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!
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.
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.
How do I make friends in the fandom?
Hey there Papa Bear! My name is Papaya, I don't consider myself a furry, but an anthro enthusiast (that's a story for a different day). I'm more of a right leaning person and I've found it difficult lately to find similar people like me. I don't mind if my friends are furries or if they're anthro enthusiast like me, however I'm wondering what is the best way to go about making some furry friends. It's been hard lately with such a divide, I'm scared of sharing my views with someone who will blast me on Twitter just for having an opposing view.
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I'm not too sure what the difference is between an "anthro enthusiast" and a furry. My first thought was that you meant you didn't participate in furry activities like going to cons and meets, but then you want to make furry friends, so ... I dunno. Anyway, my thoughts about politics and religion are that it is best to keep such topics out of the conversation unless you know somebody very well and feel confident you can discuss such things without causing hurt. As you are aware, these days, especially in America, the right and left have become super-polarized without much room for compromise or moderation. In my Greymuzzles group, I set up rules that religion and politics be kept out of the posts, and that has been pretty successful at keeping the peace in the group. That's rule 1. To make new friends in the fandom, simply join any furry social media group and look for people who share your interests. Then, strike up a conversation with them. It's really not complicated. Then, once you get to know them well, you might open up the conversation to a wider range of topics. Not all furries are left-leaning. There are many conservative and even hard-right furries out there. For example, if you are a gun enthusiast, you can find furries who enjoy hunting and target shooting. Furries are a diverse group of people and you can find people who share your views and hobbies if you look hard enough.
Good Luck, Anthro Enthusiast ;)
I am honestly contemplating the possibility that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of sexual liberalism. The professional communities that study the natural sciences, along with social disciplines like psychology, may not be supporting this theory yet, but I attest from anecdotal experience: furry porn has gradually conditioned me to "define deviancy down". I never remember contemplating kinks such as rough sex, incest, cub or violent BDSM before encountering material about them online. I almost indulged myself three days ago, but I chose not to open E621 right before I was about to go there, and barely avoided crying because then, I started to pay attention to the feeling of my humanity slipping away. I was habituating myself to fantasies of scenarios I'd never rationally support. Not to mention all the gross advertisements, or ones for dubious businesses, because porn repels mainstream companies in more conservative countries. Even if they're not real, are they worth alienating family and friends with less open minds in this respect? Also, while we mostly may not literally imitate the stupid things characters do in fictional media, I believe the possibility that we might get desensitized to particular subject matter, depending on the content you consume. There's a reason the advertising industry is worth so much money, also that government agencies collaborate very often with the entertainment industry, and in addition, Buffy the Vampire Slayer plus Dawson's Creek plus Will & Grace- believe it or not- have been credited with humanizing LGBT communities, helping mainstream acceptance of them. If there is a real correlation, would you want to dive in incredible depth into the mind of a Caligula? If you know where to look, you can find stories similar to mine.
[Papabear note: The letter write supplied lots of citations in addition to the above, which are deleted here because this is not an academic site and, frankly, I don't think my readers would want to read all of these academic articles. However, if you do, let me know and I can send them to you.]
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Dear Bald Hyena,
Human sexuality within the context of "civilized" society is a complicated story, to say the least about the most. As you know, sexuality in the fandom has long been a subject of debate and even ridicule. In case you are not aware of our history, the Burned vs. Freezing Furs war (1998-2001 or so) is an excellent example of furries fighting about X-rated material in the fandom. The Burned Furs were a group of people who objected to porn in the art of the fandom, feeling, like you, that it had gone too far and that it distracted people from the true values of furries. The problem was that they got extremely radical about it, descending into intolerance for everyone from gay furs and plushophiles to Christian furs and lifestylers, writing long, hateful tirades on social media, and even physically threatening furries in the community. The Freezing Furs were a reaction to the Burned Furs, and once we had two oppositional groups forming, well, you can imagine the fireworks and discord in the fandom. After a couple of years, the Freezing Furs disbanded and the Burned Furs burnt out, although they briefly evolved into a group calling itself Improved Anthropomorphics, a rather less aggressive group that works to promote a positive image of the fandom sans porn and paraphilias (Improved Anthropomorphics is also no longer active, it seems).
