I feel unwelcome in the furry fandom. How can I find others who respect me? I’ve been into the community for years now, and I came out recently in order to find others of similar interest. That being said, however, I feel like I will never belong there because of my beliefs. Furries are mostly either apolitical or left in beliefs, both of which I am not (Libertarian). As such, I feel such anxiety when it comes to this fandom that it’s genuinely making me have symptoms of depression and other such things, things I’ve tried to go back on. Whenever I see people like S******x or others who are so brazen about their beliefs to the point of annoyance, I just feel lost.
I don’t want to have to agree to vaccine mandates (due to my heart problems with anxiety), support Black Lives Matter (socialist belief organization which I disagree with and movement helps that out), or have to scrub away my sense of edgy humor just so I can feel welcomed. This fandom was supposed to be my escape and exploration into the good of humanity, not one so drowned in drama and bullshit. I constantly think I have to change myself in order to be that way cause my beliefs have changed over the years from Republican to independent, but whenever I see other furries support the stuff that I can’t--and I have researched in order to make sure that I didn’t--it makes me feel even more depressed before I came out. And these people excuse it with weeding out bad people and it’s like, maybe people like T**********n wouldn’t have to do this reactionary shit if they didn’t harass him for liking Trump; maybe you should stick to your f**king motto of being accepting to those who need it. Unless they are a Nazi or an active dickhead to other people, they deserve to feel love and accepted.
It’s so hard to feel genuinely happy and loved when it feels like everybody hates me or will hate me for being different. I don’t hate anybody else for their beliefs and choices, but I feel as if I’m the outcast for not “fitting in” with the main consensus of popular furries and ones that are political. Are there any communities that accept people like me who aren’t also political? How can I find the inner strength to keep going on without crumbling just to appease others?
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Thank you so much for your important letter. Don't give up hope! There is a place for you in the fandom. Let me begin by saying I am very progressive in my social and political beliefs, but in democratic countries like America and others, you are supposed to be able to hold your own personal beliefs without being persecuted for it.
You are correct that the fandom, in general, leans heavily left. Check out this FurScience page https://furscience.com/research-findings/demographics/1-9-politics/ to see how political beliefs and other liberal v. conservative ideals are weighed in the fandom. It is interesting to see how social concerns (e.g., LGBTQI, women's, and minority rights, and issues like abortion) lean very hard to the left, but note that political beliefs are a bit more evenly distributed toward the middle ground and economic views (e.g., taxation) are even more moderate. A big reason for this is how many in the fandom feel themselves to be social — not political or economic — outcasts in our society. So, you will see a lot of LGBTQI people as well as a lot of furries dealing with various forms of social anxiety, body shaming, and so on. You also see far fewer conservative Christians in the fandom versus in America (only about 25% of furries consider themselves Christians vs. about 60% of Americans). Many in the fandom have therefore come to be furry because they were searching for a community that would accept them for themselves.
But this is not why the fandom began. The furry fandom started because a bunch of sci-fi geeks who enjoyed anthropomorphic movies, TV shows, and books and comics got together to share their interests, publish their own journals, and talk about creating stories and art for adults featuring characters that were once considered only appropriate for kids or funny animal comic strips.
It had nothing to do with your politics, social beliefs, or sexual orientation.
Like everything else, politics has been invading every aspect of our society from business to family to entertainment. And it is ruining not only our ability to have fun but also our ability to maintain interpersonal relationships. To go into exactly why this is happening would take many books to explain. Let's just note here that it is happening everywhere, including in the furry fandom, a place that is supposed to be an oasis for escapism and imaginative arts.
It is my personal belief that politics should be kept out of the fandom. When I attend a furcon, I don't want to see Antifa demonstrations or fursuiters wearing swastika-reminiscent armbands. I want to fursuit as Grubbs and attend some panels and forums and go buy stuff at the dealers' den and hang out with friends. This is something we all should have in common, including you and me.
So, one strategy I would suggest to you in order to have a better time is imagine you are in a bar (gay or cowboy, you pick) and you DON'T want to get into a fist fight. What do you do? Don't bring up politics. The worst fight you should get into is whether you're a Cowboys or Patriots fan.
When you're hanging with furries, talk about furry stuff. Talk about movies, art, comic books, video games, fursuits, and those sorts of things. Avoid furries who insist on shoving their politics in your muzzle. There is no reason to talk about Black Lives Matter or the state of abortion laws in Texas when you are at a furcon. Enjoy that part of yourself that is furry, and be yourself when it comes to your furriness.
If you simply HAVE to talk politics and share your conservative ideals with furries or else you will feel deprived of your individuality, then I have news for you. There ARE other furries you can hang with who are conservatives, Republicans or Libertarian or Independent-Leaning-Right, and/or Christians/Muslims/Other conservative religious beliefs. Here are a few groups you might check out:
I'm sure with a bit of research you might find more. Obviously, stay away from Nazi Furs.
My personal preference is to keep politics out of my furry life. This is why, as admin of the Greymuzzle group on Facebook, I prohibit such posts. I also run a group called Outcast Furries https://www.facebook.com/groups/1300922643291266, which is for furries like yourself who don't feel too accepted in the fandom. Feel free to join if you like.
