Dear Papa Bear,
Normally, I would not write in to a column about a issue I'm having. However, since this is something I've had a lot of people talk to me about and I don't know the answer, I figured taking it to a higher source makes more sense. So, I am a late 30-something furry, and I've been in the fandom nearly a decade. As I've aged, I've noticed furry has become, for lack of a better term, "tainted" by social politics, gender wars, and identity politics. Unfortunately, much of the issue is coming from a result of the young taking over leadership roles in our community. My question is, what can we "the elder generation" of furries do to maybe help curb the tide of this problem and what do you think of furry becoming so hyperpolitical?
Lotus Wolf (37)
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Dear Lotus Wolf,
Good question, and one I certainly relate to, being a greymuzzle myself. Yes, the fandom is changing, and it is radically different from when it started in the late 1970s/early 1980s. This is the result of a couple of things: 1) the internet, and 2) how it has grown to include hundreds of thousands of people. As the fandom becomes more visible to the general public, it has attracted a lot of people who don't really "get" furry. They are in it more to get attention than to be a part of the fun. Part of getting attention has been to do political things such as becoming a Nazi or Antifa furry. In this bear's humble opinion, furry is not a place for politics (this includes any sexual or gender or identity politics). It's supposed to be a place to avoid mundane things like politics and economics and social pressures. I disagree with you that furry has become "hyperpolitical." Yes, politics have encroached upon it, but not in an all-consuming way--just enough to be annoying.
What to do about it? Number one is to avoid validating people who want to make politics a thing in the fandom (doesn't matter if they are on the right, left, or moderate). They are basically trolls and should be ignored and blocked. Second is to reemphasize the fantasy aspect of the fandom by encouraging and participating in the writing, art, and games of the fandom. Third is to do what we can to educate the younger generations about furry history and who we are. Such things as Ash Coyote's documentary The Fandom can be helpful, or reading books such as Joe Striker's Furry Nation.
Change is inevitable and will continue in any living fandom. There will be good things about the fandom and bad things, but that's okay as long as we don't lose sight of who we are. Communication and education are the best approaches. We should also recognize that some things simply are not acceptable. I, for one, do not appreciate seeing anyone wearing a swastika armband at a furcon (or the Furry Raiders' armband, which is obviously similar, and don't tell me it's not), and I'm not a fan of how Antifa furs have behaved in the past, nor do I care to see furcon room parties for Soviet Furs.
Young people in America, especially, have lost an appreciation for democracy and freedom, sadly. They have been coddled and spoiled and no longer understand how lucky they are. A Cambridge University study showed that 55% of Millennials don't think democracy is important. The failing here is not with the Millenials, however; it is with the older generation and our current politicians who have made a mockery of democracy. What the Millennials are abhorring, really, is the distorted and corrupt "democracy" we now have. The internet, as we have seen so painfully recently, is also to blame for spreading lies and misinformation about our political institutions and a number of politicians.
The furry fandom is a victim of the times. Don't blame furries themselves. I hate when people say things such as "The fandom is just a bunch of furverts and drama queens and haters." No, it's not. Almost everyfur I meet--young and old--is a wonderful person. But it only takes a drop of arsenic to poison the entire cup of tea. More and more, admins in places such as Facebook groups (including me) have been prohibiting politics and hate in their groups. If those who run social websites, furmeets, and furcons remain vigilant, they can do a lot to eliminate or, at least, minimize the problem.
There need to be adults in the room, in other words. And I call on the greymuzzles and other, younger, adults who have taken it upon themselves to assume leadership roles in the fandom to set standards for their groups and organizations. We have seen what happens when supervision is lacking (e.g., the closing of Rainfurest and some other cons). Be an example to the younger furries and you will go a long way toward keeping the furry fandom a fun and enjoyable social phenomenon.
This is an important topic, and I've only brushed the surface of it. I welcome my readers' comments and input below.
I have been having on-again-off-again thoughts on completely leaving the furry fandom for a couple of weeks recently.
I’ve been part of the furry community for about six years and got to know a couple good friends. I appreciated all of the good aspects the fandom has to offer during this time. However, I feel like my interests are changing as I get older, and I find myself enjoying it less and less. My trust issues started deteriorating even more because of these thoughts. I don’t want to cause any hard feelings with those friends in this fandom if I do decide to leave.
