Who the daddy? OutUK’s little cub-cum-chubby-chaser Adrian Gillan catches up with XXL’s Mark Ames - the guy behind the UK’s big bear clubbing revolution. All is not what it seems.
“Most first-timers come here thinking this is a fetish club. They’re wrong,” growls short, stocky yet cherubic Mark Ames, the young Phil Mitchell look-alike owner-promoter-DJ who launched XXL fifteen years ago - for bears, their admirers and the curious - so kick-starting a chubby clubbing revolt that’s swept across the nation.

Looking around, there are as many bears as there are men, it seems: the XXL crowd being simply a cross-section of the gay community - just a bit older, and with a few more hairs. Moreover, many big and hairy guys are with younger, smoother fry; and vice versa. And why describe such attractions as fetish rather than mere sexual preference, just like any other?

“What is a bear?” muses our hairy host. “The idea of a ‘cloned bear’ exists only to the people who don’t come on the bear scene. The gay scene whinges endlessly about how straights treat us, but we are the world’s worst at ghettoising our own.”
Ames considers himself more a cub than a bear anyway. Apparently - in the UK - being a ‘bear’ is essentially about being hairy, probably over thirty and slightly portly. If you’re skinny but hairy, you’re an ‘otter’; if you’re young and chunky and a bit overweight, with hair, you’re probably a ‘cub’; and if you grow big but not too hairy, you’re dubbed a ‘chub’ - there’s even a social group called Gainers for those chub-wannabe wimps keen to pile on the pounds.

Contends our furry friend: “Being a bear is in many ways simply the natural progression of getting older. Bears haven’t come from outer space! These are the same guys who were there at the start of Trade and DTPM. They’ve just grown up and the hours they’ve got are too important to waste down the gym. We’ve shown there’s gay life after being young.”

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“I used to be a 30 inch waist when younger,” bristles Ames with emotion. “I could stop the traffic and get into any club in London. That doesn’t last for ever. This is about not growing older whilst still trying to look and act sixteen. We all know some sad old fifty year old dressed in Versace’s latest with their hair gelled and dyed to death and looking a bit of an issue.”

“And I do have a problem,” he expands, “when I go into some gay place and there’s some arsehole trying their hardest to look like they’re Mister Mean Man, scowling at you and thinking they’re sexy! You do get younger guys and foreigners who walk in with an attitude but the whole club has such a buzzy, happy, friendly feel, they soon lose it. Being a bear is about coming to terms with who and what you are. I wouldn’t call it spiritual - it’s nothing that deep - but it’s about broadening us as gay people and stopping us being so self-judgmental.”

Bear Myths Debunked


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