5 Harmful Lies About Gay Bears That Need to Stop

cute gay bears

There seems to be a number of stereotypes about gay bears borne from a place of ignorance and misinformation. Here are five lies about bears debunked.  

By: John Hollywood

In the world of gaydom, it’s no secret that various subcultures are classified (rightly or wrongly) into categories broken down by body type. Here, we are talking about a spectrum that includes bears, wolves, jocks, otters and bulls.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on gay men who identify as bears. Recently, a paper was published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing which suggested that as a group, bears suffer lower self-esteem and engage in riskier sex than their non-bear counterparts.

But is this really true?

The problem with this study is that it used a meta-analysis of previously conducted research studies to arrive at a conclusion that may or may not be accurate. And so as a result, one cannot generalize conclusions to a larger population.

Sadly, some publications have done just that, making sweeping assumptions about bears that are not grounded in scientific research. The end result can be harmful stereotypes about a community that reinforce a false narrative.

What follows are 5 harmful lies about gay bears that need to stop. How many of these have you bought into?

Film countdown. Number 5
Five Lies About Gay Bears

1. All gay bears are obese

Out of all of the stereotypes, this one is perhaps the most harmful. While the exact definition of what constitutes a bear is certainly up for debate, it is a complete fallacy to believe that all bears are obese.

Gay bears can be:

  • Muscular and defined
  • Hairy, semi-hairy or smooth
  • Thick, large and for some, obese

2. As a group, gay bears have low self-esteem

The problem with this stereotype is that it is attached to the myth that gay men who are bears are unhappy with their bodies. It also pushes gay men who may be heavier into a subcategory of body types they may not identify with. Remember, being a bear is as much about being part of a community as it is having a certain body type.

Many gay bears are:

  • Completely happy with having a stockier build
  • Individuals who suffer from anxiety or depression, just as any other sub-group within gaydom.
  • Proud of their larger bodies that often do not comport to what many in gaydom consider “hot” (i.e. muscled up underwear models).

3. Gay bears aren’t athletic

Yet another stereotype that comes from a place of misunderstanding about bears. The truth is many gay men who fall within the gay bear spectrum are athletic.

In fact, a good number of bears are extremely muscular and regularly partake in physical activity and exercise. Just visit Bear World Magazine and see for yourself.

Gay bears regularly:

  • Work out and engage in strength training.
  • Play sports, such as football, volleyball, softball, etc.
  • Run, jog, ride cycles and engage in other cardiovascular activities.

4. Bears engage in riskier sexual practices

The problem with this particular assumption and stereotype is that it feeds into a narrative that bears are overweight gay men who are so desperate for attention that they’ll risk their health in order to get laid and thereby validated.

While this may be true of some gay men, it is also true of some straight men. What’s more, not all gay men who are heavier consider themselves to be bears.

As a group, gay bears:

  • Engage in play similar to other subgroups.
  • Are not known as a community to use drugs to enhance sex.
  • May or may not identify as top or bottom (not all are tops!)

5. Gay bears are typically “older”

The final lie that needs to stop about gay bears is that they tend to be older. This is simply not true. What is happening here is that some people are confusing bears with daddies (aka DILFS).

Yes, there are gay men who identify as bears who are in their 40’s and 50’s but there’s also plenty of bears who are in their 20’s and 30’s. Being a bear is not restricted to an age group. Believe it or not, bears can even be in their 60’s, 70’s and beyond.

Summing It Up  

Gay men, just like their straight counterparts, come in all shapes and sizes. The difference is that in gaydom, we’ve perfected the art of labels when it comes to body types. Did you know some of the lingo used once served a historical purpose?

That’s why it is important to educate yourself about the larger essence of the LGBT community with the goal of avoiding common stereotypes.

The truth is an encounter with a gay bear may bring about a powerful, life changing experience (see this post).

A great documentary to consider ordering (or downloading) about this topic is: Bear Nation by Malcom Ingram. In the film, you will find lots of insight about what it means to be a bear and what it does not.

Please be sure to share this post with others to help push-back against harmful stereotypes about the gay bear community.

Photo Credit: Towleroad


  1. must say this such a puff piece crap writing I have read in a long time. The sub culture of Bear is dead its so washed into the pop gay culture that the bear types that started no longer are welcomed.

    • Carl,

      You are just wrong. There is a vibrant bear subculture. I normally don’t respond to posts like this but you response is so ridiculous I just had too.

      • what was bear and what it is now are two different breads where bear was if you don’t fit in come to this table now its we are the popular ones

        • Are you a bear or a grizzly bear? I think there is a difference from what I am told. Isn’t a grizzly bear a really huge, hairy guy?

          • I am a bear its a personal voyage its how I view myself not how you view me, stop judging me by size I’m not judging you

          • I asked you a legit question between the two because I figured you knew.. An’t nobody judging your size Carl. I’m not like that.

        • That’s my understanding of bear, too-about acceptance instead of judgement, about a community and not a catty, competitive, shallow culture. It does still exist, but it’s just like being a nerd/geek in these modern years-the trendy people thought it looked like fun, so they co-opted it. Eventually, they will get bored of it as the coolest new thing and move on. I just don’t bother with anyone who is trying to ascribe labels and act as an authority on who gets to be a bear-the ones who get it will be welcoming, still, even if there are a lot more bodies making the drink line much longer at the local bear bar.