This short history is meant to show you that the debate about adult art in the fandom has been ongoing with the result being, mostly, much drama but barely any effect on the content of art and literature in the fandom (i.e., there's still a lot of adult art out there). Why is this? Well, that is a looooonger story I can't get into in this column too deeply, but I am addressing it in my book. There are many social-history and psychological reasons for furporn. The bottom line, though, is that as long as there is pornography in general society there will be pornography in the furry fandom because, well, we're sexual beings.
As you suspected, censorship is not the answer. In fact, suppression of sexual imagery is one reason I theorize that furporn is so prevalent. The more people tell you NOT to do something, the more you want to do it. As to your hypothesis that furries are becoming more tolerant of various paraphilias, I've been seeing everything from vore to cub sex on sites like FA for decades, so no, I don't think it is any more or less prevalent today than it was in the past. You are just maybe more aware of it.
I would like to comment quickly about Bad Dragon (and no, they are not sponsoring my column). I have spoken to representatives of Bad Dragon, and they are actually doing a good job about promoting responsible sex, wearing condoms, and such-like things. Also, when you look at it, using a sex toy is the safest sex you can have, no? Well, as long as you don't borrow it from someone LOL.
All that being said, one definitely should point out the dangers of harmful sexual practices. You mention choking as one, and I would add that any brutal form of sadomasochism is also a no-no, as well as anything involving nonconsensual sex (pedophilia and rape). There is a BIG difference between criminal sexual acts and sexuality that is experimental, consensual, and/or playful. I am in no way saying hurtful sexual activity is okay. There is also the problem in the fandom — especially among younger furries, but across the board — involving ignorance about sex and how to be safe about it (one furry told me that one could put a candy wrapper on one's penis for safe sex — oy vay). Finally, there is the issue of porn addiction. When people get addicted to porn, it results in desensitization to strong images and can even negatively impact the possibility of having a healthy, real-life sexual relationship.
So, bottom line, here is my conclusion on the topic of sex in the fandom: better sex education is needed. I believe that a lot of furries (again, skewing to the younger furries) come from families that have not provided them with solid information about having safe sex. A lot of conservative families, for example, will just tell their kids not to have sex at all (I'm talking about legal age young people), tell them that sex is evil, and then forbid them from understanding their bodies. Then, these kids stumble upon the furry fandom and its pornographic images and get turned on because it is forbidden fruit. This makes them vulnerable to porn addiction, and, worse, to sexual predators on the Web. Also, if they are not familiar with how to practice safe sex, that leaves them vulnerable, too.
Having an open forum on this issue is a stupendous idea. In fact, it would be an excellent idea of a forum at furcons. I might actually propose that to future furcons I will be attending.
Does this answer your question?
Hey Papa Bear, I hope you’re well.
If I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure what kind of answer I’m expecting from this question or whether this is really a question at all or where the root of this problem lays. I’ve milled over what kind of thing I’m facing actually is, and how any one way might end up making me look ignorant, spiteful or at worst discriminatory. Something that disgusts me to think about.
It’s probably best if I set things up. I started partaking in furry activities, attending meetups and familiarising myself with the scene from around 2014 or 2015, and my earliest months went about as you’d expect a newcomer’s early months to go: A few good friends, a fair bit of time watching from the sidelines and occasionally chipping in where I felt comfortable. It wasn’t until a few months later into the first group of friends, comprised of a number of individuals (including some well-known faces in the community) who would frequently talk to me and otherwise make me feel welcome. These are friends I have often met with, and even gladly invited to my wedding some years ago.
