I have not told my family that I'm a furry and that I'm transgender. It is hard these days, with all the bad thing about us, but I get by. But I'm very scared, and I do not know what to do. I try to sneak it in, but some people are just stupid. I just feel like my own kind are the only ones that get me. I just want to be loved for who I am without hiding who I am. (Oh, and I have not changed genders just yet, so I'm still a boy.)
I just do not want to hate who I am. I want to embrace it because it is me. Do you think you can help me? I also would like it if you can share what you say to others like me. Thank you in advance. Oh, and I believe we need, as a furry community, to stop the false information and hateful things like the uwu and judgement on us. Sorry if I'm oversharing to you; it is just that I have so much to say. Thank you.
Ivy Black (age 14)
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Although we're dealing with two things here--being furry and being transgender--it is possible that they are related. Before I get into your specific situation, please indulge me as I talk about a topic of importance that may or may not have to do with you (it popped into my head because of your comment about not wanting to hate yourself).
The issue here that Papabear has been hearing about and learning about more and more has to do with body dysmorphia (or, more formally, Body Dysmorphic Disorder). This is a fancy term for not liking your own body. Related to this is gender dysmorphia, or not liking the gender you currently inhabit.
According to the Mayo Clinic: "Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:
This is a vital question to ask, investigate, and answer before you continue on your life journey. At 14, you are, of course, in puberty, and you are being filled with a lot of hormones and emotions. It is important not to make any rash decisions now that will affect your entire life in a very powerful way and that you might regret later on. I'm glad you have not had any surgical procedures yet. You should really hold off on those for a few more years (and despite what some people have written me, I happen to know there are some clinics that perform sex-reassignment surgeries on kids under 16, so, readers, please do not write to me about that).
Anyway, the same might be said for some furries (and, I think, for people who describe themselves as lycanthropes, therianthropes, and otherkin). I know it is true for yours truly, for if there were a medical procedure available that would turn me into a bear, I honestly think I would consider it (I don't regard myself as a werebear, though). A lot of furries feel that having fur, tails, snouts, etc. are beautiful and they would be happy to look more like an anthro. Alas, it is not to be.
Before any of us pursue physical or hormonal therapies, I think it would benefit anyone to stop for a moment and consider working on body acceptance. Too often, we allow ourselves to be beaten down by what others say about our appearance to the point that we hate how we look. This often involves fat-shaming, but can include everything from height, hair, facial features, musculature, skin color, teeth, etc. etc. For example, I am fair-skinned, always have been, because I'm a semi-ginger and I freckle but don't tan. As a kid in Van Nuys, California, I was mocked all the time for not being bronze-skinned. At summer camp, they called me "Caspar the Friendly Ghost." This hurt a lot to the point I was constantly trying to tan and, instead, ended up burning myself to the point of getting blisters. Not good. Eventually, I woke up to the fact that I was hurting myself because of a bunch of shallow idiots. Don't follow my lead. Don't listen to others.
I am, admittedly, using your letter as a jumping-off-place to discuss the important point that we need to learn body acceptance. Obviously, only a small number of furries really have body dysmorphia, and most trans people want to get surgery for their own, not others', reasons. I just urge caution, especially for those who are still going through puberty. You can do a lot of damage to your body if you go through hormone therapy before your body can handle it. Hormone therapy side effects can include heart disease, certain cancers, liver damage, blood clots, stroke, and dangerous drops or increases in blood pressure. Genital surgery (vaginoplasty, in your case) can sometimes have unpleasant complications, too, including difficulty with urination and the formation of fistulas, which might lead to feces being excreted from the newly constructed vagina. Needless to say, this can adversely affect one's love life as well as one's physical and mental health.
I'm writing the above not to freak you out but to make sure you are aware of all the dangers. Depending on the source, anywhere between 1% and 8% of those who underwent surgery decided to detransition, but even this is not always successful. On the more optimistic side, this means that as many as 99% are happy with the results. Last word: be absolutely certain this is right for you before pursuing surgery or hormone therapy. That's all I'm really saying here.
Okay, with all that aside (whew! and sorry!) let's get into the broader issue of acceptance. I will definitely say that, in this bear's experience, the furry fandom is tremendously accepting of transexual and transgender people. Indeed, two of the four Good Furry Award winners are transexuals, and people win that award by being nominated and voted on by the furry community.
Another way, therefore, that your transgender and furry desires are related would be exactly what you said in your letter: seeking to find acceptance for being yourself. Of the two subjects, I think the one to address first is your being transgender. It is important to note that there is a difference between saying "I am transgender" and "I am a transexual."
Transgender is an umbrella term used for anyone who feels that their gender is not in alignment with the sex they were born with. For example, a male born with, obviously, a penis and scrotum feels inside himself that he is really a female. This is not limited to just female and male genders but can encompass the many and wide variety of genders being defined today, including intersex, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, androgynous, bygender, neutrois, and on and on.
