Hi Papa Bear!
I was wondering about your stance on interspecies dating? I identify as a Blood Moon Night Fox. I recently attended a convention where I met a great person who identifies as a Tiger Shark Female. We have been communicating for several months now and I've contracted feelings for her. However, I am more on the conservative side and only believe the only kind of cross breeding can happen when ligers and mules are made. Do you think a fox like me and a shark like her can make this work or stay as friends and keep my morals and stick to land animals? I would very much appreciate your wisdom and input. Please write soon!
Furambe (male, age 23)
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I'm not going to post this on my site because my answer might be a bit blunt for you. [Note: I obviously changed my mind for reasons readers will see below].
Um... you are not really a fox and she is not really a shark, so, are you kidding me? You're both humans. If you like her, see if she will go out on a date with you.
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Excuse me but seeing as you're a very noticed character in the furry community how dare you imply I am "just human." That is seen as kinphobic and racially ignorant. You might take your furry status as serious as a lot of us do "Kevin," but it is seen as phobic to the full extent. I trusted you but shame on you Mr. Hile.
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Not sure why you are putting my name in quotation marks, but okay. I am not racially ignorant or kinphobic. You are talking about things that don't exist. You are not, in reality, a fox, and she is not, in reality, a tiger shark. To assert that you are is to lose touch with reality.
I realize there are people who identify very closely with their fursonas. I myself feel that bear is my spirit animal. But I don't fail to recognize that we are all, including you, sweetie, Homo sapiens.
To say I am "phobic" is to say I am afraid of furries. No, I am not.
What I am trying to say is that you are making things unnecessarily complicated with your love interest because you are both humans, like it or not. That's not phobia. That's not racism. That's reality. And you need to get a firm grip on it, hon.
Actually, when you think about it, your fears about whether being mates with another "species" is a problem the very definition of racial fear, is it not?
I also note that in your email response you are not actually male, but female [email not printed here, nor is the person's real name]. I am wondering, therefore, whether your original question was really not about furry species but, rather, the fact that you are a female in love with a female? Is that the real issue here? If so, then, again, I would say that you should go with your feelings and pursue the relationship.
This is a good example of how sometimes people bury their problems in their fursonas. While having a fursona (or several) can be a fun and creative way of expressing oneself, it is worthwhile to note that sometimes getting lost in fantasy is not healthy. That is why I decided to publish this letter exchange.
I never heard back from this writer. I hope I will someday.
Hugs to all....
Good evening, Mister Papa Bear.
First of all... Thank you, thank you, thank you for running this site! It means a world to a bunch of people, not to mention that you're selflessly trying to help others... I love you, Papa Bear.
I'll ask straight away - why do people suffer, Papa Bear :'(? Why is there so MUCH sadness, guilt, resent and discrimination? I'm naturally a very happy, positive person and also very much empathetic and compassionate, so, why? I'm doing my best to make other people feel more welcome and comfortable but it doesn't seem to work, and it bothers me, I'm not going to lie. It makes ME feel guilty for not being able to help someone in need.
I firmly believe that there's someone out there for everyone and that life is truly a blessing and a gift, but many people seem to not share the same beliefs. Sometimes, I'm unsure. Why do so many people go through life alone... rejected, bullied and discriminated all due to appearance and social status? Depressed, anxious and mentally unwell?
I'm very physically attractive and overall kind and compassionate, so I'm showered with attention (both wanted and unwanted) on a daily basis, while others to through months and even years without any positive attention at all. Why???
There's this guy in class I really like... He's shy, anxious, quiet and depressed but is still an overall kind soul. I like shy guys but they don't seem to like me due to my extroversion. He's also a curry, which makes things a lot better. I want to talk to him and get to know him better, but he's too damaged to reciprocate. He's often bullied and ridiculed. Oh, how i wish to help him, but I can't. Why is he tortured? Why is anyone tortured? Not only him, I want to help a lot of other people feel better on a daily basis, regardless of age, appearance and social status. Everyone deserves to be happy, because people are beautiful. Even the nasty ones...
