I've been talking to this guy, and he's really sweet. I'll call him Jay. We've been chatting online every day, and we plan to meet each other at MFF later this year. He seems like he genuinely cares about me, and I care about him.
I'm a freelance furry artist, and I have a day job working retail. My life isn't glamorous, but I make enough to support myself and do some fun things here and there. He's a civil engineer and can afford to travel across the country to furry cons multiple times a year. This wealth discrepancy between us has unearthed some old feelings within myself I thought I was starting to overcome.
I've struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, and for a while I felt like a worthless loser, regardless of how good I'm actually doing in life. Authority figures in my life told me I would never make it as an artist. Consciously, I know they're wrong, but I still can't help but remind myself of their words from time to time. It's not that I envy Jay, either. I know I would be miserable working in a field like that. I guess my problem is that I feel out of his league in that regard. I don't feel good enough for him, even though he's never talked down to me. I worry that if we did get into a serious relationship, I wouldn't be able to pull my weight financially, and I would feel like I'm just taking advantage of him. I value my independence, and I don't want to feel like a parasite.
It's no secret people in STEM tend to look down on people who work in creative fields. Not all of them do, obviously, but if you spend time in those circles, you'll come across it from time to time. Jay has never said anything like that to me, but I live in fear he might secretly feel that way.
Again, I consciously know I'm overthinking a good situation. But these old feelings of inadequacy are coming back to haunt me.
Is it better to just not? Should I nip this relationship in the bud, or should I just go ahead anyway despite my insecurities?
Thank you for your time.
* * *
Thank you for your poignant letter that, I am certain, speaks to many of my readers.
I will start by saying what you likely already know: A person should not be judged by the contents of their wallet or purse but by the content of their heart.
We live in a world--especially in America--that values money and beauty over heart and character. That is sad. And, I know, it is easy for me to speak in cliches, but I want you to know I do empathize with how you are feeling. I have been on both sides of this coin: Sometimes, I have been the one earning more than my partner, and other times I have earned less. For the most part, I have been the one doing the supporting, and I have taken great pride in that. The times when I earned less, well, you can give in to this sense that it is emasculating.
Right now in my life, I am earning less than my husband, Michael. This is largely because I am going through a transitional phase in which I am getting away from my freelance editorial work and starting my own business, which, currently, is not taking in any money. So, I have had to lean on Michael to handle a lot of the bills. A big reason this bothers me, I'll admit, is the stigma I often see in the gay community about a young(er) male who seeks out a sugar daddy to support them. Such people are often considered users who only glom onto their daddy bear in order to get their money. This is rather like the gold digger stigma some young women endure.
Of course, Michael totally understands why my income is currently low and is completely supportive of my starting a new business venture. That's because he's a great guy. That's why I married the big lug.
Here's my question to you: Do you consider yourself a good judge of character? In other words, do you think Jay is a good guy who likes you for you and not for how much money you earn or that you don't work a STEM job? If so, then give the man the benefit of a doubt that he is not going to be an elitist snot and dump you because you're an artist who works in retail. Those feelings of inadequacy are not coming from Jay; they're coming from society and your own insecurities.
Don't screw up what could be the love of your life because you don't think you're good enough. That is self-defeating.
Glomp onto Jay and allow yourself to love him. And, importantly, talk to him about your life and relationship, but don't say things like, "I think you might dump me because I don't earn much" (that would be insulting to him). Say things like, "I think we complement each other well--you're the engineer and I'm the artist--and I think we're good together and I care about you. How are you feeling about our us?" In other words, acknowledge your differences, but never ever do so in a way that might make him feel you are insecure or jealous of him. If Jay is a man of character, what he will want is a partner to share his life with, not someone who has a hefty bank account balance.
I hope things go well when you finally meet in person.
In a recent letter to the “Ask Papabear” column, a reader named Jack asked for my input on his attraction to monsters. Being a furry myself and having a column intended for furries and the furry curious, I naturally thought he was talking about furry critters, so my response was geared toward that interest.
Not long after posting, however, a reader named Tristan contacted me and set me straight. Jack wasn’t a furry; he was a “Monster Lover.” Now, I didn’t know this before, but there is a difference between the two. A Monster Lover can be furry, but not all of them are. Thus, I was introduced to a new community of which I was heretofore unaware.
Tristan reacted to the fact that I used a psychological term—teratophile—to describe what Jack was experiencing. The thing about this term is that it refers to people who can either be attracted to a monster (e.g., a dragon or werewolf) or to humans with severe physical deformities (you’ll see more on this below).
I contacted Tristan and asked hime to educate me about Monster Lovers. Here is my (edited and cleaned up) interview with him.
Papabear: Hi, Tristan! Here’s my first question: in your comments you seem to indicate there is a community of monster lovers? Like, are there chat groups or something of people who share this interest?
Tristan: There is! I'm in a few groups here, and there are a good number more of them that aren't as much my interest. But the community is diverse. Like in the furry world, I'm not hugely socially active, so I’m not in the Discords that I know of. But I’ll add to forum discussion now and then. These groups are very age-aware and restricted because sometimes its not SFW content.
Papabear: Fascinating. So, this is like a fandom separate from furries?
Tristan: Very much so. That's actually a group rule in most places. No Furry Content. Furries being anthro creatures. Some straddle the line, like werecreatures. But overall, they aren’t seen as furry because of presentation.
Papabear: Do the people in these groups call themselves something? Like anthro lovers call themselves furries, so do monster lovers have a name?
Tristan: Not that I know of as a general thing. Overall, we joke about just being degenerates because people view monster lovers as weirdos. The communities share a lot of overlaps in things like that. I just say I love monsters. Some say "monster fucker" for the shock value. But that's more Harkness Test, too. [Note to readers: the Harkness Test refers to Dr. Jack Harkness, a fictional character from Doctor Who, who set up standards for having sexual relations with alien monsters; basically, they had to have human or above intelligence and the sex had to be consensual—no bestiality]. Exophile works well. As it was mentioned overall the community is very aware of appropriation of cultures (i.e. we do not talk about Sk*nwalkers or Wend*go to respect Native Nations.) Teratophilia leaves a lot of sour notes because we don't do human deformities/disabilities. Collectively, they're trying to divorce from the term as a community.
