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)
* * *
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.
I've recently come out as transgender (Female to Genderqueer, I use they/them pronouns).
I've been having problems getting anyone to use my pronouns because of my feminine name (which I chose), and even my own husband won't use my pronouns. It's frustrating.
Should I just get used to not being addressed properly, or should I change my name and work towards a top surgery to come across as more masculine? Is there another option?
Thank you for your time.
* * *
Thank you for your excellent (and very relevant) question! I've been waiting for someone to ask me this :-3 Okay, so, here we go . . .
First of all, I would like to stress that you should never ever ever get surgery in order to please other people. Surgery is extremely serious and should never be performed unless it is either to correct or to fix a life-threatening or other serious medical issue or because you yourself have a deep personal commitment to the procedure (and I mean deep). I would say the same thing about any hormone therapy you might consider. If you don't want to do something like that, then you certainly shouldn't do it just so people can get a grip on their perception of you. No, what is important is how you see yourself and what you want for yourself. It is your body and your life.
As for pronouns, I can understand, I think, what you are feeling. While I am not transgender myself, I am a gay bear who is attracted to masculine men and I feel masculine myself. For this reason, I feel it is very cringy when people call me "sister" or "girlfriend" or use the feminine pronoun on me, as some of my gay friends are inclined to do. No, I'm not a girl and I am not your sister. If a gay friend of mine likes to be called those things and wants me to use "she/her" when referring to them, I'm fine with that. But don't do it to me, please.
When my late husband, Jim, called me "girlfriend" and "sister" a couple of times, what I did was quickly correct him. "No, Jim, I'm not a girl. Please don't call me by any feminine pronouns or other descriptions." It took a couple of times, but he eventually got out of the habit and we were fine.
Pronouns are an interesting thing. Some people think using "they/them" to refer to one person is wrong, but in English we do it all the time. Example: "My friend Bob left their keys in the car." No one has a problem with that, and, in fact, important dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's have been saying that using they/them in the singular is perfectly fine, grammatically speaking. For years, as a book editor, I struggled with the awkwardness of editing text to say he/she and his/her in some of the manuscripts I corrected. I was told, when I was a young assistant editor working in Detroit, that I should do this. It made for very clumsy prose, in my opinion. More recently, after some research and consulting with authorities in the language, I am now happy to use they/their in the singular.
There have been proposals by some in the gay and also straight community that we should just dispose of feminine and masculine pronouns entirely and use they/them all the time. The counterargument is that this denies the majority of people of all genders and sexes the right to be called by a masculine or feminine pronoun if that is how they self-identify.
Sooooo (deep breath), the bottom line, in my opinion, is for English speakers to adapt to the idea that they/them has evolved somewhat and can now be applied to use for general discussions of the singular but also for trans people or anyone else who has that preference. English is a living language, and words change their meanings and usage all the time (e.g., "gay" used to mean "happy" and that was all it meant; "ugly" was often used as a synonym for "mean"; and so on).
Sorry for the long walk-through, but now to your specific question: How does one get family, friends, and coworkers to start referring to you with they/them pronouns? Look at it in the same way a teacher might. When you are teaching someone, and they (they!) get an answer to a question wrong, you calmly and clearly correct them. Each time they get the answer wrong, you correct them. You keep doing this over and over until they get it right. Repetition is how people learn. So, repeat, repeat, repeat. Eventually, they will either get the concept, or they will be so exhausted by your endlessly correcting them that they will finally relent and use the proper words. Depending on the person, it will take more or less time. But do not give up. Don't get angry or sad or upset. Just smile and correct them. It's like someone mispronouncing your name. What would you do? Why, you would correct them, of course. Same goes for this situation.
Hope this helps.
Big Bear Hugs,
I'm transgender, MTF, and have started transitioning at least to the best of my ability given the Covid-19 situation. So here is the problem I'm facing due to the current situation in the world: I don't know how to handle it as I'm struggling to find the help or start hormone therapy, or even if I even need to actually go onto hormones to be transgender. Every site I've looked at only ever mentions going onto hormones to be considered trans, so I don't even know if I'll be accepted as female if I'm for whatever reason unable to do hormone therapy. Even though I'm trying my best to present as female. (But I've still been misgendered several times, which I can only assume is because I still "look and sound" male, which has been stressing me to no end on how to even handle that).