Transexual is a much narrower category that falls within transgender (that is, all transexuals are transgender but not all transgender people are transexual). Although the definition I'm about to give has been starting to change, for purposes of this discussion we will define transexual as someone who has finished or commenced with a medical procedure for sexual reassignment.
It sounds to me that you have correctly identified yourself as transgender and that you are considering becoming transexual (the above is for the benefit of my other readers).
You have every right to be yourself and to be accepted as yourself. You shouldn't have to hide who you are from your family and friends. When it comes to friends, the good news is you can pick and choose. Pick the people who support you to be your friends, and anyone who does not support you is not really a friend, so don't worry about them. You don't need them in your life and you do not need their validation.
Family is more of a challenge. You can't pick your blood, so if they don't accept you, you're still kind of stuck with them, especially at your age when you're still a dependent. You don't say anything about your family, so this is a bit hard for me to gauge. Parents and other relatives can run the gamut from unsupportive, judgmental, and strict to loving, supportive, and flexible. The Planned Parenthood website has some solid advice on coming out trans to family, and they also note some other helpful and supportive organizations such as GLAAD. Be prepared to educate your family as to what being transgender really means to you, and be able to answer their questions. Most fears people have about something like transgender people stem from the fact that they are simply ignorant and have a lot of wild ideas that are incorrect. If your parents are religious, another good resource is Rainbow Ark, which offers support to LGBTQIIA+ furries from religious families.
Ignorance of the facts is also a problem for those who criticize or are fearful of the furry fandom. For them, a good documentary to watch is Ash Coyote's The Fandom. It gives a good enough overview of the fandom, what it is, its history, in a way that is not threatening to normies. There are other documentaries out there, too, but this one is an hour and a half and free.
The way to fight judgment and negativity about transgender people and furries is the same: education. The more people understand something, the less likely it is that their imaginations and fears will run wild. The more people like your peers and your family understand you, the less you should be afraid of opening up to them. When you conceal your identity and shamefully keep things hidden away, people sense that. You aren't fooling your parents, for example. They know something is going on with you, though they might not understand exactly what. You can alleviate their fears by calmly opening up to them. Educate them. Answer their questions.
You aren't doing anything for which you should be ashamed. So, don't be ashamed. Perhaps not all people will "get you" or accept you, but that's their problem, not yours. And you might be very surprised by how many people do accept you once you open up to them.
Sorry for the long reply. I haven't written back to anyone in a while and had a lot to get out LOL. I certainly hope this is helpful. Please feel free to write again if you have more questions.
I'm in the closet, and if I come out I lose everyone I still care about except for my brother. My mom hates gays but thinks my Greek grandmother molesting me and hitting me and starving me as a kid is ok and says I am being a sissy pretty much cause I don't want to be around her.
[I'm] single, male, no job cause of stuttering, can't drive yet, and severe nightmares. i can only sleep in daytime. These nightmares are so bad I can't fall asleep at night. Every sound makes me jump and turn on all lights. I feel pain, and I can't wake up from them, like, Freddy Kruger-style.
Of course, no marks when I wake up, but my mental health is declining. I feel so alone, and I am starting to see my nightmares when I'm awake, too. Like, I can see it but only as it rounds a corner or out the corner of my eye. I know it's not real; in fact, I'm an atheist, but this terrifies me. It'ss a deer who wears its skeleton on the outside of its body and stands 12 feet on hinds legs. I'm 6 ft 7, and it holds me down and bites me, causing extreme pain and suffering.
[At] age 21 and a half, [I'm] not sure what conversion therapy they were talking about [Papabear note: this is a follow-up letter of one I received in which the letter writer asks if he should go through conversion therapy; I asked for more background, which resulted in this current letter], but I read and watched vids, so I'm scared of that shock therapy stuff.
Dating site stuff, all want me to pay, and I currently can't. Money issues and no credit card. When I put my mind to it, I can do tough jobs, but my mind has been deteriorating for years now. I've lost hope. Only reason I ain't dead is my brother, and I am too sissy to end it, and idk how to end it.
If you can help that would be wonderful. Also, current counselor is way too queer. I guess I just need someone to tell me it's okay and [get some] advice. Racist south Louisiana, but gay is the new black (aka, gays are being beaten every day, and no cops interfere). I spend time on video games hoping that tomorrow is a better day. Like walking dead, taking it one day at a time.
The way my grandma did stuff was she was like the Baba Yaga in [the Witcher]. She weaved a web of lies and fed off my pain but sexually. Grooming and touching and rubbing and hitting and starving. Now [that] I'm larger, I cant retaliate. Why? Cause she is a woman, and I'm a man, and she is old now. Please help if u can. I don't sleep much, and I fear I may go crazy if I already haven't.