Why does my optimism fail? What am I doing wrong? I want to help them, but I can't help them all...
It makes me so, so sad, I cannot express my sadness through text or words...
You should understand what I'm saying... Help me, Papa Bear, so that I'm able to help others.
Call me naive, but this is what my heart desires.
What should I do :(?
Caramel (age 16)
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First of all, I am blushing. You're very kind.
Gosh, those are HUGE questions you are asking, the kinds of questions philosophers have been asking since ancient Greece or before. Why do people suffer? What can I do to help them? Why can't people get along?
Basically, three questions. I try to limit letters to one, but will do my best to concisely answer you.
#1 Why do people suffer? There are two fundamental reasons for this: either they bring it upon themselves, or fate deals them a bad hand. The first one is easier to address. Many people suffer because their priorities are incorrect. They think success is defined by fame and fortune, and when they cannot get these things, they feel miserable. The answer is simply to aim for goals that are more compassionate and less materialistic. But that's not really what you are asking. You're asking why do good people suffer? There are a couple explanations for that, too.
The first is that there is suffering so that people who are not suffering can learn compassion. For example, a family who has a child with a horrible disease that means they need constant care and medical treatment. You might think this is a terrible burden on the family. Well, it is very stressful and hard, yes, but it also teaches us to care for others not matter the cost. This is a valuable spiritual lesson, one that not only can help a family grow, but an entire community. How many times have you seen stories where a family is in desperate need because of a sick child, and they reach out to their community and a flood of help comes to their aid? Sometimes, remarkable things happen, such as perfect strangers donating an organ to save a life. Such challenges can show the true, deeper spirit of humanity. Thus, a profoundly ill or disabled child is not living a wasted life because they serve as a focal point for teaching all of us what real love is.
Another reason is that we live in an existence of black and white, yin and yang. You cannot have light without the darkness. You cannot understand love if there is no hate. You cannot appreciate joy if you have never known sorrow. Our life here on this tiny blue marble is a training ground of our souls. We are here to experience these things so that we may grow spiritually. This is something that would be impossible if we all lived in paradise and faced no challenges. We are here to learn.
Perhaps less dramatic, but no less significant, is your classmate, who is an example of the former reason for suffering. There could be many reasons why he is shy, depressed, anxious, ranging from medical and emotional reasons to his living situation at home. You don't know. So, here we have another test of your humanity. This brings us to....
#2 How can I help others who are suffering? An important lesson I've learned in life is that one can only do so much. Sometimes, it is difficult to see all the misery going on in the world and not be able to do anything about it. I've often come across people in my life who are just too far gone to help--or who flatly refuse my help. The key is not to feel guilty that you can't always help. You're only one furry. When it comes to someone like your classmate, I suggest the open-door approach. This is when you make yourself available and welcoming to him without forcing him to do anything. For example, organize a little furmeet or other fun activity and extend an invitation to him. Make it fun by inviting people with a nice card with a written message inside. Another possibility is a movie. One thing about movies is that you can socialize a little before the film, but during the movie everyone is quiet and this affords a little break for him from any anxiety of being with others. Make these small gatherings so that he is not overwhelmed. During these little get togethers, make sure that you and any others who attend are completely accepting of him, do not judge him, and, most importantly, don't make him feel like a charity case. Just be very informal, have small talk, talk about things you like. Do not try to "fix him."
And don't be disappointed if he refuses. But, keep extending invitations on occasion. Perhaps, one day, he will accept. If not, you did what you could.
#3 Why can't people get along? Much of this stems from our long evolutionary background. When things were much more wild, life was constant competition for things like food and mates and territory. Despite becoming "civilized," we haven't truly evolved, for the most part. (However, I am encouraged to see an increasing number of spiritually evolving people who truly understand what life is about). Hence, everyone is in competition, and everyone who seems different (or more successful) is seen as a potential threat. This is the very basis of capitalism, which is why capitalism is doomed to implode one day: it is an unevolved economic philosophy. As Mr. Big says in Zootopia, "My child, we may be evolved, but deep down we are still animals."
