I am honestly contemplating the possibility that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of sexual liberalism. The professional communities that study the natural sciences, along with social disciplines like psychology, may not be supporting this theory yet, but I attest from anecdotal experience: furry porn has gradually conditioned me to "define deviancy down". I never remember contemplating kinks such as rough sex, incest, cub or violent BDSM before encountering material about them online. I almost indulged myself three days ago, but I chose not to open E621 right before I was about to go there, and barely avoided crying because then, I started to pay attention to the feeling of my humanity slipping away. I was habituating myself to fantasies of scenarios I'd never rationally support. Not to mention all the gross advertisements, or ones for dubious businesses, because porn repels mainstream companies in more conservative countries. Even if they're not real, are they worth alienating family and friends with less open minds in this respect? Also, while we mostly may not literally imitate the stupid things characters do in fictional media, I believe the possibility that we might get desensitized to particular subject matter, depending on the content you consume. There's a reason the advertising industry is worth so much money, also that government agencies collaborate very often with the entertainment industry, and in addition, Buffy the Vampire Slayer plus Dawson's Creek plus Will & Grace- believe it or not- have been credited with humanizing LGBT communities, helping mainstream acceptance of them. If there is a real correlation, would you want to dive in incredible depth into the mind of a Caligula? If you know where to look, you can find stories similar to mine.
[Papabear note: The letter write supplied lots of citations in addition to the above, which are deleted here because this is not an academic site and, frankly, I don't think my readers would want to read all of these academic articles. However, if you do, let me know and I can send them to you.]
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Dear Bald Hyena,
Human sexuality within the context of "civilized" society is a complicated story, to say the least about the most. As you know, sexuality in the fandom has long been a subject of debate and even ridicule. In case you are not aware of our history, the Burned vs. Freezing Furs war (1998-2001 or so) is an excellent example of furries fighting about X-rated material in the fandom. The Burned Furs were a group of people who objected to porn in the art of the fandom, feeling, like you, that it had gone too far and that it distracted people from the true values of furries. The problem was that they got extremely radical about it, descending into intolerance for everyone from gay furs and plushophiles to Christian furs and lifestylers, writing long, hateful tirades on social media, and even physically threatening furries in the community. The Freezing Furs were a reaction to the Burned Furs, and once we had two oppositional groups forming, well, you can imagine the fireworks and discord in the fandom. After a couple of years, the Freezing Furs disbanded and the Burned Furs burnt out, although they briefly evolved into a group calling itself Improved Anthropomorphics, a rather less aggressive group that works to promote a positive image of the fandom sans porn and paraphilias (Improved Anthropomorphics is also no longer active, it seems).
This short history is meant to show you that the debate about adult art in the fandom has been ongoing with the result being, mostly, much drama but barely any effect on the content of art and literature in the fandom (i.e., there's still a lot of adult art out there). Why is this? Well, that is a looooonger story I can't get into in this column too deeply, but I am addressing it in my book. There are many social-history and psychological reasons for furporn. The bottom line, though, is that as long as there is pornography in general society there will be pornography in the furry fandom because, well, we're sexual beings.
As you suspected, censorship is not the answer. In fact, suppression of sexual imagery is one reason I theorize that furporn is so prevalent. The more people tell you NOT to do something, the more you want to do it. As to your hypothesis that furries are becoming more tolerant of various paraphilias, I've been seeing everything from vore to cub sex on sites like FA for decades, so no, I don't think it is any more or less prevalent today than it was in the past. You are just maybe more aware of it.
I would like to comment quickly about Bad Dragon (and no, they are not sponsoring my column). I have spoken to representatives of Bad Dragon, and they are actually doing a good job about promoting responsible sex, wearing condoms, and such-like things. Also, when you look at it, using a sex toy is the safest sex you can have, no? Well, as long as you don't borrow it from someone LOL.
All that being said, one definitely should point out the dangers of harmful sexual practices. You mention choking as one, and I would add that any brutal form of sadomasochism is also a no-no, as well as anything involving nonconsensual sex (pedophilia and rape). There is a BIG difference between criminal sexual acts and sexuality that is experimental, consensual, and/or playful. I am in no way saying hurtful sexual activity is okay. There is also the problem in the fandom — especially among younger furries, but across the board — involving ignorance about sex and how to be safe about it (one furry told me that one could put a candy wrapper on one's penis for safe sex — oy vay). Finally, there is the issue of porn addiction. When people get addicted to porn, it results in desensitization to strong images and can even negatively impact the possibility of having a healthy, real-life sexual relationship.