* * *
Thank you for asking a very important question that may help others who read my column. Let's get down to it.
Just like people who think all furries wear fursuits, there is an assumption among the public that all transgender people get surgery and/or hormone therapy. This is false. There are a lot of people just like you who do not go for medical options. This can be for a number of reasons. Perhaps they are unable to afford hormones or surgeries. Perhaps they have other medical problems that prevent them from doing so safely. Or perhaps they simply don't want to put their body through a medical procedure. These are extremely personal decisions, and there is no right or wrong answer. You must do what is best for you.
Are you trans if you don't have surgery or hormone therapy? If you feel that your physical sex does not match the real you, then yes, you are trans. Your true self lies within you and how you feel. It is not subject to public opinion.
Assuming that, even if you do want hormone therapy, you are unable to pursue it at least for the time being, what else can you do to be trans? Your third option is called "social transitioning." That is, you change yourself outwardly in things that can be easily perceived by society. One obvious thing you can do is change your appearance--your hair, your clothes, your makeup, etc. Next, you can change your name (you can do this legally online for very little money at websites such as totallegal.com, which charges like $30 to do the paperwork), and you can insist on people referring to you with the appropriate name and pronoun that suits you. Finally, you need to look into all your legal rights in your state, which might require you to do some paperwork, depending on where you live. Check out this page https://transequality.org/know-your-rights for more on that.
Finally, related to the last part of your letter, try to build a network of support, including friends, family, and professionals (anyone from doctors, nurses, and therapists to ministers and other counselors). I recommend you check out the National Center for Transgender Equality at transequality.org to get further advice and support.
I know you probably get this a lot from other furries in/out of the closet, but as a male just learning I am gay, how do I handle the fact I like guys in todays society? How do I deal with the whole "homosexuality is an abomination of God etc?" About a year ago I was baptized as christian, however not sure of my sexuality then. In case you have forgotten, my parents split and I am currently living with dad. I told him I was gay, he was just fine with it, even at one point in an effort to help me with my depression, he suggested getting a boyfriend. (all this was months before codvid-19.)
Mom however is a different story.
Long story short she is very family centered, raised as a Christian. I am pretty sure her opinion on LGBT stuff is she does not think highly of them. One time years ago when I was still questioning, after finding the local LGBT (am I badmouthing my mom as I type this? or is that just my OCD talking? Please answer as a sidenote.) Once I borrowed a book from the local LGBT center and forgot about it in the car. Mom found it and questioned me about it, clearly in a disapproving way. About a week later she told me to read something with her, and it was the bible verse "thou man who laid with a man has committed an abomination." Then she told me if I wanted to be with a guy she will not tolerate it.
So as a Christian, raised with Christian teachings by mom but an accepting dad of my homosexuality, what do I do? How do I accept myself as for who I am, and be happy going forward? Am I obligated to tell my mom? How do I deal with the fear from religion about being gay and it being morally wrong?
0.O *realizes the pandamic going around*
Nicholas (age 23)
* * *
As you know, you're writing to a gay bear, so my answer to your questions is likely slanted. First and foremost is this: the only person who needs to accept you is you. The minute you define your value in life by other people's opinions of you, the minute you seek their approval, you will doom yourself to a life of misery and self-doubt. Whether those people are Christians, family, friends, your parents, coworkers, peers, whatever. It doesn't matter one whit what they think. Most of them are wrong, anyway, being misguided by a judgmental society.
As for Christianity.... In my experience, there are good Christians and bad ones. Good Christians accept and love you for who you are. They recognize that no one, including themselves, is perfect, and only God has the right to judge you. Bad Christians are the ones who use the Bible to defend their hate and prejudice. Stay away from them. The God in whom I personally believe is a loving God, not a God seeking to punish me or hurt me. I do not believe in Hell and eternal damnation. I do not believe that God just wants us to constantly grovel and worship Them. I think of it this way: If I were God and was all-powerful, omnipresent, omniscient.... why would I need to be worshipped by tiny little ant beings? I would not have such a pathetic ego that I would need to be constantly validated for something I already know I am. I would not get my jollies off of hurting people. I would want to be kind to them and try to help them. So if I, a tiny little human being, can feel this way, then God, who is infinitely superior to me in every way, must have all these loving, caring qualities to the infinity power.
