I have heard many times over the furry fandom be described as "the most accepting of all fandoms." It is claimed that the fandom will welcome anyone with open arms, regardless of gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, income, religion/spiritual status, and so forth.
Sadly, what I have experienced in the fandom has been far from acceptance. So much so, that I fear providing my name or even fursona species for this letter.
A little background info on me. I'm not just a fur, I am also an otherkin. I have reason to believe that I actually am an animal in spirit, either through a past life or concurrent life parallel to this one. I "awakened" in 1997, and was introduced into the furry fandom by proxy via my otherkin brethren (BTW, I'm not saying that all otherkin are furs or vice-versa, that's just how it turned out for me). Liking what I saw, I developed a fursona that serves as a representation of who I feel I am, and that became my identity within the fandom.
Unfortunately, this is where my first experiences of non-acceptance began. Many times during the early years, I read or heard other furs saying that otherkin are the "crazies" in the fandom who take being a fur too far. They always jump on the "extreme cases" of otherkin trying to change themselves into animals via tattoos and cosmetic surgery. They go out of their way to disparage otherkin, and paint them as unwelcome members of the fandom. Although not to as great of a degree as when I first entered, I still to this day perceive an aura of negativity towards otherkin within some segments of the fandom.
Sadly, this isn't even the worst of it. In addition to the stigma of being an otherkin, I also happen to have a particular set of kinks and fetishes that a majority of the fandom not only frowns upon, but tends to have an extreme negative reaction to. I shall not say what they are here, but I will say that they are NOT illegal. As I got older in the fandom, I felt the desire to begin expressing myself artistically. And thus, I began drawing, and posting my art online. Eventually, I began drawing and posting art relating to my kinks (in appropriate locations, of course), because I wanted to. At first, my kink art was greeted with enthusiasm by a select few other members of the fandom who do share the same interests as me...
...but then, the backlash began. Hard, severe backlash. We're not just talking the occasional trollish comments of "Eww that's gross" or "What's your problem dude?" We're talking armies assembled to flood my comment boxes with harassing messages, insults directed at me, even the occasional threat of physical harm. I actually received the following message one day:
"If I ever see you at a con, I am going to kill you, and the police won't arrest me because they'll agree with me that filth like you deserves to die."
Then came the day when they found a RL photo of me, and posted it online with my RL name and fur name, along with links to all of my art, and even making sure to note that I'm otherkin. It was a call to arms, and I was their target. I panicked. I deleted as much of my online existence as I could, and effectively withdrew myself from the fandom.
Most people say that the best way to meet others and for them to get to know you is to "be yourself." Well, I WAS myself...and look what it got me. The furry fandom...the fandom I've repeatedly heard described as the most accepting fandom...did not accept me. They rejected me. They wanted nothing to do with me. I was an undesirable in their eyes, because I'm an otherkin who happens to have kinks and fetishes far outside the norm that I enjoy expressing via art.
The past couple of years, I've been trying tentatively to find a way to get myself back into the fandom, because...God damnit, I WANT to be in the fandom. Despite all these bad things that happened to me, I WANT to be in the fandom. I've heard so many wonderful things about it. Outside the fandom, my life has been miserable, and I see the fandom as a ray of hope that could potentially brighten my life. But, I find myself constantly held back by fear over what happened before. Will it happen again? Will other furs not want anything to do with me? Will they post insulting and harassing comments? Or worse, physically attack me if I DO try to attend a con? I want to be myself without having to hide my otherkin status or give up the art I enjoy creating, but I also want to be in the fandom, and be accepted for who I am. If these two states cannot coexist...then what am I to do?
* * *
Papabear maintains that the furry fandom IS "the most accepting of all fandoms" when it comes to the fact that anyone can say they are a furry despite any of those traits and characteristics you list (in stark contrast to groups such as, say, the Boy Scouts of America). But the bad treatment you described is not unknown, sad to say.
It’s not the fact that they are furries that made these people, let’s face it, doublederpbutts, it’s just that within any given population of people there is a certain percentage who are liquidfecessuckers. Some of these people who give a bad name to “furry” are self-proclaimed “authorities” on what is and what is not a furry and spout nonsense such as otherkin are “crazies.” Who put them in charge of the fandom, anyway?
What Papabear always shakes his head at is that these very people came to the fandom and were likely ostracized by nonfurries for the things they enjoy, and then they turn around and do the same thing to their fellow furries. If I could, I would like to sit down with them and say, “Do you enjoy it when people make fun of you or hurt your feelings because you like to wear a tail or watch Kung Fu Panda over and over even though you’re 27? No? Well, you’re doing the same thing to my buddy here just because he’s an otherkin. Don’t you see the parallel here?”
Shame on them.
As for fetishes [note to readers: Anonymous told me what they were and he is right, they are not illegal, though they are not for everyone] most nonfurries seem to consider furries in general to be “furverts” and shun us because many of us find the idea of naked anthropomorphic characters very sexy. So, again, we’re dealing with hypocrisy when some furries turn around and persecute you for having a fetish within a fetish.
I wish more furries would adopt the Wiccan Rede “If it harms no one, do what thou wilt” and not persecute people for not being like them. This sentiment is not purely Wiccan, of course, but is echoed throughout the faiths of the world:
and on and on. See a pattern? Over and over religious and spiritual leaders tell us to treat each other with the same respect that we would expect and want from them, and yet everywhere I turn I see people behaving selfishly and without love for their fellow furry or human.
While Papabear believes that, in many ways, the furry community behaves better than other humans (mundanes, if you will) we are far from perfect.
But Papabear is starting to ramble, I fear. Okay, so, to the question at hand: what do you do? Well, as far as being harassed by furies, depending on the degree, there ARE laws against being threatened or bullied by someone. If you feel you are genuinely at risk of injury (and it is not just general buttmunchery on the part of the other person) you CAN go to the authorities and get a restraining order (see my earlier column on this http://www.askpapabear.com/1/post/2012/05/bad-furs-flaming.html). Specifically, I am thinking of the threat you related: "If I ever see you at a con, I am going to kill you, and the police won't arrest me because they'll agree with me that filth like you deserves to die." It’s good you kept that and please do keep a record of any such threats and who is sending them to you. You could use such evidence for legal action, if necessary.
But, to bring things down a bit, you should also realize that, more than likely, these people are full of hot air and, also most likely, aren’t actually going to do anything to you. They are just derps. Papabear mentions legal actions and such only because there are a few people who are indeed psycho, such as the Batman movie killer in Colorado, and you need to protect yourself.
Oh! and don’t forget, when it comes to being harassed on a particular website, you can report such people to the website administrators and complain about that behavior, which can get them banned.
You should have the right to be who you are and participate in the fandom as you wish without fear. Here’s another idea: have you thought of being a bit more bad ass and defending yourself? Bullies are cowards and harass people they think are weaker than they are in order to feel better about their pathetic little selves. If you are afraid of physical confrontation, taking self-defense courses such as a martial art could build a lot of self-confidence and scare bullies away. Not only that, but it is marvelous exercise.
Finally, if you haven’t already, see if you can locate and hang out with otherkin like yourself, and maybe some furries who share your particular kinks. Maybe join the Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/otherkin for other people like you and spend more time socializing with them. Steer clear of the haters as much as conveniently possible, but don’t back down from them, either. ASSERT yourself and your RIGHT to be a furry and to be who you are!
And if some furries still give you a hard time, send them to me.
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.