Papabear: Ok, don’t laugh at this question, but I’m guessing you don't have conventions.
Tristan: No questions are laughable! Learning is good! If there are conventions, I don’t know them. But it’d be hard to organize one, I think. The content is so very broad. It folds into a lot of places. Also, it could be easy to abuse in some respects. My circles are very firm in cutting out any Zoophiles/Pedophile behaviors/non-con and non-Harkness.
Papabear: I actually thought it was odd the APA [American Psychological Association] defines teratophilia as attraction to BOTH deformed humans and monsters as these are very different things.
Tristan: Language-wise, it made sense for the time period. People with disabilities and deformities were seen as being monsters, not people. Made freak shows thrive.
Papabear: I agree psychologists should have a different term to attraction to deformities. So, next question: how do you define "monster"? I mean, some people might consider furries monsters, ya know? So, what is a "MONSTER"? Frankenstein? Godziilla? Cthulthu? Gremlins? Trolls? Donald Trump?
Tristan: Oof. Trump is a whole other monster there. But he's human. All large monsters are creatures of generally nonhuman form. Though it's rife with grey areas. Vampires and trolls/orcs, for instance, are under the monster category, while elves/dwarves, gnomes, and such are classed as fae or "monster lite." They attract people, but you never call them monsters, overall. Ghosts and aliens also strike a grey area. People simp real hard for Kaiju like Godzilla. Cryptids are considered monsters. Various SCPs [refers to a survivor horror game that has lots of monsters in it] are accepted. Werecritters.
It boils down to personal view/share. There’s a group dedicated to gods of various regions and from shows. There's a group for robots. A group specifically for dragons (which I left because of the admin supports noncon and Harkness failing.) They're branded under the same umbrella.
What separates Furries from Monster Lovers is their presentation. I don’t have a monster fursona; wouldn't want one. I adore them, but don't want to be a monster. I do have and enjoy having fursonas though! I see it as being a cute, fat opposum doing my normal life things. Monsters rarely fit into society and break the norms. Furries can be monster folks. I've seen such cool designs! The ones with skull faces and such. But monsters don't work in reverse as easily.
CLOWNS. I hate clowns, but because it’s a common phobia, a lot of monsterfolk love them.
Papabear: Oh, I HATE CLOWNS, TOO, LOL! So, people in these groups are attracted to monsters but don't want to BE monsters and don't create monstersonas.
Tristan: Correct. I always gotta scroll quick when the one artist shares her clowns. Great artist but oof, no thanks.
Papabear: Okay. Now, you said something else interesting in your comment to my column. In the column, I stated that the sexual fantasies have the monster as dom, but you said it can go both ways?
Tristan: Very much! In a lot of the discussions we have, people just desire cute, everyday, balanced relationships with scary, could-kill-you monsters. Not taming them, but just existence in a safe way. I’d be happy if I had a dragon partner. Not that we'd be able to be involved physically because of size differences, which isn't my feelings anyway. But daydreaming about the domestic things is just so very nice. Not to say it doesn't have "damn, wish that monster would pin me to the wall" feelings. Because it sure does! But it's not the predominant behavior. It's split really evenly with wanting to be stronger and dom over monsters. Those discussions always get weird because of puzzling out logistics of how to dom a monster. But they're very lively talks. Sometimes a bit too descriptive for my taste. I’d say, in terms of BDSM related to monster lovers, its 40% Wholesome, ~35% dom by monster, ~25% dom the monster. But that's the communities I'm frequent to, so it’s subject to scrutiny.
Papabear: Ah! So, it isn't JUST a sexual thing but can also be romantic?!
Tristan: Yes! That’s what I mean. A lot of monster lover folks are on the Aro/Ace spectrum and don't actually want the sexual aspects. (But, gods, do we joke like we do.)
Papabear: Ok, so, the attraction is for a partner who is wild, untamed....?
Tristan: Hmm. Not necessarily. Just, dangerous, is often attractive. Wild things can be attractive. But so is haughty society. As I said, for the community, the Harkness test is important. It should be for Furries, too. Though I didn't know the name for it originally. We do fight and remove people who think the Harkness test is guidelines and not actually rules.
Papabear: I'm sorry, I sort of know what the Harkness test is, but what do you mean it is a rule? Do you mean you can't be in the group without being sexually attracted to monsters?
Tristan: Yes! Harkness rules are: Is this creature of human or higher intelligence? Is this creature mature for its species (not by human ages, but by their lives)? Can it communicate AND understand consent with you? If any of the answers is “No,” then you do not desire that monster. These are hard lines you do not cross because it makes you a pedo, zoophile, or rapey. Pokémon are a good example of disagreement. We don't share Pokémon that AREN'T anthros/gejikas because they are considered animals. Even though they're shown to be intelligent and are able to communicate with us. You cannot give a proper age for them as Pokémon because of their animal status. You only know what a baby is because it hatched. For sake of clarity, the groups require humanized Pokémon, but there are many that may disagree.
Papabear: My understanding of Pokémon is that they are smarter than many animals but not human-level smart, although that Pikachu movie made him seem human smart. I'm not much of a Pokémon fan myself.
Tristan: And that's why there's a hard line! People can't truly agree about the intelligence or ages of Pokémon. So it’s one case where anthro is important.
Papabear: Fascinating. This has been extremely educational, thank you. Oh, and one more question: could you describe the composition of Monster Lovers in terms of fans? What is the mix of males and females, different ages, education, etc.? As you know, the furry fandom skews to young white males, although it is diversifying.
Tristan: Lot of male/masc presence, but a lot of vocal female/femme and nonbinary sharing. Nonbinary masc presenting is also VERY common. Age range is tricky, since the Facebook groups do not allow under 18, but a good deal of us seem to be mid-20s and up. From what I see, looks like we have folks in their 40s who are vocal, too. I'm 33 myself. Nonbinary. We have a lot of parents and married/partnered folks in my groups as well. Overall, very Rainbow Party, though. Most people are some flavor of LGBT and nonconforming. Its great when I see folks talk about supportive partners. It makes me happy to relate.
