Dear Papa Bear,
Hi! You answered another one of my questions a few days ago, actually! And, uh, let me tell you, this one is gonna be a lot harder to answer.
So, I'm 13, right? I'm obviously a minor, and should have an adult accompany me to most things. But, it would probably be weird to take your child to a furcon, if they haven't come out as a furry. So, here's where my question comes in.
I have three parents. A biological dad, a biological mom, and a step-dad. I mean, my dad also has a girlfriend, but I'm pretty sure if I came out to her as a furry, she'd be like, "Rock on." Anyway, my mom and my step-dad, let's call him Jack, are really cool, open-minded people. Like, seriously, my mom practices witchcraft, and we go to Pagan festivals constantly. And, Jack is the person who actually asks me about who I am as a person, he is the only parent of mine that knows I'm pansexual. Then, there's my biological dad. Dad really tries to understand me, like, he's tries so freakin' hard to get who I am. But, he's just so...awkward. Like, if I came out to him, I'm pretty sure he would be like, "Oh, uh, well, um, uh, aren't you a little young for that?" and stuff like that. So, I'm going to illustrate my individual concerns for each parent below.
First of all, my mom. I'm certain that my mom would think it was a joke at first, and she wouldn't take me seriously at all. And, while being a furry isn't a thing that has to be taken with a lot of seriousness, it would still be nice to have it be treated as an actual life style. I think she thinks it's just a stupid thing that drunk college kids and creepers do. And, seeing as I'm not either of those, she's most likely going to think I'm joking.
Now, Jack, my step-dad. I think that Jack would understand the most. I think it would be a thing that he just gets, and won't judge me for it, and will still have the same amount of respect he had before. The only problem is that there is a chance he will probe me about it. Continue to ask questions, and things. I don't wanna have to be put through that!
And, for the worst, my dad. As I said before, Dad is really awkward. Like, astronomical levels of awkward. I can't even begin to imagine what he would think if I told him. He'd think I was too young for all that. I'm pretty sure that he thinks the furry community is just about sex and fetishism. He wouldn't outright say that he thinks that, so I wouldn't know how to put his mind at ease about it.
This whole situation is quite messy. Really, the only reason I want all of them to know is so I can make a fursuit and go to furcons. But, I also want to let my girlfriend know about this, but I think I'll save that question for another time.
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Welcome to the fandom. Gosh, it’s letters like yours that make me wish I was done with my book about the fandom so I could just tell you to get a copy and have it all explained. Sadly, I’m still in the research process and it won’t be done until next year, so here’s what you do in the meantime.
First and foremost, we need to get rid of the notion that being a furry is all about a fetish. It isn’t. It is so much more: depending upon the person, it’s about community (making friends!), it’s about fun, it can be about spiritualism, it can be seen as a hobby (akin to being a comic book fan who attends ComicCon), it can be seen as being in touch with your true self and about letting your inner self shine, it can be about art and literature and movies and TV shows, and on and on and on. Yes, there is X-rated art out there, but that’s just the part of it that gets attention from people (especially Americans) because the media and protective parents always gravitate toward what is sensationalistic and provocative rather than what has substance (this is why Caitlyn Jenner was given an ESPY award for “courage” because he—sorry, she, even though she still has male parts—declared she was a woman on TV and got a heavily Photoshopped picture on Vanity Fair, rather than giving it to the late Lauren Hill, who was truly brave in battling brain cancer while fighting to play basketball on her high school team [she was painfully ignored])..... Oh, dear, Papabear will probably get some hate mail now LOL. For the record, I have nothing against Jenner and it’s fine for her to do whatever she wants; what I object to is all the attention she gets just because she used to be an Olympian and appears on a ridiculous reality show that celebrates bad behavior. But I digress....
Because American adults have unhealthy hang ups about nudity and sexuality, it is this aspect of the fandom that gets their attention. Shame on them for being so shallow.
My question to you, Tabbigayle, is how do you view the fandom? Some people see it as a hobby, while others consider it a lifestyle. Sounds like you feel it is a lifestyle, but not a sexual lifestyle, yes? Part of who you are, so let’s approach it from that aspect.
Mom: she sounds pretty cool. Since she’s a pagan, this is how you approach her, especially if you are, too. Many furries identify as pagans and, in general, furries tend to be very open about religious and spiritual beliefs (you can find everything from Atheists and Christians to those who follow Shamanism and Wicca—any Zoroastrians out there?). I myself identify as pagan, and part of that is my identity and relationship with bear spirit. Relating to your animal spirit side is something that your mother could probably understand, and she might not be aware of that side of furry. If this is something that interests you, you would do well to talk to your mother using this approach. If not, well, perhaps you can relate it to her in another way. Recently, I was attending the Biggest Little Furcon in Reno with my mate, Yogi, and he made a keen observation: “The furries remind me of the hippies of the 1960s.” He meant that furries were a kind of counterculture, often rejecting the human status quo, which is something your mother also does as a pagan. Talk to her about furries regarding these issues.
Stepdad Jack: Seems to be no worries there. The problem regarding this relationship seems more on your side than his. Why are you uncomfortable talking about furries? Perhaps it is you who actually misunderstands what a furry is? Because if you really understood furries you would feel no shame in talking about them. Feel free to ask this bear anything about furries to ease your anxiety.
Dad: You’re lucky that you have a father who genuinely loves and cares about you and is making an effort to understand you (even awkwardly)! That is 95% of the battle right there! Yay! Your father’s problem seems to be that he feels you’re too young for furries, meaning he sees it as a phenomenon designed for teens and twenties to do strange adult things. As stated above, being a furry is not about sex. So, you need to talk about all the OTHER aspects of being a furry. As a strategy, you might actually start with his girlfriend, who seems pretty cool. Talk to her on the side and tell her about your being a furry and ask for her suggestions on how to approach your dad (she might even be a go-between for you and talk to him on your behalf).
That all said, there is something quite important in your letter that didn’t get by the bear: you’re a young girl and have a girlfriend. Does your family know you’re a lesbian? If so, and they are understanding about that—then gosh! Why wouldn’t they be understanding about furries, as well? If they don’t know you’re a homosexual (or bi?), then I would suggest to you that this would be a priority discussion for you and your parents before you even get into the furry fandom talk. (Or am I misunderstanding your use of “girlfriend”? Usually, if a girl has a friend who is a girl, she usually just says “my friend.” “Girlfriend” implies something a lot more serious.)
When it comes to being a furry, I think you’re luckier than many furs who have written to me in that you really seem to be blessed with great parents and a nice stepparent. Sounds like is it your own self-consciousness about being a furry that is getting in the way, rather than a lack of an understanding family.
Hope that helps!
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