This group felt wonderful to be with, and taught me a great many things about gender identity, the issues surrounding LGTBQ individuals and helping me to understand and appreciate the issues that such a community faces daily when I’d previously not been exposed to such issues or even properly talked to or met those involved. I’m proud to say that these are now issues I long to help any of my LGTBQ friends with wherever in the world they may be, and I’m proud to say I’ve made numerous friends across the globe in this community.
My problem now, however, revolves around this friend group’s behaviour that has always been present but appears to have intensified in recent years, and some of the things that are now said on a frequent basis. A common thing is the discussion of drama pertaining to individuals the group may see as enemies which are already draining enough, but the more worrying and discomforting to me is their apparent readiness to brand cisgender and heterosexual individuals as inherently problematic people who are deserving of ridicule and contempt (including posting derogatory memes intended to mock those people to public social media).
My time talking to these friends helped make me aware of the inherent privilege I have over others: I’m a white, adult male who is married to my wife in a fairly traditional marriage. Despite this however, it didn’t make the apparent news that I am inherently harming some of my closest friends by being who I am any easier to come to terms with. It was and still is hurtful to hear that being a cisgender person is somehow making the lives of others and the lives of those I care about worse.
I have reached out to a few of these in the group privately to discuss my concerns and how such comments make me feel, and the feedback I’d receive didn’t inspire much in the way of confidence; being told that how I had no right to be upset given my privilege. Being told that if I wanted to be a true ally to LGBTQ people that it was my duty to take what they were saying and just agree. Being told to simply accept that being who I am inherently causes problems in these people’s lives.
This leaves me with my current dilemma. This has gone on for long enough that I feel like I need to walk away from these people and their mindsets. It feels like what could be described as a toxic environment to be in, especially when I look at my friendships with others elsewhere that are all genuinely wonderful.
Despite my heart telling me that it’s the right thing to do, my head leaves me conflicted. Will walking away from this group mean I’m betraying them and their struggles, given my position of privilege? Am I betraying the struggles all my friends from further afield have faced?
Many thanks for your time, and apologies for the lengthy write-up.
Anonymous (England, age 30)
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Thank you for writing me on such an important topic. Oh, my, it opens a can of worms, doesn't it? If I do say so myself, you are asking the right bear. As a man who thought he was straight for 40 years of his life (long story) and who was married to a woman for 22 years and is now openly gay and married to a man, I can view the LGBTQ community from both sides. This has to do with reverse prejudice and applies not only to LGBTQ v. hetero debates but also to any debate involving bigotry (race, religion, nationalism, etc. etc.)
But let's just focus on LGBTQ rights in England (and in the USA, since I'm more familiar with that) for this letter, since that was your question. Both countries have treated gay and trans and bi people horrifically for hundreds of years. In England, homosexuality was a crime until 1967, when the Sexual Offences Bill was passed, but even then you had to be over 21 and discreet about sex, AND the law only applied to England, so being gay was still illegal in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. A great example of the pain and injustice caused in England by this policy can be summed up in two words: Alan Turing. (You might know this story, but it is also for the benefit of my other readers, so be patient). Turing was the brilliant mathematician and computer scientist who, along with his staff, invented the machine that solved the Germans' code during World War II, saving millions of lives. After the war, the British government determined he was gay and found him guilty of "indecency." He was forcibly chemically castrated. Turing was so tormented by this that he committed suicide. So, the man who saved untold numbers of people from the Nazis was tortured to death because he was gay. Oh, the queen pardoned him in 2013, long after he was dead. So helpful.
Back to the law. So, anyway, Scotland then decriminalized being gay in 1980 and Northern Ireland did so in 1982. The Isle of Man finally made it legal in 1994. Homosexuals in England could serve in the military beginning in 2000, and the Civil Partnerships Act of 2004 gave gay couples the same rights as married hetero couples. But it wasn't until 2014 that gay couples could marry in England and Wales.
