(Latest letter, October 30, 2014)
Hello there! It is I, Zandafrost the Folf, at your service. I have read some of the letters people have sent you, and I found your responses to them quite wise. I decided to go ahead and ask a question of my own.
I used to lurk around the fandom, not sure if it was something I would enjoy for a while, and I finally kind of officially "joined" the fandom last year. As I quickly got more and more into it, I realized that since I am 16, I will need the consent of my parents if I want to go to most any convention, meet, and things like that. I mentioned the fandom to them one day, hoping that they would at least be understanding and accepting, maybe even interested. They were not in the least... Their reaction was one of shock, quickly turning to anger. They couldn't believe that their son could be into something so "weird" and "inappropriate" and I was grounded from electronics for a month or two. I've tried many times to talk to them about it since then and they shut me down every time.
I know they care about me and want me to be safe, and I think that they are scared I am getting myself into something possibly dangerous. My father is a school administrator and my mother is a teacher and they deal with things that involve internet safety a lot. I consider myself to be a smart kid, and I am appropriately cautious of others. I can see why they would have a problem with me suddenly meeting and talking to all these new people that they don't know. However, I think it is a bit of an overreaction to threaten to call the police on one of these friends just because he is 21 years old (a legal adult) and is texting me regularly. They didn't care that I first met him with friends at a school sporting event and not on the internet first, or how respectful he always was to me, and when he offered to come talk to them personally when I told him I wasn't allowed to speak to him anymore, they rejected him. Didn't wanna hear it.
I've tried to explain the fandom to them, I've shown them things, other furs have offered to answer questions or help explain. They don't care and don't want to hear it. I know it is their choice, they are in charge and I don't like to go against them, but this is important to me and they aren't hearing what I'm trying to get them to understand. I can see why they would have a problem, but they seem to be too set in their own views and opinions. I hope I don't sound like I am making my parents the bad guys, but I am starting to get a little frustrated. All I wanted was for them to accept the fandom enough to let me do things and make friends in the furry community. Have I gone about this wrong? Is there something I could be doing differently? Or am I just going to have to put up with my situation until I'm on my own?
I apologize about the wall of text, This has been bothering me for some time and as my story said, I can't get anyone to listen. Thanks for any advice you can give.
hugs and nuzzles,
Zandafrost (age 16)
* * *
As you likely know, I’ve addressed the topic of coming out furry to parents many times in this column, as well as what to do with parents who are prejudiced against the fandom. It’s worth addressing the topic again, however, because I have yet to fully discuss the issue of trust.
Papabear has perhaps erred in the past because I’ve always taken this topic as a challenge on how to argue that the furry fandom is not about a bunch of pedophiles and sexaholics taking advantage of teens by luring them in with weird sex. Sometimes we should take a look at this from a more generalized perspective.
Let’s take furry off the table and ask these questions: how do you think your parents would have reacted if you had come out gay to them? How about if you wanted to convert to another religion or announced you were a pagan? What if you asked them about quitting school and pursuing your dream to be an artist in Paris? How about going out alone with a girlfriend at night? What if, even, you simply asked to attend a party at another house and told them parents were supervising it? How much have they restricted you in the past?
In other words, do your parents simply not trust your judgment, regardless of furry? If not, do they have reason not to trust you? Have you been trustworthy in the past? If not, then that is a problem you need to work on with them. If so, then it’s even worse that they don’t trust you even though you’ve given them no reason to feel that way.
Gaining, or regaining, your parents’ trust can be a long road, and the more protective and untrusting your parents are, the longer it is, but in most cases it can be accomplished. Here are some things you can do (this works both for gaining and regaining trust):
If your parents start to see you as a responsible young adult instead of a child, they should begin to loosen the leash. Once you have that established, it is time to restate your case for being a furry. This means learning how to argue effectively.
The big no-no here is to whine and pout and cry out, “You don’t let me do anything!” and that sort of nonsense. We do that when we’re teens because it worked when we were babies and cried to be fed. But that strategy runs it’s course by the time we’re, oh, 6 or 7.
Another error is to say stuff like, “All my other friends are into being furries.” Parents don’t care what other kids do. You’ll often hear the retort, “No child of MINE is going to blah blah blah....”
What do you do, then? First, gather your evidence to support your argument (you can refer to some of my articles here: http://www.askpapabear.com/letters/category/coming%20out%20furry. Especially check out the ones dealing with religious or conservative parents.
Next, don’t let them get away with just saying “no.” Ask them to explain why they feel as they do and ask them to give evidence to support it. However, do not make them feel stupid if they say things you consider to be ignorant (although their solution to punish you by forbidding you to play video games for a month betrays a certain simple-mindedness on their part). Instead, praise them for taking the time to look into furry stuff while pointing out evidence contradicting their ideas.
Here’s a cool trick, too. When talking to them, language is very important! Obviously, don’t use curse words, but, more subtly, avoid words like “you” and “me.” You don’t want to use language that creates the notion of opposing sides. INSTEAD, use “we” and “our” as much as possible. Example: “When we argue like this, it makes us both feel bad. What can we do to come to an agreement so that we all feel like we are getting along?”
Stay on topic. This is about your wanting to be involved in the fandom, not whether or not a 21-year-old is a pedophile (that’s a topic for a different conversation)
Compromise: This discussion doesn’t have to go all your way. If they give a little, be willing to give a little, too.
Persistence: Just because they say “no” the first time, doesn’t mean that they will always say that. If you keep trying, you might wear them down ;-)
Good luck! Stay furry!
Illustrations on "Ask Papabear" are by Dan the Bear. Check out this talented illustrator on FurAffinity or send him an email.