A toned hairy chest.

Within the LGBTQ+ community, the term otter describes a somewhat hairy, lean, average, or athletic-built gay or bisexual male-identifying person. However, the exact defining qualities are up for debate depending on the gay you ask. 

Otters are part of a categorizing subculture (known as tribes) used by queer men to facilitate finding community and safely express sexuality and attraction. These identities are not meant to be binding, and you’re encouraged to step in or out of them as your physicality changes. (While free to sleep (or not) with all of them!)

So, what is a gay otter?

A close-up of two handsome men lying on opposite sides of the bed laughing.

An otter’s appearance falls somewhere between the two most recognizable tribes in gay culture, twinks and bears. Imagine a grown-up twink with more hair on his chest and meat on his bones. 

While the latter tribes tend to embody more niche physiques, otters cover a much larger group of people under the rainbow, including many individuals who might not even know they’re otters. These folks can have slim to toned builds and exhibit varying amounts of body hair. 

The gays who have the most fun play with everybody, but it’s more common to see otters cruising in bear stomping grounds.

An otter.

Initially, queer culture considered otters as a subset of bears, but they’ve risen as their own unique body type, distinguished by their smaller frames and less rugged masculine aesthetic. Keep in mind that genitalia is not a component. 

The origins of gay otter culture

A selfie of a shirtless young man in bed.

In 1979, author George Mazzei wrote an article for The Advocate called “Who’s Who at the Zoo?” in which he categorized seven gay and lesbian types as zoo animals. As you can guess, one of them was the bear, and it was the only one that stuck. 

Two gays eventually founded Bear Magazine in 1987, which created an entire queer lifestyle industry for the subculture. Hurray for queer capitalism! 

A heavier man's torso wearing a bra with an adjacent man's finger guns.

From there, the gays went wild with the terminology and applied it to all the hairy folks until larger people appropriated it. Thus gay otter culture was born by the necessity of those who found themselves bear-adjacent but did not quite belong. 

There isn’t a universal symbol for gay otters, though a paw print does the job. Today, you’ll find gay otters at leather bars, bear parties, or your regular queer local hangout. There’s even an unofficial gay otter emoji. 🦦

What it means to be an otter (Are you one?)

A group of four men sitting down and laughing with a tan backdrop.

Whether or not you align with the physical qualities associated with gay otters doesn’t dictate your life or how you choose to live it!

According to stereotypes, otters tend to be laid back and relaxed in demeanor. You’ll find them rocking tanks and backward hats while still not shying away from their femininity. Top or bottom? Most likely verse?

Your level of hairiness and body type don’t signify your worth as a person, but otter culture was created to celebrate the “grown boy next door” aesthetic and give people a sense of belonging. 

There’s freedom in being part of a tribe holding such a vast crowd; no one can pigeonhole you, champ! Perhaps, for this reason, you can find gay otters mingling and playing among all other gay subcultures and lead the example of open-mindedness in the bedroom. 

Gay tribes were created to promote inclusivity and for all gay men to see themselves reflected in a sexually empowering way.

Subcultures make space for every body type and age to fit into contemporary gay life. You can even add what tribe you identify as to your profile on Grindr and indicate which you’re into.

Notable Gay Otters in Pop Culture 

The LGBTQ+ community has long been represented in pop culture, and gay otters are no exception. Let’s explore some of the most notable ones:

Scott Evans

If you want some sexy gay otter inspiration, look at Chris Evan’s brother, actor Scott Evans. Heteros can keep Captain America; we want to sit on otter Ken!

Billy Eichner

How’s it going, Bros? Yup, we see you, otter Billy Eichner

Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson is a great example of a daddy otter, and it made sense that his fictional husband was a bear. Who says gay subcultures can’t be wholesome?

Trip Richards

If you’re browsing Onlyfans, say hi to one of our fav trans performers, Trip Richards, another otter! 

You can find them here in Queerty staff, too! Otters are all around us – brothers, fathers, lovers, friends, and foes! 

To otter or not to otter 

Two men kissing.

If you fit all the qualities above and still decide that the gay otter life is not for you. That’s ok! Gay subcultures create community, but they don’t enforce it. 

Identifying with a specific subculture will help you navigate the dating and hookup scene within the LGBTQ+ community and find partners who share your interests and desires.

So if you’re ready to empower your inner gay otter, we’re sure plenty of individuals will be eager to welcome you. Look into your local gay parties and themed happenings; a harness never hurts. 

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