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Gay Male subculture

Gay Male subculture

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Gay male is a subculture of gay, lesbian transgender, and bisexual culture (LGBT). This
subculture consists of gay and bisexual males only. Since its emergence in 1969, it has gained
popularity and developed other subcultures. The main subculture of gay male is the bear, which
is characterized by males who exhibit secondary sexual characteristics such as hairy face and
body as well as huge muscular bodies (Flores 2011). They share similar ideologies with the
mainstream gay male subculture only that it is characterized by males who posses certain
features. Gay males continue to suffer from stigmatization from straight individuals. Religious
groups and other straight people in the community strongly reject them on the basis of sexual
orientation. Some face discrimination in schools and at home. There is also a major crisis of HIV
that is affecting gay males. This has further led to gay male stigmatization. Statistics reveal that
gay men engage in risky sexual behavior and are at a great risk of contracting sexually
transmitted diseases. Stigmatization and discrimination made many gays change greatly as they
identify themselves with the culture that accepts them. The process of socialization within the
subculture has made many gay males to behave in a certain way and feel as part of the
community. As time progresses, some countries accepted gays to extent of legalizing their
marriages despite the eminent controversies.

Ethnographic description of the subculture

Gay male is a subculture of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). Although
gay community has been in existence for a long term, gay culture was first instituted in 1969
when a group of seven gay males formed a club to advocate for their rights to be recognized as
normal people. Since then, several gay males have come into the open to announce their sexual
orientations. The pace at which gay community came into the open in the past was quite slow.

Homosexuality has been highly associated with stigmatization; the reason why many gay people
would not come into the open. However, today, people are increasingly accepting gay people and
associating with them in any way. In fact, there are some countries that recognize gay marriage.
Gay men are exposed to sexual risk behaviors. According to Center for Disease Control
and Prevention (n.d), gay men are at a high risk of contracting HIV. Usually, gay men have anal
sex, which has been identified as the riskiest way of transmitting HIV virus. Similarly, their
sexual practice also contributes to high chances of acquiring other sexually transmitted diseases
such as gonorrhea and syphilis. It is also notable that gay men have multiple sexual partners;
hence, higher chances of acquiring HIV. The kind of lifestyle they lead especially in festivals is
likely to spread sexually transmitted diseases to many people.
There are several subcultures in gay male culture such as bears, leather, and chubbies.
Bear has emerged as one of the most popular subculture. It was popularized in 1987 when
several terms describing gay people came into the light. The term bear originated from huge and
heavy animals referred to as bears. As such, the bear subculture is comprised of masculine and
heavy males. Although this subculture claims to welcome everyone, many of them discriminate
against men who do not have masculine features. At the height of bear movement, many
masculine gays separated themselves from the larger community. They formed their own clubs
where they created sexual and social opportunities for themselves. They have several
membership requirements and strict bylaws that every member must adhere to. Bears also hold
annual events and events to celebrate their culture. The bear community is recognized in all parts
of the world. They have formed several clubs that gives them an opportunity to network with
other bears (Manley, Levitt and Mosher 2007: 90).

Typically, bears posses secondary sexual features such as hairy body and face. They
portray all the characteristics of masculinity. They also like to describe themselves as polite,
friendly, and easy going. They are easy to relate with under normal circumstances; however, they
are dangerous when provoked. They value team work and always protect each other. Most bears
are older and are attracted to members of the same community (GAVoice 2011).
The bear subculture has also its own niche in the market. It gives accessories such as t-
shirts, porn movies, calendars, and magazines bearing their icons. The subculture has also come
up with videos and studios such as Bear Magazine, Bearfilms, Butch Bear, and many others.
There are also several smartphones applications and social media websites that are marketable
among the bear community. It is notable that as this culture grows, so does it develop its own
music and literature. For instance, Bearapalooza is a bear’s music festival that is increasingly
becoming popular among the bear members. Likewise, they have Bear Bones Books, and a
publisher that markets fiction poetry in the bear community. There are also large and organized
bear markets where musicians and artists sell their bear based products.

