Bear Flag on Our Flagpole

Grrrr – The Bear Flag

Muscles, regardless of body hair, continue to remain supreme such that gay men report one of the highest incidences of body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and exercise related injuries among all groups, including women and teenage girls.  I think this one shirt sums it all up nicely:

Grrrr - The Bear Flag 1
T-Shirt Sums It Up

As much as LGBTQ people are judged, shamed, and discriminated against by those outside of the subculture, the truth remains that we are our own worst enemies much of the time

As but one example, my trainer at the gym (I hear the irony but my interest is in improved overall health and mobility, not social conformity since my social groups are generally aged out of body consciousness) is constantly self critical because he is “too short” or he isn’t “working his legs enough,” or he is losing his hair, as if any of these things would reduce his value as a kind and loving person, which I know him to be.

Suffice it to say, that while not NBA material, my trainer is not abnormally short and even though he is shorter in stature than many men, his incredibly muscular, obviously so, body shape should compensate, and yet it doesn’t.  When I was younger I tried very hard to conform, but a combination of genetics and overall health meant that I would never achieve the ideal and I had to learn to live with that.  To some extent, and to the degree that I identify with any group, I find a bear mind-set attractive.

Enough ranting, on to the flag!

The Bear Flag, formally known as The International Bear Brotherhood Flag was designed to represent the bear subculture within the LGBT community.  It is said by some authorities that the color of the flag, dark brown, orange/rust, golden yellow, tan, white, gray, and black were meant to represent the colors of all the furs of animal bears throughout the world.  While not necessarily meant to represent skin or hair tones, some commentators interpret it as such, and perhaps that serves to increase the message of inclusion which is to be applauded and celebrated even if it wasn’t the original intent.

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Bear Flag

While this story is disputed by some, others claim that the Bear pride flag was created by Craig Byrnes.  Byrnes’ undergraduate degree in psychology involved designing a senior project about the bear culture that had exploded since the early 1980s, of which he had first-hand experience.  Mr. Byrnes thought it might be fitting to design a flag that would best represent the bear community and include it with the results of his research.  He created four variations with a sewing machine and he won approval to display the four 3’×5’ prototype flags at the Chesapeake Bay Bears “Bears of Summer” events in July 1995.  The winning design was a version created by Paul Witzkoske and that version remains the commonly recognized International Bear Brotherhood Flag to this day.  If you were wondering, the design is trademarked!

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