In conclusion, don't change yourself or pretend to be someone you're not just to gain acceptance in the fandom. Furry is not a political party or belief. It's a freakin' fandom and that's all. I truly wish people would keep their politics in their pants and not wave it around like a banner. It gets tiresome.
Stay furry because you like furry entertainment. Don't let others chase you out because of who you are. As long as you aren't hurting anyone, you should do what you like.
Okay I would like to ask you if I ever want to start a furcon at other countries. I am seeking profits and the furcon is a non-profitable furcon. What are your best advices? I found you through a YouTube video by "Scar The Furry."
Vinny (age 19, Malaysia)
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Founding and running a furry convention is a highly complex and work-intensive endeavor. (And THAT is likely the understatement of the decade for this column). I don't recommend you pursue it unless you have a LOT of help from people, especially people who have helped to run a convention in the past. Also, don't expect to make money running a furcon. You will be lucky if you break even. Establishing and running a furcon is a labor of love, not a way to make a living (although some companies like Corgi Events LLC are trying to do that). Many furcons declare themselves nonprofit organizations by contributing some or all of their profits to a charity. This has the advantage of making the furcon tax-free (at least, in the U.S.A. it does; I have no clue how this works in other countries).
I've attended cons and volunteered at them, but I have never tackled the administrative side of a con. Here is a link with some advice from someone who knows more about such things. There are a lot of good insights on that web page to give you a pretty well-rounded idea of all the work that is involved. This is from an American perspective, though, and you will need to check laws and regulations in (in your case) Malaysia.
I was barked at on my way home from school, and was handed a homophobic note in my locker. I don't know how to handle this. I know I'm not supposed to come to you about this. I just need some advice. I'm sorry.
Alice (age 13)
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There is no reason why you can't come to Papabear for this question. I'm happy to help.
I'm assuming "barked at" means that your fellow students know you are a furry, as well as gay. I'm sorry you're having to go through this, but it is quite common when one is at school. I, too, was often mocked and even beaten up at school for being different. Here is my advice to you:
First of all, make sure adults know what is happening. Show the note to your parents and also to the school administration. You might not know who put the note there (bullies are notorious cowards), but just making adults aware of what is going on will help to put them on the lookout for future incidents. This is not being a tattle tale. It's being smart.
Second, keep records of EVERY case of bullying, taunting, and any other abuse. That means, keep copies of anything written (on paper, in text, etc.). You can also record video chats, although it's a little more complicated. Here is a video on how to record vidchats on your Android, and if you have an iPhone, it's a bit easier to do this. If you are being bullied face to face, you can simply use video record on your mobile device. Keep a journal about any incidents, too, and record times and dates and describe the people involved if you don't know their names.
If you feel in any way physically threatened at school, again, tell the school administrators. When you are not on school grounds, it might be a good idea to carry pepper spray with you. Do you walk in a safe area? Make sure you don't walk alone in dark or remote areas. You might also consider taking self-defense classes.
[Note: I've gotten some feedback on Facebook about my advice on telling school admins about the bullying. While I say you should still do this, it is true that some schools are not responsive to bullying claims. In such cases, that is when you need parents as allies. One psychologist, Dorothy Espelage, a Ph.D. Professor of Childhood Development, said this: "If a parent has repeatedly gone to the school about their child, his or her child being bullied and they feel that the school is not being responsive, I often say these are your choices. When I talk to parents, I say, "Can you get your child out of the school?" If you can get your child out of the school, do that because we know that in some cases just moving the child away from a non-responsive, unsupportive administration may actually reduce the bullying. In many cases that's not an option, right. It just would be too much disruption for a family to move so I then say, "You know, have you thought about seeking legal counsel because increasingly schools will respond to a lawyer calling versus a parent that has repeatedly called. If they don't want to go that route, then reach out to some professionals in your area and try to put pressure on the school administrators and go to the school board and have a conversation about how it is that the administration has been non-responsive. What we don't want to do is the parents sit back and wait for the school to respond because they will not. The schools are failing miserably in responding to bullying incidents in our schools, and parents have to be proactive, and so please think about removing your child, seeking legal counsel, or going to the school board to hold that administrator accountable."]
I don't mean to scare you by the above; I'm just covering all the bases. Judging by your email, it hasn't gotten dangerous yet. You are just facing some moron cowards who are making fun of you to feel better about themselves, which is, of course, pathetic. You should keep that in mind: What they are doing is juvenile, cowardly, and a poor reflection on their character. It is NOT evidence that YOU are in any way a bad person. You are growing up in a world that hates people who are different, whether that is because of race, income, sexual orientation, or being a furry.
Alice, I know you feel bad and maybe embarrassed by what happened, but it should actually make you feel special. It is not the ordinary and accepted people on this planet who are special, it is the weird people who challenge social conventions that make the world wonderful. People like you.
