[An earlier version of this article was originally written for Week in Weird]
Big, beefy, hairy. These words might describe the standard crowd you would find in any gay bear bar, yet they’re also common descriptive words used by eyewitnesses of one of the most commonly-encountered cryptids: Bigfoot.
Though the term “bigfoot” (originally two words: “Big Foot”) only dates back to 1958 and a bizarre trail of footprints (later revealed to be a hoax) at a construction site reported on by a Eureka, California, newspaper, “sasquatch” is thought to be derived from the Salish peoples’ word Sasq’ets—meaning “wild man” or “hairy man”—introduced by Indian agent J.W. Burns in the 1930s. And “wild man” was a name given to those furry beings in many languages long before colonists starting exploring North America. And even today, sightings of big hairy beasts aren’t limited to your nearest corner coffee shop.
But if these human-like hominids are truly so similar to us, where do those similarities end? If they really exist, do they have social networks and mating habits like we do? And if so, might they have a similar spectrum of sexualities?
Surprisingly, these thoughts haven’t been lost on everyone in the realm of researching unknown and unexplained creatures. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman lightheartedly remarked that he wondered “if 10 percent of the Bigfoot population, matching the figures we have for Homo sapiens, might be gay,” during a lecture at the 13th Annual Bigfoot Conference in Newcomerstown, Ohio, back on April 7, 2001. Eager for an eye-catching headline, some media outlets quickly reduced Loren’s casual pondering to a far more assertive headline: “Bigfoot is gay!” An avalanche of hate mail directed toward him quickly followed, accusing him of ‘calling Bigfoot queer’.
It was a fair question and intriguing thought for any scientifically-minded person. With so many animals around the world observed and documented as having same-sex mating habits and intercourse, why not? It’s certainly a valid question. Whether it’s male bears giving each other fellatio or two male penguins raising a baby, nature shows it that animals aren’t always as heterosexual as we like to believe. So what about Sasquatch? Could he (or she) be a sassy queen (or king) too? I mean, aside from Weekly World News headlines.
Two years later in 2003, Coleman revisited his controversial queries in a brief article (innocently enough) titled ‘Iraq: Ancient Home of Bigfoot‘. It stated:
“Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman says the legend of Bigfoot dates back 5000 years to ancient Mesopotamia — now modern Iraq — and a hairy creature named “Enkidu.”
“Enkidu plays a major role in the Epic of King Gilgamesh, and Coleman claims Gilgamesh and Enkidu engaged in a lot of cross-species gay sex, with an occasional threesome.
“Coleman figures ancient cultures used myths to explain factual events, which means that Iraq could be chock full of artifacts proving the existence of Bigfoot’s gay past.”
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu was said to be a “wild man”—possibly a feral human, Bigfoot, or even a werewolf—raised by animals, far from the influences of human civilization. In her book When Heroes Love: The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David, Susan Ackerman points out the sexual—and yes, even homoerotic—language in the text, but she sees this as an ancient concept of gender roles rather than the contemporary view of same-sex relationships. Yet we can’t ignore that, often, folklore is based on at least a faint kernel of truth. Could there be a gay or bisexual “wild man” deep in Sumeria’s past which inspired the stories?
Coleman also makes an astute observation in his book Bigfoot!: The True Story of Apes in America: “Frankly, the subject of sex and the Sasquatch is avoided. Never mentioned are Bigfoot bestiality, Sasquatch penises, and that more human males than human females have traditionally been kidnapped by Bigfoot.” (See Part III, Chapter 13: ‘Sex and the Single Sasquatch’.) There have been some reports of encounters involving overtly sexual overtones, and he makes a few references to Jan Klement’s mysterious first-hand accounts of his observations involving a Sasquatch in his book, The Creature: Personal Experiences with Bigfoot.
On one occasion, according to Klement, he noticed (the Bigfoot he nicknamed) “Kong” sporting a hard-to-ignore erection and—being reasonably fearful of what Kong might be capable of doing with it—he yelled at the creature to get away from him. A short while later, “As [Klement] approached the bottom of the hill, [he] could see the cows on the pasture on the other hillside. There was a commotion among the cows and when [he] put the water jug down and walked over [he] could see Kong. He was mounted on a large Holstein cow and was shoving away.” Upon seeing such a taboo sight (obviously it can’t be called “bestiality”… perhaps “inter-species relations” is better), we can only assume that his initial thought was, “Better Bessie than me!”
The argument can be made that we’re trying to place modern human gender roles onto inhuman creatures, but studying any animal’s mating habits is part of any thorough ethological study. It would be impossible for any creature to maintain a population without mating, reproduction, and sex. (It’s important here to point out that, according to neurologist Patrick McNamara, Ph. D., “Many male animals display erections during aggressive interactions with conspecifics in order to display dominance or to protect territory,” so sexual acts aren’t always for the purpose of procreation or necessarily born out of amorous desires.) Even Sasquatch as a species must have more purpose to its life than leaving footprints, screaming in the hills, gathering berries, devouring deer, avoiding trail cameras, and pooping in the woods.
I’d prefer to leave such conversations to be entertained by the minds of out-and-proud individuals in the Bigfoot field such as Finding Bigfoot‘s biologist Ranae Holland or Ten Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty contestant-turned-YouTuber Rictor Riolo, but with questions like these often left for punchlines, terribly-made YouTube videos, and comedy sketches, it does make some inquisitive, serious-minded individuals wonder if, somewhere in some remote forest, there’s a same-sex Sasquatch couple snuggled up beneath the stars… or some burly, bearded bear clutched tightly in the arms of one.