As some of my readers know, Papabear is working, along with several furiends, to launch the American Furry Association. Recently, a story about the AFA was posted on Flayrah. There were many negative comments about the idea of the AFA posted after the article, including some personal attacks on me basically calling me incompetent. At first, I responded to the attacks, but that was a mistake because it just resulted in more hateful responses, so I withdrew them from the comments board.
This was not my first negative experience with the fandom. When I first started this column, it was noticed by the hosts of FurCast, who quickly began mocking me and my efforts. I called into the show and they apologized, but I had to wonder, still, why furries (and humans in general, let's face it) feel a need to hurt people, especially people who are trying to do some good in the world?
I think people are questioning my motivation. I suspect that people are just thinking that I'm out to get attention and to be a popufur. Let me tell you all, then, why I do this.
When I was a cub, I was very much the outcast. People made fun of me all the time and I had few friends. It got so bad that, when I was a freshman in college, I felt so discouraged and alone that I bought four bottles of sleeping pills, swallowed them all, and went to bed, fully intending to die. Fortunately for me, I overdid the dose so much that my body rejected all the medication. I vomited heavily in my sleep so hard I woke up a roommate who quickly took me to the hospital to have my stomach pumped. I spent many years after that trying to come around and be positive again about life.
Then, when I turned 40, I came to the late realization that I was gay. I struggled with this for some time until I finally confessed to my then-wife, which led to my divorce. It has been nearly three years since my divorce, and I am still struggling with it.
In both cases I felt very alone and in pain. My mother was very angry with me for a long time for my suicide attempt. Many people wouldn't talk to me. Later, when I discovered I was gay, I experienced the strange sensation of going from a majority in this country (white, straight, Christian) to a minority (gay, well still white LOL, but pagan). I have questioned everything about my life, including God.
I am now 47, and I am just now beginning to feel like my life is getting under control again, but it has been a very lonely road in many cases.
In the fandom, I have made some very good friends. I find furries, for the most part, to be good people who have extended their paws to me and given me a hug.
When a number of the younger furries began asking my advice, I thought that maybe my experiences and what I have learned could help them. I talked to them online, and, eventually, I started "Ask Papabear." My only motivation is to help furries who are in pain and share with them what I have learned from my own pain so that they don't feel alone as I did.
Let me please emphasize here that I make NO money on the column, I do not EVER charge for my advice. Indeed, because I spend money advertising, this is COSTING me money. The idea for selling some Papabear items was to recover some of my advertising costs, but no one is buying them, so it doesn't matter.
I also started seeking other ways I could help. I had a number of ideas, such as starting my own furcon and starting a furry arts school, but after exploring the idea I concluded they really wouldn't work for one reason or another (people are criticizing me for "not following through" with these plans, but why would I want to spend money on an idea that was not viable?) But then I had the idea for the AFA, which is a nonprofit to help other furries. I am still working on this idea, hoping to get it launched next year, but I am optimistic.
The AFA, too, is not something I make money on. I have paid over $200 in fees of my own money so far and anticipate paying upwards of another $900 of my own cash before it is up and running.
The reason for the AFA is the same as my column: I want to help. It hurts me deeply that so many furries out there seem threatened by a project that is so well meaning, but I guess that is just the way of the world.
I want you all to know that I am going to proceed, with help, on my goal of forming a national furry organization. There will always be detractors, there will always be people who will question me and think, for some bizarre reason I cannot comprehend, that I am out to do some sort of evil upon the furry world. That really does hurt my feelings. I guess some people just like hurting others. But it will not break my resolve to help the good furries out there who want it.
It is my hope that at least some of you will understand what I am trying to do.
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.