Education. As I hazard by the groups I'm in, standard is high school grad or equivalent. A lot of the personal art shared (I’d say upward of 75% of group photo/art content) is from college students. A lot of us are working adults in various job details. It really reaches. Have blue-collar and white-collar folks. Got kitchen dogs like me. I'm a college drop out due to an abusive relationship at the time. (Thriving and safe now with a supportive spouse.)
Papabear: Can you list a couple of monster lover groups that you would recommend so if people reading this interview would like to look them up and maybe join in?
Hey, there. My name is William and I had been lying about my age on my Twitter for about a couple of months. I came clean to my online friends who were 18+ artists just yesterday. A big reason I lied was due to how the fandom treats minors who are just trying to enjoy themselves. But I still felt icky and guilty doing it. I told it publicly. Some were hoping to see me when I was 18, but I hurt one of my biggest friends and supporters, and I don't know if I could come back after 4 years knowing what I have done to my most loyal followers. Do you have any advice?
* * *
To be frank, you have a lot of damage control in store for you. As you know, you violated people's trust, and it sounds like you did so for months (or years?) That ain't good.
There are several steps you need to take in order to try to repair this and move forward. Oh, and don't expect this to go quickly. You lied for a long time, and now it will take a long time to get back what you've lost.
1. Confess your lie not just once but two or more times--publicly.
2. Apologize profusely for what you did.
3. Explain why you did it, honestly, but also do not say that this is an excuse for lying.
4. Invite those you lied to to tell you how they feel about what you have done and read (or listen to) every word they say. Don't interrupt. Listen. Don't argue.
5. Make a promise and commitment to yourself and others that you will never ever repeat this mistake or lie again in any other way.
6. Do NOT indulge in creating a new fursona or other identity and then try to pretend you are not the same person because that is yet another lie, and, as a lie, it will eventually be discovered, and THEN you will have NO HOPE of recovering any legitimacy to your good character ever again. I've seen furries try to do this, and what happens is they end up on furry beware lists and become anathema to the community.
7. Learn from the comments you hear. Really listen to how you have affected others. Use this as an opportunity to grow as a person.
8. This step takes the longest: spend the next months and years being an honest furry, one whose word is as good as gold. You must rebuild your reputation not just with words but with actions. Be very patient because, as I said, it will take a loooooong time, but, eventually, people will begin to trust you again with enough evidence provided by you of your good character.
9. Accept that, no matter what you do, you will lose at least some of your friends. Not everyone will forgive you no matter what you do.
10. Finally, learn to forgive yourself. What you did does not necessarily mean you are a bad person, just that you have flaws. We all have flaws. The good news is that if we allow ourselves to acknowledge these flaws, we CAN change. I do not believe in the old saw that people don't change. They do; they can, if they are willing to put in the effort.
The good news? You're young. You have time to recover from this.
I had a bit of a weird / sexual question I wanted some affirmation on… So, I’m aroused by furry porn and porn of furry-like monsters. I feel really intense guilt about this. How do I get over it?
I didn’t used to feel bad at all about it, but when I look into the fanbase, I see people who are secretly into things like zoophilia, and it just makes me feel really guilty for being sexually attracted to furries. (Even though the amount of zoophiles are very low, it still really disturbs me.) Like, am I bad for being attracted to them? Is there some sort of psychological problem when I’m attracted to animal-like humans??
I struggle with OCD a lot, and my intrusive thoughts include a lot of what I’m worrying about… How would you recommended I cope with this guilt?
P.S. I see a therapist and I talk to her about my OCD … but the furry porn thing is really hard to bring up tbh. I feel so embarrassed about it.
* * *
Thank you for your fascinating question. Let's step away from the zoophilia topic, since I don't think you are a zoophile, and talk about monster porn and attraction to monsters in a sexual fashion. In the world of psychology, this is called "teratophilia," a term that applies not only to monsters but also an attraction to deformed people. There is also something called "exophilia," which is having sexual fantasies about extraterrestrial sex. In this bear's opinion, the two are related closely enough to be basically the same thing, only differing on minor specifics.
In both cases, the fantasy tends to involve a powerful, alien creature that exhibits sexual prowess over the fantasizer (correct me if I am wrong, but I am guessing that in your fantasies, the monster is dominant over you; in alien dreams, it usual involves space beings performing "sex research" on human subjects). This dominance aspect of the fantasy, too, makes teratophilia related to such fetishes as S&M bondage, macrophilia, and vorarephilia. Bottom line of this is that the most common explanation for such a fantasy is that you desire to be dominated.
So, you ask, why don't you just fantasize about a dominant, muscular human? This is where feelings of guilt and shame come in. Sexual fantasies often disguise desires with symbolism, masks, and other obfuscating strategies. The "monster" is a symbol that is used to conceal your true desire for some form of forbidden sex with a real person. This, on the surface, might sound silly, I bet, because you're saying to yourself, "But I'm embarrassed about a dream involving sex with a monster! Why would that be better than a dream about sex with a hunky man?" Because you know, intellectually, that sex with a monster is impossible and, therefore, the dream fantasy is also impossible. Since the dream can never be a reality, it actually eases the moral tension you are feeling because you know you can never act out such a fantasy in real life and you will, consequently, never be "guilty" of the sin for which you yearn.
When psychologists talk about monster fantasies, they usually do it in terms of women having fantasies about monsters, but I feel this can apply to anyone with submissive tendencies, whether they are 100% submissive or only feel that way on occasion.
There might be some other underlying reasons for monster sex fantasies. Psychologists note that, in surveys, women who are more sexually open-minded respond that they have such fantasies more often than those who are conservative. Certainly, furries tend to be more open and willing to explore outside the boundaries of social standards in their sexuality, so--although I don't believe this has ever been tested--furries probably have monster fantasies more than normies. One might also, I suppose, characterize anthros as a type of "monster," though fursonas run the gamut of personalities from dom to sub to everything in between. I do, however, believe that furry sex fantasies also occur as a way of concealing feelings of guilt about sex in some--not all, by any means--cases.
