.

      Please grow a thicker skin, talk to a therapist, or proactively reevaluate your life choices, but please give these pointlessly hypersensitive articles a rest! Otherwise I guess enjoy your self-imposed solitude at home?

  6. I completely agree with Mike. “Complaining about not being able to attract that kind of guy is like never playing football and wanting to be the starting quarterback for the Giants on Sunday”. Very well said ! I’m 5’8, 200 decently muscular solid pounds and almost 50 years old, and I work at staying this size. I’m considered more “cub size” and I feel like I am decently attractive to several different kinds of guys in the Bear world. But personally, I like the more muscular or outdoorsy kind of Bears. Nothing against the larger guys, but it can be a little daunting when you aren’t interested and have someone aggressively keep on you to hook up with them or go out. Then have it pushed in your face because of what you like. People like what they like. It’s just human nature, but I will say it’s not right if you are rude about it.

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