When we’re young, we think that things can last forever ... but they don’t. I know that life changes, people change, and everything changes overtime. It can be hard to accept at times, but moving on from something you no longer enjoy can be for the better.
I also am aware of the negative stigma around furries, and I stay away from all of the toxic parts of the community as much as possible. I haven’t really told people in real life about my furry-ism out of extreme fear that I might lose friends. It leads me to have serious social anxiety and me always feeling very reserved around others.
Nowadays, I honestly don’t know if I should stay in a fandom like this for the rest of my life. I’ve been part of it for so long that I don’t know how to quit. Sometimes I keep asking myself: “Do I really want to dedicate my time and energy into this any longer? Is it time to move on?”
So I ask you, Papabear: If I ever want to leave the furry community and move on with my life, how should I properly do so?
Anonymous (age 21)
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There are a few ways in which the furry fandom is unique from other fandoms, and the whole "I'm leaving the fandom" thing is one of them. You never hear someone say, "I'm leaving the Whovians" or "I'm formally announcing I'm no longer a Trekker," but when it comes to furries somehow it's a big, drama-inducing deal.
So let me set your mind at ease. If you don't want to do furry stuff anymore, just stop doing it. It's only a big deal if you make it a big deal. It's not like you're leaving the mob and we're going to track you down and make you sleep with the fishes. It's just a fandom, okay?
Look, in my opinion, there are two types of people in the fandom: 1) people who call themselves furry because being furry is a part of them; it's who they are, and they can't "stop" being furry any more than you can "stop" being a Homo sapiens. It's in your genes. 2) people who got into the fandom kind of as a hobby and because it was a way to socialize with fun and crazy people, but they don't have truly fuzzy hearts. Some of them, frankly, just got into it for the porn; some got into it for the gaming; some liked the fursuits. But then they "grow up" and decide that the fandom is just childish and they have lost interest. This typically happens to hobbyists when they reach their twenties, or finish college, get a job etc. Sounds to me like you are in this second type.
I'm not trying to shame you, not at all. You're just not a dyed-in-the-wool furry. You had some fun with it, made some friends, all good. Now you're done with it (or soon will be) and ready to be an "adult" (whatever the heck that means). So, as to your question on how one gracefully bows out, well, first of all, don't make a scene. Don't make a huge dramatic announcement on the social sites that "I'm leaving the fandom." That just comes off as vain and needy. Secondly, this doesn't mean you have to lose your furry friends. I would contact all the friends with whom you have close ties and say, "Hey, I've kind of lost interest in doing furry stuff and won't be active in the fandom anymore, but I'm grateful to have you as a friend and I hope we can continue to be friends...." Make sure they have your contact information and you can talk to them on Messenger or the phone or whatever. You can then be a "furry friend" who hangs with furries but really is not one himself. This is totally doable and can be rewarding. My late husband fell into this category. My fursuit maker, Beastcub, is not a furry but simply a person who enjoys making fursuits.
So, that's how you do it. Don't be dramatic. Keep the friends you want to keep. Move on with your life, and may it be a happy one.
What are some of the problems that you feel need to be addressed regarding the fandom and how do you feel we can solve them?
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That is a huge question that is a bit too large for this column (and will be discussed in my book), but I will try and give the Reader's Digest version....
Essentially, the fandom is experiencing growing pains. When this whole phenomenon started back in the 1970s and 1980s, the fandom comprised a small group of sci-fi/fantasy fans who shared a love of anthros in fiction. Pretty much everyone knew everyone else in this small group, and the APA magazines they produced were a testimony to the exclusiveness of that club (e.g., you only got a copy of Vootie or Rowrbrazzle if you were a contributor to them). In the online world, IRC chat rooms were in their infancy and social media like Facebook were decades away, so there wasn't nearly the amount of online interaction that we see today.
Fast forward a couple decades, and you now have a fandom comprised of over 100,000 furries all over the world. There are dozens of furcons and hundreds of furmeets and parties all over the globe. The fandom membership is diversifying as well. The days of furries being mostly males in their early twenties is changing into a population including a far wider spread of young and old (ages 10 to 80), more women, and a more politically diverse spectrum.