So, why do Christians, the Church, parents, etc. try to shame you for being who you are? Simply put, it's a power thing. It is the pathetic desire to control you and your life, and also to make themselves feel holier than thou. Oh, they will SAY they are just trying to help you, but don't believe it. The truth is, by being gay and--God forbid--actually enjoying yourself, you will challenge their worldview, and that makes them uncomfortable because it is easier to just accept what you are told to do rather than to think for yourself.
Religious people who abuse and torment LGBTQIA people for something as unimportant as sexual orientation are doing the opposite of what religion should do, which is to love and help human beings. I could go on for pages and pages as to why the Church disapproves of gay people (most of it has to do with keeping people in line and perpetuating generations of tithing loyalists), but I think you get the point.
You are not your sexuality. That is just one aspect of a well-rounded person. Most people define who they are by what they do for a living and their families. You don't hear straight people introducing themselves like this: "Hi, I'm Bill! I'm a heterosexual architect and married man!" No. So, why should we define ourselves for being gay or bi or whatever? We mostly do this because it is not "the norm." Screw the norm. Norm is boring. Being normal is what has caused so much misery, war, and injustice for millennia.
Do not seek out to be normal. Be you. Be different. Contribute something unique to this world. The world needs unique people like you.
And remember, no matter what: God loves you.
Be a good person. If you do that, you are golden.
Dear Papa Bear,
It's been several years since we've spoken. There have been many things in my life that have happened to me and around me. I recently sent a justifiably angry letter, as both a prayer and out of reluctance, to my mother, telling her that she needs to change her homophobic ways in order to have a relationship with me. It's not what I wanted to do, but I had to do it because it was the right thing despite the heartache in having to send such a thing.
People have different reasons for coming out and not coming out. I came out because I had no choice, and I wanted to do the right thing, not because I wanted to embrace it; and it hasn't evolved further from that. I had to drop a lot of things to get to where I am today, and now.... And now.... I'm scared about the person that I'll eventually become.
Lately, I've been playing along with a lot of people's likes, hoping that eventually I'll end up getting used to hearing these terms, whether it's drag, or queens, or twink, or bears, or leather, or certain people that people look up to because, in truth, I don't really like any of those things/terms. I just use them to boost people up as well as because I thought I'd get used to hearing them. And, I've almost made it my MISSION to not fall into any category to show that gay people are just what they are: people. Not by what word or feeling they choose to define themselves.
But I see it around so often now, and it's so high in concentration that I feel like I will be assimilated eventually into those terms/things. It is so overwhelming. I want to tell people to stop. I want it to stop. I can't deal with it anymore.... But what point is there in saying that if all I'm gonna get is a retort, if people are gonna do the same to me despite being outnumbered?
It's almost as if I have to accept that God, as part of destiny or fate, may make me a bear, since I have a thing for masculine men, and ... that's it. Like, no matter where I go it's how its gonna be. And I wish there was another answer. Is this how it is? I want to run TOWARDS something. Not away. And I've been running away a lot. There's a lot of fears that I have to face, and what if I'm not strong enough?
I guess what I'm trying to ask is, "What's gonna happen to me now?" I understand I am in charge of my own story, but since God made me who I am It sure as hell doesn't feel like it.
* * *
The question here, if I'm not wrong, is how does a gay man avoid becoming part of a stereotype, such as bear, twink, leatherman, etc., yes? And the corollary is why does being gay seem to be an overwhelmingly defining characteristic of a person?
You are correct that we should not allow being gay or bi or trans or any sexuality like our defining characteristic. Straight people don't go around introducing themselves as heterosexual at business meetings ("Hi! I'm Bob! I'm a heterosexual project manager!"), so why do we expect this from gay people? I remember Jim (my late husband) telling me he would not run for public office because he didn't want to become "openly gay candidate Jim Fordyce."
