Some Bears place importance on presenting a hypermasculine image and may shun interaction with, and even disdain, men who exhibit effeminacy. The Bear concept can function as an identity, an affiliation, and there is ongoing debate in Bear communities about what constitutes a Bear. However, a consensus exists that inclusion is an important part of the Bear community.
In particular, many bear community organizations define inclusiveness as a central value of the movement, such that anyone who supports values such as "having a good attitude to life, friends and helping the local community", is welcome in the Bear community regardless of appearance, although the view that physical characteristics are central to the Bear identity is still seen in many other definitions.
Bears are almost always gay or bisexual men. Increasingly, transgender or transsexual men (trans men) and those who shun labels for gender and sexuality are also included within Bear communities. However, heterosexual men who have Bearish physical traits and are affirming of their gay friends and family (or their gay fans, in the case of a celebrity) may also be informally accorded "honorary" Bear status. A smaller number of lesbians, particularly butch dykes, also participate in Bear culture, referring to themselves with the distinct label of ursula.
Some slang terms relating to the Bear community include the following:
- Cub – a younger (or younger-looking) version of a Bear, typically, but not always, with a smaller frame. The term is sometimes used to imply the passive partner in a relationship.
- Ewok – A bear of short stature, but not younger.
- Otter – A slimmer or less hairy Bear regardless of age.
- Chaser – Somebody who is attracted to Bears and/or chubs but is not part of the Bear culture.
- Chub – A heavy-set man who might be described as overweight or obese. These men are also a distinct subculture within the gay community, and may or may not identify with the Bear movement per se.
- Teddy – A fully hairy bear. Chest, back, beard, everything is hairy.
- Musclebear – A Bear whose size derives from muscle rather than body fat.
- Ursula – A lesbian bear.
- Goldilocks – A straight woman friendly with bears.
- Panda (or panda bear) – A Bear of Asian heritage.
- Polar bear – An older Bear whose facial and body hair is predominantly or entirely white or grey.
- Wolf – A slimmer Bear, with the behavioral characteristic of sexual assertiveness or aggression.
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