The result is increasing chaos in the fandom, increasing drama, and increasing problems. I don't know about Europe and other places outside the US, but in America, we have seen the encroachment of political divisiveness into the fandom, which has given rise to such ugly things as Nazi Furs. The failure of American society to raise responsible children and adults has also resulted in self-entitled, downright stupid behavior of furries at conventions, and the result of that has been, as we have seen, the closure of several furcons (Rainfurrest, Califur, Rocky Mountain Furcon). And the phenomenon of an exploding Internet and its social media has seen an offensive rise in trolling, hacking, and bullying among furries in online communities.
Today we are witnessing what happens with uncontrolled and unregulated growth. Just like a city experiencing exploding growth without any urban planning, the result is the creation of an unpleasant, congested, dirty, and sometimes even dangerous environment. And just like a large, metropolitan city, there will be areas that a nicely maintained and prosperous and others that are like venturing into an impoverished ghetto at 2 a.m. in the morning. Often, those who loudly announce they are "leaving the fandom" are the ones who have spent too much time in the ghettoes, while some furries avoid chancing upon the seedier parts of the fandom entirely by being furry without participating in any events or online communities at all.
Furries--to gently and cautiously step into broad generalizations--tend to be anti-establishment, rebellious, and resistant to structure and authority. A couple of years ago, I experimented with the idea of creating a national furry association that would provide some structure to the fandom. The idea was widely dismissed and resisted by the community as an unwanted venture, so I dropped it as a bad idea. Furries don't want structure, rules, or laws. In this way, they rather resemble the hippie culture of the 1960s, which is an observation my late husband once made.
To answer your question as succinctly as possible, the problems we are facing in the fandom stem from there being so many furries now, for the fact that "what is furry?" is very loosely defined, and for the fact that when you have these two things combined what you are going to get is subcultures springing up within the subculture. This results in conflict between the various sub-subcultures. This is nothing new in the fandom. You can find discord going back all the way to the arguments that were occurring in the early days of Rowrbrazzle's administration and then, later, with the Frozen v. Burned Furs arguing about porn in the furry arts, and then the movement to reject Bronies from the fandom as "not real furries." Other subcultures within the subculture include Therians, Otherkin, Alt-Furries and the Fur Right. There has always been drama in the fandom, of course, and furries tend to overemphasize it because they are part of a culture that already feels alienated and rejected. The irony here, of course, is that many furries flee to the fandom in an attempt to socially bond with like-minded people only to then create new divisions within the community and once again alienate each other.
What is the solution? There is no solution, only evolution. What you will likely see is, as the fandom continues to grow, the sub-subcultures will break apart from one another in a fashion similar to what you see happening in the LGBTQ community (e.g., within the gay community you see subgroups of bears, twinks, daddies, leathermen, femmes, and so on and so on that prefer to associate within their smaller groups more than with the LGBTQ community as a whole.) Likewise, you may one day see conventions devoted to, say, just fursuiters or just Otherkin or artists or writers or or gaming furries. Actually, I predict that furcons will start declining somewhat, and we will see more things like weekend-long furry parties, large furmeets organized around parades or parks, and mini-cons that will be tailored to specialized furry groups.
The furry fandom isn't what it once was, and in the future it won't be the same as it is today.
I just wanted to make a point. I live in NYC and recently visited the Museum of Sex. It's a pretty good museum, but in one of the exhibitions I saw a Furry head-piece. Although I am not a furry myself, I found this offensive since it was displayed around a number of curious sexual devices.
My first thought was that being a furry isn't just about being sexual. I think that there might be a general misconception about what makes Furries tick. I think most non-Furries joke about Furries in a sexual context, and that's not right.
Anyhow, just FYI, it might be a opportunity to set something right and email the NYC Museum of Sex.
Oh yeah, question. Do you agree with this notion, and what are your thoughts?
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Ah, yes, the Museum of Sex, LOL. It does indeed contain some furry paraFURnalia, some of which was loaned to the museum in the past by fursuit pioneer Robert Hill. Here is a photo of a display that, it seems, is no longer at the museum:
There is no denying that sexuality is part of the art and culture of the fandom, but it certainly is not the only part or even a main part of it. The subject of sex in the fandom and why it is there will be addressed in my upcoming book.