The reason this is forced upon us is because American society is so fixated on white, straight, Christian people being the "norm," and everyone who doesn't fit into that category has to somehow justify their existence. Wrong on so many levels. Whether you are an African American or Hispanic American or Jewish or Muslim or gay or trans or whatever, we have all been oppressed and discriminated against in one form or another by the "normal" Americans (which makes "normal" rather repugnant, in my opinion). Because of this feeling of alienation, people like you and me are always trying to fit in to some other group (it is a powerful part of human nature that we want to belong somewhere). I've done this unsuccessfully for years. I mean, I see myself as a bear, basically, but don't really feel like I have been fully accepted into that community, and there are many bears who say I'm not one because I'm not fat or hairy enough. Whatev. Sheesh.
I don't walk around this planet constantly thinking of how I am a gay man. I'm just Kevin Hile. In fact, I think of myself more in terms of being a writer, editor, and publisher than about being gay. I think of myself as a Californian. I think of myself as a furry. Honestly, being gay is about fourth on the list. We have made a lot of progress in this country, building on the struggles of earlier generations, for this to be possible for me, but, sadly, we have taken a backward leap in recent years....
You are correct that you are gay by birth, yet our sexuality is just a small part of who we are as human beings.
What happens to you now, you ask? I suggest you pursue finding out what your passions in life are, how to be a good person, and how to discover what is important in your existence. Do not allow other people to define you or tell you how to run your life. Do not worry about being a joiner or follower. Be the captain of your own ship. It is YOUR life, and you only get one crack at it.
I'm sorry your mother has a difficult time accepting you. We all want approval from our parents and loved ones, of course, but we do not have the power to change who they are. All we can do is leave the door open for a time when, hopefully, they change their minds.
In the meantime, you are 26 and have a full life ahead of you. Take the cards you are dealt, place your bets, bluff if you have to, and win the biggest pot of cash you can with what you've got.
It might be cliche, but be yourself and don't give a fuck what others think. Just be a good person, which means never hurt other people. Be kind to people, nature, and Earth. That's all you need to remember.
It took me about 50 years to figure that out. Hope you are quicker about it than I was.
I recently discovered that somebody who I follow on FA who I shall not name for their own sakes doesn’t have the best view of the LGBT.
Essentially, he posted a short journal expressing how fed up he was of how much the media hypes up Pride Month, which… fair enough; a month is perhaps a little long and it’s definitely become a lot more commercialised in recent years.
That said, in his journal he stated that he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman because marriage to him was about “producing babies” (which, btw, is a term a little too clinical and unloving for my taste). This is such a weak argument against same-sex marriage for a multitude of reasons, the most obvious ones of which I shall list below:
1. Not all opposite-sex couples have nor want to have children, so why do they get a pass whilst same-sex couples get criticised for it?
2. Being married to your own sex doesn’t render you incapable of having children, and artificial insemination isn’t the only way of going about it either.
3. Marriage is not a legal obligation to have children, and having children is not a legal obligation to marry.
Having not long come out as a gay man myself – started about 8 months ago but been doing it in baby-steps – part of me thinks I should just not follow in on FA anymore, but I’m not sure. Even though his reasonings against same-sex marriage make no sense, he’s not called people discriminatory names or called for Obergefell v. Hodges to be abolished etc. (at least, not from what I’ve seen). He seems to have adopted more of a “live and let live” attitude about this sort of thing.
One one paw, I think to myself that he’s merely expressing an opinion and not being “abusive” as such. But on the other, it’s one thing to have an adverse opinion about, say, whether being vegetarian is healthy or not, it’s another to have an opinion that denies someone their equality because of something against their control.
What do you think, Papabear? Is it fair to unfollow someone on social media for their unjust opinion, even though they’re not being abusive about it?
P.S. Congratulations on your own marriage to Michael, btw! :-)
* * *
Whom you choose as a friend is totally up to you, and you should be friends with people around whom you are comfortable. Being gay myself, I'm not entirely objective here, but I agree with your arguments as to why it makes no sense to say that marriage is for the purpose of procreation. That would mean, using that argument, that he would be against a man and woman marrying if, for some reason, they could not have children. He is, in reality, just trying to come up with a justification for his prejudice, and that is a sign of a lack of empathy and of a big character flaw on his part. You say he is not "abusive" about his prejudice. Hmm, well, you don't have to physically abuse someone, or even be extremely verbally abusive, to be a homophobe, which he clearly is.
