Dear Papa Bear,
First off, I just want to say that I think it's wonderful that you run this column and promote all the love and acceptance for so many people. Now, onto the question. It's more of a question of personal mental and spiritual juxtaposition. You see, since I don't talk to an awful lot of people in the fandom, I've never understood major consensus on everyone's motivations for being furries. I assumed there would be a large amount that simply do it because they find the roleplay fun, or because they are trying to escape their mundane identities.
As far as myself, my motivations run deeper than mere fandom. I remember someone else here that mentioned the same thing, but I'm a therianthrope (person with an animal soul) and my theriotype (animal species of alignment) is a Siberian Husky; the same as my fursona. This piece of my identity kind of sits on the nexus of a lot of other personality traits that mostly line up with "insanity" or other anomalies that most would think are contrary to the model of a sane, healthy person.
I wanted to know if you had a certain calling to being a furry that came out of a connection you have to your persona's animal that stemmed from just your personality, or if it came echoing from deeper into your core being. The main reason why I ask is because I wondered how many people felt the same as I do, or at least similarly or partially the same. I remember you said you dabbled a bit, or at least used to look into pagan practices, so I was curious about your take on the situation.
If it clarifies anything as far as my background goes, I'm a pagan and practitioner of magick, so I have studied a lot about all sorts of spiritual alignment, animal totems, and shamanism. I've always wondered how closely animal totems and therioshamanism line up with the furry fandom and what exactly set the "furry fandom" apart from other people.
Anything you have to say would be greatly appreciated, so please speak freely. Thanks for taking the time to read this; I really appreciate the input.
Johnny Sonshine, Husky Extraordinaire
* * *
Hi, Johnny, you extraordinary person you ;-)
Mundanes think that all furries are alike, but those within the fandom who have been here a while know that we are just as diverse as, say, Americans. Within America you have all different kinds of races, ethnicities, nations of origin, religions, and so on. What makes us all Americans is our being part of a nationality.
Same with furries. Although we all share a love of anthropomorphic animals, within our group we are quite diverse—not only races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual preferences, but also different ways of approaching furries. We have hobbyists (people who see the fandom as a hobby, akin to, say, being a Trekkie or collecting butterflies), we have lifestylers (more seriously into it, and doing things such as fursuiting and really relishing seeing themselves as part animal), therians and otherkin, Bronies (yes, I include Bronies), and those who are very spiritually connected to their animal side. We also get something of other fandoms mixing in with ours, such as anime fans and steampunk aficionados.
I adore fursuiting and just love the bear suit Beastcub made for me. I love the art of the fandom, too, and some of the comic books and such that I see out there. Spirituality is also very important to me. I have, of course, a strong connection to bear, and I have learned some things about the Medicine Wheel from my erstwhile teacher Blackbear and how my bear side is positioned in the West part of that Wheel and how it is important to seek balance with other animals, even though bear dominates in my case. Not only is that true spiritually, but it relates to my sexuality and my connection to the gay bear community.
You are not insane to believe you have this connection, too. My definition of insanity is when you have a disconnection with reality such that you cannot function in the real world. For example, say you believed you were a husky, ran around on all fours, ate dog food, barked, and refused to speak English, you would be insane. But, given your letter as evidence, you understand perfectly well who you are, who others around you are, and you can function in the daily world.
Anyway, back to your question. In my case, I discovered furry first and, later, my connection to bear and the spiritual side of it. It wasn't a spiritual calling, but a fascination with the artwork and characters that initially drew me to furries. I’m sure there are others out there who have had the reverse experience.
You are certainly not alone in your feelings. I’m sure you have found other therians such as yourself online in their own groups and also among those in the furry fandom. I’m not sure of exact numbers (although a 2013 survey found that about 11% of furries identified as therians). Probably, just guessing, there are thousands like you out there, given we are a nation of about 317 million people. Still a small minority, but definitely enough to find people online and to discuss your shared feelings and, perhaps, make some friends. Within the fandom, there are therians and there are those who are interested in shamanism and other spiritual beliefs that go back far before the days of Christianity and even Judaism. You’ll find them on Furry4Life, Facebook, SoFurry, FurAffinity, and lots of other places if you look.
This is the first time I've written a letter to a advice columnist before so I hope it comes out correctly. As of July 5th I have been engaged to be married to a Wonderful Fur. The problem is, because of the laws in the state where we live, we can't get married here. The state doesn't even recognize gay marriages done in other states; there is a lawsuit going on against the state for violating our rights and they say there won't be a decision until 2015.
What should I do?
* * *
Hello, Fellow Bear!
Well, you could wait until next year. So far, every state in the Union in which there has been a court challenge against anti-gay-marriage laws has seen those laws reversed by federal courts for being unconstitutional. There’s a good bet that this will also happen in your state.
There’s also a lot to be said for not rushing into marriage. How long have you known each other before you got engaged this month? Have you tried living together? Living together can be a BIG eye opener. The point being, it’s already 2014, and 2015 is not that far off, so why rush it?
If you really can’t stand waiting any longer, you could always travel to a state where gay marriage is legal, but then the marriage won’t be recognized in your state until that state gets its collective head out of its arse. You could also travel to a country like the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Norway, Argentina, Brazil, and many others, and get married there, but that would be a bit much.
Striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court found that it was unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Thus, it is only a matter of time and the legal process in each state to go forward before it is legal everywhere in America (Oh, the horror for conservatives everywhere! Watch out, right-wingers! We’re coming to destroy the institution of marriage! You know, like Britney Spears did).
