Wednesday, February 23, 2011

reclaiming bear

crocheted wool.

As an introductory post, I figured it would only be appropriate to talk about my connection to beardom, particularly bear identity, as all things bear work as a nice physical stand in for my aesthetic preference, and simultaneously describe a lot of my gender identity these days. This blog is meant to work as a dossier of sorts, the fleshing out of ideas around my art and craft-making and the ways in which I'm creating and thinking about the life I lead.

Okay, so! I semi-recently made a beard for a getoutoftown trip to the russian river. Guernville hosts a pretty infamous summer event called Lazy Bear Weekend. My fellow pervy trans lady compatriot and I, naive to this bear-population being weekend-specific, thought an early fall camping trip would be perfect for bear hunting (cruising) and some trans lady skinny dipping solidarity. I crocheted the beard, patterned from a friend's similar one (he calls his a beard cozy, cuute!) an attempt to "blend in," to not necessarily make ourselves less visible as trans women (beacause let's get real, when we're clothed OR naked, there's really no hiding it) but for me, this was an attempt to appeal to the bear community more fully and outwardly, understanding that normative bear culture is a manifestation of gay male culture and a masculine culture at that, both things I am not. This beard became my first attempt at recreating myself as a bear, to make my bear identity more outwardly visible and much more of a doing, more of a deliberate gender presentation. Here's some back story.

As a young and extremely self conscious faggot i hated my rapidly forming bear body. I was infatuated with (notions of normative) gay porn culture and my growing disposition for bottom-identity, I shaved and shaved and shaved, cardio-ed my brains out, and prayed to the twink gods for smooth and slenderness. While the bottomness did in fact develop itself quite nicely, the twink aesthetic did not. I rejected my ever increasing beardom like the plague, and only now, almost three years after starting my estrogen regimen, am I rethinking my would-be connection to the community I could have found for myself then.

It's become increasingly clear to me that I cannot take up space in a community populated and established exclusively for men. As a female-ish (i recognize that I tend to "pass" as female in quite a few social interactions despite my gender queer identity and fluid/androgynous clothing choice) presenting trans person, I realize that I am not a typically attractive candidate to homo-inclined grizzly men, and I'm also aware that my previously and no longer visible faggot identity does not legitimize my taking up of space in bear communities. But I also understand my ever increasing connection to bears as a nostalgic sense of loss and letting go of what could have been a very cathartic community for the development of myself as a non-normatively bodied queer person (the way that beardom, while linked to masculine presentation, is such a rejection of normative gay men's oppressive sense of "perfect" body image), and I long for both the connection of a homo-dynamic (flirting/loving/fucking other faggots and round-bellied queers, that is), preferably with one that is much furrier than i am.

I do enjoy myself with a beard, and while this would be follicularly impossible, the crocheted, red and blond speckled wool warms my now smooth face and is a bear-drag of sorts. I plan to incorporate a draped, curly collar of chest and belly fur, but that's for another time.

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