You are one of the good ones, Caramel. Never lose sight of your compassion, but be careful not to allow yourself to become overwhelmed or consumed by other people's misery (don't forget your own happiness!) There are over 7 billion people on Earth, and we, as individuals, can only do so much. But that's okay. Your mere presence in the world makes it a better place.
So I have been dating this guy for a few months. He is amazing and so sweet. He told me he is a furry when we started dating and I have really no problem with that. However, I recently I found out this included sexual role playing online with other people. I talked to him about it and he said that they are temporary "relationships" while I am the real prize. Still I just feel so jealous I guess? He won't let me go anywhere near his phone and says it is because there are people in the community who would stop talking to him if they found out he had a girlfriend. I really love him and want to work this out. Do I have even a cause for concern? What can I do to help?
Anonymous (age 19)
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Thank you for your letter. To begin, I want to express firmly that being furry does not necessarily mean one participates in sexual role playing. Plenty of people in the fandom are not interested in that at all. Being in the fandom simply means that you enjoy fiction (in literature, film, etc.) featuring anthropomorphized characters. Period.
But, yes, there is a lot of sexuality involved in the fandom, as well. There are many reasons for this that would take too long to explain here (but will be in my book), so let's not explore the reasons for the "why" here.
The problem isn't so much that your guy is into furry sex; the problem is he is being so secretive about it. To be frank, his explanation that "there are people in the community who would stop talking to him if they found out he had a girlfriend" is utter and complete bullshit. Do you think a horny furry doing roleplay online is going to give a crap if the person he is playing with has a girlfriend? No, because it's irrelevant who you are in real life when you RP. It's fantasy.
However, they WOULD care he had a girlfriend if the person on the other side thought she (he?) was developing a serious relationship with your bf. And that's why he doesn't want you looking at any text messages (or images) on his phone. (If what I'm saying here isn't true, he can disprove me by showing you.)
There's nothing wrong with some occasional fun RP online, as long as the two people in the relationship know all about it and it is out in the open. My late spouse knew I was into it, and he was fine with that because our sex life was fine and our relationship was a good one.
You should go to your boyfriend and tell him you are fine (I'm guessing) with some furry roleplay, but he needs to be honest about it and not have secrets. If you truly are the "real prize," anyone online he might lose for being open about his personal relationships should not be as important to him as you are (real friends would be happy for him that he has a nice girl). He needs to own up to that, or you need to tell him this isn't working out. You are worth more honesty than this.
Hello there, Papabear. I'm in my late 20's working to start a new relationship. And I was just wondering what your advice would be. On this the sort of relationship I'm trying to get in my life is a same-sex relationship. Any advice you have to give would be great. In closing, thank you for taking the time to read my message. Keep up the good work.
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My advice to someone in a same-sex relationship is the same as it would be for someone in a hetero relationship (I've been in both, and the same principles apply to either). I could probably write a book on this, but I will spare you that much reading. Instead, I will give you one of my famous bulleted lists (in no particular order of importance):
7 TIPS FOR A GOOD RELATIONSHIP
Hope this helps! Wishing you love and happiness!
It seems we may be on the brink of nuclear war due to North Korea. What steps can I take in the event of a probable attack?
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I really don't think we are on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea. Kim Jong-un plays these games all the time. He likes to be a big shot, but he knows if he actually launched a strike on the USA or other country (e.g. Japan) then he would be nuked out of existence. A lot of N. Korea's missile tests fail, too.
If you really feel like you might need to survive a nuclear holocaust (provided you are not incinerated or die of radiation poisoning), there are lots of books you can buy on the subject that would give you far more information than I can. Some people are building underground condos with lots of room to store supplies, but who would want to live in a hole in the ground for the rest of your life? If you lived far enough away from any radiation zones, the survival techniques would be the same as any other survivalist handbook: learn how to hunt, find water, live off the land, defend yourself against aggressive humans and wildlife. It's not a pretty picture.
Of course, civilization could end in other ways, such as chemical attacks, or attacks on the grid that would plunge America into the nineteenth century again. Or perhaps an asteroid could strike the planet--one big enough to destroy civilization but not all life. Again, in any of these cases, you want to learn about survival skills.