Do not feel alone. You are not alone because you have an entire furry community who is like you and who are there to be your friends. You also have a huge LGBTQI community. Don't worry about getting approval from derps and twits like the ones who left you that note or barked at you. They're losers. They are the sort of people who make this world a crappy place. Why would you want their approval? You shouldn't.
You're a special person because you are unique and willing to find out who you really are as a person rather than trying to be like everyone else. The fact that you are an individual and not a conformist is what irritates boring people like those who have mocked you.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Do you think it makes a person happier if they just accept something they don't want to accept? Like, a group having a huge flaw such as bias, but the person doesn't want to accept it because they're afraid it'll ruin their perception of the group and make them hate it (because maybe the group saved their life).
Like, maybe this person is in a fandom and they LOVE this fandom. It makes them happy and they have a lot of good memories of it, but like any fandom, it has flaws. Like, maybe the fandom has a toxicity problem, and to this person the thought of the community that makes them happy being one with a toxicity problem is revolting to them and they deny it.
And this person is me. Honestly, it's bugging me right now. I know that the furry fandom is what you make of it, but I feel like I need to be aware of its issues and use that to be a better furry and a better person. I don't think I'm being clear about what I'm trying to ask, and I'm sorry for that.
I just hope you at least get what I'm trying to say.
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If you refuse to participate in any kind of group that has problems in it (e.g., drama, jerks, bad people) then you will never ever join any group (including the human race). I hear complaints all the time about the "toxicity" of the furry fandom. I've been in the fandom for many many years, and I have no problem with it and find the vast majority of furries to be great people. You only get sucked into the "toxicity" if you allow yourself to be and if you hang out with bad furs. Like arsenic in a cup of tea, it only takes a drop to make the entire drink deadly. This is what often happens with furry meetup groups. Many of them are great, but some get taken over by awful people who ruin everyone's fun. This can be a big bummer when that local furmeet group is the one close to you. What I tell furries who have this problem is that they should have a bit of chutzpah and organize their own meetup group. Have meets at local parks, bowling alleys, farmers' markets, whatev, and just have fun with it. When you're in charge, you have the power to tell problem-makers to exit the doggie door and don't come back.
When it comes to the entire fandom and the criticism it has received, there are two things to say about that: The first is that media are finally starting to understand that furry is not a bad thing and, in fact, can do a lot of good. We give to charities, and furcons boost local economies, and no, it is not a big orgy and a sex cult. Sheesh. The bad attention that continues has to do with the fact that today's news (at least in the U.S., but other countries too) is all about sensationalism to gain viewers. Of the tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of furries out there, I've seen maybe 4 or 5 stories that were legitimate horrible crimes committed by furries or that involved furries in some way. That's actually a lot less than the general population, but when a "journalist" notes that a furry was involved, everyone suddenly gasps and says, "Furries are evil!"
You say you love the fandom. Great! If you are enjoying the fandom, then continue to do so, and don't worry about a few bad eggs. But, if it really does bother you that much, then do something about it by being a GOOD furry and setting an example to the world that furries are pawsome!
Okie, why do Christians hate gay furry people? They have always been hating them, but they claim that they do "love" them. (Especially where I live. If you are gay, don't expect to be treated like a human, just hide it for your safety). My parents found out I was gay by guessing (they are good at it). Now they see me walk feminine, they make me walk again till they see I "walk like a man." They call me names ("sissy," it's annoying), and they just stress me a lot. Can you please help me?
Possible Snow (age 13, Alabama)
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Dear Possible Snow,
Christians do not hate gay or furry people. True Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ follow His command to love ALL humankind. There are dozens and dozens of passages in the Bible that tell us to love one another. For example, in John 15:12, Jesus says, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." Jesus doesn't say to love only fellow Christians or only straight people or white people or to hate gay people. Therefore, those who say they are Christians and then say they hate you for being gay (or for anything) are not true Christians. They are a sadly common breed of fake Christians that have overwhelmed the Church in America and around the world.
Fake Christians get around the Word of God by saying things like: "Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner." This is just a convenient way of trying to get around what God (according to their own religion!) says so that they can pretend to love you but, in truth, they look down at you with contempt. I experienced a horrific example of this two years ago when I got married to Michael. We invited his only sister--a classic fake Christian--to join us at the ceremony. But she told us she preferred to go to her minister's retirement party than to be there for her only sibling. The reason, obviously, is that we are gay and the marriage makes her uncomfortable. Now, when I confronted her on this, she protested, saying, "But I LOVE you Kevin!" I call bullshit. Actions speak louder than words. She hurt me and Michael deeply because she is a bad sister and a bad Christian. Oh, the pièce de résistance was when she surprised me at the front door around Christmas time to hand me a Christmas card with a $20 Starbucks card in it. Good Lord! Oh, yeah, $20! That makes it ALL better!
Pardon my digression, but I think you see my point. You're asking the wrong question. Your question should be this: "How do I convert my parents from being fake Christians to being loving parents who are good Christians?" This is where the Bible comes in. Know your Bible. Read it. Find all the passages in which Jesus commands us to love others. If you need help, see whether you can find a minister who is not a homophobe (this might take some research, but they are out there). Also, I have a link on my website for Rainbow Ark, a resource for gay furry Christians. Check it out.