In the meantime, there are several books out there that try to talk about "what makes furries tick" that you can check out, including Furry Nation by Joe Strike, and Furries Among Us (volumes 1 and 2), essay collections edited by Thurston Howl. If you're really interested, you could also check out two research sites about furries: The International Anthropomorphic Research Project, which is run by scientists in fields such as psychology and sociology, and the [adjective][species] site, which also does surveys about furries.
But you are correct: the furry fandom and its members are complicated. There is not just one reason why people are attracted to the fandom, and there is not just one type of furry, not by a long shot. The reasons range from creative expression to social, psychological, and even spiritual reasons. Furries are writers, musicians, artists, performers, gamers, or simply people trying to have a fun time and socializing with friends and making new ones.
But sex museums and people in the media don't want to hear about that. It's too complicated and too difficult to explain in a display or a special TV news report, so they go for the low-hanging fruit, which is that if you want to draw eyes a great way to do it is to talk about sex. Sex sells, as they say, and that (in a nutshell) is why non-furries zoom in on this one aspect of a complex and fascinating fandom.
I'm glad you found the display misleading about the fandom. Good for you for having an open mind! However, it won't help to write to the Museum of Sex. As long as someone is willing to donate masks or fusuits or drawings to the museum, you can bet they will display them. It's fine, we're used to this nonsense by now. The cool thing is that, as the fandom grows, we've started to gain some acceptance in the world. Sure, there may be jeers here and there, someone ranting against "furfags" on YouTube, but most of us recognize by now that these are just trolls making pathetic bids for attention.
Meanwhile, furcons and other furry meetings continue to spread and grow. And someday, we will take over the world! Bwa Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! Our evil furplan has just begun! Silly hoomans!
I'm new to the Furry world, though I've always better identified with animals, and I really like pokemon, the games being kind of a refuge for me. So I've been wondering, is it ok for my furrsona to be a Pokemon? would it still be considered a furry?
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Interesting question and one Papabear has not been asked before, so bonus points to you. Now, what I'm about to write to you is just an old bear's opinion, and there are likely to be those who will disagree.
"Pokemon," as you know, means "pocket monster," although some might translate it as "pocket demon." In Japanese folklore and mythology, demons, devils, ghosts, and other spirit creatures appear in many of the stories and are very important to that culture, so it is not surprising that in the modern-day world they should be reborn in television shows, movies, and games.
Now, let's compare that definition to "furry." A furry is an anthropomorphized animal. So, it is an animal that can talk, reason, and behave like a human being does. A pokemon comes from the spirit world and has no connection to humans. Only a couple of the Pokemon characters can speak, though most seem to understand human language and some can communicate telepathically, which is consistent with their folklore background. They can look like mammals, dragons, even plants, so as for species, they are kind of all over the place, whereas furries are limited to animal species, though they may include mythological ones such as dragons, minotaurs, and griffins (which in themselves are based on real animals). In many cases, Pokemon intelligence seems somewhat below that of humans, which is why, apparently, they can be captured and used by humans in competitive sports.
Another difference--and one that is often applied to Bronies, which many consider outside the fandom--is that they are part of a commercial franchise originating from the Game Freak video games of the mid-1990s.
All in all, I would consider Pokemon to be one of those tangential fandoms that include Bronies, Otherkin, and Therians. Some Pokemon might be more furry than others. But bear in mind that you are not limited to selecting a current Pokemon to be your fursona. You could create an all-new Pokemon with furry qualities and fit in quite nicely. Even if you don't, many furries are Pokemon fans and you'd likely get along well with them. Too, if you would like to get involved in furry culture and events, I'm sure no one is going to tell you "no."
Hope that answers your question.
I'm sort of having a problem. You see I really like anthro animals. Mostly foxes or cartoon ones though. I draw them too. But I'm not sure if this means I'm a furry or not.
I don't really consider myself a furry but someone that likes anthro animals.It's not that I'm against furries. I actually think most are kind and misunderstood.
But I really don't know if I should consider myself one or not. Thanks for taking time to read this.