I personally am not going to worry about this. It is beyond my control, and so many things in the universe and the world are beyond my control that could kill us all that if I worry about them I would not be able to live my life. The Yellowstone supervolcano could blow up, we could be fried by a gamma-ray burst, the sun could explode, and on and on. Worrying about this stuff will paralyze you with fear.
The future is uncertain. If you always worry about the future, you won't be able to function in the present (likewise, if you live in the past, you won't enjoy the present--something I'm currently struggling with).
Live for now. Enjoy today. It is all you have for certain.
I live in Utah. Salt Lake City. (yeah I've been raised mormon but I'm gay, I don't believe, complicated family stuff I don't want to talk about because that's not the point)
A couple weeks ago I was able to go to comic-con FanX with a friend and they also got to hear about me and the furry fandom. They totally approved so that was like... amazing.
Anyways. So at fanX there were actually a lot of local furs. Heck there's even a video they all made advertising AWU here in October.
When we went to the City Creek mall across the street for lunch we ran into most of them going to get lunch. I was super nervous but my friend managed to urge me to get a picture with a group of them. It's actually my favorite picture from the entire convention too XD
Thing is I was like... super shy and didn't say anything. And I kinda regret it. We even had lunch nearby them and I was just like... awkward the entire time. And then we even walked back to the convention center. right in the middle of them. I still didn't say anything... I wanted to but didn't want to be cringy. Not to mention they all seemed a bit older than me.
And now I'm here writing this out for no apperent reason other than to feel sorry I didn't say anything.
I tried looking up furmeets and such but I feel like... super nervous to go to one. I've flaunted the idea of sneaking off to AWU in october but again... I'm like worried I'd be one of the youngest people there, and not in suit, and just awkward and not talking to anyone...
how do I get over this...???
Dave (age 16)
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I apologize for the slow response. Life has gotten in the way of my column lately.
First question I would ask you is whether you have Asperger's or some other form of autism, which would, of course, explain your shyness. If not, it would just then be normal shyness, which is something I certainly can relate to, having been in the same boat at your age.
Perhaps it would help to tell you how I got over being so shy: it was while volunteering as a zoo docent that I overcame this problem. Being a zoo docent is great. You learn a lot about wildlife and the science involved, and you also get to handle and work with some pretty interesting critters. I was quite passionate about animals, and once I had confidence that I knew what I was talking about (thanks to the education programs at the Detroit and Potter Park Zoos), I felt comfortable talking to people about wildlife and conservation, even large audiences.
Shyness is really born out of lack of confidence. When you were with those people at the con, you felt self-conscious because many of them were older than you and you were unsure of yourself. You probably felt they all knew more about comics and other things and that you couldn't add to the conversation--you might even set yourself up for mocking if you said something wrong.
It helps a lot, then, to know about what you speak. If you go to Comic-Con, and you know a lot about Batman, the X-Men, why Whiz Comics #2 was significant, and who people like Stan Lee, R. Crumb, and Art Spiegelman are, then you will feel comfortable talking with others about these topics. One way, then, to overcome shyness is this: become well-versed in your preferred subject matter--whether that is comic books or the furry fandom or steampunk or whatever. Know your topic, but be cautious not to be a know-it-all. People don't like you if you act like you know everything and only your opinions are valid.
There is another way to approach and talk to people, and it is kind of the polar opposite of what I just suggested. Instead of chatting merrily on a level playing field with those around you, be okay with not knowing as much and, instead, ask questions! It's a great way to start conversations if you ask people about themselves and the things they enjoy. Compliments go a long way, too (e.g., "Wow! You sure know a lot about the DC multiverse!") Play the role of the interviewer, asking questions of those who are older and more experienced. Along the way, you may find some things you have in common ("Maybe we could play League of Legends sometime?")
So there you have two approaches to overcoming shyness and striking up conversations. Give them a try!
You may know me from a previous letter (I had asked you how to prepare for MFF) and I apologize for writing again so soon. The length of this letter is also kinda insane, but it takes a bit of explaining.