To answer the question at the heart of your letter: no, you are not psychologically disturbed (and you are not a zoophile). Your brain is coming up with coping mechanisms to resolve your feelings of guilt about sex. The source of this guilt is, duh, society, which loves to impose guilt on us for being sexually open rather than repressed. The solution for you, my furiend, is to work on not feeling guilty about your sexual desires. As long as you aren't hurting anyone (and the sex is always consensual), you should pursue whatever sexual desires you wish.
Will this get rid of your monster fantasies? Well, if they are purely guilt-generated, it might. Or, it might loosen you up to create even more lurid monster dreams, but these will be dreams you enjoy rather than feel bad about.
Hope that helps! Sorry for my slow reply!
So, this is going to take a while to explain. I’m trans M2X and my parents are Christians. My dad is a LEAD PASTOR at a church that gets HUNDREDS of visitors each service. My mother knows that I was going by they/them pronouns for a while, and she went and had a chat with me. At the time, I thought I was also pansexual, so my mom now thinks I’m gay since she wouldn’t listen. I’m pretty sure I’m aroace now, though. I feel incredibly uncomfortable with getting called he/him pronouns. Some of my friends still use they/them pronouns, but Fred or whatever it was I called him previously and his sister (who I will now call Jo [fake name]) call me he/him. All of the people who know my mom call me he/him. Everyone except 3 people call me a boy.
I’m soon going to a private Christian middle school for the next two years (public school didn’t work out) where they split the kids into boy/girl groups every morning. I’m also not sure whether or not my dad knows. If my dad does know, he hasn’t acknowledged it, talked about it, or done anything about it. If he doesn’t, I really don’t want to be the one to tell him. He is incredibly protective of me, he banned all websites on my computer, so I have to ask for permission. I can’t watch YouTube, my phone doesn’t have the App Store or a web browser (I currently stole my sister’s phone, which has no restrictions at all.) He also monitors all my accounts, so I had to use my school account (it lets outside messages through, don’t worry) so that he wouldn’t track this.
I’m going to counseling, but the person I’m doing it with knows my mom in person, so I’m afraid to say too much. She also caught me off-guard at the start of counseling and asked if I thought I was trans, and I for some dumb reason blatantly lied and said no. I also would like to talk with her more about things like the fact that I think I might have social anxiety, be bipolar, etc., but she always will talk about that sort of thing for the last 10 minutes of the 45-minute sessions, and lately it’s only been about my sexuality (which I did share with her.) She is also Christian, I might add.
I really don’t know how to get my parents to accept me for who I am, and it’s getting very annoying.
Thanks for the advice,
Xyphon (age 12)
* * *
There are many things going on here, but I will try and stay focused. To begin, at age 12 you are likely just starting puberty. This is a confusing time for anyone, which is grandly reflected in your letter. Here's the thing: you are not obligated to decide right here and now what your sexuality or gender identity are, and you shouldn't pressure yourself to try. For one thing, it's not like you're going to go on dates or have sex, so what does it matter? You yourself say you think you are aro-ace, and the reason for that is not that you actually are but because at 12 years old you should be asexual. You should not be thinking about sex yet, for Pete's sake!
A huge problem with American society is that we put so much pressure on children to decide who they are right now and where they are going to go for the next 50 years of their lives. No wonder Americans are so dang neurotic. You shouldn't be worried about what your job will be or what sex is going to be like or whether you'll marry or have children or live as a hermit in the Himalayas. And, for God's sake, you should not be going to a therapist. You're 12 friggin years old, dammit. You're not old enough to be traumatized (unless you've had a death in the family or were at a school shooting, of course).
Two words: RE. LAX.
Instead of getting all uptight on serious issues, you should be playing! You should be enjoying time with your friends at school, play soccer, play D&D, go camping, and at school, you should be learning about the wonders of the universe (sadly, American schools just make education about tests instead of learning, but do the best you can; sometimes, you might be lucky enough to have a teacher who actually knows how to instill a love of learning in their students).
When it comes to your parents, they are sadly making the same mistake many parents make: instead of spending time with their kids and monitoring what they do online, they just ban or restrict internet and phone use. This is not parenting; this is being a dictator. And the result of such a parental policy is predictable and already occurring: you're indulging in secretive behavior and doing what you were told not to do anyway. What next happens is that you will, eventually, be caught, and this will severely damage the trust between you and your mom and dad.
Instead of completely banning computer time (or just monitoring it after the fact), what should be done, at least as a first step, is to have family computing time. This is when, with you at the keyboard, you are allowed to explore the internet for school projects or even hobbies and socializing while your parents are there to see what you do. They don't have to be right there next to you, but they should be in the same room as the computer and be able to see the screen. You can start small with an hour of time a day and maybe add time later. One reason why this is important is that you are going to need to learn how to use computers, phones, and the Web in order to function in modern society, so their complete ban of such tech will be harmful to your education. But the other reason is that they need to learn to trust you at the same time you need to trust them that they are trying to protect you. Although you might be aware of the dangers in virtual reality, you don't really know how bad they can be until you actually go online and get exposed to them. There's a lot of bad stuff online, and your parents are not incorrect in their concern about your surfing behavior.
Talk to Mom and Dad. Explain that you will need to use computers in this life and tell them that you will agree to 100% adult supervision so you are able to surf freely but safely. Put the computer in the kitchen or living room or wherever you're parents hang out in plain view. Tell them you understand the internet can be dangerous and that you want them to supervise you and help you.
Pronouns. Okay. I guess I'm an old bear, but when I was in school, and then an office, and also in my house, people called me by my name, Kevin. They didn't say, "Hey, boy." They didn't refer to me in the third person. That's just weird. At school, when I was called on, the teacher was like, "Yes, Kevin. Can you solve the equation on the chalkboard?" When I'm at a party and people are chatting, I don't look at a guest and say in his face: "Does he want a beer?" I say, "Hey, Brian, ya wanna beer?" So, at school, just tell people to refer to you by your first name.