So, bottom line, here is my conclusion on the topic of sex in the fandom: better sex education is needed. I believe that a lot of furries (again, skewing to the younger furries) come from families that have not provided them with solid information about having safe sex. A lot of conservative families, for example, will just tell their kids not to have sex at all (I'm talking about legal age young people), tell them that sex is evil, and then forbid them from understanding their bodies. Then, these kids stumble upon the furry fandom and its pornographic images and get turned on because it is forbidden fruit. This makes them vulnerable to porn addiction, and, worse, to sexual predators on the Web. Also, if they are not familiar with how to practice safe sex, that leaves them vulnerable, too.
Having an open forum on this issue is a stupendous idea. In fact, it would be an excellent idea of a forum at furcons. I might actually propose that to future furcons I will be attending.
Does this answer your question?
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 saw this on fur affinity, and I'd thought I'd give it a try. I'm a second year college student working on a degree in marketing. I've always been good with numbers and I'm kinda creative so I thought it would be a good choice. Two years in an I'm having doubts. The courses are super challenging. My main skill is creative writing, and I also love geology, but I was afraid those would be not good ideas to take as it's hard to find work in those fields.
My main question is this. Should I continue with my degree for 2 more years, or should I do something else? I'm afraid it will take me more than two years to complete because I'm struggling with many courses. What do you think?
Dodger the Crocodile
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Assuming colleges in Canada are similar to the ones in the USA, the first two years of college are typically about taking prerequisite courses in areas such as math and English composition. So, probably many of the courses you have already completed would also work in another major discipline, yes? I mean, if you were aiming at marketing, you'll probably take writing and math courses. Also, if you were doing some graphic arts courses for advertising, artistic skills could apply to, say, cartography in geology majors. Anyway, changing majors in college is a common occurrence, so deciding on a different path is not going to cost you too much time, I think.
The best majors to pursue are the ones you have a passion for. Don't pick an area study merely because you think there is money in it. If you love geology, then you should go for it. Furthermore, you seem to be under the misguided notion that there are no careers out there for geologists. Quite the contrary! Geologists are in high demand in areas including:
Anyway, Geology has applications in a wide array of industries. Not only that, but hiring for geologists is predicted to climb 5% a year for the next 10 years, which is faster than growth in many other industries. Therefore, if you have a passion for geology, I think you would do very well in switching majors from marketing and getting a degree in that field.
This is my first time sending this. But here's my question, it's been kinda bothering me. Is there a way to keep my mind off of negative thoughts from the past? The reason is have this question because I had times when I messed up in high school. Not paying attention, not doing my homework and all of that. And my father kept of telling me, "You're not going anywhere in life." if I kept on acting like school was nothing. Lucky for me, I actually graduated and I kinda expected for my father to congratulate me like how he did with my little brother, but he ignored me for the whole day. And it broke my heart seeing that all that I work hard for ... was just there for my father to ignore or seeing it as a joke. And it still bothers me till this day. Can you give me an advice?
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Congratulations on completing high school. Good for you!
I have a feeling there is at least another letter or two in there about why your father treats you this way, but for now, I will just address the issue at hand. My bear gut tells me that all this stuff about not paying attention in school, not doing homework, etc., is probably related to stuff going on in the home. For example, if a kid or teen is having family trouble at home, or suffering from poverty and not getting enough to eat, or some such thing, it makes it difficult to concentrate at school. Or, it could be you have an attention deficit disorder or another mental or emotional issue that is hampering you. Or it could be that people have put you down so much that you didn't believe you were worth the trouble to do well in school and you self-sabotage.
Many things could be going on here, you see. I also suspect that you have trouble keeping your mind "off of negative thoughts from the past" because someone (guessing your father) keeps reminding you of his perceived shortcomings of you. Yet despite these handicaps, you still managed to get your diploma, and I think that shows you have a lot of character and proves your father wrong.
