Um... Hello Papabear,
I've never done an online advice thing like this before so putting myself out there like this is kind of unnerving, but hear me out anyway alright? Basically, I am pretty typical in the furry world, but not so much anywhere else. I have been interested in the furry fandom since just before high school and have been involved in it with relatively low activity for all of high school. A few years prior to this, though, I discovered on a few accounts my interest in men. I never really had an internal conflict or whatever at this point since it was pretty much just a sexual desire paired with something I knew would never be accepted where I live. Of course, in terms of how it affected me, it just meant I was honest with myself when experimenting with things online such as pornography and sexual urges. I didn't really feel the need to ever be coaxed out of the closet at all until the furry fandom came along and treated me as an equal per se.
I just sort of found out about it all through random keywords appearing in random internet jokes, such as yiff, fetish, etc. When looking into things further, I found out about the chat rooms on deviantart.com which eventually led to me making a good number of friends that I talked to quite regularly and even a 2 month internet boyfriend. Since I couldn't fully be myself at school at the time, I would come home to talk to them and often enjoy some casual role play and yiff whenever. However, these habits were sort of forced out of me the following year, considering I applied and was accepted into a boarding school where school would keep me busy for my last three years of school (I just graduated in May). While I did learn to experiment sexually in my comfort zone at school (boys' dorm) with others as opposed to from behind a computer screen, I lost the vital connections I had with internet friends I used to vent everything to. I did make some fun friends at boarding school, but through various situations, very few of them stuck around in the end, so the end of my senior year often felt lonely at times.
Keep in mind, I was able to come out during my sophomore year at my school, but after the hype and extravagance of coming out of the closet wore off, people weren't really so interested in me. It's worth mentioning that during the summer between my sophomore and junior years after having just come out at school, I ended up attempting to come out to my parents as well. This, of course, didn't go well at all. They didn't get that mad, but they were firm in their beliefs of right and wrong and more or less just said that they didn't believe me. So, there was a long period of being cut off from all communication with the outside world and long Jesus talks followed by anti-gay counseling, which didn't last long anyways because I had to return to school for the following school year.
At first, I went along with the whole trying to turn my life around thing, but I just ended up hating myself more and more because of it. I remembered how much I wanted to get out of the rigid tradition of the South that had always been forced on me. Essentially, my parents had originally presented my options as "change" or forget about any further financial support (i.e. college) from them in the future. In fact, I almost wasn't allowed to return to my school the next year because I had to also admit that I had been sexually active there. Other measures taken were to try to monitor my computer more closely and shut off the internet at a certain time at night while I was at home. In fact, that cut-off rule is still in place most of the time while I'm at home these days. Additionally, my mom is always on Facebook and if I add any new friends or join any kinds of groups (furry or not), she pretty much gets a notification right away. (When I was living away at school, she would sometimes call and yell at me simply because she did not like the content of my status update, albeit I have always refrained from public use of directly inappropriate content and profanity on account of my other family members seeing.)
The fact is, my parents don't trust me. I don't really blame them. I wouldn't trust me either at this point. In their rigid view of what is right and wrong, going online to meet people for even the most casual of conversations is just wrong and creepy. I know that they love me a lot, but they completely block out any ideas of me being interested in men at all and always point out the appeal of my various female friends as if nothing ever happened. They obviously don't know about the furry fandom or anything so attempting to frequent websites like deviantart or FurAffinity is always risky. My room is positioned so that they could walk in at any moment and see what I'm doing online or not. Thankfully, I'll be moving away to college soon, but there are still some problems.
First off, my experience with general "LGBT community" groups apart from furries hasn't been very positive. They are usually based around a specific friend group and they are interested in more campy, typical gay things. I found that I felt almost as invisible as I was at my old school before I had ever come out in the first place... That being said, I feel more at home as an individual with furries and online geek groups where it isn't so much about what sexual label we wear as it is about what we are interested in, sexual or not. I've become a huge fan of various furry artists and have even had a few requests done. I absolutely love anthro characters and quickly formulated my own fursona (I have always been cuddly so my close relatives always called me "Bear") and subscribed to get the latest info on what was going on in the fandom. It is my dream to go to Anthrocon as well and I have at least 20 albums from furry/chiptunes artists like Renard from lapfoxtrax.com loaded on my iPod and can't seem to get enough. I really do love everything about it. I feel that since I have been able to at least chat with some people, I was able to expand my horizons and learn about other ways of life. "Furry" for me was more about a collective psychology based on the ideas of trying to be ironically more human(e) towards one another. Granted, with a love of animals and fantasy characters, the actual animal part of it all came naturally too. It is complicated and not exactly something I'd want to explain to anyone unless they had a similar positive experience with the fandom. (That rules out my parents.)