Right after said convention I was diagnosed with major depression (and what we believe to be chronic depression because my grandfather also has it, but that is to be proved later if this persists for over a year). I had a therapist who I didn't like, but my mother refused to change. Because this was during the school year, I wasn't sleeping well and I missed the bus a lot of days.
My therapist told me I was just being defiant and I was just being lazy. She told me I couldn't sleep because I wasn't trying hard enough. I asked my mother to change my therapist several times, but she didn't listen. My mother thought that I was just in denial of the truth.
This persisted onto January, to the point where I was suicidal and self-harming. Around Easter, I told my mom I needed more help, and she got me evaluated at a local mental hospital. They wanted to do inpatient therapy because I did have a plan, but we decided to do a partial day program instead because I had already missed too much school.
I was probably the happiest during the period where I was in this day program. I related to other kids who were also struggling. We all kinda came together to support each other without stressing each other out. I was doing better, but I was most definitely still depressed.
It was also around then I began questioning gender identity. I don't want to draw any conclusions (I'm only 13!), but I would just prefer to be called they/them while I figure things out. I told my mom this, and she said it was a teenage phase and I was just trying to be a special snowflake. She seemed to overlook the fact that I legitimately hated my body. Not because of weight, but because I'm too curvy and too feminine looking. I don't like long hair, I've always wanted a lower voice, and she/her pronouns irk me.
I know I shouldn't have been so hurt by it, but it wasn't like I was actively binding my chest. I just wanted to be called they/them pronouns while I tried to figure out what was going on.
Four weeks of being in the day program later, and I was discharged. I kept fighting to stay in and kept telling everyone that I wasn't ready yet, I hadn't learned enough of the coping skills, but my mom said I needed to hurry up and leave because she didn't want to drive me there anymore.
So here I am, starting therapy again (with a new therapist at the least) and trying to survive. It's been three weeks since I've left the program and it only seems like I've backslid more. I've stopped self-harming as much, but I still do occasionally, and most days I sit in bed and think of how better everyone else would be without me and other self-degrading things. I usually tell my mom I'm drawing and talking to friends on my phone, and she believes it.
This is where my problem comes in: My mom makes suicide jokes, makes fun of me for wanting to be called they/them pronouns, and instead of calling me depressed, likes to call me "crazy". I'll give an example for each.
Say the car is really hot, my sister says (jokingly) she's going to jump out of the window if my mom doesn't turn the air on. My mother says "wow you must REALLY hate yourself if you're gonna do that!!"
If my mom is talking about my therapy, she'll say she's tired of driving me everywhere and something along the lines of "If you didn't start acting all crazy I wouldn't have to take you."
And finally, just general comments like "how many people are you if you're a they??" "see, if you have boobs that means you're a girl."
She ignores how much I actually hate myself and how much I'm actually struggling and it makes me really uncomfortable every time she says stuff like this. I've told her several times to just use the word depressed and not crazy, but she hasn't listened.
If you have any advice on how to tell her how uncomfortable this makes me, or how to cope with it in the meantime, it would be much appreciated.
Ioga (age 13)
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Troubled letters such as yours always go to the top of the pile, so here we are.
Sounds like you're dealing with two things: 1) Gender dysphoria (the feeling that your body doesn't match who you are inside), and 2) Lack of a support system (either professional or personal). One or the other is bad enough, but combine the two and I can see how you would be in a lot of distress and pain (hugs to you).
Let's tackle #2 first. There are good and bad therapists. Clearly, the first one you had was abysmal. Then you had a bit of a halcyon period at the hospital. That sounds like it was a good environment, but your mother wouldn't let you stay. Your mom continues to insult you and act as if you are more of a burden than someone she loves unconditionally. I would guess (correct me if I am wrong) that she gave birth to you at a young age (perhaps as a teen) and that, in addition, her own mother (your grandmother) was not a great mom. Consequently, she herself never learned to be a good mother. Another possibility is that she was not socialized well as a baby (for example, if she was neglected by your grandparents, this can be very damaging to emotional health) and she consequently lacks empathy for her own child. A third possibility is that she has a substance abuse problem that makes her unpleasant.
