Bears, Muscle Bears, Cubs. It is Bear Week at Provincetown. This town changed almost overnight. The men on the street today are primarily hairy, bearded, larger than when we arrived five days ago.
Trying to uncover who I am as a gay man is an interesting journey. I find the bear men, who are in reasonable shape, very sexy. The men who are overweight or over-muscled don’t do much for me. The beards, tattoos, piercings are all a turn on. At the same time, these men seem foreign. They felt like something other. They don’t fit into my world comfortably. They meet some desire out of an adult video that I don’t feel I can have or be part of.
That sense, as when I was a child, of not belonging to the testosterone-fueled male world of rough house, sports, banter is still with me today. As a young boy, Thanksgiving with my uncle’s family was a time of separation and loneliness. I was frightened watching the men crowd around the big color TV set in my uncle’s den to watch football. They would yell at the screen and gesture roughly as the game progressed. They talked in code I didn’t understand and was never explained to me. There was something primal, scary and foreign to me about that male world. Even today, football is an unknown world for me.
I inhabit an elitist world where I don’t feel elite. I don’t feel that I’m A-List material. I have no interest in drugs or snobbery. Yet I don’t feel part of the bear world either — there is a roughness and an edginess to some of the bear men that, while sexy and attractive, frightens me.
I did, by chance, ride on a bear float at the Baltimore Pride parade recently. These bear men were all large guys. They didn’t scare me, but neither did they attract me. But riding the bear float, throwing out beads to the crowd, was a joyous experience.
Do I need to find my tribe? Jock, Clean-cut, Geek, Otter? Possibly. Certainly not Daddy, Discreet, Leather or Poz. Trans or Twink? I don’t think so.
So to my future tribe: find me, embrace me. Help me feel comfortable in your community. I’m waiting, but I’m also working on it. I’m trying lots of new things to build a network of friends and more. It’s slow going. I often think of the phrase, ‘you need to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince’, and it’s true. While I’m doing a lot more meeting men than kissing men, the meaning remains the same.
So what am I? Definitely clean-cut and a bit of a geek. I’m more otter than bear. I don’t want to be anyone’s daddy—the thought gives me the creeps. Possibly a bit of a jock but I wouldn’t want to overdo the label.
This last year has been one of exploration. Putting myself in new and often slightly uncomfortable situations. Uncomfortable because I’ve got to be ‘on’ and put myself forward to meet new people and navigate new situations. But it’s been fantastically freeing and empowering.