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It depends on what you mean by being a furry. At its most basic level, all it means is that you enjoy art, cartoons, movies, etc. that include anthropomorphized animal characters in them. Since you like furry foxes and also like to draw them, that would make you someone who is a fan of furries.
The other side of it is the entire lifestyle of the fandom: going to cons and meets, being active in online communities, perhaps having a fursuit. That's all part of the fun, but just because you like anthro foxes doesn't mean you have to do any of this if you don't want to.
So, it's really up to you. You can call yourself a furry (technically, the appropriate term is "furry fan," because only actual anthros are furries) and you would not be incorrect. Or you can decide not to call yourself that.
You define you. No one else.
Hope that answers your question.
Hi Papa Bear!
I was wondering about your stance on interspecies dating? I identify as a Blood Moon Night Fox. I recently attended a convention where I met a great person who identifies as a Tiger Shark Female. We have been communicating for several months now and I've contracted feelings for her. However, I am more on the conservative side and only believe the only kind of cross breeding can happen when ligers and mules are made. Do you think a fox like me and a shark like her can make this work or stay as friends and keep my morals and stick to land animals? I would very much appreciate your wisdom and input. Please write soon!
Furambe (male, age 23)
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I'm not going to post this on my site because my answer might be a bit blunt for you. [Note: I obviously changed my mind for reasons readers will see below].
Um... you are not really a fox and she is not really a shark, so, are you kidding me? You're both humans. If you like her, see if she will go out on a date with you.
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Excuse me but seeing as you're a very noticed character in the furry community how dare you imply I am "just human." That is seen as kinphobic and racially ignorant. You might take your furry status as serious as a lot of us do "Kevin," but it is seen as phobic to the full extent. I trusted you but shame on you Mr. Hile.
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Not sure why you are putting my name in quotation marks, but okay. I am not racially ignorant or kinphobic. You are talking about things that don't exist. You are not, in reality, a fox, and she is not, in reality, a tiger shark. To assert that you are is to lose touch with reality.
I realize there are people who identify very closely with their fursonas. I myself feel that bear is my spirit animal. But I don't fail to recognize that we are all, including you, sweetie, Homo sapiens.
To say I am "phobic" is to say I am afraid of furries. No, I am not.
What I am trying to say is that you are making things unnecessarily complicated with your love interest because you are both humans, like it or not. That's not phobia. That's not racism. That's reality. And you need to get a firm grip on it, hon.
Actually, when you think about it, your fears about whether being mates with another "species" is a problem the very definition of racial fear, is it not?
I also note that in your email response you are not actually male, but female [email not printed here, nor is the person's real name]. I am wondering, therefore, whether your original question was really not about furry species but, rather, the fact that you are a female in love with a female? Is that the real issue here? If so, then, again, I would say that you should go with your feelings and pursue the relationship.
This is a good example of how sometimes people bury their problems in their fursonas. While having a fursona (or several) can be a fun and creative way of expressing oneself, it is worthwhile to note that sometimes getting lost in fantasy is not healthy. That is why I decided to publish this letter exchange.
I never heard back from this writer. I hope I will someday.
Hugs to all....
I don't want to beat around the bush. I am, obviously, a furry and I got a girlfriend and she is not ok with it. This bothers me a lot, but I never say that to avoid further, sometimes even embarrassing, discussions.
To give you some background: I always loved cats and by pure chance I discovered Nekos which in term led me to the furry fandom quite quickly. The first time I joined a furry chatroom was about two years ago, but I haven't gone to any furry conventions yet. I already was in a relationship with my girlfriend at this point. I didn't think the fandom would stick on me like that, but I quickly found friends and I'm friends with them to this date, although we live on different continents and rarely do something together outside of the chatroom.
And I yiffed and yiff to this day, though less frequently than before.
I admit, I shouldn't. To my girlfriend, it's cheating, to me it means nothing. I also know that she thinks of people yiffing left and right when she hears the word "furry" and a friend of ours, also a furry, is a good example of this. When we discussed about them, i tried to defend me and the fandom, but I can't make her change her opinion on them.