Anyway, I’m pretty confident same-sex marriage will become legal in your state, as well, and, since it is already almost August 2014, I would say, just chill out a bit, enjoy the time you are engaged, and take this time to carefully plan out a nice wedding and honeymoon.
I am a submissive baby wolf puppy girl and love dressing in skirts and dresses, however, public outings are almost never an option as I wear diapers due to nerve damage. How can I become braver if I am so shy?
Sawina Swiftpaw (age 23)
* * *
This question is relevant to both those like you who wear diapers out of medical necessity and those who do it because they like to (ABDL or Adult Baby Diaper Lovers).
I admit I’m not an ABDL person, nor do I know anyone with incontinence problems, so I did a little Internet searching and found this article by Adrian Surley. She suggests a couple of things:
Surley is an ADBL, and she notes that people really don’t act rudely, unless you’re also someone who wears baby clothes in public. THAT does draw attention.
Read Surley’s article and see if that helps. No pun intended, but take baby steps. Start with shorter times in public places and, as you get more comfortable, increase the amount of time you spend with others.
I’m sorry about your nerve damage. Having a medical condition is nothing to be ashamed of. If, for some reason, you do get asked (most likely if a small child sees the diaper somehow; kids don’t realize the questions they ask are sometimes inappropriate; they just ask because they want to know) just explain that you have to because of the nerve damage. Be frank. It’ll be okay.
Hello Papa Bear,
I'm new to the furry community, so I haven't met any other furries yet. I would like to ask you if you got any advice for me [about] what I should do about my family.
The problem is I've told my dad that his only son is gay, so we had a short, violent discussion about it. Well, it ended with me in the hospital for a few days and he left the county (he is British so he went back a year ago). I've tried to talk to him this time. I´ve visited him in the UK just a week ago, but it ended just like the same (me a few days in the hospital again), but what hurts me the most was him saying, "You are no longer my son," so I went back to Germany.
The rest of my family doesn't even know that I'm gay, and my dad told me don’t to talk to anyone in my family about it. I am afraid of telling someone else about it because their reactions could be similar to my dad’s. I´ve lost most of my friends during my apprenticeship and so my family is the only thing I´ve got left.
So, please, would you give me advice on what I can do about it? I´ve started my technician school and after that I´ll try to emigrate to the USA to start a new life with persons who accept me as I am, but what should I do at the moment?
Sorry for bothering you with my problems.
Lucian the Wolf (age 21)
* * *
I am traveling at the moment [this was written a few days ago], but will be home soon and will respond to your letter in a day or so. And you are not bothering me with your problems. That’s what I’m here for!
Just wanted to say right away, though, that if I were you I would avoid physical contact with my father. Anyone who puts you in the hospital twice and disavows your being his son is someone to stay away from.
Secondly, don't listen to your father. If you feel that there is someone in your family that would accept the truth, then tell them. If not, then don't.
More soon. Take care of yourself.
* * *
Sorry for contacting you on this email address but I haven't told you the full story of what has happened after the first time I tried to talk to my dad (it has been my biggest secret I've kept; only 2 persons know something about it.)
And I really think I have to get rid of it (it's been the darkest chapter of my life so far) so I struggled if I should tell you or not, but now I think it could be necessary to tell you. I don't fear anymore to let anyone know it.
This is the missing part of my story I would like to tell you.
After my parents got divorced, my mom was heavily depressed, started drinking a lot, and finally they´ve sent her to the psychologist (my dad already moved into a new flat in a nearby town) and he told me he would move back to the UK.
So I decided to tell him about my secret of being gay because I thought it would be my last chance to tell him. (Well, you know how the discussion ended.) But the physical pain was nothing against what he said before I passed out (he smashed my head against the wall); he told me I have to, in his words, "keep your fu--ing mouth closed to everyone about your abnormal-against-nature behavior," and if I don’t stop my selfish behavior I would just ruin the life of my mother and the whole family. At last he told me that it would be better for me not to have feelings at all if I couldn't keep them (I just told him I've already been in love with someone from my school, but I knew he was straight, so I just tried to spend some time with him as a good friend). I can´t remember anything after this (just woke up in the central hospital).
I've been thinking a lot about what he said and my only question was, "Why did he stop if I'm the only causing problems?" So I made a decision (thought it was the only thing I could do to help myself and my family that moment because I don’t want to cause them any trouble).
I still was an apprentice in the chemistry and veterinary research agency in OWL [Pbear note: I believe OWL to be the Ostwestfallen-Lippe Hochschule, a state university in Germany], so I've gotten access to all the equipment I needed.
I thought the world would be a better place without me, so I decided to kill myself. I thought it would be easy to do so, but I didn’t want to leave a mess behind me, so I thought I'll leave the world the same way as an animal who needs to be prepared for examination.
I knew I could use any sedative, but it should work fine without.
I went to work late, so nobody would be around there and I injected myself with potassium chloride (causes cardiac arrest).
I never felt such a physical pain before; it’s like your whole body is burning (your blood felt like it's been exchanged for acid). I couldn't finish the injection, and my body dropped instantly on the ground.
However, the impact alerted another lab worker from the ground floor (I passed out at this time, but they reanimated me in the lab and two more times during the trip to the hospital.)
The person who found and saved me in the first place was a friend of mine (let’s call her Elly) who shouldn't have been working that evening at all. She visited me in the hospital (the only person who's been there at all) and asked me just the simple question "WHY?" So I told her what’s wrong with me and why I’ve done this. (At this time my mom was still with the psychiatrist to learn how to deal with her depression and my dad had left Germany).
