White Bears, it’s time for you to be uncomfortable.

Imagine walking into an LGBTQ space and not seeing anyone who looks like you. This should not be unimaginable, since the whole point of the Bear community is to give space to men of size who feel excluded by the broader gay community because they don’t look like pin-up models. 

However, for some reason, White Bears seem to not be able to grasp this concept when it concerns Bears of Color who feel excluded from Bear spaces. During a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has rightfully taken up space on our news feeds, a conversation has opened up again in Bear spaces about the lack of diversity and inclusion, and the silence of White gays when it comes to the lives of Black people and People of Color. But, it’s a conversation that many White Bears still seem to not want to have.

The conversation was sparked this weekend in a Facebook planning group for a very popular Bear event, in which a meme was posted that said “White Silence Equals White Consent. Black Lives Matter.” Despite some support from group members, the post was met with much criticism from other group members, who called supporters of the post “troublemakers”. 

A second post was then put up by one of the post’s criticizers, which basically said that a vacation planning group was not the space for this type of conversation. Upon reading that, I couldn’t help but think, Well, when WILL it be time? 

White Bears, it’s time to wake up. No one is trying to destroy your fun, but you literally have people telling you that they feel excluded from your events. People are literally telling you that they feel mistreated and underrepresented. People are telling you that their lives are in danger and they are being killed in the streets, and your reply is “Ok, but I want to have fun without you bringing this up, though.” 

The reason why so many White Bears have taken issue with those types of messages being presented in these groups is because those messages are absolutely right. White gays seem to have a hard time admitting that they are privileged, and that they could do a lot more to support People of Color because it takes away their ability to own the victim label. White gays feel like they own the rights to oppression because of the oppression they’ve faced because of their sexual identity, so they don’t like to admit that they can be oppressors themselves. 

White gays want to turn a blind eye to conversations that make them uncomfortable, and believe that Bear events are “not the time” to talk about diversity, inclusion and Black lives. It is exactly the time. 

White Bears wonder why it’s hard to get People of Color to show up at your events, or be models on your event posters. It seems like you want People of Color to represent your events without actually making an attempt to include them. 

Why would anyone want to show up to a place where their legitimate calls for visibility and inclusion are constantly shut down by White gays who don’t want anyone to make them uncomfortable? Queer People of Color don’t trust White queers much of the time, and rightfully so. 

It’s time for White gays to accept that maybe making you uncomfortable is the only way that People of Color feel that they can get you to listen. I read a meme once that said, “White gays got comfortable ever since they got marriage equality”. White queers also may have forgotten that marriage equality was won as a part of the larger LGBTQ rights movement, which was led primarily by Transgender and lesbian Women of Color. But, it’s totally okay to keep People of Color silenced and underrepresented in the LGBTQ community, right?

White gays, it’s time to be uncomfortable. LGBTQ People of Color have never had the privilege of being comfortable. And maybe, in order to finally help fix things, you need to understand what that discomfort feels like. 

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson is an educator, writer and actor currently spending the bulk of his time between New York, New York and London, England. He is an active member of both the bear and leather communities and is a proud member of the MidAtlantic Chapter of ONYX.

23 thoughts on “White Bears, it’s time for you to be uncomfortable.

  • 29th June 2020 at 9:15 pm
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    Amazing article. I am ready for discomfort if it means we are inclusive and supportive of each other and that we all share the same rights and privilege. I only recently came out but hope to be a voice that sends the right message. It is time for a change buckle up everyone!

  • 30th June 2020 at 3:13 am
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    No one owes anyone shiiiiiieet. We will not be shamed nor apologize for not finding unattractive sad men that look like Precious, as as attractive. They’ll never be desired, and they should never be comfortable. I posted this article in a gay forum and you got dragged.

    • 30th June 2020 at 9:27 am
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      Damn, it doesn’t matter what you look like because of all that shit in your heart. Very sorry the author had to read your worthless opinion. Not surprised you’re on forums as I can’t imagine you having any real friends.

      • 30th June 2020 at 10:07 am
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        Why the anonymous post? You’re so brave, own it.

      • 30th June 2020 at 11:45 pm
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        This is a great opinion, with lots of truths. Yet in order to develop a bridge to gap the fractions within our community we need to come to the table with solutions. Pointing the finger never helps. We need to really ask ourselves what we are willing to do to make our community better.

    • 2nd July 2020 at 5:43 am
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      Here the kind of behaviour that need to stop…

    • 3rd July 2020 at 5:23 am
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      So you’ve simply exemplified everything that was stated in the article. Most of the wider gay community finds bears unattractive or turns them into a fetish. But you feel comfortable excluding Black people and the wider POC.