The connection between the subculture and the society

Gay male community obliviously stand opposed to the society and the mainstream
culture. Even though the modern culture is continually accepting the gay community, there are
still a number of people and groups that continue to discriminate them. Many people usually see
gay men as immoral and sinful people. They see their sexual act as unnatural and offensive. Most
straight people’s attitudes towards the gay men are hostile. They view homosexuality as a moral
and natural sin that should be condemned at all costs. Some reject them at personal level whereas

others reject them based on religious beliefs and morality. Gay males often face several types of
stigma including verbal, non verbal, physical, and discrimination (Kendall 2004: 209-212).
The society imposes stigmatization on gay male in several levels. It may start at
interpersonal levels when family and friends discover that one of their own is gay. At this level,
family members may become violent to an extent of ejecting the gay person out. Friends may
also alienate themselves from a gay person for the fear of being associated with them. Such
people may end up being alone because no one would want to be associated with them. People
utter offensive words directed towards gay in public. This may lead to harassment especially for
communities that have no places for gay people. Even people in public offices may fail to serve
those who are known to be homosexuals. Schools are also a common place for harassment
against gay men. Usually, the discovery that one is gay in school can devastate a student to an
extent of quitting. This is because students may become very violent towards a gay student and
even discriminate him. Such a person is likely to lose all friends and suffer from loneliness. This
makes the whole life of gay people in schools quite difficult. Religious groups also condemn
homosexuality terming it as an immoral act. According to these groups, homosexuality is a very
serious sin that cannot be accepted by God. They strongly refute any act of homosexuality as it
goes against the ways of God. It is very difficult to convince religious followers that gay people
are the same as straight people with sexuality as the only difference. It is no wonder that gay
people have formed their own community where they interact among themselves.
Suresha (2009) confirms that at political level, gay male continue to face discrimination
in several countries. Although the governments of several countries claim that gay people should
not be discriminated, they have not been able to stop it. This is evidenced in the fact that many
countries have failed to recognize gay marriage. This is also another height of stigmatization.

Despite the several demonstrations that gays have conducted in an attempt to fight for their
legalization, it is apparent that gay discrimination is still high. Failure to recognize their marriage
denies them many benefits that married couples enjoy.
It is clear that the society has not accepted gay males. Although the rate of acceptance has
increased over the years, stigmatization is still eminent. There are a group of people that strongly
hold that homosexuality is immoral and should never be praised at all costs. As such, much
needs to be done for the gay community to be fully accepted in the society.

Subculture participation and identity

Gay males have their own lifestyles and characterization. Through the process of
socialization, gay males have to act according to the expectations of their subculture. With regard
to bear subculture, members of this particular group must possess certain characteristics. Despite
having masculine features, they must be friendly, easy going, and show kindness. Since all the
members of this community possess these characteristics, any member that wishes to join the
community must show these characteristics. One might acquire these characteristics by
interacting and socializing with the members of this community. As such, those who join this
group will have to acquire the mentioned characteristics such as being friendly and kind.
The festivals that these communities hold also play a great role in gays’ identification.
The way they celebrate their festivals and the kind of clubs and bars they attend makes them
distinct from the mainstream culture. The lifestyle that they lead can be as a result of interaction
with other members of the subculture. The language that they use could also be used to identify
this community. This identification process follows mead’s theory of self development, which
states that people develops their self through socialization. Therefore, how other people in the

subculture behave influences the actions of others. The type of music they listen to and the type
of clothes they wear has a huge influence on the lifestyles of new members. When gays join bear
subculture, they are expected to conform to the norms of the culture. They must behave in the
same way as other older members. They should learn to be friendly and team players. The strict
rules of the subculture must be adhered to. Whatever behavior is exhibited in the subculture is
what makes bears what they are (Hennen 2008: 49).
The other thing that makes gay males to identify with certain characteristics is their
families. Many gay people who have been kicked out of their homes on the basis of their sexual
orientation are likely to join the gay male community and particularly bear if they are masculine.
They realize that this is their life and who they are; hence, they behave in a similar manner as
other gay members. They neglect their behaviors back at home and strive to become someone
Neglect by the society may also contribute to self identification of gay males. They are
likely to interact among themselves while neglecting the mainstream culture. The more people
discriminate against them, the more they form a new kind of family that is peculiar to the
mainstream culture. They have to show others that they are proud of who they are even if they
are not. They will also hold demonstrations just because other members are doing so. In addition,
they learn to listen and love the music played in their subculture. It is evident that socializing
with other members of the community helps new members to identify themselves as part of the



Gay males especially bear subculture is a movement that has increasingly gained
popularity. Despite its criticism and stigmatization from the mainstream society, gay males
continue to come into the open proudly. The members of this subculture proudly advocate for
their gay rights and acceptance (Hennen 2008: 37). On the other hand, people continue to
condemn and discriminate them in various institutions and public places. Nevertheless, the gay
community has made it clear that it is and will still survive amidst stigmatization. They have
identified themselves as a subculture that is harmless and only pursuing its own happiness. This
subculture feels that the society should recognize gay males and give them the rights to marry
and be like other heterosexual couples. There is great need to learn about this subculture in order
to understand gay males and their ways of life.



Center for Disease Control and Prevention. n.d. HIV among Gay and Bisexual Men.

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