First thing's first. When your father tells you, "You're not going anywhere in life," don't believe him. Don't let this become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Going for my gut again, I'm guessing your father didn't get where HE wanted to go in life, and he is now projecting that negativity onto you.
Am I hitting any targets here?
If I am correct in any of this, the solution is to get your father out of your head and write your own story of success. Just because he doesn't believe in you doesn't mean you shouldn't. If it's worth anything, I'm proud of you for finishing high school and hope you continue your education (whether or not it is a formal education matters not at all). Now, doing this is tough, admittedly. That's because it is programmed in all of us to want our parents' approval. Many times, parents are kind and loving and give us what we desire, but sometimes there are bad parents who not only deprive us of this emotional need but actually damage us emotionally by attacking our sense of self-worth (this is usually because the parent is damaged themselves and passes that emotional disease on to the next generation).
To get your father's voice out of your head, you need to recognize that he is not perfect and that there is a very real possibility (I feel, certainty) that he is incorrect about you. Once you acknowledge that, you can break free of that chain and begin to actualize yourself.
In addition, you need to begin supplanting negative thoughts about yourself and negative memories with good, positive thoughts about yourself. Take some time each and every day to look at yourself in the mirror and reflect (pun intended) on good things you have accomplished and good traits that you have. Do not be hesitant to congratulate yourself on something good you have done or some good quality that you have. Spend at least 10 minutes a day doing this; longer, if you can. The more you do this, the more you will crowd out negative brain waves running through your mind.
Live your life as you see fit and not with the goal of pleasing others. You are not placed on Earth to make your father happy. You are here to discover yourself and improve yourself. Whatever it is in your life that you find appealing and wish to pursue, regardless of what others think or demand, that is what you should do. And don't listen to people who say you can't do it. If you truly want it, then you should go for it. Even if you fail, keep trying. Failure is not the end; it is merely a chapter in learning.
I hope this helps. Good luck to you!
I have been in the furry fandom for about 6 or 7 years, give or take, and have been making fursuits for about two. i don't post about my fursuits to online forums, but I do distribute to friends and family. Recently, I came under some drama because of one.
I had made a black wolf suit a while ago and gave it to a friend, who sold it last year as they no longer wanted the suit or the character the suit was based of off. Recently, adult content featuring this suit has popped up, and most people don't care, but my friend group, and people who know me personally/know my friends and work, have been harassing me and the person who originally owned the suit.
I believe the person who owns the suit now converted it into a murrsuit, as I made repairs to the suit before it was sold because of a popped seam in the armpits, and on the neck of the head, and there weren't any naughty holes in it then.
I have tried to explain the situation to others, but I can't seem to get it through to them. Any advice?
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I've come across many similar situations from my readers in my inbox. While the specifics are different, the results are the same. A furry gets accused of something they didn't do and no one will believe them when they deny it, even when they present evidence to the contrary.
When this happens, the letter writer always asks me for advice on what they can do to convince their friends and family they are innocent. Wrong question. You did nothing wrong. The real question is this: WHY don't they believe you? There could be a couple of reasons for this. Are you an untrustworthy person who has lied before? If so, like the boy who cried wolf, you are unlikely to be believed.
I don't think this is usually the case, however, with the people who write to me, including you. Far more likely is that these other people don't like who you are or don't agree with what you are doing. Therefore, when they find some "evidence" that justifies their point of view, they believe it and will not change their minds about it because it validates their opinions. This is the same reason we have Trump voters. Despite all the evidence to the contrary that he is a horrible person and an incompetent leader, people voted for him because he validates their worldview concerning white superiority and the fear of people who are different. In your case, the idea that you make murrsuits validates their worldview that all furries are perverts, so they stick with that interpretation.
Another possible reason is that they are looking for people to put down so that they feel superior themselves. This is the trolling syndrome and is also true of bullies. Many people who have low self-esteem become bullies or trolls and look for signs of weakness in others in their community. Whether or not that "weakness" is true or not, they will glom onto it and begin a campaign of trashing you so that they can say, "Hey, look, that person is a loser. They aren't like me. I'm awesome and superior to them." (They don't talk like that, but you get what I mean.)
So, my advice? Since you can't argue with stupid people and hateful people, all you can say is this: "Well, I have told you my side of the story, which is true. If you refuse to believe me, that's on you, not me." The burden is on them to fix the relationship, not you. The good news, if you want to put a positive spin on things, is that now you know which of your friends are derps and should be avoided.