Elly told my boss it was an accident (not a failed suicide ) so I wouldn't lose my job (I don't know if they believed her or not, but I´m still working there so it’s fine for me.) But the doctor at the hospital knows everything so he could do his job without any trouble.
Elly still keeps an eye on me to make sure I’m fine.
I still suffer from the adverse effects of this injection, but I can handle it right now.
I am sorry to let you read all this without a reason.
I just want to say thank you for being there to give some advice where it’s needed most.
And I would like to say thank you to the Radio Network Furcast; without you I would maybe never have recognized that someone like Papa Bear does exist.
If you got any advice for me about what I should do to keep on or what I should better change please let me know. And sorry for any spelling mistakes or weird sentence structure.
Thank you again,
Your Lucian the Wolf
* * *
Thank you for sharing that with me. I won't post this on my website unless you okay it. I do think that people can benefit from reading about other people's experiences, but I won't repost this if you ask me not to. [Lucian ok’d it; see below.]
I'm not sure what Radio Network Furcast is, but I guess they mentioned me, and that turned out to be a good thing.
As you might know if you've read some of my columns, I attempted suicide myself when I was about your age. I first attempted cutting my wrist, which was, in a way, kind of fascinating because when the blood pools you realize that it really IS a tissue. I maybe bled a half pint or so but didn't cut deep enough and when it stopped bleeding I couldn't continue. Later, I overdosed on sleeping pills and ended up in the hospital, out of my mind for several days. Had some psychotherapy, but it didn't help much.
My reasons for doing this were mostly fear of life and being extremely lonely. Your reasons are different: you fear the judgment of your father and family. When it comes to that, I can state what you must already realize:
When you allow other people to dictate your life, it brings misery and, often, worse. Thank God you have Elly for a friend!
You are who you are. If you are a round peg, you are not going to fit into a square hole. When society and family try to shove you into that square hole, it causes great pain.
You are not an evil or bad person because you are gay. You know who IS a bad person? The "father" who slammed your head against a wall. THAT is a bad person. But you know what? Your father is also a victim of society, a society that feels that people can only be one way and, when they do not fit a definition of the right way, it is okay to use violence against them. To me, SOCIETY is the thing that is sick and twisted and causes suffering, pain, and death to people, like you, who are actually good, caring people.
My solution has been this: I give society a big middle finger. I have no respect for the social mores of a world that advocates violence on a colossal scale. That murders people by the millions for petty things like money, territory, and the insistence on forcing religious ideas on others.
People think that they are bad because society tells them they are bad. "Acceptable" and "proper" society is made up of a majority of the people who either subscribe to the dominant philosophy of the time or are too afraid to oppose it and pretend to accept it. These are the same people who once believed the earth was flat, the sun orbited the earth, and the world was 6,000 years old. In America, they are also the people who believe this nation is a Christian nation (completely wrong, as the US was founded by free thinkers who deliberately wrote a constitution excluding religion from government while advocating religious freedom for all).
My favorite passage in American literature comes from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck was raised in a society that believed blacks were inferior and should be slaves, but he becomes a friend to the slave Jim. This causes a great moral crisis in Huck because he's supposed to turn Jim in for escaping; he even believes he will go to Hell for not doing so because he would be partner in a crime. So Huck starts writing a letter to his aunt to tell her where Jim is so he can be captured, but he can't do it. He throws out the letter, declaring, "All right! I'll go to Hell!"
Was Huck wrong? NO! He was beautifully correct because he rejected society's incorrect beliefs and rose above them to declare what he felt was right for him. (Mark Twain was a great man who was ahead of his time.)
So must you. Your father is wrong to do what he did. Society is wrong to condemn you. Religions are wrong for saying you're evil. Your family is wrong if they feel the same way.
Hatred is wrong, and it is always wrong. Hurting other people is wrong. Violence is wrong.
Rise above the hatred. Be a loving person, the person you are, and you will find peace in your heart and your soul.
I feel very close to you right now, even though I am only typing on a keyboard, so I will sign off....
* * *
Dear Papa Bear
Thank you for your fast answer you gave me a lot to think about again and I'll try to assume as many as I can.
I'm fine with sharing my experiences and it’s ok for me if you post it.
I'm still afraid of what happened between my dad and me (he wasn't a violent person and never harmed me before but all changed in such a sudden.)
I fear the day when it could happen to me (I never want to hurt anyone but everything I've done seems to lead to the opposite).
So my final question for the moment is: Should I hide my feelings for the next 4 years until I can afford to leave the country?
Thanks for everything.
Lucian the Wolf
* * *
I know how you feel. When I discovered I was gay, I was married at the time. I tried to hide it (for four years, as it turns out), but after a while I just couldn't do it anymore and confessed to my wife I was gay. It was very painful for both of us, and I still feel very guilty and also angry at myself for causing her pain that she didn't deserve. But it is important that you not live in the past....
But, again, we are who we are. Eventually, we have to be who we are. If we internalize this for too long, it eats at our souls and we die inside. Sometimes, as I've advised writers to this column occasionally in the past, it is wise not to come out right away. The best example is when you are a minor who is financially dependent on your family and that family is completely homophobic and unsupportive. Sadly, in such a case, it is best for the person to keep it a secret until they can get out and support themselves. (The streets of America are filled with young people who made the mistake of coming out to parents who were anti-gay and then finding themselves homeless).
