Perhaps the most familiar 4 lgbt flags are the Rainbow flag, the Leather flag, the Bi flag, and today’s subject, the Bear flag.
The official name for this is the flag of the International Bear Brotherhood. Its not an official organisation but the name used informally for all lovers of bears and hairy men.
In recent years some controversy has surrounded the origin and design of this flag. Most reference sources refer to Craig Byrnes as its creator. He certainly has the right qualifications – he was a founding member of the Chesapeake Bay Bears group and was Mr. Baltimore Bear Cub in 1993 and Mr. Teddy Bear Leather of Virginia in 1994. He also posed naked in “American Grizzly” magazine and in “American Bear” magazine twice. In the past couple of years, though, Craig’s reputation had been tarnished.
The story of the International Bear Brotherhood flag begins in 1995 when Craig was studying for an undergraduate degree in psychology. His thesis was on the bear community. He was already aware of the Leather Pride flag and he decided to design a flag for the bear community to be included with his thesis.
For his birthday that year Craig’s boyfriend bought him a box of crayons (strange present!). Using these Craig came up with his first design. He then contacted an old boyfriend, Paul Witzkoske, a professional graphic designer. Paul offered his professional advice and suggested some changes. They couldn’t agree on a single design, so Craig suggested they should hold a competition at an up-coming summer pool party of the Chesapeake Bay Bears group and let the bear community decide which to adopt.
Pictured here are the 4 designs Craig and Paul chose to display at the pool party. Two were Craig’s suggestions and two were Paul’s The party guests were asked to place 25 cents in a bucket beneath the flag they preferred. The winner would be the flag with the most money, and the cash went to AIDS charities.
At the end of the pool party the winner was revealed to be this one …
… the one which is now familiar around the world. It was one of Paul’s designs.
Craig Byrnes set up a company called Bear Manufacturing which produced this flag commercially and began to claim sole credit for the design. Debate has been going on in
as to how much credit Paul should get. Generally he never gets a mention but support for his involvement has been growing. The original concept and idea was certainly Craig’s and he should be given full credit for that. But the actual end design, a clear modification of the original design for Craig’s thesis, is Paul Witzkoske’s. America
Events involving Craig Byrnes and the courts in
are outside the scope of this particular post, and some may consider his name taboo in light of them. But in the name of history I think Craig and Paul should be given equal credit for designing the International Bear Brotherhood flag. Washington DC