I’m not sure even how to ask this, but I guess I should give you the background.
Growing up, I’d had a pretty good childhood. No major traumas, easy to get along with, close friends … fairly sheltered, but that happens from time to time. As a young teenager, I moved into a new house, got into middle school, new grade. Everything started off reasonably, but very quickly I got cast as the outsider, and labeled. Things like ‘fag,’ or ‘homo,’ or ‘fairy,’ the last of which became my name at school.
I’m not sure why. I guess I was different, but not in a way that I recognized at the time. I was probably a bit more innocent than my peers, maybe I walked different or talked different… I’m not sure. Maybe I came off as effeminate. At the time, I didn’t even know what those things were. They all had to do with things that I didn’t really contemplate. I certainly didn’t consider myself that … or, in fact, anything.
I never talked to anyone about this, even my parents. I was always crushingly embarrassed about it, this thing that, apparently, is so terrible to be that no one talks about it. I grew to hate school. Eventually it encompassed the entire school, it was something that I couldn’t escape while I was there. I became utterly self-conscious about every aspect of my life, from the way I walked to the way I talked, trying anything to fit in. It never worked.
This was a mostly emotional, and occasionally physical process, that went on for about three years. During this time, I was mostly a loner. But, as a teenager, I eventually became curious about my body, and discovered playing with myself anally. I loved the feeling it gave me, but I hated myself for doing it. Eventually I grew to loathe myself so much for doing this that I stopped it altogether.
As with all things, this period came to an end. Near the end of my time in middle school, I’d attracted one more in a never ending string of bullies, and something snapped inside me, and I just started punching this one in the face over and over again. (I’m not condoning this, I’m just explaining what happened.) I wasn’t a very strong kid, I don’t think I damaged him any more than being surprised, but after that, everything changed for me. The last month of school, all my relationships normalized, and I started feeling happy again. I got my name back. And I was just like everyone else.
One great summer off, and I was in high school, and everything was fine. In university I stumbled into a relationship with a girl that I’d hit it off with, we had sex, and it was fine for a while, but eventually we drifted apart, and I haven’t been looking for a relationship since. I just didn’t care.
And that might be the last I’d have thought about it but for recently, when an online acquaintance asked me if I was gay. I laughed and said no, and we talked about it for a bit while I surfed M/M furry porn on my other screen. About a week later I realized the mental disconnect and thought about it, and that dragged me back to that time in my life when I was most unhappy. And then I started thinking. I don’t really think of women sexually. I mean, I can appreciate them, but … I’m not sure if I ever felt that way, and I’d always considered myself straight.
I’ve lurked in furry since the mid-90s, but I’ve never really gotten into it any more deeply. Now that I’m pushing 40, I’m starting to play around in it, talking to people and such, and the stuff that I like is always guys.
And now I realize I’m a bit lonely, and I’m enjoying these connections, but … I’ve been hesitant. I figure I’m either lying to myself and the people I know in real life by saying I’m straight, or I’m lying to folks online by coming off as gay. And all I can think of is that time when I was 12, and how much of a waste my life has been, and how much I've hidden from myself, and how terrified I am that I’m going to get this all wrong. And then I feel a bit pathetic about it, but hey. :)
Well. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to write this, as it’s been a bit cathartic, and for you to listen. But I suppose I should ask the question… how can I decide or find out if I’m really gay? Part of me thinks I know the answer, but…
I hope this wasn’t too much. Thanks again for your time and energy, and running this place.
-H (I don’t really have a fursona yet)
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Your letter really touches me because there are so many parallels with my own life. Papabear was bullied in school for not being very “butch,” shall we say, and not really liking sports and being shy. I’ve had sex with a woman and drifted away from her; I came to a point where I wouldn’t allow myself to be bullied any more and fought back; I’ve experimented sexually; and I’ve been confused about my sexuality, and have struggled to find a group in which I could fit (finding furries, too).
Not everything is the same of course. Your situation is unique in one very important way: have you considered that you might be asexual? This is a very real sexual preference, and I’ve known a couple people who really and truly don’t care much about sex. That shouldn’t be considered a bad thing; it’s just the way you are—or, at least, how it sounds to me at this point. Yes, you could also be gay, but it does sound to my fuzzy ears that you might just be considering that because you discovered the furry community and stumbled on some of the gay art on the site and are trying to fit in to that part of the fandom (remember, though, the majority of furries are actually straight or straight-leaning).
I understand your fear of getting it “all wrong.” As you approach 40, it is a time when many of us reevaluate our lives and question where we have been and where we are going. I came to the realization I was gay at the age of 40 (and have a few furiends with similar experiences), and it was both a liberating and terrifying episode of my life. What you need to do, though, is set aside that fear because it will keep you from discovering your true self.
Having a sexual preference other than what is considered the norm in society—whether that is being gay, bi, or something else—is scary because we want to be accepted by others. But sacrificing ourselves to fit into a mold and please others is a mistake. (You could, indeed, be suppressing your sexuality, as indicated by the fact that you were ashamed of stimulating yourself anally to the point of stopping it all together).
Papabear suggests you do two things, therefore: 1) Put aside your fear and your desire to please others instead of yourself; and 2) don’t worry about your sexuality.
The first point is pretty clear, I believe, but let me explain that second point further. You say that you have been exploring some of the M/M art on furry sites and that you feel more comfortable around guys. Getting a bit stimulated by male art when you are male is actually very natural, even for straight men. There’s this great bit that comedian Ron White does. He’s chatting with a straight buddy and tells him, “I can prove you’re gay.” And the friend responds, “No way, I’m straight.” And White says, “Oh, yeah? Well, do you watch straight porn?” And his friends says, “Hell, yeah.” White continues, “And when you see a guy with a beautiful woman, do you want that guy to have a little penis that’s all limp and dangling?” And his friend goes, “Hell, no! I like a guy with a big rock hard penis and *GASP!*” and the audience laughs.
Let me go the other way with this. Papabear is gay, as you know, but there are some pieces of straight furry porn that get me going, too, if it’s done really well. So, there you go. Your porn preference really isn’t a totally accurate barometer.
The next obvious question is, “Have you been with a man yet?” My guess is no, not yet, am I right? Now, don’t expect me to tell you to march out there and find a guy and get naked with him. Not gonna happen. Which brings me to my final explication on point #2. Instead of fretting about your sexuality as if it existed in a vacuum, what you need to do is go out into the world and find someone to love.
Socialize with other people (and going to furmeets and stuff is a great way to do this—a great social vehicle to put yourself out on the market, so to speak) and don’t worry about the sex, at least not for now. You will eventually, inevitably, run into someone for whom you have an attraction. Some of it sexual, probably, but hopefully a lot of that attraction will be for the person as a whole. If that person is another man, fine; if not, that’s fine too. Let yourself go and your natural sexual persuasion will make itself known. Who knows? You might even come across an asexual person and neither of you will want sex; you’ll just enjoy being with each other.
In other words: don’t over-intellectualize it. Stop thinking, and start doing.
And let me know how it goes. Write soon.
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.