Good parents love their children unconditionally. Apparently, you need to teach them how to be good parents. This is hard to do living in a state like Alabama, which is the heart of Homophobe Country, but if you talk to them in a way they understand by using the Bible, there is a chance they might listen.
I have a question... So as I've been growing up I have always liked animals and yeah I would make my first fur suit at the age of 4! (Plastic and cardboard materials) as when I was 10 I discovered the furry fandom but I was to afraid to tell my parents... After a while I went to Amazon to buy myself some paws but ofc I needed my mother's and fathers permission to buy it (with my money) my mother when I told her she looked at me awkward and she said, "Well, if you want it buy it is your money and is your liking" somehow I found a way to take it bad and the whole night I thought that I was just weird- the next day I told my father he said, "Well... I think it's a little pricy." I didn't get a straight answer so now I'm thinking if I should tell them. But I don't know how or is just that I don't have the courage too so I found this website a day after that and now I'm here typing! So I would love some tips.
Clover (age 11)
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That is so neat that you built your own fursuit when you were 4! You and I have something in common: we were both furry before we even heard of the furry fandom. This means that we always loved imaginative play about being an anthropomorphic animal of some kind. With me, it had to do with my love of The Jungle Book. Was there some show or movie or book that made you interested in furries?
The point I want to make here is this: being a furry and being active in the furry fandom are two different things. You do not have to be in the fandom (for example, going to conventions, role-playing online, participating in social media websites) to be a furry. A lot of young people like yourself who are into things like Zootopia and Sonic the Hedgehog or anime cartoons stumble upon the fandom and think to themselves, "Cool! There are people like me who enjoy these things, too! How can I meet them?" But what you may not be aware of is that the fandom was originally created by fans who are quite a bit older than you, and the intent was to take cartoon characters and put them in more adult situations. This does not necessarily mean sex. It could mean stories about violence, prejudice, serious adult relationships, drugs, and so on, but it sometimes DOES mean sex and pornography.
Your parents are correct to be careful. You're their daughter and they want you to be safe. Good parents! Also, if they go online at all and type in "furry fandom" or something similar, they are going to see furporn. And then they might ban you from any ambitions of being in the fandom.
Deep breath! I have been to several conventions and seen children your age or younger, sometimes in partial fursuits, with their parents having a blast. I have gone to panels and workshops to which parents were invited and heard their questions and concerns. All of this is valid and important.
The key here is communication. Openness. Tell your parents honestly how you enjoy furry characters. This is not at all a bizarre thing. Many people (even adults) enjoy animated cartoons and movies. But tell them also of your interest in the fandom and ask for their help. They should always have free access to what you do on your computer and on your phone. Ask them to learn about the fandom. Ask them if they will go to a furcon with you (they may even have a good time!) or a furmeet. Never hide anything that you are doing. Ask them to teach you (if you don't already know) how to avoid trolls and dangerous people online (this is useful information whether or not you are a furry because the internet is full of scummy people).
And do me a favor, Clover. Show them this email. And tell them to send me an email if they have any questions. I'd be happy to answer them. If they like, I will send you my phone number and they can call me.
There is absolutely nothing wrong about being a furry. It exercises your imagination, which is something we need more of in this world of machines and cubicle jobs and people who can't seem to think outside the box. Imagination and creativity are beneficial to our emotional and mental health. Whether you are a furry or an artist or a musician or an architectural designer, these are things that help enrich our lives. So, I hope you will continue to talk to your parents about furries.
Thank you for your letter.
Big Bear Hugs,
My name is Kreed and I'm writing today to get some advice on a problem that I've been having. Well it's not really a personal problem, but it does concern me.
A little back story. I got a job at Sonic back in September. A few months later this goofy looking guy comes in for a job. Well we hit it off and we become pretty close. In December his roomies kicked him out with only a few days notice, I come to the rescue and let him stay with me until he found a place. During that time we get closer, and I'm totally not complaining.
We haven't even known each other for over half a year and we're as close, as close can be. I wouldn't have it any other way. I missed the great friends I had in the Army, only to find a civi that became better than any of my Army buddies. I know he has my back, and I sure as hell have his. We talk computers, music, anything. I could have no idea what he says, but I listen, captivated to everything he has to say, because this man is a wealth of information. It's so fascinating.
Now comes the problem. This man watched his mom's boyfriend slowly die due to Covid. Watching his mom be completely torn apart by that. Now he got the bad news that his mom has late stage Lung cancer. When he told me a few months back, I knew it was taking all he had not to cry at work as he told me. Through my check ups on him I found out his mom is trying to prepare him for what seems like a very possible outcome with how advanced the cancer is. Problem is, he is not ready. I doubt he will be ready.
I know for certain he will be calling on, and needing his bestie by his side. Only problem is I have no clue how to handle this. I'm 32 years old. The only death I've experienced was when I was very young, or as an impartial party as an EMT. I don't know what to do.