I can't make that decision for you. Obviously, your father didn't handle it well at all; your mother, given her psychological state at this time, probably wouldn't be a good person to come out to, either. I'm not sure if there is anyone else in your family who might be supportive. It would be good for you to find someone--family or friends--whom you could lean on for support at this difficult time. Maybe, with luck and time, your father will come around and realize how wrong he is, and your mother will get better and be able to understand who you are.
If coming out is going to cause you harm (financial, physical, or otherwise) then I would advise you stay in the closet until such a time that you can be free. It is not selfish to not wish to get beaten up, yelled at, or rejected. You have to do what is right for your well-being at the time. Not the best situation, but the goal here is to be able to establish your independence, knowing that you will not remain in the closet forever.
I believe you will, one day, find someone to love who loves you back and loves you for who you are. That should be your goal. If it has to be delayed for the moment, that's okay, as long as it isn't put off forever.
* * *
Thanks again you really helped me its great to have someone to ask for advice.
I think I've taken enough of your time for now.
Keep up the great job the world need more person like you.
Lucian the Wolf
* * *
Hon, whenever you wish to talk, I am here. Please do not hesitate to write again if you wish to.
Papabear/Grubbs/Kevin (goodness, I have multiple personalities!)
Oh, I forgot to ask: did it occur to you to press charges of assault against your father? He committed a crime, after all.
* * *
I didn't do anything about it. I know I should but he is still a part of my family (if he wishes or not) and I've been afraid what kind of effect it will have to the rest of my family, questions could be asked I'm not willing to answer.
And I think after all I still would feel guilty to be a son who sent his own dad to prison.
But honestly I don't really know what I’m feeling about it; it is just such a mess I feel ... I really don’t know how can I explain my feelings.
I’m just sorry it’s difficult at last?
Sorry but I’m not sure if this part is off topic or something.
Besides leaving my mom on her own with such a problem like me He also left the country without any information where he went to.
So my mom has to pay for the credit they've had from the bank on her own (they've had a joint back account.)
So he took the car (not paid yet 23.000€) and, of course, my mom (lost her job because of the psychological problems) couldn’t afford the monthly payment. So they've put me in charge because the laws says I'm living in a common household with my mother (the reason why I couldn't study (chemical engineering fee 18.000€). So I have to do my technician (no fee) first, which is another 4 years of study, but all the money I've saved was gone. I've paid the credit off last month so it'll be fine from now on.
I've found out where he lived just a few months ago. The bill was nearly paid, so I didn't mention it at all (didn't want another reason to argue with him). I lied to mum and told her he paid me half of the money back, and I feel guilty because I lied again to her, but I didn't want her to worry about me at all.
Sorry I'm still adding things I shouldn't.
Lucian the Wolf
* * *
Please don't apologize, you poor man. You are a good son to your mother. You are a good man, a much more decent man than your father. Yes, you lied, but I’ve never been one of those people who believe there are no exceptions to always telling the truth. Sometimes, in fact, there are times when you should lie. The general rule for when to go ahead and lie is when telling the truth will cause more pain and suffering than good. You chose wisely.
Try not to feel guilty. Stop apologizing for being a good person.
Write me again whenever you feel the need.
* * *
Dear Papa Bear,
I'm sorry for contacting you again but I've been thinking a lot about the conflict I had with my dad. There is one thing I still struggle with to understand. I'm not a physically weak person; I'm taller than him and heavier. I know at least something about self-defense.
I know I still haven't got any chance to win against him (he's an ex SAS soldier).
But I didn't even try to defend myself. It's been obvious after he pulled his arm back that he's going to hit me, but I didn't even raise my arms to defend myself and I don't know why. Every normal person would have done at least something (I only closed my eyes).
And the second conflict was just the same, and on this time I really knew what he was going to do with me, and I just can't understand what's wrong with me. We've had self-defense in school and I was really good at it (OK, it was a bit uncomfortable for me to hurt someone on purpose but I could do it.)
I just don't know what's wrong with me (it should be the normal thing to at least avoid getting beaten or defending yourself.)
Hope you can help me another time to understand what's wrong with me and what I can do about it. And sorry again; you must be tired to answer all my silly questions.
Your Lucian the Wolf
* * *
1. Please stop saying "sorry." You don't need to apologize.
2. Your questions are anything but silly. They are quite serious.
Based on what you've told me, I would surmise the following. The first time you had the confrontation with your father, you were completely surprised by his physical violence because, as you stated earlier, he had never hit you before. So, you didn't fight back because you were shocked. The second time, though, I believe you didn't fight back because you considered yourself a bad person by that point because of what your father had said. You deliberately went to your father knowing he would hit you because, subconsciously, you wished to be punished for being, you believed, a bad person because you're gay.
What's wrong with you is that you keep defining yourself by the standards of a twisted society that believes in violence instead of love and kindness. What's deviant about you is that you are a good person who doesn't wish to hurt people in a society that thrives on backstabbing and killing and profiteering.
I celebrate your deviance. You, sir, are an evolved person, an enlightened spirit. You are better, much much better, than your father. The world needs people like you. You are a rarity. I wish I could clone you.
Be of good cheer. You are a saint among sinners.
Hey, Papa Bear,
So there's this friend of a friend (let's say his name is K, and we're both mutual friends of H) I've been in touch with more than usual. K is at every gathering or party that H invites me to. K has built a reputation for himself as an asshole, and he is always dealing out hurtful comments with a smile on his face. I'm not quite sure why H, who is a nice person, chooses to invite this guy over to her place when we hang out, but that's her decision. I get the feeling that K has low self esteem and is trying to hold people at arm's length with this asshole act he puts on. Once I choose to look past that exterior, he isn't that bad of a person.
