Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Ballad of the American Black Bear

Originally posted in the Monthly Breeze

A friend of mine used to run an entertainment business on the East Coast that catered to the needs of overweight homosexual men of color. In it’s hey day the business thrived and everyone involved enjoyed the fruits of their labor, including the notion that, even in the most minuscule of levels, they were providing a service to a demographic that was grossly under served.

The business has since devolved and my friend has since moved here to the West Coast, the hope being that the success of said business would easily transfer to California’s (in)famously oversexed gay shorelines. But alas, ever since his pudgy little toes touched down on Los Angeles’ sun-kissed terrain, he has found it increasingly hard to recapture the verve once established and even treasured back East.

We sat and discussed the current state of Bear affairs over our weekly Malibu Chicken special at Sizzler. “Bear” is a gay slang term used to identify homosexual men that are usually heavy-set with facial hair and hairy bodies. The Bear Diasporas actually are pretty wide including men who are thin, muscular, smooth, into leather or uniforms or have other physical attributes. But nonetheless, as it stands, for all intense purposes, the both of us would most definitely be considered Bears.

For awhile now I have considered myself to be on this Dian Fossey-esque exploration into the great beasts whereas instead of gorillas, I have studied the great American Bear for all it’s glory. I’ve been to Bear bars, Bear clubs, Bear orgies and was even invited to a Bear dinner but declined because it would have interfered with my weekly Malibu Chicken at Sizzler. All in all I have found most Bear outings filled to the brim with some of the most cordial, hospitable and affable men I have ever run into in my life (which is saying a lot considering the fact that I live in Los Angeles). But there is also another blaring consistency that is quite obvious in every Bear event I have participated in, little to no Black men.

There have been several upstart little grassroot efforts made to have gatherings here that cater to zaftig men of color and none have had any lasting resonance. Then my friend comes into town with a heart filled with big dreams, creative ideas and elevated cholesterol levels with hopes of carving a little niche for himself here in the untapped “Big Boi” market of Los Angeles and I have watched as those hopes and dreams trip, stumble and fall in the shadow of juggernaut party promoters catering to the new generation of barely legal, fashion obsessed, technologically advanced, ADD, anorexic gay black men who desperately want to sit with the cool kids. And that’s how they get them; they set up this table filled with immensely beautiful and over muscled models with the promise that they can always eat lunch with them. Then there’s the Bear table. You know who’s there… me, my friend, and the marks left on our hips from binding jeans after too much Malibu Chicken from Sizzler.

We are in a very peculiar demographic, we are a subculture, inside of a subculture, inside of a subculture. Less than 25% of the country is African American. Theoretically 10% of those people are homosexual. And even less percentage of those people are Bears. So at the end of the day, our pride parade would consist of about like twelve people (five of whom I’ve probably already slept with and two I would never admit to).

One of the problems I have noticed is that there is a large percentage of African Americans in general that really don’t want the extra baggage that comes along with being with another African American. I think its akin to not wanting to spend the rest of your days with your partner talking about how neither one of you can get a credit card or find a barber who can cut a descent fade. I guess the mentality is, “I just don’t want to think about being Black all the time and at least one of us should have a credit score over 500.” Which is all good I guess… unless you don’t mind being black, your credit score is over 650 and some cute Black dude tells you that he doesn’t date Black dudes because he doesn’t want to put up with the “drama”.

Then there’s your typical run of the mill African American gay man who isn’t trying to be “out”. In general we are a very religious people and very family oriented and in general, African American gay men usually feel it’s either homosexuality or God and you’d be pretty hard pressed to find someone who would give up God for… anything really. And as a people, we haven’t really gotten to that point where sex (gay or straight) is good or righteous or acceptable. It’s still taboo, we still don’t talk about it or at least not enough.

Then there’s the mainstream gay community whose main agenda is public displays of homosexual pride at any and every given opportunity… at all costs.

Then there’s the Bear community who is usually masculine, heavy-set blue collar guys who don’t mind being masculine, heavy-set or blue collar.

Then there’s Los Angeles whose delusions of grandeur has been oxygenated into our atmosphere since its inception. It’s about image here, not necessarily what you look like, but what you represent. So an overweight guy here can still fit in as long as it is clear that he clearly abides by the strictest rules of contemporary fashion which translates into, “You can be fat, but you better be fierce!”

And that’s where the conundrum lies; finding masculine, openly homosexual, heavy-set, African American men who don’t have delusions of grandeur of being America’s Next Top Model who actually like other African American men… which brings us back to it being a subculture, inside of a subculture, inside of a subculture; that’s the table dude, me, my friend, and the marks left on our hips from binding jeans after too much Malibu Chicken from Sizzler.

It’s no wonder his business failed.

I, on the other hand, have been delving into the wonderful world of the Bear in all its Caucasian seasoned glory. Who knows if I’ll ever actually date a White boy but I got to tell you… I’m starting to feel more of a kinship with the people who understand why I would rather sit at a table at a restaurant than my so-called Soul Brothas who scoff at the fact that I can’t fit in a booth, which is a very scary thought because I have always felt more of an connection with Black people than Gay people. Who knew that all that chicken grease would make my vision clearer?

But alas, I don’t see me trading in the profound love I have for my people, my Black men… unrequited as it may be. I still go to Bear bars, Bear clubs, Bear orgies... and I do very much enjoy the friendly fur of these, my ivory toned counterparts. But I’m always holding out for those Black Bears, aware, proud and not too bruised by this pin prick of a world.

Male Media Mind