Anyways, here is my primary dilemma. As I mentioned before, the friends I had online have kinda been separated over time and I've lost contact with all but one of them. With my parents being so invasive as well as demanding to read my texts sometimes, it has pushed away even some of my IRL friends. They say that they are afraid to text me because my parents don't respect my privacy. Then again, they feel justified because I'm wrong anyway. Essentially, I want to get out and go to furry conventions and live it up and have friends to go to these events with and have fun, but right now I just don't have any. I'll be attending the University of Alabama, but I don't know of any resources or furmeets or anything that I could hook into there. I just want to get my feet rooted back in the things I have neglected through high school or have lost contact with. I owe it to myself after working so hard to experiment with relationships I feel comfortable and open in as opposed to just sleeping around in a dormitory. I suppose what I'm really trying to say is that I miss the companionship and feeling like I was a part of a more open "family."
I moved away from most of my relatives due to my dad's job at a young age, so at home it is just me and my parents. (My brother recently moved out after graduating college with a bachelor's degree.) The prime opportunity to connect with furries in real life and online once again would be when I'm in college and available to do more on my own, after all, and I don't want to wait until I'm old and gray to get back in either. So, could you help direct me to some way of meeting fellow furries in my area for the sake of going to cons together as well as getting started as a more active member of the fandom as a whole? I was never good at making art or music, but I want to be more involved somehow. I think I will finally have the wiggle room to do something about this when I'm living at my apartment in college. At least, that's what I'm hoping for...
Thanks Papa. I hope this wasn't too long or boring!
Tony the fellow bear
P.S. Any advice about dealing with invasive parents is welcome as well.
* * *
My goodness, I hope that writing that letter was a good catharsis for you. And I am sorry that your parents are so oppressive and cannot accept you for you. Unfortunately, that attitude is a lot more common in the world than it should be. They don’t realize that constantly monitoring your behavior and controlling you is damaging their relationship with their son. They also don’t realize that, by doing this, they are doing nothing that is going to change who you are. It just doesn’t work that way. Makes about as much sense as forcing one’s 5-foot-tall son to shoot hoops every day in the hopes that he will eventually become an NBA superstar.
Really, your only hope, when it comes to your parents, is to become independent of them so that they can no longer control you, which is what college will help you do. Keep your head low until you can finish a degree and get your first job. After that, be an example to your parents that you are a good, hard-working man and that being gay is just one aspect of who you are. Depending on their mindset, and the size of their hearts, it should eventually dawn on them that they should love you no matter your sexual orientation. If their hearts never open up, then that is just a tragedy, but you will need to recognize that it is not a reflection upon you but upon their lack of character, sorry to say.
Some quick (and rather sneaky) advice on getting around your parents’ invasiveness: buy your own laptop (you can get very good ones for about $260 these days, which still blows my mind) so you don’t have to worry about any parental controls or spying programs they may have installed on the computer you currently use, and open up new accounts on your favorite sites. Meanwhile, keep your old accounts—the ones your parents have access to—open and occasionally post benign messages there. Essentially, the old accounts become decoys.
Is this all lying to your parents? Yes, it is. But it’s not lying to them because you are doing drugs, getting drunk, and committing crimes; it’s lying to them because they have judged and sentenced you to their own kind of prison when you have done nothing wrong. Denying someone the right to be him- or herself is, to my mind, one of the worst things you can do to another human being, especially when it is perpetrated against one’s own child.
So, you are off to the University of Alabama. Let’s see what’s in your neck of the woods *flips through his furry black book.* Well, of course, there is Rocket City Furmeet in Huntsville. The 2013 convention was postponed until 2014 because the organizers couldn’t find a hotel, but they are working on it. And to start getting in touch with nearby furries, I would suggest you join Bamafurs at http://www.bamafurs.org. Their website has great forums and boards where you can discover all the events around the state.
I love how you said “I owe it to myself” to get “my feet rooted back in the things I have neglected.” That shows Papabear you have not allowed your experience with your parents to beat down your spirit. YES! You DO owe it to yourself to be who you want to be and pursue the friendships and experiences you want to pursue. With an attitude like that, Papabear has great confidence that you will do just that.
Now what you have to eliminate is any remaining guilt. That whole line where you say “I don’t really blame them” for not trusting you? Drop that crap. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You have no obligation to uphold their oppressive standards of behavior if you do not believe in them. There is nothing morally wrong about being gay or bi or whatever, nor is there anything wrong with being a furry. Heck, even the Pope himself recently said he didn’t have the right to judge gay people.
Work and study hard. Have the courage to be yourself. Be a good person, treat others with kindness, and you will have a good life.
And look for the paw prints in the path before you, and your spirit bear will show you the way.
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.