However, the other night he tried calling me to ask if I wanted to go for a walk with our dogs. It was 10:44 PM and I'm always asleep by 10 during the week for a variety of health reasons. When I told him "Oh, sorry. I was asleep when you called." He responded by calling me a grandma and proceeded to say hurtful things. I ignored this. The following day when we DID go walking, we started talking about art. I told him I was practicing drawing birds lately, to which he interrupted to tell me how boring that was. When I got home, I texted to say, "Thank you for last night, I had fun.” To which he replied, “I thought you'd be asleep by now, seeing how EARLY you go to bed.”
So, the next morning, I texted back to say "Well, at least I'm not asleep during the day like YOU. YOU'RE more like a grandma, sleeping all day." He responded by telling me he was going to university right then, called me a third grader, and then asked me what I was doing with my life (which I find hilarious considering this guy is a complete sleaze who just mopes around home all day when he's not at uni or H's house).
So my question is this: What do I do about K? His comments hurt me, even though I KNOW they're baseless and untrue. He's flat-out rude, but isn't bad when he shuts up. He’s always gonna be there whenever H invites me over to her house. I don’t think he'd appreciate me acting the righteous therapist and trying to talk to him about why he acts like that, to which he'd probably respond, “Because it’s funny.” What can I do?
The Gryphon (age 18)
* * *
As implied by your comment about possibly acting like a therapist for K, you recognize that you are dealing with damaged goods. There’s something up with K that causes him to be mean to other people. Typically, such people have low self-esteem. They lash out at others like you in mean ways because it makes them feel superior, thus easing their inner turmoil, though never permanently. Calling you a “grandma” is one way to slam you. Bullies feed off of the reactions of their victims. When they see you are hurt—and even when you lash back with anger—they know they have done the job right and that encourages them to do it again and again.
There are several options that might work in this situation:
And, while I don’t believe K poses a physical threat, if for some reason things escalate to that sorry state of affairs, do not be shy about going to the police. I just add that as a precaution; I don’t think it will happen here, but I don’t know K. Once, several years ago, I was threatened by a drunk biker. He cocked back his fist, getting ready to punch me; I didn’t flinch. I stared right at him and he backed down. That’s the nature of bullies and mean people. They want you to cower. Never cower.
I offer you several options here because no two situations are exactly alike. Consider the above and decide what might work best for you. Always remember that K’s behavior is not a reflection of who you are but, rather, who he is. Don’t let the hurtful remarks get to you.
First off I want to thank you so much for reading this, and so many others letters and helping them, serious or not.
I have always been fascinated by Anthros, but before, during my Spring Break of this year, I'd had the same misinformation about Furries as many did. The reason this died was because we went to MegaCon in Orlando as a small thing on an FBLA [Future Business Leaders of America] competition trip, and I met a couple of furries, and soon I learned that not all of them were into pornographic material and many just like anthropomorphic creatures, just like me.
But fast forward to now, and I've learned so much about the fandom and I'm saving up to make a Partial suit of my Kangaroo fursona, and I realize I have to tell my parents about this or else how can I explain why I suddenly need upholstery foam and faux fur? I told a few of my more con-going friends, but they seen very misinformed about furries, which sucks as I want to try and go to MegaPlex next year when I’ll be 13, meaning I don't have to have one of my parents with me.
My question is: how do I go about this? My family is very island-based, so stuff like this doesn't happen often. Plus, my dad has seen thatTosh.0 episode with Furries (and the Brony episode too, but as a still young-ish girl I don't have to worry to much). Thank you for reading this novel. I tend to go on a lot.
Avian Zoroark (age 12)
* * *
Welcome to the fandom and I do hope you enjoy your furriness with the community. Yes, it is most definitely possible to have a wonderful time in the fandom that is family-friendly. And, as you’ve discovered, the furry fandom is unique from other con-type groups, such as those who go to Comic-con or Star Trek conventions, so it isn’t surprising that your friends who go to cons, but not furcons, are confused about what it’s really like.
Before I continue, I want to be sure you understand something (and that I do, too!) because it sounds like you wish to go to Megaplex by yourself at the age of 13. If that’s what you believe, then you’re mistaken. As the Megaplex site clearly states:
Anyone between 13 and 17 years of age, excluding anyone between 16 and 17 with ID, will require a parent or legal guardian (“parent”) present at registration on site. Parents must have a valid ID, and will be responsible for anyone in their care. (You must have your own parent or legal guardian with you to receive your badge.)
So, you will need one or more parents to go with you. But that is actually okay! This is your chance to show them what furry is about—and that you want them to know you like it and that it is great fun—by asking them to take you to Megaplex. Most mundanes who actually attend a furcon realize it is totally harmless. I don’t know how much you know about furcons, but, in a number of ways, they are like other cons. There is a dealer’s den, and guest speakers, and there is usually a fursuit parade. Now, at the dealer’s den and artists’ alley, furcons will always clearly indicate adult material and will not allow minors to look at that stuff. To quote from the Megaplex site again:
In accordance with state law, we must require that no adult material be displayed openly; for example, for art/print artists we request, where applicable, that two separate binders ("general", "mature") be kept. Additionally, any "naughty" parts of must be covered in some fashion (Post-It notes work well for this). This satisfies State and Local requirements about underage viewing and is discreet for purchasers.