Papabear, what do I do? I know this is devastating for him, especially since he's a self proclaimed mama's boy. How do I prepare myself for this eventuality, can I even prepare myself for it?
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It's so nice to see a letter from a furry who is being a true and thoughtful friend, so thank you very much for your letter.
The first thing you need to know about comforting a friend who is grieving (or in anticipation of losing a loved one) is that you should not try to offer them advice or make them "get over it." And if you say, "Your mother is in a better place now," your friend has Papabear's permission to thump you on the head with a rubber mallet.
Some things to know about people who are grieving: 1) grieving people are not worried about their loved ones (especially if they believe in a heaven or other afterlife world, but even if they don't they know that the deceased is not suffering); they are sad for one thing only, and that is because they miss that person and know they will never see them again in this lifetime; they are sad for themselves; 2) grief has no deadline, no time limit. My late husband died 6 years ago, and even though I am getting along and have remarried, I still miss him and grieve for him in my heart.
There ARE things you can do, however! First of all, when someone has recently lost a loved one it can often be difficult for them to function in day-to-day life. All you want to do--especially in the early weeks, months, and sometimes years--is sleep, cry, maybe eat, or, sometimes, try to numb your pain with alcohol or drugs. You can help by just assisting with routine things. Perhaps help with laundry, cooking meals, doing a bit of house cleaning, etc. And, of course, if you see them descending into dangerous habits like alcoholism, you need to get them some professional help (perhaps his church offers counseling, or you can go to a site like BetterHelp.com or call the government helpline at 800-622-HELP (https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline).
Now, since your buddy's mother is not dead (and hopefully won't be for a while), you can still offer similar support, even maybe accompanying him for visits (if that is possible). Let him know that you are there to listen to him talk about his mother and his feelings. You have no idea how much of a relief and de-stressor it can be to know that you have someone you can open up to about your grief without fear of judgment and without fear of getting cliché advice ("Buck Up!," "Hope you feel better soon!", "We all die sometime!" and other horrible phrases). Thing is, you don't have to say one word to be helpful. You have already shown what a good friend you are, and that is priceless. Just continue being there for them.
You should recognize, too, that being a comforter to a grieving person can be stressful for you, too! You can only help others when you yourself are doing okay emotionally and physically. So, do remember to take care of yourself as you help out your friend, and don't feel guilty about doing so. Along those same lines, one of the good pieces of advice I got from a couple of friends was that you should try and do something a little nice for yourself once a day, even if it is a small thing. You can kill two birds with one stone by doing something together. You could go out for an ice cream cone, play a favorite video game, go on a nature walk. Or whatever the two of you enjoy. Such distractions can help a person who is weighed down by grief, which is very exhausting mentally, physically, and emotionally. It is important to try to continue to eat well, get restful sleep, and to get some exercise.
I hope this is helpful. If you have other questions, please feel free to write again.
Hi, Papa Bear,
I'm having a little bit of a, I guess you could call it a "furry crisis?" I've started reading Beastars (and I've been a furry way before that, so that's not the problem), and I've noticed I'm attracted to anthropomorphic characters. Yes, I've played furry dating sims before out of boredom or curiosity and grew fond of characters or even attracted to them.
I feel like I'm rambling. Sorry for my bad wording -- I'll just cut to the chase. I'm attracted to anthros on occasion, and I'm wondering if that's the same as bestiality or zoophilia. I don't look at real animals and feel sexually attracted to them, just for reference, and I find people who are pretty disgusting.
I'm just kind of all confused about this and it's causing me some pretty bad stress, even though it isn't a bad idea. What've been your experiences with this sorta situation?
Margo the Skunk
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*Ahem* I think you will find that a majority of furries (not all) are attracted to anthros and that is a big reason we are furries. Like you, it does not mean we are into zoophilia and it is not bestiality. What it means is that we find the combination of human and animal characteristics attractive. Biologically speaking, the human attributes (such as human penises, women's breasts, the buttocks, etc.) still send a signal to our brains that this is something sexually stimulating, but, at the same time, we find physical characteristics such as fur, a fuzzy tail, a snout, claws and fangs, also very attractive.
In my humble opinion, though, it is not just these physical characteristics that we like but also the symbolism of animalistic sex and unrestrained gratification. You see, in Anglo society, anyway (not as much in the more liberated European society) and perhaps in Asian and Hispanic cultures, there is a lot of pressure to be sexually restrained and suppressed. This is especially true if you are not cis or straight, but it also applies to regular ol' hetero libidos in action. Anthro imagery represents sexual freedom in a lot of ways. For example, anthros often don't wear clothing (heck, even in cartoons for kids, they often go without pants), which is very liberating. They can also represent animalistic craving, the urge to mate and to do so with wild abandon. It's about breaking the chains that society places on sexual behavior.
Many people--mundanes especially--confuse furry attraction with zoophilia because they don't understand furries and leap to the wrong conclusions, as you have done here, I'm afraid. To be clear, I am only addressing the sexual aspect of furry here, since that was your question, but that is not the core of being furry. It is just one aspect of it.
