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Bears, Otters, and Cougars: oh my! Labels and the gay taxonomy

Bears, Otters, and Cougars: oh my! Labels and the gay taxonomy

gay taxonomy

There are a lot of labels and scenes in the diverse zoo that is our LGBT community. It’s likely most of us have heard of (and perhaps even fancy) a ‘bear’.  In addition to their community presence there is a semi-mainstream movie series (Bear City and Bear City 2: the Proposal), a popular web series (Where the Bears Are), and even a number in the recent DC Gay Mens’ Chorus dedicated to our bearish brethren.  The term has been around since the late 80’s or late ’70’s, depending on if one believes the point of origin lies with the founding of Bear Magazine  in 1987 or, as The Advocate claims, with a 1979 article written by George Mazzei entitled ‘Who’s Who at the Zoo?’. Within the bear community there are big burly polar bears, cubs, and panda bears that can be contrasted to the slim yet still furry otter types. We also can’t forget those cougars among us (or, as some prefer, Man-thers) who chase after the youth. If these species aren’t enough for your taste then fear not, for Mr. Mazzei’s fabulous taxonomy article covers the gamut from wise old owls to cygnet swans to gazelles.

The categories extend beyond quirky animal groupings too. We all know a twink or two for instance (if you’re not sure what a twink is, the internet has a handy identification guide), and BuzzFeed tells us there are things butch gay men will understand that presumably femme men won’t. The list could certainly go on, but you get the idea. Given there are all these groups to choose from, how does one go about deciding where they belong? Is the deciding factor how one is perceived by others; their body ‘type’ and how they align with cultural gender norms? Is any weight given to how one self-identifies with a group? And, perhaps the most interesting question, why are there so many labels in gay circles? Are there parallels for heterosexuals, or is the proliferation of labels specific to LGBT communities only? Join Gay District at the DC LGBT Center this Friday night (8:30pm, April 3rd 2015) and let’s talk about it.

Gay District meets at The DC Center, located inside the Reeves building at 2000 14th Street NW Washington, DC 20009.  Attendees will need to enter the Reeves building via the “Exit” doors on 14th Street, facing McDonald’s. We encourage attendees to bring their photo ID to gain access inside the building. If you do not have or are unable to present a photo ID, please contact the DC Center at (202) 682-2245. Afterwards, we’ll head out to one of the fine establishments on the U Street Corridor.

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