Just as your parents wouldn’t allow you to see an X-rated film, so you can show them that they have the same control here. Parents feel more comfortable if they feel they can supervise their children and have some say over the situation. Once you have taken care of that, then go to the next level and get that partial suit (by the way, good idea on your part to get a partial, since you are still growing!)
Remember, just because they are a bit isolated from the world (I assume that is your meaning when you say they are “very island-based”) doesn’t mean they will be fearful of furries. They should understand there is a big BIG difference between television and the real world. Show them the real world of the fandom and you should be okay.
I want to start off by saying thank you for all the work you do answering people's letters, and giving support to those in need of a warm bear hug. :) Your column has really helped me and many others through rough times. Thank you for taking time to read our letters, and I apologize in advance for the rambling page below...
I have been struggling to come to terms with my last relationship. I dated my EX, let's call him River to make this simpler, for about 6 months. It probably will be my last attempt at a long distance relationship. You think I would have learned something from being on deployment in the military while being in a relationship in the past.
Anyway, after a couple months of dating, spending pretty much every waking moment not at work or school together online, I visited River in his home town for a weekend, around Christmas time. The trip was fantastic, even if it was only a few days. We didn't do anything too fancy, but we spent our every moment together for those few days. I was worried that we wouldn't get along in person as well as we did online, and all that sort of stuff. But it was perfect. I never felt as comfortable and happy spending time with someone before in my life.
Anyway, after the trip, we both began to get very busy with school. work, etc. On top of that, River began expressing something he hadn't ever told me before: that he was unsure of his gender. I don't mean any disrespect to anyone coming to terms with their gender identity, but this situation really made me question myself and who I am. I ultimately decided that it didn't matter to me either way—that I was in love with the person, and that I would be supportive however I could.
After a week or two, River stopped talking to me. Our usual daily conversations turned into me messaging or texting River, and not getting a reply back for a day or two. I was absolutely gutted. All sorts of wild thoughts raced through my mind about what could be wrong. River acted like everything was fine, but it obviously wasn't. A couple weeks of that, and I had to press the issue for sanity's sake, because it was starting to have a very bad effect on my life. We decided to break up and River thought it was best to take time to figure out the whole identity bit.
Things were never really resolved, and a couple weeks ago River started taking part in our online friend group again, and playing games with me online like we used to do like nothing happened. I realized I still have the same feelings that I did before, but River does not. We talked about it last night, and he told me that he decided he is happy being a guy, but that he is dating a girl now, and isn't really into guys anymore. He said he thinks of my as his closest and best friend, and that he still wants me to be part of his life.
I really care about him, I would do anything in my power to help him, and I do not want to lose him as a friend (one of the few close friends I have). And despite everything, I still love him, in multiple senses. But I can't come to terms with these romantic feelings. Even though I can rationalize it all, and come to terms with it logically, I still have strong romantic feelings towards him that are just torturing me, knowing it can never be like it was before. For pretty much the first time, looking back on all my relationships (most of which have been cohabitating ones), I am really fluffing jealous.
How can I come to terms with the romantic love I feel for River, while still keeping that "agape" love that I feel so strongly for him? I just wonder if it is selfish of me to want such a thing...
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Thanks for your letter. Could you fill in some blanks here so that I can give you a more thoughtful and informed reply about your situation?
First of all, when you were visiting River, did the two of you have sex? Or was it just a platonic spending of time together?
Secondly, could you tell me more about River's family? Does he have a family that is supportive or one that is, shall we say, homophobic? What is his background?
River’s behavior is very confusing (to you and me, both), and I feel like I'm not getting the whole picture. I mean, first he appears gay, then transsexual, and now he’s straight? Somehow, I don’t feel he’s being honest with who he is, or maybe he just flat can’t come to terms with it.
Thanks for your patience and help.
P.S. Kudos to you for your military service!
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Thank you for your reply. :) Honestly, I don't remember the exact contents of my letter, so I apologize for that in advance. I was a bit emotional at the time. I kind of have a vague idea of what I said, but that is about it. Anyway, I have been debating what to do about replying to your questions. I have too many feelings, questions of my own, and struggles about this small issue. And I have millions of things about this problem that I feel like I need to tell someone. It just kind of seems pointless to share them, because I feel like no one can give me the answers I seek. Anyway, I am sorry for writing so much, and placing this burden on you.
River lives in a somewhat stereotypical small southern town with one Walmart, no sidewalks, and a lot of backwards people. While most of the younger people are moderately accepting there, he is pressured to conform to that "traditional" straight male role. His siblings and a few other family in his generation are accepting, but his parents and the older generations are not. Supposedly his dad said something along the lines of "I don't have any problem with gays as long as they aren't my own kids", so I don't think he has a lot of support there. He still lives with his parents, so yeah... it is definitely a relevant question.
When I visited, I got a hotel room in town for the weekend, but we spent the day with his sister at her apartment to give us a safe environment and such. You know, meeting someone in person you only have known online could be kind of weird or even scary, so he was going to stay with his sister for the weekend if we didn't feel comfortable together. But we got along well, and by the end of the night when it came time for me to go back to my hotel, he wanted to come with me. So he stayed with me that weekend. We did end up having sex during the visit, and cuddled and slept together. I am particularly choosy about who I choose to share myself with in that way, and I felt comfortable with him. We took things light and slow, and made sure we were both comfortable with things. I don't regret it, and he didn't seem to. He definitely didn't seem to have any reservations about that fact that I am a *guy*, and I wasn't the first one he had been intimate with, so it just really makes me wonder.