I hope that answers your question. Don't get psyched out about your attractions. They don't make you a bad person and they certainly don't make you a zoophile.
Hi, Papa Bear,
I'm glad to hear you're doing well, and also glad to hear you're getting a chance to visit relatives.
Well, about what I wanted to ask... As you might guess from the length of this email, it might be a much simpler question, but I provided quite a bit of context so maybe you can help me identify a pattern here. Some of it does get explicit and heavy, so I would suggest reading this at a time when you're sure you won't get too phased, when and if you do.
How do you stop yourself from wanting to be a hero of a rescuer to your friends, before it only gets overbearing for them? And in the case of the second story I share with you, how can one really forgive oneself for not having done what was best to do?
It seems as though as if attempting to have a hero, rescuer or guru complex has been doing nothing but harm, in the sense that I've been getting results that were the polar opposite of what I was expecting, and in several occasions it has been precisely because I didn't stop to listen to people or to think about the situation that they were in before I made my own assessment of what I thought I should say to them.
Almost a month ago, a friend that I had been out of touch with since 2017, and that I had been trying to get back in touch with since 2019, added me on Discord and we were going to catch up; however, when I asked her how things were going when she last messaged me, came the subject of her marriage, which had went far from well. As a matter of fact, she was divorced and she didn't want to talk about it, but I kept asking. As she finally began to open up, it was clear she had been in a physically abusive relationship. I feel bad admitting to this now, but I've always had this firm belief that if someone gets into an abusive relationship, it's partly their own responsibility, because they're indirectly looking to have someone else take control of their lives--because they don't have faith in themselves, or whatever may be the case, but I believe it's a subconscious choice that stems out of poor self esteem, since abusers don't abuse people who are assertive, but people who are weak.
Anyway, as she told me more about her story, I didn't give her any signs that I was actually listening. As a matter of fact, I kept on trying to find comparisons between the kind of abuse she lived and the kind that I experienced (which was much milder in comparison, definitely not the same situation); and ultimately, she opened up about something she didn't want to bring up to begin with, and I didn't listen because I was too focused on wanting to share my own experiences, and I suppose that it was to attempt to make it look like I had learned things that I could share with her... And well, she has virtually not talked back to me ever since and it's not difficult to see why now.
I don't know why she still hasn't removed me yet, but I have a feeling that I've ruined things beyond repair, or at least I have no idea how I can repair any of it. I sent her an apology without trying to dip too much exactly into what went wrong (for the sake of not rubbing salt into the wound) but I doubt that's made things any better, and without any feedback, I don't know if she's taking temporary distance from me, or if she wants me to be the one who makes the decision to walk away.
(This next part is a bit explicit and it contains (albeit unintentional) animal cruelty...)
And today, I had the displeasure to witness how a puppy got ran over (or rather... Crushed ) by a pickup truck, and I couldn't react fast enough, I couldn't yell to the driver in time for him to stop the truck, and I could have because he was parking... I had no better idea than to yell at him angrily for what he did when he stepped out of the truck, and he got angry at me because I just told him off instead of trying to help, and he attempted to fight me, before checking in on the dog and then just driving off. I didn't even think of taking the license plate number. The owner's daughter was crying, I got up close to them to try and offer moral support but by then I noticed there was nothing I could do and... I just felt so useless and stupid. I wanted to play hero by showing this driver my outrage and all I did was giving him a reason for him to drive off, and the one thing I could have done which was to take his license plate number, I didn't think of until he was gone.
Now... As you might have noticed I have a bit of a problem with brevity. I don't know how many of these details I could have spared, I often have this idea in my head than in order to get a proper grasp of the situation, the listener should have all the context available, but I don't know how much of all of this that I've told you was gratuitous or not.
If you've read this far, I would also like to ask you how I can convey a point to someone (someone that I want to have input from about something), without needing to barrage them with so much stuff for the sake of giving them context.
I hope you're doing well, I'm sorry if this was too heavy to read, I guess I'll find out when I read your response.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have a space to talk about this stuff.
Mihael / Jun / Kyū
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Dear Mihael (or Jun or Kyū):
Thank you for writing a very important letter, and I apologize for my delayed reply. What you've written here is highly relevant to what I do as the "Ask Papabear" advice columnist. You might have noted that I have a Disclaimer page that explicitly points out that I do not have a degree in psychology or social work and that if you have a serious issue you should see a professional therapist for help. The column was started innocently enough to be about informing furries on the ins and outs of the fandom, but it has become much more than that.
I take this column extremely seriously when it comes to responding to people with relationship or health issues. I draw on my decades of personal experiences that include everything from weddings and divorces to parental abuse and attempted suicide, but even with all my best intentions, I do not always get it right. Sometimes, you have to recognize that you are in over your head and you should just give the person a hug and let them go. I'll give you an example. I was living in Michigan, and I was at a Meijer store and bumped into a former coworker I had worked with at a publishing house. Her clothes were stained and unkempt. I started talking with her, and she proceeded to tell me how her life had gone south. People, she said, were spying on her, conspiring against her, even burning down her mobile home and she was now homeless. The more I listened, the more I realized that she was suffering from extreme paranoia. She was not a well woman. I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what. After talking for what must have been about 20 or more minutes, I wished her well and left the store. Later, I talked to one of my friends who had also been there at my old job, and she wisely said, "There are some things you can't fix and shouldn't try to because it is beyond your ability to help." That's a tough pill to swallow, but it is true.