My guess is that, unless he changes his attitude, the two of you are eventually going to butt heads and the friendship will end. You can always, of course, try to shine a light on his thin argument and reveal it for what it is. There's a slim chance you might open his eyes. In my experience, that doesn't happen too often, but you can try.
So, is it "fair" to unfriend someone who has such opinions? Certainly. Personally, I am only friends with people I like and who I respect, and I can't respect someone who is not only prejudice but who is also stupid about it.
Thank you for addressing my letter.
I have had problems with gender and sexuality for as long as I can remember, and they escalated during my adolescence. I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and have since tried my best to cure it. I have sought help from one of the specialists in my country, and the disease seems mostly controlled now, at the age of 24.
However, thoughts about gender and sexuality continue to plague my mind even today. I never had a relationship with a woman, despite the fact that I tried many times to have a stable and lasting relationship (though most of the times the women I was interested said they already had a boyfriend when I asked them on a date), but I have had experiences with men, though none of them lasting relationships.
Not all of these experiences were pleasant, because although I did not mind oral sex, I have a immense fear of penetration and its consequences.
But back to gender, the main problem.
It seems like I am particularly sensitive to transgender-related topics. There are no transgender news that I won't read about, or transgender characters that I won't take an interest in, or transgender videos that I won't watch.
When I come into contact with this topic, I start to wonder and ruminate about being female, how would I feel, what it would take, and if I wouldn't regret it. I have tried female clothing in the past and I have liked it. I often fantasize about being female (or at least feminine). I am a bit scared of the implications of being female in society, however.
For some time, I joined a transgender help group, but left because I felt like I was going down a path that I would regret, that would destroy my relationship with my family. I was always their 'golden boy', and they have always supported me. But telling them about this, or having Sex Reassignment Surgery would be my ruin.
I tried talking about my therapist about this, but I feel like she is a bit transphobic herself. I once talked to her about a MtF that was my friend, and she insisted that she was a man. Seemingly shoving it down my throat at every possible opportunity. Still, I can't search for another therapist because my parents like the progress regarding OCD I made with this one. They insist I remain with this one, and if I don't, they start arguments with me.
Last year I decided to burry this 'transgender business' as I called it, and tried to move forward. Most days, I am happy with being male, and even acknowledge that being a man has it's advantages. Other days, I feel an unavoidable need to be feminine.
These cycles come and go: Some days I discard it as being ridiculous, about not passing as or even wanting to be female (I wonder if it has something to do with having a conservative and transphobic family). Even consider wether or not this fixation on femininity is part of my OCD. Other days, like today, it's so strongly present in my mind that it leaves me depressed. I look at my body and feel discomfort. I lack breasts, and looking down I can't see a vagina.
I can't get it out. I can't get any closure. And I am always so confused.
Can you please help me?
* * *
Please forgive my late reply. I had to take a month off from my column for personal and work reasons. I hope it is not too late to reply.
This is a difficult letter to address because you have already taken a number of recommended steps and have not found satisfaction. You have sought therapy and you a help group to no avail. I agree with you that if you are not comfortable with your current therapist you should look for another one, and then we run into the parents issue. Evidently, they are paying for your therapy. While that is great that they are trying to support you, it's not so great that they won't let you switch therapists. Noting that you are 24, though, one has to wonder why you are not out on your own by now and managing your own life. Are you still in college and living with your parents? Is there any way you can pay for a therapist yourself and, thus, make your own choice as to whom you should see?
While your OCD is not directly related to your transgender issues, it might, indeed, be making it more difficult for you. But even if you didn't have OCD, you probably would still be thinking about your gender and sex a lot. Understandable. I don't believe your desire to be female is going to go away if you ignore it, so it is something you will, at some point, have to hit head on.
One step at a time, though.
It is clear that your parents and your therapist are holding you back. Therefore, the first thing you must do is become an independent adult who is in charge of his own income and medical care. You are 24 and it is time that you do this (unless there is something you aren't telling me that is preventing you from being independent?)
I'm sorry to say that I am not familiar with health care coverage in Portugal other than that there is a National Health Service there that helps cover many, but not all, expenses. Perhaps you have already researched this, but if not, you should find out whether and by how much MtF surgery is covered. (By the way, if you are really considering surgery, this is better defined as being transsexual.)