As you said, he, for whatever reason, doesn't know or hasn't come to terms with what he wants or who he is yet. If he doesn't know yet, then who can? What I do know is that I can't hold it against him if he is unsure of his identity...we all need to find our place in life. But I just am hurt by his lack of communication about the whole ordeal. Sometimes relationships don't work out for whatever reason, but because he did not communicate the problem to me even when I specifically asked, it made me feel like I was crazy or imagining things. After the truth came out, that most important thing—respect and trust—was destroyed. I don't know if there is a word for it, but I want to ask him many questions that are pointless, because without trust, the answer doesn't matter. The communication would be meaningless (since it requires an assumption of honesty). Just to add an example for clarity's sake, it is like asking someone if they are lying. ~.~ Either way, I realized that he is figuring out what he wants and who he is, and I am ready to find someone to share my life with. Obviously things weren't going to work, and there isn't any hope of pursuing it further with him.
I decided to tell River that I can't be around him anymore, at least for the time being. It has just been too painful and I have a lot of important practical things I need to focus on right now, like school starting again and looking for a new apartment soon. I don't know if this choice will help me at all, because I still feel like things are terribly unresolved, but like I said earlier, I don't think I can get the answers to my questions. So I guess the original question isn't quite as relevant anymore. I am not talking to him anymore, but I still care and want River to be happy. I find myself wishing for a moment every now and then that I was not sensitive, naive, hopelessly romantic, and needy (among many other things) and could just move on like he seems to have, but I guess then I wouldn't be "me". And I don't know if I would be a better person for it.
I just have to stop writing for now because I would go on for pages more if I let myself. But thank you for taking some of your personal time to read my ramblings and respond to them. It means a lot to me. :)
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Thanks for replying to my queries. Your response does, indeed, clarify things.
Understanding that I am going purely by what you have written me, adding a dash of my experience and intuition, here is what Papabear thinks about you and River.
River most definitely is either gay or bi because, seriously, you cannot be comfortable with making love to a man if you are not a man who is at least bisexual. As I suspected, the problem is that he grew up in a conservative family living in a conservative area. This reminds me, if I may digress a little, about my own experience with my extremely conservative mother. Just as I was about to tell her I was gay, she told me, “I can tolerate your sister being gay, although it makes me uncomfortable, but it is far worse for a man to be gay.” She knew what I was about to say, and so she put up a blockade. After hearing that, and not wishing to end my relationship with my mother, I said nothing to her. She’s a smart woman, however; she knows I live with a man and have not seen a single woman since my divorce. So, she’s figured it out by now, but she’s of a generation where you don’t talk about such things and gay men were known simply as “confirmed bachelors.”
Back to you and River. After the two of you had a lovely time together, suddenly, I suspect, it sank in for him just what he had done and he freaked out about it. He might have told you he was unsure of his gender to put you off, but then getting a girlfriend was a definite tool to hide from himself and to put a wall between the two of you, at least sexually.
You deserve the conversation you asked for with him, but I don’t think you’ll get it any time soon because any time he sees you, especially in person, it will be a reminder to him of what the two of you did and he will have a lot of guilt about that.
So, what to do? You’ve already backed off, for the sake of your own sanity, which is not a bad response. As a kindness, you might put out there that if he ever does change his mind and wants to talk, you’re willing to listen, but until then you need to give him the time to figure himself out. What you’re going through is a big reason why I broke it off with my first boyfriend—he couldn’t deal with the fact that his father didn’t approve of gay people, so he was ashamed to be with me and I knew I couldn’t have a relationship with him until his father was dead, which made me then feel awful for wishing the man was dead. Not a good thing. Let’s hope that River doesn’t need his disapproving father to die before he can be himself.
Although attitudes toward the LGBT community have been improving in this country, it won’t be quick enough to resolve your situation, BB. What happened to you was hurtful, but certainly not your fault, and you are handling it the way you should.
Good luck! Hugs!
Hey Papa Bear,
I am a freelance cartoon artist looking to get my name out there so I can start getting professional jobs. I have been a commissioned artist for many years and have recently Been submitting art pieces to various Furry convention books. I have also decided to start attending various conventions.
Do you know any magazines or something looking for character designers or contributors?
Maw or DM
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You’re going about it the wrong way. If one is serious about becoming an illustrator, one doesn’t concern himself with getting his name “out there.” That does you no good. Go straight for the jugular, my friend, and start making professional contacts as soon as possible.
My suggestion would be for your to go to the Wikifur website and search for furry publishers. There are a few out there, such as Radio Comix and Mu Press that might be worth contacting. Next, write a query letter to their editors stating your experience and ambitions, and include samples of your work. Ask if they have any authors who might need illustrators to partner with.
Publishers usually are not looking for character designers so much as they are seeking reliable (i.e., business-like and professional) illustrators for books and comics.
If you are open to other opportunities outside the fandom, you might consider giving a look at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Illustrating children’s books can be a very rewarding profession. A professional organization such as the SCBWI can be a great boon to any budding illustrator. As an alternative, you might also try http://www.childrensillustrators.com/.
I’ve seen too many talented artists go nowhere because they feel the only game in town for them, because they are furry, is the fandom. A good illustrator is a good illustrator. If you wish to make a living doing what you love, do not limit yourself. And get your mind out of the idealistic world of “I am an artiste!” and treat this as a business because that’s what being a professional means.