  • 30th June 2020 at 7:32 am
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    Having read this article, I’m glad that someone spoke out about this. I am a man of color who has been very supportive of the bear community for years. I have organized and produced pool parties, gay bear cruises, bear picnics, and bear holiday parties for years. Some of the events are anticipated by many and have a decent-sized following in the area that I live. I make sure that everyone is invited to these events but I am rarely if ever invited to other peoples pool parties or events. I’ve been a member of the bear organization from it’s inception and have been on the board of directors longer than anyone else but I still don’t always feel included. My bear organization produces local bar events and it’s rare that I ever see any pictures with me in them whenever photos of he events are taken. I’m sometimes annoyed by the fact that I’m not always included but I’m committed to the organization and so I deal with it. At some of the events we produce, I will reach out and talk to anyone who shows up but isn’t actively engaged as I wouldn’t want others to feel excluded. I’m also fortunate that their are other men of color on the board of directors with me but I still don’t always feel included. I can’t say I know what to do about this issue but I can say what I do about it and that is to reach out to anyone new who appears to be shy and seeking to participate with our bear group. I’ve chosen to ignore the racism and I have also encouraged other people of color to show up regardless because it things or may not change, but it is almost certain not to change, if you don’t show up or if you are not present.

  • 30th June 2020 at 8:29 am
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    You can not tell a white person that his/her opinion or thoughts on the BLM movement are invalid because they are white and they should all listen.
    You can not tell a white person that they cant empathize with movement because they are white.
    You can not tell a white person that you are tired of explaining it and that you don’t want to be responsible for educating white people.

    Then scream that white silence = white consent.
    Take if from the gay community, you want change you have to be willing to put in the work, educate and listen as well so you can be educated on the conversation.

    And yes, I have witnessed all of the above happening with startelling frequency.
    PS I am not white.

  • 30th June 2020 at 9:33 am
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    Kyle, great article and a great wake-up call to us. Corey C, you give me hope. Dre, your privilege and racism is showing. As well as your lack of body positivity. It’s rather telling that you latch on to an example of a person of color as your “case in point” to say that they are unattractive, will never be desired and they should never be comfortable. Love is love in any gender, body type, or color of skin. Your ignorance is shiiiiiieet. You want to be found attractive, desired? Be accepted and able to be comfortable around others? You get what you give, honey, and we all owe each other something in the way of acceptance and compassion as fellow human beings on this planet.

  • 30th June 2020 at 9:36 am
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    I think this article is spot on. It will make many uncomfortable as they recognize the truth in it but are unable to break out of their small group of likewise friends. For me this is not only true of the bear community but certainly of the larger gay male community. Their seems to be some inherent “me and mine” attitude that is pervasive, almost a selfishness that can translate into exclusion. I have been out for 30 years and have seen this pattern. It certainly is not true of all, but the pattern exists.

    • 30th June 2020 at 11:48 pm
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      This is a great opinion, with lots of truths. Yet in order to develop a bridge to gap the fractions within our community we need to come to the table with solutions. Pointing the finger never helps. We need to really ask ourselves what we are willing to do to make our community better.

  • 30th June 2020 at 11:49 am
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    “White Bears wonder why it’s hard to get People of Color to show up at your events, or be models on your event posters. It seems like you want People of Color to represent your events without actually making an attempt to include them.”

    “White Bears, it’s time to wake up. No one is trying to destroy your fun, but you literally have people telling you that they feel excluded from your events. People are literally telling you that they feel mistreated and underrepresented.”

    “A second post was then put up by one of the post’s criticizers, which basically said that a vacation planning group was not the space for this type of conversation. Upon reading that, I couldn’t help but think, Well, when WILL it be time?”

    I don’t understand your point at all. Where is the exclusion coming from? Because you want to discuss unpopular politics during events meant for escapism? If you think that’s bad, try holding non binary political perspectives.

    If you want to see representation, show up. But honestly, bear events, and the larger bear and queer community is mostly trash anyways.

    -D

  • 30th June 2020 at 8:25 pm
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    I’ve long felt waves of unwelcome at these events. I’ve seen the “musclebear” take over all ads and all representation for all things bear, but they’re models that treat us bears like shit and won’t give us the time of day. There is no “muscle bear.” There is bear, and there’s a muscle motherfucker trying to weasel in and be the big man in a small pond where they can continue to push superiority.

    So I totally feel it when someone says they also feel underrepresented. I often see men of color at these events and feel like I’m the only one who finds them hot as hell. It disturbs me that we go from a cruel world to trying to build our own world where we get to be the cruel ones. Honestly bear world, it’s time we learn to exclude some people, but not based on their skin….. based on their ATTITUDE. Stop lusting after assholes and rewarding them with admiration they clearly don’t deserve. Remember what BEAR freakin’ meant in the first place.