Another thing you can do is look for another transgender/transsexual support group. Since your English is excellent, you don't have to limit yourself to groups in Portugal. As you might imagine, there are many that are based in the USA.
Finally, you need to get over the fear of disappointing your parents. You don't have to be "the Golden Boy" all your life. That's too much pressure and it's not realistic. It is much more important that you just be yourself, and your parents need to accept that. And here's where your OCD is also probably kicking in: you are obsessing that being transgender (or transsexual) is going to "ruin" you and your whole life. You run through it over and over in your head until this fear paralyzes you.
Fear of judgment from others is, in my view, the number one reason most human beings in the world do not reach their full potential or find happiness. Once you let go of that fear, you will be liberated. Sure, it is easy for me to write that down, and I realize that is a difficult road to travel, but it is one you must travel.
Accept yourself for what you are. Don't blame it on OCD. Don't avoid it because of your parents. Seek support from people like yourself. If you are on Facebook, you might try the Transgender Support Circle. There are literally thousands of people there for you to talk to.
I hope this helps you some. Please feel free to write again if I am missing something that needs to be addressed.
First and foremost I would sincerely like to apologise if my skill of the English language is not up to par, since I’m not a native speaker. That being said I would like to ask advice on a problem I’m currently struggling with as of lately, and I hope you can be of any help with my problem.
I’m a 21 year old male who currently has been in the fandom for, I would say, like 3 years now. I have visited some cons and have been enjoying it thus far. I have made some friends there and I’m planning to go to a con this year as well. However, as you might be aware, a lot of people in the fandom are in the LGTB community. And this is where the problem arises. I have always considered myself a hetero-sexual male, but being in the fandom has had a certain influence on my life and I cannot be sure if this previous statement I made is true any longer. Now discovering new sexual interests shouldn’t be a problem, but yet it is.
Even though LGTB communities and official websites state it is something perfectly normal, it doesn’t feel normal for myself. I have of course met many gay furries myself, and some of them I sincerely could consider serious friends. One of them is even engaged and I was very happy for him. But if I notice I have thoughts about having a relationship with someone of the same gender it feels wrong to me, leaving me very frustrated and confused. Even the mere thought of having a crush on someone on the same gender feels wrong. I don’t know why I have these thoughts, and I have no valid reasons why I have them. One of the possible reasons why these thoughts occur in my mind could be because some of my family members are not very fond of Homosexuals, or “weird things” in general. (Though I must emphasize here the words “some of them”, and luckily this does not apply to everyone.) But then again, I would be the only person to blame for having such weird thoughts and being anxious about other people’s believes.
That being said, I really hope this story makes sense in any way. If questions remain, feel free to ask and I shall try to give a more precise answer. And I would like to thank you in advance for helping me out.
Arovos (the Netherlands)
* * *
Being homo- or bi-sexual (or other varieties of sexuality) is actually quite natural (that is, it occurs in nature). It is only considered "weird" because human society does not approve of anything other than heterosexuality (as some of your family believe). You feel "weird" about it and consider it "wrong" because you have been programmed since you were a child that heterosexuality is the only "correct" and "normal" form of sexuality.
I, like you, once considered myself to be completely heterosexual. The reason was that I was raised in quite a sheltered way and I never was exposed to other lifestyles with the exception of television and other media. TV shows always portrayed gay men as very effeminate people who enjoyed dressing as women. Since this was of no interest to me, I thought I was straight. Indeed, I was married for over 20 years and had conventional sex. Then I discovered the bear community and was instantly turned on. Now, as you might sympathize with, this confused me for quite a while, but then I realized I was really gay and I pursued that life happily. You might wonder about my early straight life and sex with a woman. Well, most people, you see, do not fall within 100% straight or 100% gay--there are a thousand (not just 50) shades of grey in between those two extremes.
You are now discovering that you have a homosexual side, as well. This is a result of your becoming friends with LGBT people in the furry community, though it could have happened in a number of other ways, too. This makes you nervous because you fear family disapproval. Very understandable.
So now you come to a decision-making point: do you pursue your attraction for people of the same sex, or do you bow to societal and family pressures and let them determine who you are as a person?
Hint: it is the happy person who lives as himself.