You can't rescue everyone, and it is not your job to do so. Now, don't think that I mean you shouldn't try to be a friend. After my husbear Jim died in 2015, I learned about the two types of friends who try to console you. One type tries to "cure" you of your grief and, eventually, tells you that you should "try to move on." This is the worst possible thing you can say to a grieving person because the reason would-be consolers do this, quite frankly, is that they don't want to hear about your grief anymore. They want you to be happy only because you are making them sad. The other type of friend is the one who won't try--you might think this is ironic--to offer you advice or force you to feel better. These are the people who give you a shoulder to cry on. They listen and hug you. They offer to make you a meal or (as my dear friend Bart did) accompany you to a concert to try and give you a little something fun to do, a break from your grief.
So, to answer your first question, don't try to be a hero or rescuer. DO be a friend. Real, true friends are the most precious gift anyone could have.
About the friend who was in an abusive relationship. I think you know by now, but I want to make clear that it is never the fault of the abused person when they are in an abusive relationship. I cannot stress that enough. There are three things you should do if this ever happens again: 1) Listen. 2) Listen. 3) Listen. Keep your focus on the other person and do not go into rescue mode. Be there for the other person.
Here's the next point I need to vehemently stress that you might find surprising: If you believe that your neighbor is being victimized, do not call the police unless you see violence occurring right in front of you and you fear for the immediate safety and life of someone (just as you should for any violent crime). Here is why: you could actually make the problem worse and put the abused person in more serious danger. Imagine this scene. You contact the police and they visit your neighbor's house and the husband opens the door. The police say there have been reports of domestic violence. Without any evidence (or being caught in the act), they can't just walk into the house and rescue the wife. So, the husband tells the police to get out of his house unless they have a warrant, and then turns on his wife and beats her for calling the cops. I've heard many stories, too, in which police arrive at a scene and don't believe the woman when she says she is being punched or raped.
As noted in a Brick Underground article: "It’s very dangerous to call the police if you don’t know that’s something the person who’s being victimized really wants," explains Lorien Castelle, director of prevention at the New York State Coalition Against Domsetic Violence (NYSCADV). "Because there can be dire consequences if the police are called and then the victim is blamed for them showing up. Sometimes the violence escalates." She adds: "The problem is that all of our systems are a little bit broken, and people don't always understand domestic violence in the way they need to in order to responsibly help. Quite often, when the police get called, it starts this ripple-out effect of services and systems involved in a person's life, all of which tend to assume that once a victim leaves the home, they'll be safer. But women living apart from their abusers experience nearly four times the amount of physical assault, sexual assault, and stalking than they do when they live with their abuser."
The Office on Women's Health provides a list of resources concerning domestic violence at https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/state-resources. You can do some research and discreetly offer the information to the victim, as well as offering them a sympathetic ear.
The same can be true when you think someone might be suicidal. I have made this mistake once. Years ago, I was chatting with a furry. They told me with increasing earnestness that they were going to kill themselves. Alarmed--and knowing where they lived--I contacted the local police. The officers showed up at his door and he got rid of them. Then, he called me and read me the riot act and never spoke to me again. Now, that wasn't an incident involving my column, but I sure learned my lesson. When someone writes to "Ask Papabear" and expresses suicidal thoughts, I urge them to call the national suicide hotline for help, and then I step out of the way. If you are unsure what to do, you yourself can contact domestic abuse or suicide prevention hotlines and ask them for advice on what you can do to help victims. ALWAYS seek guidance from the people who have training and expertise in such matters.
Regarding the puppy incident: this is really a whole nuther animal, so to speak, and worthy of a separate column, but let's address it here and now. Let's not get into the whole thing about your yelling at the guy who hit the animal, causing an argument without results. Here is what you need to know about car/animal accidents....
Here is a good article all about hitting pets. https://pethelpful.com/pet-ownership/I-Hit-a-Dog-with-My-Car-What-Am-I-Legally-Required-to-Do.
One does not play the hero by yelling at someone you believe has done something wrong. If you witness something that is criminal behavior or dangerous and violent, the thing to do is not take matters in your own hands. Ask for help.
I hope this helps.
My youngest nephew (16) recently opened up to me about being a furry. He hasn't settled on a fursona as of yet but identifies as either a puppy or a kitten.
He has also been opening up about a lot of trauma, bullying and troubles at home under my sister who has been quite abusive, bullying and totally just awful as a parent (see: narcissistic parent, treating child like property/emotional outlet).
I've had a number of conversations with him about boundaries, the importance of recognising appropriate and inappropriate relationships and friendships, and discussed in some small detail why he wishes to be a furry.