The point of the above is that these events are still fairly recent, and the pain of injustices perpetrated against homosexuals in England runs deep. It has been an uphill battle all the way. For example, Pope Benedict XVI berated the English government for its gay equality laws in 2010 (fortunately, Pope Francis is much more tolerant). In America, homosexual couples did not have the right to marry until 2015, and in many U.S. states, businesses can still legally discriminate against us. The House of Representatives just passed a new equality bill, but it has to get approved by the Senate, still.
So, you can easily understand--and it sounds like you do--why LGBTQ people are still miffed, to say the least (I didn't even go into all the stats on gay and trans people being beaten and murdered over the years), at the hetero community, many of whose members still behave horribly to us today.
When a group of people is discriminated against, hated, and abused simply for being who they are, those people tend to group together to find strength in one another. So, the black community in America has formed a strong, unionizing culture; Native Americans have; LGBTQ people have, and so on. But these groups all have something in common: Their tormentors are, by and large, white straight people. So, the hate has been focused on white straight people from all kinds of different minority groups. By and large, it's deserved. When one adds the increasing demand that everyone be Politically Correct, you have a recipe for reverse prejudice and reverse discrimination.
Am I saying that all white, straight people are bad? No, no I am not. Focusing again on just heterosexuals, I would venture to say that the majority are good people who don't refuse to serve LGBTQ people at their businesses and don't beat them up or shout insults at them. At the same time, however, they do live in a world of privilege that makes them a bit blind and dull-witted about what gay people go through. I'll use myself as an example. Growing up, I was a very protected child, not knowing anything about the dangers in the world. When it came to homosexuality, I was clueless. About the only "exposure" I had to what it was like being gay was British comedies such as Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Two Ronnies, in which gay men were always wearing women's clothing and talking with a lisp. So, I thought that was being gay. It wasn't until much later that I learned there were many masculine gay men (bears, leathermen, or just plain joe's like me), and that was quite a revelation. My point here is that, being brought up middle-class, white, and sheltered, I probably made many incorrect assumptions about gay people (and bi, trans, etc. about whom I only found out later in life), which likely resulted in my saying stupid things when I was an adult. Not sure, but I probably unwittingly insulted a lot of gay people in my youth and early adulthood. Now, if you take someone like me and put them in a restrictive, conservative, religious environment, they probably end up coming off even worse to the LGBTQ community without meaning to.
I do believe that, because of this and the long history of discrimination, LGBTQ people will conclude that all straight people are intolerant bigots, and if you don't agree with that assessment, then you're an intolerant bigot as well in their minds.
This, of course, is incorrect.
So, we have three factors that combine to result in the attitude you are seeing in your LGBTQ group: 1) a long history of discrimination and hurt against LGBTQ people; 2) the ignorance of those in the straight community that causes them to be dense or unsympathetic about their plight; and 3) the current atmosphere of hyper-PCness that causes people to bristle at the slightest hint of a potential slight against their community.
This triple whammy results in the offended community (in this case, the LGBTQ community) taking an overly defensive, hypersensitive posture that then results in their becoming blind to other points of view, and this is what causes prejudice on their part. They are being prejudiced against you because you come from a "privileged" background. And once people start seeing you as something "other" than them, you are going to have a very difficult time fostering empathy from them.
As you might know, a lot of gay people have fled into the furry fandom, hoping to land into the comforting arms of a welcoming community, and most of them did. There are a lot more furries identifying themselves as LGBTQ in the fandom than in the general population. Establishing a safe haven within the community has the side effect of also becoming defensive of said territory, as you have personally experienced. Part of that defensiveness includes intolerance for outsiders and differing opinions, which then results in what I call the George W. Bush position of "you're either for us or against us." No in-between; no compromise.
