Editor’s Note: I’m a part of a new anthology coming out on 8/18 from Dreamspinner Press: A Taste of Honey. And while the book is not Fantasy, Sci Fi or Paranormal per se, some of the stories in it include magical realism or present-day fantasy. I hope you’ll indulge me as I share the intros to a number of these stories in the lead-up to the book’s release. 🙂 –Scott
Releasing from Dreamspinner Press Today – A Taste of Honey – the ultimate bear romance anthology. Guys don’t have to be in their twenties, perfectly sculpted, and hairless to be hot. Bears are real men with real bodies–and that doesn’t always mean a perfect six-pack or an immaculately smooth chest. With bears, it can mean more man to love. The men in this anthology are chubs, cubs, grizzlies, pandas, polar bears, and more–all looking for a connection. And beneath their burly physiques are hearts of gold. Explore the bear scene and beyond with these big, hairy guys and the men who find them irresistibly sexy.
Today is release day, and so we’ve got a special excerpt today:
So Just What is a Bear? – Introduction by B.G. Thomas
NOW THAT is a big question–no pun intended. I bet if you were to ask ten different bears that question, you would get ten different answers. In fact, when I started asking around, I found out that’s true. “Bear” can take on a hell of a lot of definitions, depending on who you ask. And the bear community is a rich and varied culture that continues to grow and change.
I will say this, though. As I talked with these men–either in person or through e-mails and ads and Facebook–I found that I began to hear a common theme. There was a theme going on, baby.
However, all those different men? Those bears? They’re not the ones writing this introduction. I am. And instead of trying to answer the above question with those many-splendored explanations, I’m going to tell you what being a bear means to me.
But first–first I want to step back a few decades and share something very personal about myself.
So there I was, in my early twenties, living with a (wonderful) woman and trying not to be gay–pretending I was straight.
I wasn’t fooling anyone. Not me (not really). Not the mother of my daughter (we met while cruising the same man). Not friends. Everyone knew I was gay. People passing me on the street knew I was gay. To paraphrase Will Truman from Will & Grace, blind and deaf people knew I was gay.
Except all those people, including myself, were wrong.
I wasn’t gay. I was homosexual.
What? What was that you asked? What’s the difference?
Okay. I’ll tell you. It was something I had to learn myself.
No one is born gay.
What they are is born homosexual.
They are born with the genetically unavoidable predisposition to be sexually attracted to members of their own sex. They can deny it all they want. Fight it like crazy. Fool themselves. But they can’t change it any more than they can the color of their eyes or the color of their hair. Sure, they can wear colored contacts or bleach or dye their hair, but they’re only covering up. Wearing a disguise. They can even avoid sexual contact with a member of their own sex–but they are still homosexual.
Being gay is something else completely.
Being gay was that day when I finally realized I didn’t want to be anything else.
Invariably, many gay men will get asked a certain question: “But would you be straight if you could be? If you could take a pill and wake up heterosexual, would you?”
At first my answer was “Hell yes!” I used to cry myself to sleep many a night begging God to make me straight.
With time the answer, thankfully, evolved into, “Well, life would be easier if I were heterosexual, but I’ve made peace with what I am.”
A step up–but I wasn’t gay yet. I was still homosexual. I was still “making peace” with what I was. Like I had diabetes or something. Like it was something I had to learn to live with.
But then finally I got to the point in my life where I knew I would never consider taking that pill. I’d die first. That being homosexual was intrinsic to who I was. It wasn’t even the eye and hair color thing. Because my hair and eye color did nothing to shape me into the man I am today. Everything that has been a part of my existence–the “good” and the “bad,” the opportunities provided or denied, the aspects of human behavior experienced or witnessed–are things that happened to me because I am “not straight,” things that would not have happened to me had I been “straight.”
I came to feel as if I had been chosen!
I was gay.
When called to the colors, I’d gladly wave the rainbow flag. Had I never gotten to that point, I would never have been able to know myself.
Now what does this have to do with the question about bears?
Well, I’ll tell you, but first there’s going to be one more tangent.