It's all very complex and I'm fairly confident, given my nephew has OCD, ADHD and is on the autism spectrum, that the idea of being a furry might be a way to escape awful realities and just feel loved, understood, cared for and so on.
I'm trying to figure out the best ways of helping my nephew deal with his past and current traumas... to be able to process emotions and so on... he has become very attached to me in the last two months and has placed a lot of trust in me opening up about things. I have some concerns about his online friends - especially older ones - and of course worried a little about sexualised language and content he has admitted accessing. I am also a little worried that given he has only ever really been shown love/affection/hugs from his brother and the family pets (a cat and a dog) that everything might blur into one for him i.e. that he is craving a normal family relationship with hugs and support etc but that this might then become confused in his head with sexualised relationships etc.
So I basically just want some advice on how best to approach things, to support him and ensure he doesn't internalise anxieties and embarassment so he doesn't feel like an outsider or a 'freak' or a 'weirdo'.
I also need to know a bit about boundaries myself i.e. how far to I myslef indulge his being a furry... he already asked if occasionally I replace giving him a hug with a back scratch or the like... and I'm comfortable with that so long as in his mind it isn't being sexualised as that isn't appropriate (and I have discussed that directly with him). I just don't want him to become alienated or have a massive freak out about the reality of him opening himself open as he has done if that makes sense? I basically have all of the questions and need comprehensive advice.
Anonymous in the UK
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Dear Kind Uncle,
I applaud you for being such a caring and loving uncle to your nephew and for reaching out to try to find some help for him. As you know, I am not a psychologist or social worker, so it is my duty to first recommend you do a little research on professional services out there for autistic children (you may have done so already, but just to be sure...). A good place to start for UK residents such as yourself and your nephew is the National Autistic Society, which offers advice and resources. OCD Action provides guidance for those with OCD, and the ADHD Foundation is a good place to start for that concern. Fortunately, there is a lot of help available to you in your country.
But you came to Papabear because of my knowledge of furries, and I am honored to try and help you there. Many--not all--people who come to the fandom do so because they feel rejected in one way or another by society or they feel uncomfortable navigating human relationships and the complexities of said society. This is why many who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) find their way into the fandom (about 10% to 15% of furries in surveys indicate they have autism spectrum). The fandom can offer them two things: an accepting community/environment and a way to express themselves through a fursona (or fursonas) that provides them a means to get outside themselves and communicate their emotions and feelings. I recently came across a fantastic article about this very thing. The author, Joey Thurmond, explains how the play and imagination of furry assists people in becoming their true selves and helps them break out of their shells (ironic that wearing a costume can help us reveal our true selves!)
There are scientific studies that help back this up, too. A group of social scientists and psychologists have even created the FurScience website that delves into the social phenomenon of the furry fandom, who is in it, and why they participate. One of the members of FurScience, Dr. Elizabeth Fein of Duquesne University, has investigated furries who report being on the autism spectrum. In this article on the DU website, she notes how the fandom helps with lessening anxiety, building self-esteem, and fostering feelings of being part of a community. A Pittsburgh NPR station elaborated on her findings here.
Although Dr. Fein is talking about ASD, her findings have relevance to ADHD and OCD. While these three conditions are not the same, they share some commonalities, and a Scientific American article noted that they share the same genetic roots or "brain markers." Anxiety is a key trait in all three, and I am confident in saying that the furry fandom can help many people with easing anxiety and stress.
As to what you, personally, can do for your nephew, the biggest thing is to just be there for him and be supportive as you are doing now. Furries with various anxiety disorders are actually treating themselves by discovering and participating in the furry fandom. They are seeking an outlet, and here they may have one.
BUT!!! You are also right to exercise caution. As noted, there are a lot of adult things in the fandom, and there are also some dangerous people, just as there are anywhere on the internet. Trolls and other abusers are not stupid; they discover this entire community filled with very vulnerable youngsters who make easy targets for them to attack. The best thing for you to do here is to monitor internet and phone behavior, educate your nephew about the potential dangers of ALL social media, but do not impose drastic restrictions (e.g., "I forbid you to chat online with furries." Such strategies cause rebellion and resentment.) And the best way you can manage this is by telling your nephew that you support their furriness and you want there to be no secrets between the two of you. Tell him there is no need to be embarrassed about being a furry and that you hope he will talk to you all about it and about his adventures. So, go ahead and "indulge" him in his furriness, but also be on top of things and monitor what he is doing to the best of your ability. The things you can teach him about boundaries and the hazards of the internet will apply to both his online furry behavior and his online behavior in general, so it's all good.
If you feel up for it, take him to a furcon. Unfortunately, because of Covid, this is a bit problematic lately, but some cons have moved online for now, including ConFuzzled and Wild North, which is having an online con in October. Hopefully, next year the cons will be live.
As for your concerns about your nephew becoming alienated or a social outcast--don't worry about it just yet. Allow him to perform therapy on himself through the furry fandom and partner this with traditional help and advice from the resources I provided above. This is a lifelong journey for him (and you), and I think you are just the best uncle ever for striving so hard to help this young man.
Please write again if I have missed addressing any of your concerns or if you have further questions.
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.