Then look for better people to befriend. They are out there. I know a lot of them. Fortunately, sounds like not all of your friends believe this lie, so that's a great thing!
So, I showed my grandma a fursuit that I liked online, and said that it was cute, and I'd like to make one someday if I had the money to, because I love to build fursuits. She looked at me really concerned, and said, "Other than being a furry, what do you like to do? Are there any careers you'd like in the future?" I know it sounds harmless, but her tone and concern showed that she didn't like me being a furry at all. She's VERY religious and isn't very open-minded on most subjects. I love her, but I need some help. Do you have any advice?
Checkmate (age 11)
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Yes. Be happy that your nana isn't being crass about your furriness, but respect that she is not entirely comfortable with it. You are more than just a furry, so talk to her about all the other stuff in your life. She is concerned about your future, so talk to her about what you would like to do in your future and what you see yourself doing. Furry isn't everything. You can still share a lot with her about you and your family. Also, ask her about and talk about HER life. Show interest in her. She has been around a lot, so take advantage of her experiences and wisdom. Also, if you can, do things together and make new memories. Your gramma won't be around forever. Enjoy her presence in your life now.
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,
Dear Papa Bear,
Normally, I would not write in to a column about a issue I'm having. However, since this is something I've had a lot of people talk to me about and I don't know the answer, I figured taking it to a higher source makes more sense. So, I am a late 30-something furry, and I've been in the fandom nearly a decade. As I've aged, I've noticed furry has become, for lack of a better term, "tainted" by social politics, gender wars, and identity politics. Unfortunately, much of the issue is coming from a result of the young taking over leadership roles in our community. My question is, what can we "the elder generation" of furries do to maybe help curb the tide of this problem and what do you think of furry becoming so hyperpolitical?
Lotus Wolf (37)
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Dear Lotus Wolf,
Good question, and one I certainly relate to, being a greymuzzle myself. Yes, the fandom is changing, and it is radically different from when it started in the late 1970s/early 1980s. This is the result of a couple of things: 1) the internet, and 2) how it has grown to include hundreds of thousands of people. As the fandom becomes more visible to the general public, it has attracted a lot of people who don't really "get" furry. They are in it more to get attention than to be a part of the fun. Part of getting attention has been to do political things such as becoming a Nazi or Antifa furry. In this bear's humble opinion, furry is not a place for politics (this includes any sexual or gender or identity politics). It's supposed to be a place to avoid mundane things like politics and economics and social pressures. I disagree with you that furry has become "hyperpolitical." Yes, politics have encroached upon it, but not in an all-consuming way--just enough to be annoying.
What to do about it? Number one is to avoid validating people who want to make politics a thing in the fandom (doesn't matter if they are on the right, left, or moderate). They are basically trolls and should be ignored and blocked. Second is to reemphasize the fantasy aspect of the fandom by encouraging and participating in the writing, art, and games of the fandom. Third is to do what we can to educate the younger generations about furry history and who we are. Such things as Ash Coyote's documentary The Fandom can be helpful, or reading books such as Joe Striker's Furry Nation.
Change is inevitable and will continue in any living fandom. There will be good things about the fandom and bad things, but that's okay as long as we don't lose sight of who we are. Communication and education are the best approaches. We should also recognize that some things simply are not acceptable. I, for one, do not appreciate seeing anyone wearing a swastika armband at a furcon (or the Furry Raiders' armband, which is obviously similar, and don't tell me it's not), and I'm not a fan of how Antifa furs have behaved in the past, nor do I care to see furcon room parties for Soviet Furs.
Young people in America, especially, have lost an appreciation for democracy and freedom, sadly. They have been coddled and spoiled and no longer understand how lucky they are. A Cambridge University study showed that 55% of Millennials don't think democracy is important. The failing here is not with the Millenials, however; it is with the older generation and our current politicians who have made a mockery of democracy. What the Millennials are abhorring, really, is the distorted and corrupt "democracy" we now have. The internet, as we have seen so painfully recently, is also to blame for spreading lies and misinformation about our political institutions and a number of politicians.
