Hanging Out at New York’s Sex-Free, Alcohol-Free Bear Den

When you think about bears, you might think of heavy-set gay men in leather, but the bears of the New York Bear Den defy the stereotype. As I entered the Bear Den—a sober meet-up spot in Queens—I expected a casual bacchanalia, but instead, I found an endearing group of friends eating red velvet cake in the shape of a teddy bear.

The New York Bear Den bills itself as a “hate-free, alcohol-free, attitude-free” alternative to the gay bar scene, and most members see body positivity as a core part of bear culture.

“To be a bear is more about being a member of the bear community than it is anything about one’s appearance or style,” Mark, a well-spoken bear who has attended nearly every meeting in the Bear Den’s six-year existence, told me. “For every description you could use of a bear there will be bears that will not fit the rule—other than being big hefty men.”

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