Solmyr Wizard22 (Louisiana, age 21)
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Yours is a terribly sad story. I see why you might ask about conversion therapy. So, we need to be clear here. Conversion therapy does not work and never has. It is, indeed, a form of mental and emotional torture and has been banned in several states (see this map https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/conversion_therapy). People who still believe in conversion therapy consider being homosexual a type of mental illness or social deviancy. This is not true. There is nothing wrong with you, which is why conversion therapy doesn't work (you can't "cure" something when there is nothing to cure). Indeed, as you can see here, conversion therapy is dangerous: https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy.
Being gay and having family hate you for it seems to be only part of the issue. Your grandmother is a huge problem, too, as you know. The nightmares you are having are likely a manifestation of your fears and horrors experienced while living with this horrible woman. She is the deer with the skeleton on the outside of her body. Because your anxieties are depriving you of sleep, these dreams are now manifesting in your waking world. When you do not get enough sleep (REM sleep), you can experience many side effects, including hallucinations, and this appears to be what you are experiencing now.
Of high importance at this time, therefore, is for you to get some sound, restful sleep. Here are some tips from Harvard Medical School (https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/tips-for-beating-anxiety-to-get-a-better-nights-sleep). If need be, try over-the-counter sleep aids (I would avoid ZzzQuil as it tends to exacerbate nightmares). You can also talk to a trained therapist about how to alleviate your anxiety to sleep better.
Speaking of counselors, yours is evidently not a good match. There is nothing wrong with shopping around for a therapist until you find one with whom you are comfortable and who helps you.
Your mental health issues are peaking, which is concerning since you are entertaining thoughts of suicide. For this, I would ask you to please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. It is a free call and you will reach people who are trained specifically with this issue. And, FYI, it is GOOD that you are "too sissy" to kill yourself. This means you still have a will to live. Hold onto that healthy desire to live.
You also need to start working toward getting away from your present environment, especially your grandmother, but also your gay-hating parents. YOU are NOT the problem. THEY are. You have not done anything wrong. Being gay or bi is not a moral failing.
You don't make clear why, at 21, you don't have a job, but you need to amend that. If the problem is your anxiety, then deal with that first and then work toward employment. If you are disabled and cannot work, then apply for government disability. Do anything to get some money so you can take control of your life.
That's my initial advice to you. You can write again any time when you have more questions.
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.
His Parents Are Bad Christians
Okie, why do Christians hate gay furry people? They have always been hating them, but they claim that they do "love" them. (Especially where I live. If you are gay, don't expect to be treated like a human, just hide it for your safety). My parents found out I was gay by guessing (they are good at it). Now they see me walk feminine, they make me walk again till they see I "walk like a man." They call me names ("sissy," it's annoying), and they just stress me a lot. Can you please help me?
Possible Snow (age 13, Alabama)
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Dear Possible Snow,
Christians do not hate gay or furry people. True Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ follow His command to love ALL humankind. There are dozens and dozens of passages in the Bible that tell us to love one another. For example, in John 15:12, Jesus says, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." Jesus doesn't say to love only fellow Christians or only straight people or white people or to hate gay people. Therefore, those who say they are Christians and then say they hate you for being gay (or for anything) are not true Christians. They are a sadly common breed of fake Christians that have overwhelmed the Church in America and around the world.
Fake Christians get around the Word of God by saying things like: "Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner." This is just a convenient way of trying to get around what God (according to their own religion!) says so that they can pretend to love you but, in truth, they look down at you with contempt. I experienced a horrific example of this two years ago when I got married to Michael. We invited his only sister--a classic fake Christian--to join us at the ceremony. But she told us she preferred to go to her minister's retirement party than to be there for her only sibling. The reason, obviously, is that we are gay and the marriage makes her uncomfortable. Now, when I confronted her on this, she protested, saying, "But I LOVE you Kevin!" I call bullshit. Actions speak louder than words. She hurt me and Michael deeply because she is a bad sister and a bad Christian. Oh, the pièce de résistance was when she surprised me at the front door around Christmas time to hand me a Christmas card with a $20 Starbucks card in it. Good Lord! Oh, yeah, $20! That makes it ALL better!
Pardon my digression, but I think you see my point. You're asking the wrong question. Your question should be this: "How do I convert my parents from being fake Christians to being loving parents who are good Christians?" This is where the Bible comes in. Know your Bible. Read it. Find all the passages in which Jesus commands us to love others. If you need help, see whether you can find a minister who is not a homophobe (this might take some research, but they are out there). Also, I have a link on my website for Rainbow Ark, a resource for gay furry Christians. Check it out.
Good parents love their children unconditionally. Apparently, you need to teach them how to be good parents. This is hard to do living in a state like Alabama, which is the heart of Homophobe Country, but if you talk to them in a way they understand by using the Bible, there is a chance they might listen.
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.
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.
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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).
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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)
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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! :-)
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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.
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.