Hello Papa Bear,
I have a question. When I chatted with a fur he told me I’m a popufur. How is that? I don’t own a genuine fursuit. I’m not like the other popufurs. But I do lots of chats. He told me I helped him. Then he tells me I’m a popufur; I’m a popufur if I do this:
1. Chat with other furs and makes him or her feel good.
2. Work as a fur.
3. Own suits that are mass made.
4. Help others.
5. Not being stuck up.
Please help me on this answer. What’s the true meaning of “popufur”? Am I one of them? Please answer.
Brownee Bear (The Friendly, Caring Bear)
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Hmm, I’m not sure if this furry meant it as an insult of some kinds (which is how it is usually meant) or if perhaps he or she was just saying that you are popular?
“Popufur,” as mentioned, is usually a derogatory term. I have been accused of being a popufur, or of trying to be one. Popufurs are people who deliberately do things to try to get attention and gain a following because it satisfies their egos. They wish to be noticed. They are attention hounds. The reason this is bad is because they are doing things (fursuiting, for instance, and spending a lot of money on cool furry stuff) not because they care about being furry so much as because they want to be admired, which indicates someone with a real self-esteem problem.
Popufurs also like to be bossy; they like to define the fandom and what it means to be furry; a classic popufur statement would be something like, “You’re not a real furry because fill in the blank,” and, of course, they meet the artificial guidelines they have set up so they can declare that they are the real furries. It's a way to put down people—often because those people don't have as much money so they can't get expensive fursuits or whatnot.
Another way to put it is that popufurs are elitists.
I was accused of being a popufur because a small number of furries think I write this column solely to get attention and because I have a pathetic need to be admired by the community. Not true, of course, but hard to disprove. What are you gonna do?
Some furries accuse other furries of being popufurs—even though they are not—out of jealousy. They actually may admire you for being paid to be a mascot, for instance, and that makes them jealous because they feel they can’t do that themselves. So, in order to alleviate their jealousy, they try to make you feel bad, hoping that they will discourage you enough so that you will stop doing what you’re doing, bringing you down to their level. It is a sick and twisted mindset.
I have a general rule about this: if you’re obviously just trying to hurt me to get some sort of cheap thrill, I have no respect for your opinion and will ignore it. For example, the person who declared I was a popufur by submitting a form online on my site did not leave any contact information and did not leave his or her real name. Therefore, that furry is a coward, and I don’t respect cowards.
What’s really annoying about your situation is that this guy was supposedly a friend and, on top of that, someone you were trying to help with friendly advice. They even admitted you helped them and then they accuse you of being something bad? So, I am hoping they didn’t mean it in a malicious way, especially since they say you are not stuck up.
I've recently been suffering several deep bouts with depression, and I've taken to confiding in an older, long-distance friend who's given sagacious advice with my situation, but it's only been of limited help.
I'm a young adult, and I'm still plagued with mood swings and all the troubles that brings, but the main source of my sadness is my family: specifically, my mother. She's a terrible alcoholic, and we've reached a point in our relationship where she only speaks to me to obtain money/transportation so she can purchase alcohol. When her ploys and manipulations don't work, she gets extremely upset and pesters me until her harassment wears me down enough for me to provide money or a ride. My toxic relationship with her doesn't bother me, but what does is the incredible guilt that I feel when she flees from my room in tears like a sobbing mess. She's had a terrible life, so I can justify her constant need for being in a drunken stupor so she can escape her problems, which makes it difficult to simply say "That's tough," and shrug my shoulders when she says it's not fair. Logically, I understand it's a simple guilt trap, but I just can't do anything while thinking that I'm being a bad son to my mother.
So, in this constant war, I believe she's generally the winner, seeing as in 95% of our skirmishes, her fits end up getting her a trip to the liquor store and money for alcohol. A lovely cherry on the cake of our relationship is her being a horribly loud, offensive drunk who delights in insulting me.
I've made plans to enter the military when I leave home so I can make a new start for myself, but that's a year from now, and I'd prefer to not wallow in despair until then.
I've never been talented with compressing my troubles into small questions, so I apologize for that. I hope my letter isn't too difficult to wrench a question from, and if it is, I'd like to apologize once more.
Jack (age 17)
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You don’t mention whether or not she has sought out help from a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. If not, I strongly recommend it. It doesn’t have to be AA—there are other groups out there (see below)—but she needs more help than you can provide.
Not buying her booze is not being a bad son. You shouldn’t feel guilty about not supplying her with alcohol. It’s sad that she has had a rough life, but turning to addiction is not a solution. As you have seen, it only makes the problem worse. For one thing, it is adding to (if not the cause of) your depression. So, she is not only making her life worse, but yours as well.
It’s important to recognize that you are in no way to blame for your mother’s alcoholism. Do not feel guilty!!! Also, if she doesn’t get better, it is not your fault. She has to want to help herself because nobody else can make her recover but her. Stop helping her get booze and stop feeling bad when she cries because you didn’t buy her a fifth of scotch (a key is to always be consistent here; don’t buy her booze sometimes and not other times--never buy her booze because when you do you are just being an enabler). By giving into her bad behavior, you reinforce it. She knows it works 95% of the time, so she keeps doing it. I know it's hard, but do not give into her fits. If she gets violent, do not be afraid to call the police. In fact, tell her you will call the police if she becomes abusive in any way.
You do have to go out and make your own way in life, and joining the military might be one way to do it. I applaud you for taking some initiative to try to make your life better. In the meantime, however, please do try and get your mother some help if you can.
Some places you can call:
I wish you and your mother the best.
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.