But I do love her! She means more to me than anyone else and leaving her is not an option for either of us, but I don't want to torture her or me by keeping it secret. I'm certain that I can change my behavior about yiffing, which would make the situation manageable, but I cannot change her.
I don't want to betray my girlfriend and/or myself. How do I convince her that furries are not a group of people to hate?
Fia (the Braixen) (age 18)
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Your girlfriend, like many other non-furries, believes that the fandom is about kinky, weird sex. You and this other friend, by apparently indulging a lot in yiff, have reinforced this conception she has.
Since you assert that you love your girlfriend and don’t want to lose her, and since you also say that you are willing and able to cut down (or perhaps eliminate entirely) your yiffing behavior, I would start there. I would then recommend you try to expose her to all the great stuff in the fandom that has absolutely nothing to do with yiff. To change her views about the fandom, you see, she needs a lot of evidence to contradict what she has already seen and heard about furries. Here’s a pretty good article about misconceptions and the fandom published in the UK’s Guardian.
Because you started off on the wrong paw, you’re going to have to do some damage control, and this will likely take quite a bit of time. Be patient and diligent, and hopefully she will come to see that the fandom isn’t just about fuzzy kinkiness.
When I was trying to figure out my gender identity, I finally settled on 'agender' because it felt right. I can't explain it...but I suppose it's the same as knowing yes, you are male, or female, or etc.! It's a gut feeling, IMO.
This isn't a letter about gender identity at all, though, heh. I bring this up because of the term 'furry.' I have two fursuits in the works, I'm wild about animals, and I like some furry stuff, but I really don't identify as a furry. The term doesn't feel right to me -- not because of the fandom's reputation (I'm past caring about that) but because I just...well, don't identify! The same gut feeling as when I figured out my gender identity.
(This is also not to say that furry is a gender identity or anything. Just using a comparison.)
However, I'm reminded of that old saying: "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck..." etc. I like fursuits and some furry stuff. Does that mean I owe it to myself to take on the furry label? I always considered myself just a person who likes costumes, animals, and good art. I also have plenty of hobbies outside the fandom, so it's not like I can't read a book or watch a show if there isn't a talking squirrel in it.
I've had a friend tell me, "Well, if a guy liked only guys but refused to say he was gay, wouldn't you raise an eyebrow?" The answer to that is no: I respect people's labels even when they fly in the face of my own reality. Thing is, other folks are probably gonna think I'm in denial, and I'd hate to be seen as dishonest or immature.
Sorry for the long, winding letter, and thanks for all you do,
Wee Lioness (23)
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Here’s a little secret: Papabear hates labels. People are much more complex than that, and trying to fit someone into one category or another can be an exercise in futility. For example, I could say I’m a gay man, but being gay is just one aspect of a much more complex personality. I’m also a furry, but I don’t go around introducing myself to people as a furry. I’m a writer and editor, too. I’m an amateur philosopher. I’m a brother. I’m a boyfriend. I’m Caucasian. I’m American. I’m a Virgo. I’m a spiritualist. I’m an empath. You see where I’m going with this. You know what I say when I introduce myself to people? “Hi, I’m Kevin Hile.” I’m not a label; I’m me.
Just because you like some furry art, fursuits, and some of the stuff associated with furries doesn’t mean you are now required to participate in any furry community activities, nor are you “denying you’re a furry.” The talented woman who made my fursuit, Beastcub, is not a furry, but she loves making fursuits for people. Maybe you’re like that. It begs the questions, doesn’t it, as to what really makes a furry? Obviously, it’s not what you wear or what you call yourself that matters. It’s what you are comfortable with, and if you don’t want to call yourself a furry, then don’t call yourself a furry.
My enemy heard that I am a furry and now he is going to tell my friends that I am a weirdo. My enemy hates and thinks furries are stupid because he says that they are sex addicts (but I know they're not). Please, can you help me out? I need it, please.
Kit the Wolf (age 12, U.K.)
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Okay, the issue here is gossip. Whether it is gossip about being a furry or anything else for that matter, you can deal with it in the same way. Usually. What is unique here is that this gossip—that you are a furry—is actually true. It's the details that are incorrect. Kind of like if people at the workplace outed you for being homosexual. Here are some things you can do....
I hope that helps. Good luck! Write again if you need more help.
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