Pronouns will still sometimes come up, of course. Here's a trick you can do. Whenever you find yourself using a pronoun for other people, always use They/Them. Use it all the time. When people around you use male/female pronouns, repeat what they say and substitute they/them. For example, a classmate asks, referring to a student named John: "Do you think we should ask him to join the team?" Then you say, "Yes, I think THEY would like to join the team."
It's my belief that in the future we might stop using he/him/she/her and just use they/them. This is already happening in publishing, and professional grammarians have been converting to this philosophy of using They/Them as a singular pronoun. When I was first working in publishing back in Detroit in the late 1980s and early 1990s, writing text could sound awkward when, if we didn't know the sex or a subject in a text, we would write "he/she" and "him/her." This is very cumbersome. "They/Them," however, was supposed to only be used in the plural sense. Today, though, these pronouns are widely used in the singular sense. So, yeah, just refer to everyone as they/them and you will find that others will learn by osmosis (they will absorb your way of using pronouns) and begin using they/them pronouns all the time, too.
As for being grouped with boys at your new school, just go with it. You're ace anyway (and, even if not, you're not sexually mature yet), so don't worry about it. Schools do stupid crap like that all the time, busily trying to categorize students and fit everyone in neat little boxes. Religious schools are particularly good at this, but all schools do it. Just put up with it because you sure won't get anywhere by defying the rules, and doing so will just cause you a lot of grief.
For the next 2 to 4 years, as you go through puberty, take time to learn about yourself. We are more than just our sexuality. Learn about what interests you in life. Take time to have some fun. Enjoy your childhood because, believe me, it is over sooner than you think and you will become bogged down by college, work, and family soon enough. Meanwhile, allow your sexuality to develop naturally, organically, without pressure. You might be surprised where you end up years from now. And if your parents ask you about it, just say, "I'm not worried about that right now; I'm too busy with school and having fun with my friends (or exploring your faith, if you wish)." It is this bear's opinion that the anxiety or "bipolar" feelings you have are the direct result of your overthinking your sexuality. You're stressing yourself out and need to stop.
And stop sneaking around on school accounts or your sister's phone.
Always remember this: your parents love you and want you to be safe. Be open and honest with them. You'll save them and yourself a lot of grief. Oh, and feel free to share this email with them.
Next time you wonder whether you are gay or bi or trans or ace or whatever, the answer is this: you're a kid. Focus on being a kid. It is a short and precious part of your life. Enjoy it.
Greetings Papa Bear!
You may not recall meeting me, but I was just one row away from you at The Good Furry Awards at BLFC 2022!
And the pansy who low-key sobbed at Mark's lifetime award. What a spectacular surprise that was!
In January of this year I unexpectedly lost my best friend and the love of my life, my husband. We've been together for all of my young adult and not-so-young adult life! Although most think it's the trauma of his passing that I struggle with most... I definitely find the hardest parts and times are the most innocuous ones. The time we used to spend eating dinner and talking about our day together, the absence in the bed, the lack of a passenger in the car, waking up with a dream to tell or thinking of something I'd like to share with him but I can't and all those other things we grow used to doing with company until suddenly it just isn't there anymore...
Or better yet, to quote the infamous Scout from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird “With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable.”
Although I know the recommendations that are often given as standard fanfare... Keeping busy, finding new hobbies to engaged in, try not to fixate, consider counseling and all that jazz... What recommendations &/or advice might you personally have, for someone struggling with this complex type of life change and all those really difficult struggles that it brings?
Thank you, and hope to see you again soon!
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I grieve for your loss. As you might know, if you read my column much or have seen my FB posts, I lost my husband in 2015 quite unexpectedly to a pulmonary embolism. He was only 59. So, with nearly seven years gone since his death, I am the right person to ask when it comes to what happens years after a spouse's death.
I am going to give you some short-term and long-term advice here. First of all, it is important to note that there is no time limit on grief. People who tell you to "get over it" or "time to move on" either have not experienced what you have or, worse, they don't want to deal with your grief and are brushing you off. Don't listen to them. The absolutely WORST thing a (now former) friend ever told me while I was crying in his car: "Oh, stop your blubbering." That person is irrevocably stricken from my life now. Grieve in your own way and in your own time. Secondly, grief is not the same as depression. Depression is more generalized, while grief is more specific to a particular loss in your life. In a way, this makes grief a bit easier to manage because you know what caused it and can take steps to manage it. (Oh, and whoever told you "try not to fixate" is way wrong; that's just another way of saying "get over it.")
Okay, so, short-term. Cry. Scream. Sleep. Veg. Don't hold back your emotions and let them out. It is extremely painful to do this, but it is also cathartic. You need that release. Don't bury it inside you to try to "get back to normal." I did everything from literally collapsing and gushing tears to yelling at Jim's chair, "You promised me you wouldn't leave me!" I would do this for hours until I was utterly exhausted. You have to let all that stuff out.
I will forgo some advice you already know, though. But something you might have missed is trying to be kind to yourself. One of my friends back in Michigan said you should try to do something you like, even a little thing, each day. For example, buy yourself an ice cream cone. Go on a nice walk. Play with your pet (if you have one; if you don't, I recommend it; having my Ernie with me was one of the things that helped me through the worst years).
Next--very important! Maintain a healthy diet and do some exercise and try to get restful sleep. It is extremely important to try to stay healthy. Why? Well, for one thing, if you let your body slip into illness you'll feel worse, but for another thing, you need brain support and the function of healthy organs. Grief researchers (including neuroscientists) have learned that grief changes your brain chemically and physically. Grief can adversely affect your immune system and your heart. It is actually true that you can die of grief (though this is usually more of a risk for the elderly). Keeping up your immune system is important, especially in the Era of Covid and other nasty diseases. Speaking of the brain, though, some symptoms are similar to Long Covid: brain fog, memory impairment, word fluency, visuospatial function, and decision-making abilities.
