Otter is a term used by gay men, referring to a subset of men who blend the physical and social traits of both bears and twinks, both invoking and defying traditional masculinity. Otters may be defined by physical appearance, tastes, expression of traditionally gendered traits, and/or personal affiliation.
The generic image of an otter is a man of average build with a fair amount of body hair, and usually dressing in ways that combine traditional masculinity with a subversion of it. Otter presentation often leans into the casual, and otters are frequently considered to be laid back. They are distinguished from bears physically by their smaller frames as well as through their presentation being further distanced from the ruggedly masculine aesthetic. Gay men who fit the description of otters often consider themselves unaligned due to their balance of both masculine and feminine expressions of their manhood.
The origin of the otter label is unclear, but most agree it began as one of the many sub-categories of bears, allowing a gay tribe for men who prioritize gender expression across their physical body as well as their presentation and appearance.
Otter culture took root from wider bear culture, and as such otters are almost always welcome in bear-centric spaces despite their differences. Many labels that share this origin derive their name from bears as well, sharing the animal-based etymology. Otters are so named because of the animal’s lithe, hair-covered and whiskery appearance, analogous to that of the gay men it describes.
As a group, otters are usually perceived as calm, laid-back and casual, occasionally compared to the ‘guy next door’ stereotype. Otters generally stand apart from other subcultural terms by not encouraging the expectation that the stereotype of the feminine gay man be entirely rejected; there tends to be significant variation in the presentation of otters compared to bears and twinks, which are somewhat binary in their expression. While otter culture tends towards the masculine, it isn’t as masculine-dominated as bear culture. Otters are distinct from cubs, which are younger bears. It is fairly common for an otter to become a bear as he ages, particularly as the physical aging of men and others with testosterone-dominant bodies tends to bring them in line with the body type expected of bears.
There is no widely-used flag for the otter community. The most used flag was designed by DeviantArt user Toadhops.