I've been in a relationship for about a year now and honestly, it's great. But there's one HUGE problem. My boyfriend is polyamorous and I'm not. When we started the relationship, I was still new to the idea of polyamory but was willing to try it. Now, I find myself hurting every time he's with his girlfriend. I've been cheated on before and it just feels like that again to me. I haven't met this girl yet, but do know a little about her.
On top of it, my boyfriend will blatantly state how girls we see are “hot” or he’d “f**k her.” And it hurts even more. We saw a musical the other day and he even commented on the one actress being hot.
Then there’s the fact that I worry more so about our relationship because I'm transgender and he's never dated outside of cis-females. I plan to get surgery one day and have been on testosterone for only a few days. He says he'll still stay with me but I'm worried even more that he won't thanks to having only dated cis-gender females before and the fact that he seems to be okay with the idea of sleeping around.
I always viewed polyamory as LOVE and not just having one night stands too like he seems to view it as. And I don't want to lose him over this. Before I met him, I was single for over 2 years. I don't want to go back to being single and alone because I'm transgender and a furry. Not many people can handle it. I don't know what to do anymore.
Ryvis (age 22)
* * *
Thank you for writing to Papabear on an important issue. Also, I applaud you on your bravery in taking difficult steps toward finding your happiness.
On the subject of polyamory. Polyamory is about the ability to love several people at the same time, more or less equally. It is not about one night stands, as you correctly point out. Sounds to Papabear as if your boyfriend is trying to justify what he is doing by excusing it as polyamory when, in truth, he just likes to sleep around. Also, the two of you have been together a year and you haven’t met his girlfriend? Seems to me that if he was serious about you and open about being polyamorous with all the “loves” in his life, then he would be introducing you by now. Finally, he is showing no respect for your feelings by going on about all the girls he wants to do.
I’m glad you wrote because you need an outsider’s perspective on this, Ryvis. This guy is a jerk. Add to this that you really aren’t comfortable with a polyamorous mate (even though you are willing to try it), then you need to see that this guy isn’t for you.
The only reason you’re sticking with him is because you don’t want to be alone. Also, I have a feeling you have self-esteem issues that make you believe (falsely) that you are not worthy of a lover who is kind and considerate of you. In desperation, you are clinging to someone who “says” he loves you but, based on what you have written here, no, he does not.
Have the courage to get out of a bad relationship. It’s okay to be alone for a while until the right person comes along. In fact, being alone for a bit while you work on your sense of self-worth and also, perhaps, get that surgery, could be good for you. Before you can have a healthy relationship, you have to be healthy (mentally and emotionally) yourself. Otherwise you will fall into traps like this again.
That’s probably not what you wanted to hear (or, maybe it is?) but it is what you needed to hear.
Good Luck! I wish you REAL love in your future.
I have autism and I'm gay and obviously a furry. I just don't know how to deal with the fact that I'm a living stereotype of all the insults, all the hate. I don't know how to put up with it anymore, and I recently had to come out to my parents because I had just got my first boyfriend and the next day I was texting him and my mom walked in smacked my phone and found out everything about me being a furry gay and about him. My mom made me leave him only after being his for less than 2 days. I just don't know what to do anymore.
Tyler (age 15, Florida)
* * *
As you might imagine, Papabear gets questions like this all the time in various forms. Sometimes I just write the furry an email and don’t post on my website; other times I do. I post on the website because no two situations are exactly the same and also because each time I answer the question “How can I be myself when my family hates all the things I am?” I try to approach it from a different angle. For other versions of this, feel free to browse the “Coming Out Furry” category.
Now to you. I’m going to start with a story. Papabear has a very dear friend named Sam. Sam is an older, gay gentleman who was once married and during that marriage he had two children: a boy and a girl. His son got into some trouble, fathering a child out of wedlock and he did something against the law and was in prison for five years. Through it all, Sam loved and supported his son as best he could.
Yesterday, his son died of a heart attack. He was only 30. Sam is crushed, his heart is broken, and he’s been weeping uncontrollably since he heard the bad news.
Here you have a man, Sam, who came out gay. His son accepted him. Here you have a son who went down the wrong path and ended up in jail. Sam loved him still and tried to help him. They loved each other. They appreciated each other. Therefore, even though their time together was cut short, they didn’t waste their time and found joy even when there was heartache.