Intolerance of outsiders within a community of people who feel oppressed can lead to the blindness of their own shortcomings. For example, black people have sometimes discovered that furries--who are by and far largely white--treat blacks rather myopically and, yes, with prejudice. A big problem is that white (notably, often gay) furries seem to be under the impression that black people have to pick fursonas that stereotype the black community (I'm talking about America now; obviously, black people have a different history in England but I'm sure they suffer from discrimination, too). One black acquaintance of mine said that furries felt her fursona had to be an urban thug kind of furry, a gangsta, a rapper, things like that, and that they couldn't be, for example, a Celtic warrior; they even went so far as to say her fur should be black and couldn't be, say, purple or pink. I've seen videos of black furries complaining they do not feel very welcome in our furry community, and that's just sad. The fandom shouldn't be just for gay white furries but for ALL people who want to have imaginative fun without restrictions, rules, or barriers.
In summation, LGBTQ people have been oppressed for generations and, understandably, have become wary of straight people. In the furry community, they have hunkered down into their own, relatively safe communities where they can feel accepted, but a side effect is they have become overprotective and fearful of outsiders, leading them to form prejudices of their own and forgetting why they came to the fandom in the first place: to have fun and be free of society's constraints.
Back to your personal concerns: If your furry group is saying you have "no right" to question them because of your "privileged" birth, they are flat-out wrong. If they are making you feel uncomfortable, then you have every right to call them out on it. Prejudice begins with ignorance and intolerance for people who are different. Point that out to them. Point out that you are on their side but that condemning an entire group for who they are (in this case, straight people) is no better than what straight people have done to them. It works both ways.
Our society can only progress if we listen to each other and empathize with each other. No group is perfect. No group is superior to another. The furry fandom should not be a haven only for gay white people but for ALL people. It could be a great equalizer by helping us discover common ground as, ironically, human beings who all desire love, friendship, hugs, and personal freedom.
Show your group this letter. Hopefully, this will open their eyes a bit.
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 just wanted to ask about furry cons, even though covid-19 is currently happening right now, I'm still really curious about it and haven't gotten many answers. Like are most conventions only 18+ to go to? Are there furry events in shops around (like cafes stores etc.)? And also advice on what's best to do at cons, like best travel and hotels if covid ends. I wanna be prepared.
Cookie (age 13)
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Dear Cookie (love that name),
That's a great question, thanks for asking. When COVID-19 eases up (and it will; they already have two very promising vaccines in the test stage, as well as treatments being developed), furcons should make a comeback in 2021 and 2022. What a joyous occasion that will be! I'm registered to attend Biggest Little Furcon in Reno, and it's been delayed a couple times and is now hopefully going to occur in June, so here's hoping.
Most furcons with which I am familiar are kid-friendly. While, yes, there is adult art in the artists' den and in the marketplace, these things are restricted to those 18 and older, and you will not be allowed inside those areas, so you can enjoy the rest of the marketplace and art shows without worry. Everything else at furcons--events, parades, forums--are G-rated. Occasionally, there will be a forum that is for adults, but those will be clearly marked on a program and, of course, someone your age would not be allowed inside the lecture room in those cases.
Some cons also have tracks specifically designed for youth (e.g. Furry Migration), and all furcons have rules laid out on their websites about minors. These usually involve the fact that you need permission from a parent or legal guardian to attend, pay for the registration, and pay for the room.
Most furcons are held at hotels and convention centers, but some have different settings, such as campgrounds. If you are looking for small events (you mention meeting at a coffee shop) then what you want is called a "furmeet." These are small parties or activities organized by a local furry group. They plan things like house parties, bowling events, going to movies or parks, and so on. You might try Meetup to see if there is a regular furmeet near you, or search on social sites to find local furry groups.
Because cons are held in cities all over the world, I can't really advise you on what travel and hotel options are best without knowing where you intend to go. I would advise that you check out the website of the con you wish to attend, see if they have a youth track, and contact the person in charge of events to ask about best things to do there. I would, if I were your age, attend forums to learn more about the fandom, visit the marketplace, visit the artists' den, show your parents around so they can see that furry is a lot of fun. And try to meet people and make furiends.
If you have more specific questions, feel free to write again.
Welcome to the fandom!
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.