For some reason I have worked almost exclusively with women all my life. I was either the only man on the job or one of the only men. And for some reason, since I’m a gay man, the women would soon seem to forget I was a man at all and talk about things I’m betting most men don’t hear. Some of these subjects I am not mentioning. What I will say is I have heard the complaint about how unfair it is to be a woman in our culture. That a man can show up in jeans, a shirt, and bedraggled tennis shoes and forget to shave, and all it does is make him look manly. But a woman has to wear makeup and spend a lot of money on her hair, and they have to shave their legs and pits and wear uncomfortable shoes and hose and…
…if they don’t, forget advancing in the workplace and forget attracting a good man. Women who don’t do all these things are virtually invisible to men. At least that is what those women told me….
Well, let me tell you what happened to me when I finally came out and hit the bars. The men ignored me! I would ask a guy to dance and he would look right through me! He wouldn’t even say, “Not now, I’m resting.” He would flat-out ignore me. I found out I didn’t wear the right clothes or have the right hair, that I was too heavy or that I should “manscape” or shave my chest altogether. At that time, even the five-o’clock shadow thing was frowned upon, let alone beards or facial hair. I couldn’t believe the money gay men spent on a haircut!
I went through years of wearing clothes I didn’t like (but pretended to) and putting up with hairstyles I couldn’t stand, shaving my face (and I look like shit without facial hair!) and dieting yo-yo style–starving myself to be good enough to get a man, only to gain it all back when I couldn’t find or keep one.
Then in 1997 I went to my first bear event.
I was a hit! The men positively pawed me–pun intended. I could have had sex every hour on the hour if I’d wanted. And I was no boy either. I was a good fifty pounds “overweight,” had facial hair, and was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I was popular!
It was the most liberating experience of my sexual life. Men liked me! They “really, really liked me!” Because you know why? Some men like big butts. It’s a song, even, and I tell no lie! Suddenly, if I was losing weight, it was because the doctor told me my knee replacements would last years longer if I took some weight off them. I lost weight because I wanted to. These were men who loved each other despite the “flaws” they supposedly had. Men who judged each other for what was in their hearts and not their guts. Lovely men. Amazing men. Beautiful men!
Bears. We come in all shapes and varieties. Besides your “typical” bear (a hairy, stocky to heavyset man), there are chubs (heavyset men who aren’t necessarily hairy), cubs (young bears or bears who are very young at heart), daddy bears (older guys, sometimes looking for a “daddy/son” relationship with a younger guy or cub–definitely not talking pederasty here), leather bears (bears who like to wear leather), muscle bears (can be very muscular, but they tend not to worry about abs in favor of some nice padding), polar bears (bears whose hair has gone gray/white), panda bears (bears of Asian descent), black bears (bears of African descent), pocket bears (short bears), Ewoks (very short bears), ginger bears (redheaded bears), and grizzly bears (usually much shaggier and taller and sometimes dominant). And then there are otters (hairy guys who are slim)!
But the one thing we have in common is we aren’t hung up on what most of gay culture, or the world for that matter, qualifies and quantifies as hot or sexy. We are beautiful and sexy in our own way. And we accept each other far more than the average community.
Because that’s what being a bear is all about. It’s more than size. It is accepting ourselves and each other for who and what we are. And refusing to define beauty by what GQ magazine, or Gold’s Gym, or MTV, or shows like True Blood, Hawaii Five-0, and Grey’s Anatomy say we should be.
In the following anthology you will see all kinds of bears and read all kinds of bear stories. Tales of men accepting themselves for who and what they are. Stories of men who realize they like bears (another word: those men are called “admirers”). You are going to cry. You are going to think. You are going to laugh your ass off. We’ve even thrown in a few tales of the extraordinary and fantastical. Almost half of the fourteen authors represented herein are new to Dreamspinner Press. At least one of those made his first sale ever (and a great story it is!) in this anthology.
So now I am finally going to stop talking and turn this over to you. I hope you love this book even half as much as I loved being involved. It was a dream come true (but then, that is what Dreamspinner Press is all about). I’ve fantasized since I was in fourth grade about helping put something like this together. We would get this little catalogue in English class filled with books. A lot of my selections were anthologies, and I would marvel at what it must be like to collect stories and put them all together in one book. And now I know! We received dozens and dozens of stories and whittling them down to the fourteen you are about to read was tough work. How do you choose out of so many amazing stories? Despite that, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
It was amazing working with Anne Regan, and I hope I wasn’t too much of a pain in her butt! I have learned so much. Thank you, Anne!
Okay! I’m done! I’ve done my part; now it’s time for you to do yours. Read! Have fun!
And finally, “Woof!”
(That means “I like you” in bear-talk.)