  • 1st July 2020 at 5:54 am
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    Dibs to you Kyle. As a white man I have come to recognise that I carry this power. I know when I walk into the room that I am seen as a ‘white’ man. I have done 2 cultural awareness workshops here in Oz, most recent just as COVID hit. At the end of the first I struggled a lot with the weight of how I am perceived. As a nurse when I look at anyone I see the person, not class, not colour, not race, nor when I worked in the jail their crime. What I have realised is that I need to put this power to the good, use it where I see injustice and working in HIV those injustices are so layered that by the time it comes to the colour of you skin the weight is unbearable. For woman the layers build and if you are trans it comes at them from all directions. I have taken to calling out this injustice, shining a light on this invisibility and when I am at the table I am your advocate and an ally with so much more to learn and understand. Thank you for showing me more. This should be read by all of us who are white, not just Bears.

  • 1st July 2020 at 7:14 am
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    Don’t tarnish everyone with the same brush. I am a black bear in London, and the bears around me do nothing but support people of colour, and go out their way to include everyone in local events.

    Sorry that this does not seem to be happening where you are.

  • 1st July 2020 at 10:17 am
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    For a group that knows what it’s like to be marginalized and demeaned it has always surprised me how closed-minded and bigoted many in the Gay community are. We of all people should set the standard for inconclusiveness. We most surely can be better than this. Thank you Kyle Jackson.

  • 1st July 2020 at 10:21 am
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    Wow! I’m a white man, and I guess I’m a bear, but never felt that comfortable at bear events. Now I’m imagining I’m a non white person, and wondering how I am feeling about attending a bear event.

    I would really like everyone to be included. Having worked in an organisation that turned to positive measures to encourage female representation in our managerial ranks, in order to overcome historical differences, that led to prejudice and bias, I am all in favour of any measure that seeks to equalise and achieve equality in all fields of life and endeavour.
    Mans when it comes to our own sexual identity community we should be the poster child for equality, not another micro community that discriminates or worse seeks to justify bias because we come from a particular privileged ethnic group.

    I don’t claim to have any of the answers, but I do want a world where everyone feels included, and therefore not excluded on the basis of race or identity. If the struggle to achieve our sexual freedoms is to mean anything, then we must recognise and embrace our differences, including race.

    I have always thought that our differences are was unites us. Any species in the history of creation that strives for sameness is doomed to fail.

  • 1st July 2020 at 12:07 pm
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    THANK YOU – I have been saying this for years, literally. My husband and I have encountered this and the attitude has been open and direct. What got me most was the few POC that were involved in some of the worst groups chose to ignore it or questioned me when I brought up specific instances.

    Again – thank you!!

  • 2nd July 2020 at 1:39 am
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    My experience as a Black Bear has been subject to multiple levels of inclusions.My mentors were very welcoming and supportive white Bear members of the local Bear Club.It was important to recognize that the Bear Flag is itself mult Colored with all the shades that Men come in.I felt Diversity and Inclusion had no onflict because I was encouraged to REPRESENT my Color among all the Others Respectfully. That diversity included body and Age types,Trangender types,Bi or Purely Gay ,Gender identities were welcomed to REPRESENT in events and organizations planning meetings.All of the culture is fluid and transforming depending of who shows up to REPRESENT Community.
    Today there are Black Bear Brotherhood groups being formed separately from the traditional White dominated clubs in answer to share identity.I belong to and support this younger generation of Black Bear Culture because it’s basic goal is for Black Bears to love and support each other first. Loving Our Blackselves is essential to feeling confident and comfortable about ones self in any white bear dominated Space or Club….I never define my value as a Man by how much I am desired admired or valued by a white man. If I matter to myself,I don’t need white Bear permission to be comfortable in my skin among them.
    I believe that kind of self aware confidence attracts the kind of men I want to be associated with regardless of race.

  • 2nd July 2020 at 3:13 am
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    Some good points, but the fight for gay equality was not “led” by transgender persons or people of color. I infer that that is referring to the incorrect notion that Stonewall was started by a transgender person or gays of color. That isn’t true. That is romanticized fiction. Stonewall was primarily white male prostitutes from the nearby park- in fact, the only known photo from the first night of stonewall is of white males.
    People of color and transgender persons have greatly co tributed to gaining equality for gays but gay white males have led the charge in almost every political gain.
    Keep it real. No rewriting history
    And we white gays will listen and learn.

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