According to an article on the American Brain Foundation website:
"In response to traumatic events, the brain creates connections between nerves and strengthens or weakens existing connections depending on the duration and degree of the emotional response. Neuroplasticity, or the ability to alter neural connections, allows the brain to compensate for injury, illness, loss, and other life-altering traumatic events by forming new neural connections based on these experiences. This helps an individual adapt to new situations or environments. Low to moderate stress increases nerve growth and improves memory while reducing fear. However, chronic stress causes a reduction in nerve growth and memory and increases fear to help an individual focus on survival. This stress response can have a negative effect and the more it happens, the more it becomes hardwired."
In other words, the changes to your brain can become permanent. The ABF article comments that the brain "can be healed" with such things as therapy, journaling, meditation, yoga, etc. In this bear's humble opinion, sure, those can help, but you will never be 100% the same again.
This leads me to my long-term advice: you must learn to accept that you will be forever changed by your loss. Don't try to go back to "the way things were" and "the way I was before my loss" because you will not be successful.
You will not be the person you once were. Like the accident victim who loses a limb, you can learn to function again and have a life, but that limb will always be gone. You can get a prosthetic limb, but it won't be the same. You can be an athlete in the Paralympic Games and achieve wondrous things, but you will never be in the regular Olympics. The hole in your life that was once filled by your spouse will always be a hole in your heart.
When I write or say things like this, people sometimes think I am being insulting. I am not. Here's why.
First of all, your grief and my grief and the grief of others like us is an affirmation that Love is eternal. I will ALWAYS love Jim, and even Death cannot kill that love. That is extraordinary. Embrace it. Love conquers Death in a very real sense. That's powerful. That's beautiful.
Secondly, I have found that my loss has made me a more complex, more empathetic, and more appreciative person. I don't take things or people for granted (I didn't really before, but now even less so). I led a rather blessed life before Jim died in which things always seemed to work out for me. Now I can really understand as never before what it is like to have a setback. Oh, I did go through a divorce before this, which was very hard, but enduring the death of a loved one is much much worse.
In summary, in the short term, focus on taking care of your health. In the long term, learn to accept that you are a different person now. Not necessarily worse or better, but different. Get to know that new person. You are entering a new stage in your life. You will face new challenges, and experience success and failure. You will lose more people, but you will also meet new people. Leave yourself open to possibilities.
You are only a few months into the grieving process. You should know that the average period of intense grief is 18 months to 2 years. That's the period where you really need to focus on your health. Now, it can last longer than that, of course, so, again, no rules on time. An analogy that was told to me that I find to be true is this: Suffering through the loss of a spouse or partner is like being a ship in a storm. During the storm, you will be battered by wave after wave of grief and it will be an extremely rough ride, but even after the storm has passed, the sea will still have waves. They become fewer and farther apart and usually much more moderate, but you may still get hit with a big wave of grief, even a rogue wave. Over six years after Jim's death, and there are still days I grieve hard, especially on his birthday or anniversary. But they occur less often.
I like that you still call yourself Lucky Fox and that you are still going to furcons (thanks for your comments about the GFA). Sounds like you're doing all the right things. Just remember that you can keep living without setting the past aside. The love you have in your heart will always be a part of you.
I have not told my family that I'm a furry and that I'm transgender. It is hard these days, with all the bad thing about us, but I get by. But I'm very scared, and I do not know what to do. I try to sneak it in, but some people are just stupid. I just feel like my own kind are the only ones that get me. I just want to be loved for who I am without hiding who I am. (Oh, and I have not changed genders just yet, so I'm still a boy.)
I just do not want to hate who I am. I want to embrace it because it is me. Do you think you can help me? I also would like it if you can share what you say to others like me. Thank you in advance. Oh, and I believe we need, as a furry community, to stop the false information and hateful things like the uwu and judgement on us. Sorry if I'm oversharing to you; it is just that I have so much to say. Thank you.
Ivy Black (age 14)
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Although we're dealing with two things here--being furry and being transgender--it is possible that they are related. Before I get into your specific situation, please indulge me as I talk about a topic of importance that may or may not have to do with you (it popped into my head because of your comment about not wanting to hate yourself).
The issue here that Papabear has been hearing about and learning about more and more has to do with body dysmorphia (or, more formally, Body Dysmorphic Disorder). This is a fancy term for not liking your own body. Related to this is gender dysmorphia, or not liking the gender you currently inhabit.
According to the Mayo Clinic: "Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:
This is a vital question to ask, investigate, and answer before you continue on your life journey. At 14, you are, of course, in puberty, and you are being filled with a lot of hormones and emotions. It is important not to make any rash decisions now that will affect your entire life in a very powerful way and that you might regret later on. I'm glad you have not had any surgical procedures yet. You should really hold off on those for a few more years (and despite what some people have written me, I happen to know there are some clinics that perform sex-reassignment surgeries on kids under 16, so, readers, please do not write to me about that).
Anyway, the same might be said for some furries (and, I think, for people who describe themselves as lycanthropes, therianthropes, and otherkin). I know it is true for yours truly, for if there were a medical procedure available that would turn me into a bear, I honestly think I would consider it (I don't regard myself as a werebear, though). A lot of furries feel that having fur, tails, snouts, etc. are beautiful and they would be happy to look more like an anthro. Alas, it is not to be.
Before any of us pursue physical or hormonal therapies, I think it would benefit anyone to stop for a moment and consider working on body acceptance. Too often, we allow ourselves to be beaten down by what others say about our appearance to the point that we hate how we look. This often involves fat-shaming, but can include everything from height, hair, facial features, musculature, skin color, teeth, etc. etc. For example, I am fair-skinned, always have been, because I'm a semi-ginger and I freckle but don't tan. As a kid in Van Nuys, California, I was mocked all the time for not being bronze-skinned. At summer camp, they called me "Caspar the Friendly Ghost." This hurt a lot to the point I was constantly trying to tan and, instead, ended up burning myself to the point of getting blisters. Not good. Eventually, I woke up to the fact that I was hurting myself because of a bunch of shallow idiots. Don't follow my lead. Don't listen to others.