The furry fandom is a victim of the times. Don't blame furries themselves. I hate when people say things such as "The fandom is just a bunch of furverts and drama queens and haters." No, it's not. Almost everyfur I meet--young and old--is a wonderful person. But it only takes a drop of arsenic to poison the entire cup of tea. More and more, admins in places such as Facebook groups (including me) have been prohibiting politics and hate in their groups. If those who run social websites, furmeets, and furcons remain vigilant, they can do a lot to eliminate or, at least, minimize the problem.
There need to be adults in the room, in other words. And I call on the greymuzzles and other, younger, adults who have taken it upon themselves to assume leadership roles in the fandom to set standards for their groups and organizations. We have seen what happens when supervision is lacking (e.g., the closing of Rainfurest and some other cons). Be an example to the younger furries and you will go a long way toward keeping the furry fandom a fun and enjoyable social phenomenon.
This is an important topic, and I've only brushed the surface of it. I welcome my readers' comments and input below.
I've had my fursona for quite a long, long time. Ever since I joined the fandom! I've often said that she is a fursona I will keep forever, and never change from. She's very bubbly and energetic, being a small and enthusiastic bunny, and goes by the name crypsalis/cryp (which is my online username most of the time).
Recently, I've felt like I've been stuck between a rock and a hard place in regards to deciding what path to take on life, since I've recently turned 18. With this indecisiveness, I also question my fursona. She is so wholesome and pure, and sometimes I cannot relate to her because the pain I experience just feels so distant from her. This kind of distance has made it feel like I'm not really looking at myself whenever a friend draws art of my fursona with their own.
I've been playing around with some alternate designs for a fursona. One is a female rabbit who looks more anthro/human than my original, and is a bit more calm and like me with my anxiety and whatnot. I see myself in her, but I struggle to draw her as bubbly as Cryp. She is like a reality check through the skull when it comes to how intense my anxiety is, and I'm not sure I want to represent myself in the furry fandom so closely to my insecurities. Another is a male rabbit, who does not resemble me at all, but I love drawing him and even just looking at art of him lifts my spirits. Heck, he doesn't even pertain the same sexuality as me! Though, what he lacks in his physical relatability to me, I feel like I can really see myself as him, or see myself in him. I don't think I have dysphoria, as I've been comfortable being a female my whole life. Though, it's so strange to me that I relate so much with this male character I've come up with that I share no physical resemblance to whatsoever.
Is it healthy to change my fursona to match the struggles I am experiencing in person or to change them so far from any identifiability from myself? Should I be aiming to be more like the bubbly fursona I've had for so long?
Thank you for reading, and much love to you! I hope you are doing well.
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Thanks for your good wishes, and I wish you happiness and love right back. Perhaps unfortunately for you, you have caught ol' Papabear in a chatty mood, so here we go . . . .
I could write a book about fursonas (oh, wait, I AM writing one!). The fursona sounds like a simple concept, but it really is not. The word is a portmanteau of "furry" and "persona." Now, "persona" comes from the Latin word referring to the masks that used to be worn by actors on stage. Miriam Webster's dictionary defines it thus: "an individual's social facade or front that especially in the analytic psychology of C. G. Jung reflects the role in life the individual is playing."
Fursonas first developed in the furry community online and in gaming. People would adopt personalities and characters to use in games with other players, and these became fursonas. At this stage in furry history, a fursona was just a character, and people had few compunctions about having multiple characters of all types. As the years went by and the fandom evolved, a fursona became a furry's alter ego, so it became something much more personal to many people and not just a mask worn in a game (this, please note, is not universally true; for some furries their fursona is still just a meaningless facade.)
As far as I've seen, one's fursona can represent a couple of different things:
Many furries get anxious about picking and designing their fursona because they are the #1 type listed above and they want to get it right. Sounds like that is where you are currently in some aspects. Not to worry. If you are a Type 1 fursona, your fursona can change as you do as you grow older. A furry who is 12 will be different from a furry who is 18 or 27 or 55. I, for example, was not a bear until I discovered the gay bear community and found that is where I felt I belonged. Before that I was a dragon and before that a wolf.
What about being different sexes or genders? That happens, too. I've spoken with a couple of furries whose fursona is a different sex from their own. It doesn't necessarily mean they are gay, either. Sometimes, they just want to try to understand better what it means to be feminine or masculine in a world that imposes arbitrary gender standards on people. You can be a feminine male and still be hetero, for example. Or, you can be a girl who likes racing cars and boxing but still marries a man. All these ideas about what is masculine and what is feminine have no basis in biology but are merely societal.
