I have been following the fandom since my early teens. I WANT so badly to belong, but the few times I've reached out to locals or joined any group, I've found it to be a nightmare. The people I meet are either not great people, or I just don't fit in. The one con I went to was a terribly lonely experience.
I regretfully say that the fandom has left a bitter taste in mouth. I however, also find it hard to just "walk away." I am now a sad, lonely, semi-furry. My mental illness also makes it hard to fit in as few seem to understand. I am wondering what your advice is for fitting into the fandom or going it alone.
Anonymous (age 33, Texas)
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Yours is not an uncommon problem. The difficulty with joining local meetup groups is often that they are already an established group of friends with a hierarchy, etc., embedded into their system. The best way to enter such a group is if you are already friends with one of the members and they invite you to join. If you don't know anyfur in the group, then yes, it is hard to introduce yourself and gain acceptance. Imagine if there were a house party somewhere and you lived in the neighborhood but didn't know anyone at the party, but you decided to invite yourself in and go anyway. As you likely know, this is called being a "party crasher" or "gate crasher," so it's kind of the same thing. Of course, with a furry meetup, you need to tell the host you're coming, so it's not exactly the same as crashing the party, but I think you know what I mean. Still, people seem to think that just because we are all furries that it is okay to just show up at a meet and everyone will welcome you as a friend. Nope. The same dynamics are in play at a furmeet as they are in a normie party. This problem is compounded by the fact that many furries are quite shy, so it can be tough to break the ice.
Similarly, if you show up at a furcon all by yourself, not knowing anyone, you're going to have a lonely time. Many furries will already be grouped with friends there, and they also converge into cliques, such as gamers and fursuiters. The best con experiences I have had is when I go with (or meet up with) friends who are also attending. Have you seen the movie Coco? In it, the boy Miguel thinks his grandfather is the famous Ernesto de la Cruz, and he goes to meet him in the afterlife. Ernesto throws huuuuuge parties, and when Miguel manages to enter the giant villa party, no one pays him any attention, even though everyone there shares a love of music (just like furries share a love of anthros). But then, Ernesto introduces Miguel as his grandson; suddenly, everyone is welcoming (also, there is the fact he is a skilled guitarist LOL). In comparison, one might say that if you are friends with a popufur, you're going to get some attention pretty quickly. Same holds true, though, if you are connected with a respectable furry who might not necessarily be furry famous, or with a furry who is in an established subgroup.
Now, once you have a few friends already with you, it can be a bit easier to make new friends by just participating in various activities and sharing some experiences. For example, I met a couple of furries while going to an escape room at IndyCon. This is a particularly good activity as you have to work together to find the puzzle solutions. Another good way can be if you like gaming and can perhaps find a group that needs an extra player. Some cons also have a video game room set up, and you might be able to find someone who wants an opponent to play with.
(Side note: my furiend Michael Crisci [Dineegla Moose] is trying to organize a kind of "Welcome Wagon" at the next Midwest FurFest. The idea is to have a kind of welcoming committee at the con to provide those who are new to the experience or who are having trouble connecting with information and friendship to make their con experience more enjoyable. I think it's a great idea, and I hope the MFF organizers allow him to do it, and then maybe other cons will follow suit.)
Anyway, the best way is to meet someone beforehand and then go to the meet or con with them. You can find friends or acquaintances in a lot of social media groups ranging from Facebook to Discord. I see you are 33, for example, and could join the Greymuzzle group I run on Facebook. It's easy to meet people there and then try to see who might be going to a con you attend and see if you can meet them there.
An alternative to joining an established meetup is to create one for yourself and invite people you have met online locally. Since you are running the meetup, you can have it focus on things that interest you--whether that is board or video games or going to a movie or bowling outing or whatever.
As for your "mental illness" (autism spectrum disorder, perhaps?), many furries have such issues, so that shouldn't stop you from furry activities. Most furries I know are sympathetic or may have the same issues you do.
Finally, an excellent way to overcome feeling alone is to go to meets or cons as your fursona. One of the cool things about the fandom is that we can fantasize we are someone else, and these fursonas, you will find, can provide a way to gain entrance into the social world of furry, whether that is online or in real life (online RPGs are an excellent way to meet furries). So, when you go to a meet, try going as your fursona. I find that this really loosens me up, and I bet it will for you, too.
Hope this helps!
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