    • Carl must be a real miserable queen. You are nuts if you think the bear community is dead. Maybe it is for you but that’s not true for everyone.

  2. You sound like some bitter rejected clown. My husband is a bear and we go on bear runs all the time. And I’m a bear you old troll buffoon.

  3. Thank you for this article John. I heard about the lies being spread from a friend who sent this. As a bear, I’m constantly subjected to stereotypes.

  4. Nice article that tells the truth about Bears. My ex is a muscle bear and he always played safe and was mindful about his health.

  5. #3 ties into a broader stereotype that needs to go away in order to encourage exercise and proper diet for reasons other than the aesthetic outcome: “fat people are never athletic.”

    • Very true. There are some people who use stereotypes to their advantage as an excuse to not take care of themselves. That’s not the case for everyone but for a smaller group, yes.

      Loved the article by the way GPB!

  6. Ive never heard any of these about gay bears. Never. Maybe you need hang out in different circles.
    Even more importantly , how about we just stop with the classifying body types? What a concept.

    • The material shared about bears comes directly from the study mentioned in the article. We didn’t make it up (see the Toronto Star article). As for classifying body types, that’s never going to happen in the gay community. We may want that to happen but its just not (as much as we might want that).

    • Bruce you are totally my type. If you growl like a bear while we make out I think we’d have fun. Your pic makes me worked up stud. Are you a daddy bear?

  7. Meta Analysis is one of the highest levels of evidence and is used to guide much of evidence based practice today. Perhaps your article would better be placed as an opinion to the editor of the mainstream journal or reach out to the author to further elaborate on their posit.


      • I agree. I teach statistics and for most doctoral students, I discourage them from using a strict meta-analysis to reach conclusions for the reasons you mentioned.

          • Ed the literature review is really just opinions and findings of others, which you are not going to find a journal publication. Maybe in a dissertation , which is what this bear study was all about but not in a journal.

          • Yes – I was speaking to the Lit review as an internal processes in appraising evidence, not the end result.

      • So Cochran reviews are garbage? Also, the author states the it was a ‘Systemic Review’ not a Meta Anylsis. There are differences. Furtyermore the article went through peer review- so it’s not like this doctoral student is tossing research out there haphazardly. Which is more than can be said for posts on random websites. I hope you took the time read the whole article and not only the abstract. You will find that the author is conducting qualitative research. I am heavily involved in diseminating EBP to the GLBTQ in my own practice and my peers that serve the medical and emotional needs of the comminty in New England.

  8. I loved this article. My brother is a “bear” and he sent this to me. The stereotypes are ridiculous for sure and most do not apply. Why people think that most of these men are obese is beyond me.

  9. I’m a bear and have had to deal with a couple of these stereotypes over the years. One of the myths not mentioned here is that all bears are tops. I am a vers bear with a pretty big stick. People think I am a total top but I am not. And yeah, when people read my profile on Grindr they see bear and automatically think I am a big fat gay man with hair. It’s not true.

    • That’s because many [older] gay men would say you are not a real bear, your the commercialized, mainstream, sanitized version of bear that has been made palatable to the broader gay community. As someone earlier said and got dumped on all over for, the definition of bear has become so watered down from the original [ie: 1990] gay subculture group that it’s pretty much meaningless these days and includes any guy who hasn’t shaved for 2 weeks.

      • The older gay men who might say I am not a real bear change their minds when I am banging them out, trust me. Bears can be in all shapes or sizes. Why do we need to restrict ourselves to some 1900 definition of a bear?

      • Nonsense. There has never been a checklist that one had to fulfill to attain the bear label. There isn’t a certain weight minimum, body hair percentage, age, facial hair quotient, clothing restriction, sex role or any other start that one needs to possess in order to consider themselves a bear, nor should there be. And yes, I’ve been in the scene since the eighties so I’ve seen it all. Newsflash: you don’t get too decide how others categorize bears. Shame on you for trying.

  10. not sure where they got a lot of their information bit for the most part,, its true . Ive been out for 30 years and it gets worse and worse, First ,,muscle bears tend to be in a click all their own want proof, go to bear week or a bear event, everyone seems snobby towards guys who are not as muscular or athletically inclined. im 215 lbs, and believe me no six packs here and not much for sports. Are they riskier sexually ,, for the most part I would say yes. Was always called a cub when I was younger lately as im getting older, im called a bear so yes seems true to me . Low self esteem ,, yessssss,, i myself have very low self esteem getting older and being single for a long time ,, well that plays a big part too and if you do not look a certain way or have certain things money, cars, etc (which plays into many parts of the gay culture) then yes it can give one a self esteem that seems hopeless and devastating at times. I have been on both ends of the spectrum, over weight, fit, over weight then some where in the middle and it never gets easier. I say to each their own. Ultimately it all comes down to personal choices but let me ask you this,, how many times have you seen handsome well put together “bears” in mainstream adds,, come on,, there is no 50 foot underwear model on a billboard advertising underwear,, maybe food LOL. We need better role models as well in our community and no I don’t mean Ellen LOL

    • You look hot to me Michael. I would hookup with you. If you ever go to the big bear run in Wisconsin in the fall, I’m totally down with getting with you.

