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The politics of
fur

The politics of
fur

Fur

After a decade or two in which the ideal queer body image included a visit to the waxing salon, body hair is beautiful--to some, anyway. Are we on the verge of a fur revolution?

It's easy to follow the gay hairline of the past 50 years. In the '50s lean, hairless muscle boys posed for "health" magazines. The '60s gave us the Cockettes, who with their long hair, beards, and fuzzy bodies underneath pounds of drag epitomized the gay hippie look. The Village People ushered in the end of the '70s as a group of gay icons with the perfect amount of hair in the perfect places--hair as costume piece.

In the '80s and early '90s gay men in the initial years of the AIDS pandemic defied society's perceptions of their health by working out, tanning, and shaving their bodies with equal enthusiasm--thank you, Calvin Klein, for bringing Olympic pole-vaulter Tom Hintnaus, in your underwear, to the masses via that legendary Times Square billboard. Hard, smooth, and golden-brown became the ideal. But soon there would be the Hair Revolution led by the gay Cossacks, the bears.

Now over a decade old, the bear movement is largely responsible for putting hair back in, and on, the faces of gay men. "Bear Magazine made it OK for gay men to be sexy while still looking like regular working-class guys--unaffected, unfussy, less groomed and polished," says Scott McGillivray, 43, former editor of Bear and current editor-copublisher of 100% Beef and BQ magazines.

But bears aside, we're still far from a Hairy Gay Planet. Alyn Topper, one of the featured stylists on Bravo's Blow Out, is hopeful. "In West Hollywood, I wish that would come true. It took me months to get my boyfriend to grow his leg hair out." Hair fan that he is, Topper nonetheless preaches regular maintenance. "You need to take the Twirly Test. Take your pinkie and go to any patch of hair on your body. If you can wrap your fuzzy patch at least halfway around your little phalange, then you've tested positive for the Twirly Test, and you need to do some manscaping."

For nonmanscapers, what is it about hair in particular that is so appealing? "It's all about texture," theorizes Ray Kampf, 41, professor of graphic design and author of The Bear Handbook. "Smooth is nice for Tupperware, but the feeling of running your fingers through a pelt of chest hair is so much more aesthetically pleasing." McGillivray agrees. "Hairy men are sexier in general. It's that 'beast' thing. We all love it, even if some of us try to pretend that we don't."

Skyler, 33, an auditor and queer FTM in Seattle who is "90%" attracted to fuzzy guys, couldn't wait to be hairy. "For the first couple years [of the transition] I excitedly woke up every morning wondering if new hair had sprouted on my face, chest, and belly. I always wanted fur...but not back fur, damn it!" As far as transitioning into a hairless man, he adds, "the thought of staying smooth never even crossed my mind. That would've sucked!"

So what about hair lovers who are Ken-doll smooth? Are they marginalized by those they adore? "Yes and no, as I've made many friends who would definitely not leave me out of things because I'm not hairy," says Asian bear fan Wayne Chiu, 33, a shipping specialist for FedEx Kinko's. "But I do feel a bit 'outside' when the central focus of bear iconography is based on hairiness--although I did get my last boyfriend at BearQuake [an annual bear event in Los Angeles], so I guess I'm doing quite well."

As with any movement, a pecking order exists. Kampf is wary: "I would hope that there's enough room for all of us. The problem is when one group thinks they are superior because of what they are physically--hairless guys who look down on hairy guys, hairy muscle guys who look down on hairy chubby guys, guys with chest hair who look down on guys with back hair. It's silly."

For fur fans of all flavors, all this carpet laying is an encouraging sign. But we're still short of Gorillas in the Mist. "The objectification of hairy men is growing, but it's still clearly in the minority," says McGillivray. "As folks become more and more comfortable in their own skin, there will be less of a stigma attached to people who present themselves differently. There will always be those 'Ewww...why didn't he wax?' types of guys out there, but their numbers will diminish."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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