Therefore, when you ask me for advice on how to approach your mother and tell her she makes you uncomfortable, I have to respond that there probably is no good way because your mom lacks empathy. Whether you tell her frankly or with more subtlety, she's not going to get it. In fact, confronting her could exacerbate the problem, making her feel like you are even more crazy (e.g., "There's nothing wrong with me, it's just that my daughter is nuts.") In other words, I would say your mother needs psychological help just as much as you do, perhaps more. I would suggest you talk about all this with your new therapist and ask for their advice on what to do with your unsupportive mother. One possibility is to have both of you attend a therapy session together. This can be an awesome way of airing out any bad feelings between the two of you. In asking your mother to come with you to a session (after arranging it with the therapist), don't say, "because you need help, too." Just say that your therapist would like your mom to sit in for one or two talks.
As for #1, perhaps we should hold off on that for a while until you get through puberty. You, wisely, note this yourself. Again, your identity issues are fodder for your therapist. This can be a process that lasts for years before you figure it all out.
In the meantime, you still need to find some personal support. Do you have friends you can talk to? Perhaps in the furry community? Or, do you have other relatives who might prove to be more sympathetic and willing to lend an ear? You need to find someone besides your mom and a paid therapist that you can talk to, even get some hugs.
I hope this is helpful. If you wish to talk more about this with me, that's what I'm here for.
Why do conventions keep choosing the dame furs to be Guests of Honor just about every single weekend and/or year?
I've been in the fandom for quite some time now and love every minute of it. But there's one thing that concerns and that is the choosing of Guest of Honor.
It says on Wikifur that a special guest is someone who puts in a lot of hard work for many many years and who is very talented.
I've noticed that many cons follow or go by that rule anymore. Just look at the past Guests and you will see some really cool names. But now it seems the same names keep on popping up. Go to a convention website and you will see that they keep the same one's over and over again.
It got me thinking why do they keep doing this? How is it fair to the rest of us who have worked really hard for many years but have received no recognition, appreciation, and awards?
Some con staff has gone far as pick someone from over-seas, mostly Europe. Now that costs a lot of money. Thousands actually. So you're telling me there are people out there who are going to fund a stranger's trip to the con?
It seems like they only pick the people who are already rich and successful before they even got to the fandom. Why don't they choose people who are very talented and skilled but down on there luck?
Some people have barely been in the fandom for like a few months and already people are making them a special guest.
I know its all about the money and how much traffic they can bring to their con. It's just it would be nice to start seeing some real changes. Choosing those that have never ever picked before and starting giving them a chance. You never know 'cause they might just surprise you.
Has anyone else noticed this repeating trend? What are your thoughts?
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Furry convention organizers select special guest speakers that they think will be of interest to attendees. These tend to be people who are, for example, published authors, filmmakers, or well-known artists. They don't pick lesser-known people because they won't attract an audience.
Let's illustrate it this way: say there is a Star Trek convention coming up in Las Vegas. Who would you rather see present a talk? Patrick Stuart or Mary Smith, who has written some successful fan fiction on her blog? Even if Smith is really good at what she does, I think the answer is pretty obvious.
As to why you repeatedly see the same people, there are likely two reasons: 1) same reason you see cast members from Star Trek TNG appearing over and over at conventions, and 2) con leaders often develop relationships with certain speakers and invite them to come back.
Should furcon leaders try to mix it up a bit? Perhaps more effort could be put into that, yes. Often, it can be a struggle to find new speakers, however, who are both willing and able to attend. Also, don't forget, the furry fandom is a very specialized fandom. There are not a lot of people of any prominence who are working in this subgenre of fantasy and science fiction, so choices are limited. Even writers and such who make stuff we consider furry can refuse an invitation because they don't see themselves as furry artists.
If you really wish to influence how this works, perhaps you should get involved with a furry convention and try to get on the committee that selects guest speakers. That's one option :-3
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.