Bear Stew #13
Tasty Manbytes Served Steaming Hot
by Ron Suresha
This edition of Bear Stew, aka All Things Ursinalia, should print in October 2005, in auspicious issue number 69 of American Bear magazine! A great landmark for the hossum-est bear in publishing, Tim Martin. Ah, 69. Sweet hot wet reciprocal 69. Isn’t 69, like, a lucky number for bears? It’s always been for me. At the Gay Bingo night for AIDS Project Rhode Island in Craaaaanston, RI, “Oh-sixty-nine” will raise a crowd cheer, “Lunch!” Don’t forget the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence‘s Bear Bingo at IBR, where 71 means 69 with two fingers up the keister. And there’s always 68: “You blow me, and I’ll owe you one.” Bearing all that in mind, congrats, Tim! May the next 69 issues be at least 69 percent easier!
An emerging form of gay/queer masculinity that demonstrates the continued growth of the bear subculture, is that of bisexual bears. While researching Bears on Bears four years ago, it seemed initially that Bear identity was simply a gay male phenomenon. By the time I completed work on the book, however, I employed a broader definition of “Bear” that included bisexual-identified men, and bearish straight-identified men who have sex with men (MSMs).
A significant number of gay-identified Bears whom I met while promoting the book admitted to previous sexual relations with women, sometimes still with female partners, families, grandkids, and male lovers. Investigating Bear subculture led me to conclude that, rather than conforming to one “traditional” idealized image of masculinity, numerous masculinities exist Ð as many as there are individuals, perhaps. Two years ago, I contacted Boston bear buddy and bisexual advocate Pete Chvany to discuss the topic of “Bi Bears.” intending to interview him for this column. From those meetings, we developed the idea to compile an anthology of bi male coming-out stories, Bi Men: Coming Out Every Which Way, coming out this month from Haworth Press.
In “Coming Out Bi and Large,” a Boston redbear I met at the Ptown Hibernation Run, Jim, recounts the difficult process of coming out as bisexual to himself, his wife and three young kids, and colleagues and friends. Jim’s traditional masculine self-image, and his attraction to men and women who don’t fit traditional gender images, initially complicated his ability to understand himself as non-heterosexual. One day, I made an off-the-cuff assertion to Jim to the effect that we could do something a certain way because “we’re gay.” Jim, having corrected me gently before several times, snapped, “Listen, I’m not gay. IÕm bi!” Knowing that Jim’s erotic desire encompasses both men and women in equal, different, and positive ways, suddenly I realized that – like many gay men, lesbians, and straight folks – my ignorance of what constitutes bisexual desire fed a long-held prejudice against bisexuality and led me to believe bisexuality wasn’t a valid self-identity.
In “Long Journey Ahead,” Jason Large (not his real name), a bearish closeted married dad of two, reveals his confusion over tentative early sexual explorations with men, describes his recent contact online and in person with local bear community, and anticipates liberation from the self-imposed limitations of married life. Also included are poignant memoir essays by Bear Lust contributor Adam Ben-Hur, noted transbear author Patrick Califia, Vancouver BC bear dad “Mac” McRee Elrod, the spiritual contemplations of Chuck Greenheart Bradley and Angus West, and an essay from Wayne “Lilbjorn” Bryant, author of Bisexual Characters In Film: From Anaïs To Zee.
Prompted by a “Bears and Bi Guys” book event announcement here in New London that I posted to one of the region’s bear e-groups, somebear, clearly resentful of being “lumped together with bisexuals,” responded that he thought the two demographics bear little or no affinity. But bears should regard favorably the association with bi men, a well-established, politically active queer male subculture. If you consider bears, leathermen, bisexual men, and gay/bi dads as variations of queer masculinity whose communities greatly overlap, the groups’ distinctions really begin to blur. In the Providence area, for example, where Bears Ocean State cohosts the New England Gay & Bi Dads monthly buffet, it’s not easy to tell which group the men belong to. Often it’s both. Some dads are adoptive, and others still have kids from previous or existing marriages or relationships with women.
During the 8th International Bisexual Conference held on the U-Minn campus in Minneapolis, bearpal Pete Chvany and I convened a brothers’ discussion circle of “Bi Bears.” A diverse and animated baker’s dozen of men attended – from Minnesota, Texas, Hawaii, and a wooflicious fiftysomething couple, Josh and Tom, both granddads from Iowa. We shared experiences common to coming out as gay, bear, and bi; discussed our common ground around gay/bi male maturity, and shared personal issues such as body image, dadhood, and family. The group closed with bearhugs all around, recalling the immortal words of David Sedaris: “Today’s elf is tomorrow’s gnome.”
This column, Bear Stew #13, first appeared in American Bear magazine #69, October-November 2005.