  11. Just for — you know — truth in journalism, ‘Bear Nation’ is actually a documentary, not a book. 🙂

  12. I know #1 was probably meant with good intent, but the number one concern is reassuring people that all bears aren’t fat (as though there’s something wrong with being fat)? It’s definitely harmful in the sense that bear-ish dudes are met with derision because some folk think of all bears as being fat, but to respond to that by saying “Don’t worry, only /some/ of them are fat, most of them are muscular!” is pretty demeaning towards fat guys in the bear scene.

    • Mait,

      Not once did I use the word “fat” in #1. The myth being dispelled is that all bears are obese. People have it in their minds that bear=obese and it is not true. And nobody implied “Don’t worry, only /some/ of them are fat, most of them are muscular!” as you have written here.

      The main point argued here is that bears come in a variety of different forms. Some are large, some are muscular and some may – again – may be obese. I don’t think I could have been more clear in point number one.

      It sounds like you are making my point here about the myths.

      • What get tired of is you condescending attitude and some may be – again – may be – obese. it’s not maybe it’s bears are all sizes. Your judgement on bigger men shines right through if you can’t be impartial in what you write then stop writing on something you know nothing about.

        • Maybe you should read the research cited. Obese was thier word – not mine. And the research appeared to paint all bears this way. That’s why I said *some* bears Carl.

          Read the research before you pop off.

          • don’t need to read it to understand your tone you wrote there your words take responsibly for your own actions

          • Hi John. Love your blog & u! But… “thier”. S/B “their”. 😉 Do u have spell check? 🙂

          • Hi, Robert – thanks. Spell check for writing a response in the comments of a blog post? No. I usually respond on my smartphone. Sometimes a word gets misspelled.I did correct it so thanks for letting me know.

        • I read the report and it does come right out and say most Bears are obese. The author didn’t do anything like you are suggesting here. Go cry somewhere else. What a baby!

  13. I liked this article because it did a good job of talking about the BS that people think about Bears. I consider myself to be a wolf but my partner is a bear. He is slightly overweight but by no means fat. And why people think bears are older is just messed up. Many of my friends who consider themselves to be bears are not even 30!

    • I’m cross between a wolf and a jock but if that is your picture, I can see you are all wolf. Most of the bears I know are younger. There are older bears I think but a lot of them live in the forest and away from the big cities.

  14. The research looks very flawed and looks a bunch of other studies to come up with ridiculous conclusions. I am so sick of doctoral students using the gay community as guinnea pigs for their dissertations. My sister had to have something published when she got her doctorate and told me how stupid the process is. So some wanna be nursing queen decided to look at a bunch of other studies on bears and then got his article published in a journal nobody reads. I am a bear. I am fat. Guys like me because I am fat. I don’t have low self-esteem and I don’t want to look like some twinky 20 year old.

  15. OK I’ve dated a number of bears and none of them were fat or obese. Most of them were muscular. Some of the older, grizzly bears I have topped sometimes will have love handles but it’s not like they are pigs or anything. Myth #4 is total BS because I’ve never pounded on a bear without him insisting on protection. Fun article.

  16. The worst truth is that gay men constantly put themselves out there as Sexual deviates instead of simply being a human being. Example, Just go to any Pride or the beach, they walk around like a rabbit in heat with so little material on flaunting their sexuality, hence society looks at us as if being gay is only about sex.

    • I mean, plenty of us don’t, but nobody is looking because some of us aren’t desperate for attention. It’s the same regardless of sexual orientation-people who need to be noticed to validate themselves will make themselves hard to ignore. Squeaky wheels and grease and such.

  17. Extremely likeable group who cut to the chase with a minimum of superficiality, who have been criticized unjustly for their over simplification

  18. lol what a joke. I’m sure there are lies in there, but more importantly, “Bears” is a fake category anyway. Why the obsession among gay men to label and categorize with arbitrary labels? It never ends: butch, femme, twink, bear, otter, chub, top, bottom, vers, daddy, boy, queen… it just goes on and on and I’m sick of the whole thing. #JustLive

  19. Funny, I got a lot more comfortable with my body, improved my self esteem, and am happier with myself once I accepted my bear-ness.

  20. I liked reading this. One of the best f-buddies I ever had was a bear. I wish more were like you.

  21. I used to think all bears were obese until I met a guy who was a bear that wasn’t super big. I think bears are thought of a huge fat when a lot of them aren’t. Thanks xo

  22. Nobody needs to justify their existence, and should be far too busy enjoying life to care about judgements made by strangers on strangers. As in all walks of life, bears include people of every conceivable type of body, athleticsim, mentality, culture etc etc etc. Any of us could start making up non-empirically based stereotypes about ANY part of the gay classification spectrum…..but we just can’t be arsed because we have far, far, far better things to do :o)

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