I am, admittedly, using your letter as a jumping-off-place to discuss the important point that we need to learn body acceptance. Obviously, only a small number of furries really have body dysmorphia, and most trans people want to get surgery for their own, not others', reasons. I just urge caution, especially for those who are still going through puberty. You can do a lot of damage to your body if you go through hormone therapy before your body can handle it. Hormone therapy side effects can include heart disease, certain cancers, liver damage, blood clots, stroke, and dangerous drops or increases in blood pressure. Genital surgery (vaginoplasty, in your case) can sometimes have unpleasant complications, too, including difficulty with urination and the formation of fistulas, which might lead to feces being excreted from the newly constructed vagina. Needless to say, this can adversely affect one's love life as well as one's physical and mental health.
I'm writing the above not to freak you out but to make sure you are aware of all the dangers. Depending on the source, anywhere between 1% and 8% of those who underwent surgery decided to detransition, but even this is not always successful. On the more optimistic side, this means that as many as 99% are happy with the results. Last word: be absolutely certain this is right for you before pursuing surgery or hormone therapy. That's all I'm really saying here.
Okay, with all that aside (whew! and sorry!) let's get into the broader issue of acceptance. I will definitely say that, in this bear's experience, the furry fandom is tremendously accepting of transexual and transgender people. Indeed, two of the four Good Furry Award winners are transexuals, and people win that award by being nominated and voted on by the furry community.
Another way, therefore, that your transgender and furry desires are related would be exactly what you said in your letter: seeking to find acceptance for being yourself. Of the two subjects, I think the one to address first is your being transgender. It is important to note that there is a difference between saying "I am transgender" and "I am a transexual."
Transgender is an umbrella term used for anyone who feels that their gender is not in alignment with the sex they were born with. For example, a male born with, obviously, a penis and scrotum feels inside himself that he is really a female. This is not limited to just female and male genders but can encompass the many and wide variety of genders being defined today, including intersex, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, androgynous, bygender, neutrois, and on and on.
Transexual is a much narrower category that falls within transgender (that is, all transexuals are transgender but not all transgender people are transexual). Although the definition I'm about to give has been starting to change, for purposes of this discussion we will define transexual as someone who has finished or commenced with a medical procedure for sexual reassignment.
It sounds to me that you have correctly identified yourself as transgender and that you are considering becoming transexual (the above is for the benefit of my other readers).
You have every right to be yourself and to be accepted as yourself. You shouldn't have to hide who you are from your family and friends. When it comes to friends, the good news is you can pick and choose. Pick the people who support you to be your friends, and anyone who does not support you is not really a friend, so don't worry about them. You don't need them in your life and you do not need their validation.
Family is more of a challenge. You can't pick your blood, so if they don't accept you, you're still kind of stuck with them, especially at your age when you're still a dependent. You don't say anything about your family, so this is a bit hard for me to gauge. Parents and other relatives can run the gamut from unsupportive, judgmental, and strict to loving, supportive, and flexible. The Planned Parenthood website has some solid advice on coming out trans to family, and they also note some other helpful and supportive organizations such as The Trevor Project and GLAAD. Be prepared to educate your family as to what being transgender really means to you, and be able to answer their questions. Most fears people have about something like transgender people stem from the fact that they are simply ignorant and have a lot of wild ideas that are incorrect. If your parents are religious, another good resource is Rainbow Ark, which offers support to LGBTQIIA+ furries from religious families.
Ignorance of the facts is also a problem for those who criticize or are fearful of the furry fandom. For them, a good documentary to watch is Ash Coyote's The Fandom. It gives a good enough overview of the fandom, what it is, its history, in a way that is not threatening to normies. There are other documentaries out there, too, but this one is an hour and a half and free.
The way to fight judgment and negativity about transgender people and furries is the same: education. The more people understand something, the less likely it is that their imaginations and fears will run wild. The more people like your peers and your family understand you, the less you should be afraid of opening up to them. When you conceal your identity and shamefully keep things hidden away, people sense that. You aren't fooling your parents, for example. They know something is going on with you, though they might not understand exactly what. You can alleviate their fears by calmly opening up to them. Educate them. Answer their questions.
You aren't doing anything for which you should be ashamed. So, don't be ashamed. Perhaps not all people will "get you" or accept you, but that's their problem, not yours. And you might be very surprised by how many people do accept you once you open up to them.
Sorry for the long reply. I haven't written back to anyone in a while and had a lot to get out LOL. I certainly hope this is helpful. Please feel free to write again if you have more questions.
[Note: Papabear apologizes for not posting more frequently this month. It has been a busy work month for him as he edits books for the fall season and prepares for the Good Furry Award presentation on June 3 at BLFC.]
How does one make arms/hands for a skull furry? I have been struggling for some time now to finish making my characters head and tail, but now I’m stuck on how to cover the arms and hands without making puffy paws since the character is… well, a dead thing. I’m very new to the furry scene and this is my first ever character. I want it to look kind of mystical and creepy, not as cartoonish as I’ve seen with others. Do you have any tips that could help me?
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Usually, when I see skulldogs, they either have no paws on or they have floofy paws. But sometimes one sees variants like the attached image. You can make paws however you like. Another alternative is to buy some skeleton gloves, which you can do at places like Amazon.
As with most things furry, there really aren't any rules. For skulldogs and related critters, you can go as ghastly or foofy as you want. A lot of people just have a skull head and the rest of the fursuit is pretty normal, or you can go with part furry, part skull, and maybe wear some wizard or Goth clothing to add to the image.
Since it sounds like you are making the fursuit yourself, you can buy or make some form-fitting gloves and paint on or sew on carpals and metacarpals to your heart's content.
Basically, what you need to do is break out of the mindset that furries need to be, well, furry. They don't. Dump your preconceptions and let your imagination run wild.
And, as always, have FUN with it!
