When I moved to California in 2001, I had been proudly acknowledging my gayness for six years. My employer didn’t care; my friends didn’t care; my family didn’t care, and I didn’t care if you accepted me or not. I chose to be me.
Before my move, I was a gay guy in St. Louis. I had no other gay label. I had no hankie code (check the Urban Dictionary). I was a typically Midwestern-looking gay guy. After my move, I was branded a gay “Bear.” Apparently, if you looked like the average guy who had hair on his body and wore comfortable clothes, you were a “Bear.”
To make it more interesting, there were several variations of bears including panda bears (Asian descent bears), polar bears (white-haired bears), black bears (you can figure it out), brown bears, Grizzly, cubs (young bears), otters (skinny yet hairy guys), and Ursulas (lesbian bears, don’t ask).
Besides appearance, a gay bear has a certain level of self-acceptance in who they are. Not trying to fit in with the mainstream gays (think Jack from Will and Grace), bears are the , lovable, affable gays. There is no agenda other than to relax, be yourself, and enjoy food and beer.
When my mom was first exposed to the gay bear scene, she was visiting during our annual pool party. In our backyard, there were 100 gay bears lounging in the sun, floating in the pool, enjoying some BBQ, and dancing. Of these 100 men, 90 had shaved heads. 80 had beards or facial hair. Most were my height, and she couldn’t tell us apart. A homogeneous group to say the least. Once she located me, she settled in and enjoyed herself.
Why is this important?
First, you now know I have a cool mom. Second, my bear label is the real reason behind my column’s name. I am a bear who gives great big bear hugs. Third, it helps ease the stereotypes about gay men. Just like straight men, gay men come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. We have varying interests and come from all walks of life. Plus, this shows we have a sense of humor.
I’ve dedicated this column to explaining a bit more about my gay background. Yes, there’s more to me than being gay, but my being openly gay is important. Most people who see me walking down the street don’t realize I’m gay because I don’t fit the flamboyant stereotype. When I worked in the beer industry, most of the account owners and managers didn’t know I was gay because I didn’t look and act the part. I never shied away from telling someone I was gay after they told me a gay joke, nor did I wish to make anyone feel uncomfortable. But they thought twice about telling another gay joke after that!
As part of my gayness, I also consider myself a gay BBFF (Bear Best Friend Forever). My radio show is entitled Your Gay BFF with Chad. As a gay BBFF, I am the gay friend who is emotionally supportive to both women and men. I can translate the emotions women are feeling so men can better understand their girlfriends while helping women understand male emotional responses. I don’t think I would be able to decode women’s emotions as well without my gay side.
Here are five reasons you should hope to have a gay BBFF:
- Self-acceptance will be taught.
- Kindness will be known.
- No body shaming.
- We know the best restaurants.
- Bear hugs are always free.
I’m happy to be here with you each week and I look forward to being your gay BBFF.
Photo Courtesy of Author