To get back to your specific case, I suggest this: be all three fursonas. Be Cryp when you're feeling bubbly and fun, be the other doe when you are feeling more mellow and in control, and be the buck when you are in the mood to explore your male side. That's the wonderful thing about being a furry. You can be one fursona or three; you can be your own sex or try another, or try on a different gender; you can have a personality close to your own or completely the opposite.
Melting into your fursona can be something that is just fun and playful, or it can be often be a type of therapy and a tool for personal growth. This is one big reason why I so love the furry fandom as opposed to other fandoms. So, don't worry so much. Be anything you want to be. Try anything you want to try. It's all good.
I've always had this bitter feeling between me and my parents. It's not hate or spite. It's just a unpleasant. I feel like it has to do with differences in political views. I hate this feeling. I feel unwanted in this world in I'm around my parents or any authority figure. The only people that make me feel whole and wanted are my friends. I love my friends, they make me feel wanted, like I deserve love. However, there's this fear in my head. I'm afraid of that bitter feeling and I'm afraid of that bitter feeling spreading. I mean, I've had friends with different political views but I never had any feeling of bitterness with those select friends. All of my friends, and I mean; ALL OF MY FRIENDS make me feel whole and wanted. What I'm afraid of is that the bitterness would spread in some friendships. I absolutely don't want that. I don't think I can bare such an oppressive feeling. I have a good feeling that it will NEVER happen. But I still fear it. So what do you think is the deal? Why is it that my parents and authority give me that bitter feeling? It confuses the hell out of me.
Maxi (age 18)
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It is quite natural for teenagers to resent, disagree with, and even sometimes hate their parents. I would, however, be hesitant to believe that you "always" felt that way. I'm sure that when you were a baby and little kid, you loved and looked up to your parents. As you got older and started to form your own opinions and worldview that didn't mesh with your parents' views--and, also, found them to be authority figures who restricted what you wanted to do (i.e., your "freedom")--you began to dislike their company. This pretty much always happens. My theory is that Mother Nature plans it this way because fledglings eventually have to leave the nest, and it is easier for parents to kick their kids out of the house (or to see them go on their own) during a stage in their lives when they become obnoxious, disrespectful, and petulant.
You see, Maxi, growing up comes in three phases: 1) infancy and childhood, when you depend on your parents as your sole source of nurturing and comfort and you believe they know everything and they are your world and you crave their attention and love; 2) puberty and the teen years, when you suddenly know everything, you're always right, and your parents become utter morons who should be put in an institution for the sake of public safety; 3) adulthood, when you realize that both you and your parents have good and bad points, know some things and not other things, and you are all basically good but flawed human beings. You are currently in Stage 2.
Stage 2 is also characterized by the forming of close bonds with your peers, who you feel more closely reflect who you are, what you think, and how you feel. All of you are in the phase when you resent your parents as authority figures, and this is often expanded to all authority figures (teachers, bosses, police officers, politicians, etc. etc.)
As your friendships progress, you will lose some friends along the way (they will move or you will stop sharing interests or you will find out they are jerks), but you will also form new friendships. Do not become distressed by this because this is also perfectly normal. Do not be upset if you become "bitter" about some of these lost friendships. That is also normal.
Do you see a theme here? The theme is: You are normal. Everyone goes through this to a greater or lesser degree. You are not suffering from any weird psychological or emotional disorder. You're fine.
Eventually, as you mature, in all likelihood you will realize you are not as smart and cool as you think you are and your parents aren't as despotic and mean as you think they are. I feel quite confident that you are not unwanted and that your parents actually love you quite a lot. Over time, you will also get better at forming true, lasting friendships and recognizing which people are just fair-weather friends or, perhaps, even users. You will form better friendships and your relationship with your family will get better (this, again, is a typical pattern but there are always exceptions, but I see nothing in your letter at this time to indicate it will progress otherwise).
I hope this makes you feel better, Maxi. You are just at the beginning of exploring deep, meaningful relationships because you yourself are becoming a more mature, complex, and interesting person. Roll with 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.