I wanted to ask you if there is a way to handle feelings of emptiness.
Since the last months of 2021, I ended up hitting my lowest point because things haven't gone the way I planned. I came back to Vancouver to finish a diploma and settled there to start a life, but unfortunately, being unable to find a job in a whole new country has led to feeling empty and without a purpose. I'm starting to think it is no use trying anymore now that my current situation has led to personal issues with my family.
It seems like I'm getting embittered each day. And I'm afraid of shutting myself to people I love, along with any possibility of enjoying the good things that life might bring.
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Where are you from originally? Did you get your diploma? Why haven't you been able to find a job? What have you done to obtain a job?
There are always options. Don't give up. Just because you haven't found work yet doesn't mean you won't.
Please send me more info on what type of job you are seeking and what you have done so far to find work.
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I'm surprised you wanted to get in touch with me directly and even ask questions about myself.
I'll proceed to answer your questions.
I'm from a little state in Mexico and I managed to get my degree as a Digital Artist in 2017 after struggling with college in many aspects, then I came to Vancouver in 2018 to improve my skills/demo reel to enter an animation studio there. The first diploma/course worked out for me, but it didn't help me out to get a permit, so I had to take another course in that area to get a PGWP and I succeeded in doing so last year.
After finishing the second course I tried to apply as a Teaching Assistant at the 3D Arts school where I got the diploma that qualified for a PGWP (Post Graduate Working Permit), or a part-time job while the permit was in process. I focused on refining the animation pieces of the demo reel, while getting any documentation for the paperwork process back then, but I couldn't nail anything on animation areas since the requirements for entry levels are asking for a year of experience in similar roles.
Right now, the landlady's relative helped me out to find a temporary job and I'm waiting for receiving a call to let me know when I do start capacitation.
I'm trying to find a job as a 3D Animator and so far I'm simply working on other 3D animation exercises to improve the reel, while trying to send a general application for different studios. But the demand for higher level roles has led me to get discouraged from working on my reel further and now I'm trying to get over that feeling.
This temporary job could help me out for a bit, since it would be the very first time I get in the working force and to build experience. But I would prefer if it was related to my area to keep honing my skills, now that I have a work permit.
That's pretty much what I have been doing so far.
Last thing to bring is that I even ended up befriending people from the Vancoufur community and volunteered to help the VR Chat artists to see if I can make contacts that lead me closer to my goal. There's a reason why I'm doing this, but I'll bring this out in a follow up message.
Thanks so much for coming around.
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It sounds to me as if you are doing all the right things. You are working to improve your skills, searching for work in your field, and, in the meantime, finding employment elsewhere to get some income while you pursue your dream.
It can be easy to get discouraged when things don't go your way as soon as you would like, but that is how the world can be. Let me tell you a story from my life. When I wrote my novel, The Steel of Enadia, I mailed it out to one hundred publishers before I got an acceptance letter (that's 99 rejections, 1 acceptance). And even that publisher didn't work out, so I ended up going with a small press in Canada that was running a competition judged by author Piers Anthony. I won, and got my book published. As happy as that sounds, the book sold poorly, which was also discouraging to me. What happened next was I started writing nonfiction books and found I had a real gift for that, which is what I am now doing in my life: writing nonfiction.
There are two lessons here: 1) Never give up trying, and 2) Be flexible and keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities. In the business world, no one is going to give you a free ride and hand you your dream job. You have to work and sweat for it. Before I got my first job as an editor, I worked in a burger joint, as a cashier, and in a factory. Sometimes you have to sweat over a fat fryer before an opportunity strikes. Don't let yourself get down and don't give in to pessimism.
Optimism is key. The person who succeeds in life is the one who is optimistic about the future. Optimism inspires you to work hard and to keep going no matter what. How do you become more optimistic? Here are a few tips:
Hope this helps.
[Ed note: Pedophilia is a highly sensitive topic. Papabear acknowledges this and wishes to emphasize that he in no way, shape, or form advocates child abuse of any kind, nor does he defend or excuse child abusers in any way.]
It's not so much a question but a hope that you may be able to help change some very wrong opinions about a certain topic. Society as a whole and furries especially hear this condition and immediately fly into a rage storm. I live with this psychological condition and wish people would take the time to try and understand it more. I have discussed my tools for managing this condition with psychological professionals and they see no harm in it so long as it remains strictly fictional and between consenting adults in roleplay settings. Anyway, due to a childhood trauma, I suffer from pedophilia and have never harmed a child in my life; in fact, I am asexual.
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To say you are asexual and a pedophile is to be self-contradictory. An asexual person has absolutely no interest in sex and, therefore, cannot have a sexual attraction for children. What you mean to say is that you are a pedophile who does not act out sexually with children. This is an important distinction. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, pedophilia means you have "recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children." Therefore, one can still be a pedophile even though one never acts on those desires.
It is entirely possible not to act on our sexual proclivities. It is wrong when people think that all pedophiles abuse children. In fact, the large majority never act out on their desires. It is also possible for people who are not pedophiles to sexually abuse children, using them as a surrogate for the true object of their desires.
Research is showing that pedophiles who grew up in abusive households are more likely to act out on their attraction for children. Childhood traumas of various sorts can make this more likely. Therapy with a trained mental health professional is the best way to treat pedophilia.
There is also growing evidence that pedophilia tendencies are genetic, just as homosexual ones are. So, it may be that people are born to be pedophiles. Now, there is a movement to destigmatize pedophilia by calling pedophiles "minor-attracted people." This should not, however, be seen as saying it's okay to molest children sexually. This is never okay because children are minors, are not sexually mature, and do not have the social position to say "No." It is always wrong to force oneself on a child who is powerless to prevent such assaults. This is what makes pedophilia different from homosexuality: the latter involves consenting adults while the former does not. Also, pedophilia is classified as a psychological disorder, but homosexuality is not (yes, it was once, but is no longer). Here is a good article all about pedophilia.
Thank you for bringing up an important topic. Hopefully, this will clear up some misunderstandings about pedophilia.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.