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Why Do I Go by Gentle Ben?

Updated: Jan 8


“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

~ Marcus Aurelius


Good Morning My Confidants

 

It’s a New Year and I have a good feeling about it. I have felt something good coming for long time now and I think that good thing, for me, is the year 2024. I believe we can claim it. I believe I can claim it. That I can claim almost anything if I believe with all my heart. I think this could easily be the year of the Bear. The Year of Gentle Ben.

 

And speaking of Gentle Ben...I thought I would explain something that I am not sure if I have talked about or not. It is why I sometimes go by “Gentle Ben.”

 

When I was a kid, and before, there was a popular trope for television shows about a boy and his pet. It probably all started with Lassie, which was about a boy and a collie. I’m sure, no matter how young you are, you’ve heard of this Lassie. Especially with all the jokes about Timmy in the well and his dog going to get help. Well! That show lasted in one form or another from between 1954 and 1973, for 19 years, with 591 episodes. It was huge.

 


And it inspired lots of imitators. 



For instance, Flipper ran from 1964 until 1967 and featured a bottlenose dolphin named Flipper, a chief warden / park ranger named Porter Ricks, and his two young sons, Sandy and Bud. The show has even been dubbed as an “aquatic Lassie.” Flipper was the companion animal of the Ricks family. Flipper was an extraordinarily intelligent dolphin that helped enforce regulations in the preserve, assisted Porter Ricks with rescues at sea, and kept a watchful eye on Sandy and Bud, whom he rescued or helped rescue from danger on numerous occasions.” *


Interesting, I hadn’t thought until this moment how much I liked looking at the dad and oldest son without their shirts off, which was a rather frequent occurrence. This would have been when I was between four and seven years old. Wow. Another example how I was always gay, but took years to understand it. I was staring at hairy chested men and pretty young men when I was only seven years old, long before I realized I was doing it. Looking up information on this show brought these memories that are...well, simply startling to me. How the heck did I not know I was gay?


I have talked to so many gay men who knew when they are extraordinarily young. I was far too naïve I believe.

 

Anyway, soon after, there came a show called Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, an Australian series that aired from 1968 to 1970 about a young boy and his pet, you guessed it, kangaroo. I don't remember much about it, but as I type this, I swear I can hear the theme song in my head, even after all these years.


But the show that got me from the first episode was called Gentle Ben.


This show was about a game warden, his son Mark, played by Clint Howard (Ron Howard’s brother), and his lovable roughly 700 pound black bear named Ben. How could a seven-year-old boy not love a show about a boy and a bear (the show ran from 1967 to 1969 with a total of 58 episodes over two seasons)? At least I couldn’t. I loved that show so much and waited with bated breath for each Sunday to roll around. His father, by the way, was an wildlife officer in the Everglades. Sound familiar?

 

Although to be fair, this was all based on a novel by the same title, written by Walt Morey, and published in 1965. There was no connection. The story was “based on Morey’s own past experiences working and traveling in Alaska. Morey said that many of the book characters were based on real Alaskan people he had met. According to Morey, the concept of a boy’s friendship with an Alaskan brown bear was also taken from real life, and such friendships and interactions between humans and bears were not unusual in Alaska.” **

 

I never read that book, but that show made a lifelong impression on me.

 

Now, imagine years later, when I came out, got hairy, then chunky, and discovered that in the 1980s, there was a group of gay men in the San Francisco Bay Area who called themselves “bears” and that in gay culture, a bear was a larger and usually hairy man. A that he was sexy! It was absolutely incredible. A community that embraced the kind of man I was. Men who saw that a man didn’t need to be boyish or athletic or smooth as Michelangelo’s David to be considered sexy or attractive. A community that accepted—more than accepted—a more rugged kind of man.

 

I'm not sure exactly how "rugged" I was. I was certainly hairy and never seemed to dip below "chubby," I tried to be that ruggedly masculine man, and the flannel and leather suits me, it does. However I also loved bling and sarongs. Bling and sparkles and crystals bright! Which wasn’t, at least at the time, a part of the whole “type.” Thank goodness bears have come to further embrace all kinds of people, including straight men and even women. Because that is what the bear movement, at it's truest and best self, is all about. Finding beauty in non-conformity!

 

And then, when we started going to Midwest Men’s Festival, and we discovered that many of the men who attended chose "Faerie" names which they used during the festival, what better Faerie name for me than “Gentle Ben”?


Yup! That's how it happened. That's how I started calling myself Gentle Ben.

 

So, when people have asked why “BG” means “Gentle Ben” (because shouldn’t it be “GB” or “Ben Gentle?”), well—LOL!—to tell you the truth, I somehow actually never noticed! My initials are B and G, and my Faerie name is Gentle Ben, and I wasn't even thinking about the coincidence.

 

So, there you go! Mystery solved!


Well.... Except for one other thing. Most of the time, "gentle" is simply what I am. I don't deal well with anger, whether coming from someone else or coming from myself. To me it solves almost nothing. It's like taking poison and expecting someone else to die. I prefer, when I can, to acknowledge anger and then redirect that energy into a positive manner that helps me and others. But hey! That's simply me!

 

Maybe next time I will talk about why I used my first initials instead of my real name in the first place!

 

Until then...Namasté!

BG “Gentle Ben” Thomas

Jan 2, 2024, Entry #002


 


~ Thank you Paul Jennings for the Bear photo!

 

 

 

 

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10件のコメント


Love you Gentle Ben and thankful for the Men's Fest that has brought so much joy.

いいね!

ゲスト
1月02日

I really enjoyed reading this. I remember all of those t v shows. I also remember when we were earring sisters for a time. We both do love our bling.

いいね!
B.g. Thomas
B.g. Thomas
1月04日
返信先

I miss those days! Please let me know if you are ever in town so we can do coffee or lunch or something!

いいね!

Thanks for sharing! Good reading and happy to learn more of you!

いいね!
B.g. Thomas
B.g. Thomas
1月04日
返信先

Thank you for this!


いいね!

Sure... now I have the theme song for Skippy the Bush Kangaroo stuck in MY head, too! And for anyone who's never heard it, here you go: https://youtu.be/hByob-5pPEs?si=6_2mDsWednpaJHOI

いいね!
B.g. Thomas
B.g. Thomas
1月04日
返信先

LOL! And now if you see my reply, maybe you will have the song in your head again! 😄

いいね!

Great memories!

いいね!
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