Bear Flag – Big Hairy And Proud!

One thing I love about the LGBT world is that there is always something new to learn. And in the case of today’s article, it’s the Bear Flag.

I’ll quickly regale you of my first encounter with the flag and then share what I’ve learned about it since first seeing it wave on that hot summer day.


My friend had recently popped over to Madrid during his European vacation. And little did we know that Madrid PRIDE was happening that very weekend.

But here’s the thing.

During Madrid (and nearly all of Spanish) summers, it’s hotter than hell. So, the plan was to just pop in and take a quick look around. We would snap a few photos, have a drink or two, feel the local energy, and whatnot. After all, we had paid our party dues in Hong Kong more than once and our old, tired bones were already feeling the first stages of heat stroke.

So, we did our thing. And then after a few hours of seeing the local Pride wildlife (which was utterly fantastic), we started heading back.

This is where I saw the Bear Flag.

Now I thought I was Pride knowledgeable. But even I ended up standing there pointing and asking out loud, “What’s that?!”

And it turns out the girl right behind me had the answer.

“I asked the same thing,” she said. She then went on to explain that the guy carrying the flag had told her it was for the International Bear Brotherhood.   

Ok! Bears! That was all I needed to know. But for some readers out there it still might not be enough. So let’s dive into that next.


Bears are a subset of gay culture that focuses on big, burly, hairy men who project an image of rugged masculinity.

And, after what I’ve come to learn. Just because you’re big and hairy, doesn’t automatically put you in this category. It’s something you self-identify as. It combines gender expression, gender identity, and sexuality



The flag was first made by Craig Byrnes in 1995. His undergraduate degree in psychology involved devising a senior project about the bear culture that had raged since the early 1980s, of which he had first-hand experience – and this flag results from this project.

 The colors of the flag—dark brown, orange/rust, golden yellow, tan, white, gray, and black—are meant to include the colors of the furs of animal bears throughout the world. Though not necessarily referring to human skin color or hair color, the flag was designed with inclusion in mind.


Personally, I love the paw print in the corner. Don’t know why. I just do. But I also love that there was a combination of diversity, inclusivity, and bear culture all rolled into one.

And, again, it’s another reason I love the LGBT universe. It’s an unending journey of discovery and education!

As for you, dear readers, any other Bear Flag facts you want to throw in the comments so we can all keep learning?

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