On the other hand, here’s another story. It was published in 1995 as a book titled Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son by author Leroy F. Aarons. This true story is about a very religious Christian woman named Mary Griffith, who learns that her son, Robert “Bobby,” is gay. She utterly rejects him for being gay. She tries to “cure” him through prayer. His son, devastated by his own mother’s rejection of who he is, jumps off a bridge at the age of 20 and kills himself. Afterwards, Mary comes to realize that she destroyed her own son and there was really nothing wrong with him. But it’s too late. Griffith has since then become an outspoken advocate for gay rights.
Here you have two parents, both devastated by loss. The difference is that one had a loving relationship with his son and no regrets because he accepted him, while the other, because she was blinded by ignorance, actually caused her son’s death just as surely as if she had shot him with a gun. The message here is that parents should love their children for who they are no matter what, because you never know when there might not be a tomorrow.
Your mother needs an education in the fact that her denying you a relationship with a boy or doing anything else to stop you from being who you are will not work and will, if continued, destroy your relationship. You cannot pray away the gay. On the other hand, you can be gay and be a Christian. Here is a wonderful sight I stumbled across one day for gay furries just like you: Rainbow Ark. I suggest you go there and read through the material. If you like, send me your mailing address and I will send your mother (give me her name to personalize it) a copy of Prayers for Bobby. She could benefit from reading it, even if she isn't a Christian (I'm assuming, sorry).
All that said, you need to start creating a plan for yourself. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, so to speak, you can expect increasing pressure from your mom and family unless you can turn things around. Here are two courses of action….
Turning Things Around
The optimistic scenario is that there might be hope that you can convince your family that being gay is not the end of the world for you. To try to accomplish this, you need to arm yourself against attacks that the Bible says being gay is wrong. Here is an excellent article by Harvard Professor of Christian Morals Peter J. Gomes that summarizes concisely why this is a fallacy.
Whether or not your family is religious, It is also important for you to take a calm, rational stance on this matter. If you react as angrily as your parents do, then the only thing that will result is a shouting match. You, being autistic and the young teen, are at a disadvantage here because the parents have all the power (financial and legal). Try to see things from your family’s perspective. The underlying cause of their reaction is probably not that they hate you for being gay but, rather, that they are fearful that you will get a disease or some other nonsense that is just as true for straight people as it is for gay people. They might think, too, that because you are gay you’re going to run out the door and have sex with the first guy you find. Also nonsense. Gay people are just as capable of love, monogamy, and, yes, chastity, as straight people. Nevertheless, listen to their arguments. Acknowledge them by repeating what they say after they are done, such as, “I hear what you are saying. You think this and this, but actually this is what I am feeling and this is what is true for me….” The same goes for being furry. Some people think that furries turn people gay. The truth is that many gay people gravitate toward the furry community because they find acceptance here.
That all said, there is no reason why you have to go this alone. Get help from a professional. By this, I mean you have such options ranging from family counseling, finding a government social worker, or (and this might go well with your parents) getting your family together with your minister (hopefully you have a good minister and not a homophobic one; if he or she is antigay, then obviously that is not an option). Go to the Resources page on Rainbow Ark for some helpful links.
Worst Case Scenario
I hope this won’t be the case, but there is the possibility of being rejected by your parents, even kicked out of the house. Before this happens, you need to find some support, somewhere you can go if the worst happens. Do you have any relatives who might offer you a safe haven to live? How about friends? If not, seek out an LGBT youth center. In Florida (not sure exactly where you are) check out The Zebra Coalition. You don’t want to be one of the growing number of statistics of young LGBT people wandering the streets because their parents kicked them out of the house.
Find as much outside support as you can: other family members, friends, nonprofit LGBT organizations, government resources. Start researching on the Internet sooner rather than later. You need a safety net.
There is also the possibility that they won’t kick you out, but they will keep you under strict control at home for a long time. If you think you can do it, you might just want to “lay low” for a couple years until you can find some financial independence and move out of the house. Not a great option, but it might be something you need to do.
Get started on the above and let me know how it goes. I know it’s a hard row to hoe, but do the best you can.
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.