Dear Papa Bear,
I am a new furry, and ever since deciding that I am a furry, I feel much happier with myself. Despite this, I face a major issue with myself, I often times feel as though my human self is not adequate compared to my fursona.
From what I gather, many furries are simply artistically furry, only being furry online. I see an additional group of furries that fursuit, go to conventions, etc. But I have yet to see any furry like myself, I'm not trying to say I am unique, I am only concerned.
It's hard to put into words, but essentially I wish I was my fursona, inside and out. I dream of having fur, a tail, ears, muzzle (I'm a wolf btw) and everything else. I dream of having to have holes in my pants for my tail to fit, holes in hats for my ears to fit. I want to be a furry, but it scares me for so many reasons...
It scares me because I might lose all my family and friends, it scares me because I might not ever be successful because of prejudice, it scares me because, in all honesty it's only possible when I'm dead and in the heavens above.
So overall Papa Bear, I guess I'm looking for advice on what a young furry is supposed to do when all they want is the impossible?
Z-Man (age 17)
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My Dear Z-Man,
It might seem like it because you are still new to furry, but you actually are not alone. There are quite a few furries who feel as you do. Me, for one. I find humans rather ugly, really. Snouts and fur and tails are beautiful, wings, too, and I wish I looked like my alter ego. There are some furries—and some who don’t necessarily think of themselves as furry, but are in a group that many associate with us—who feel they are their fursona self, either physically or spiritually or both. These people fall into either the Therian or Otherkin groups. Therians consider themselves, in one way or another, to be animals (wolves, bears, etc.), while Otherkin consider themselves to be what many would consider fantastical beings (elves, faeries, dragons, etc.). How true that is is a matter for considerable debate. I feel myself connected to bear in a spiritual way, but don’t believe I actually am ursine. I do have a spirit bear, though :-)
As you have come to realize, to actually take the form of, in your case, an anthrowolf would be inviting great difficulty into your life. I was once at a con where Uncle Kage (Sam Conway, who is one of the furries who heads Anthrocon and is a frequent speaker on behalf of furries) gave a talk about what it would be like if people could actually be their fursonas. How would they adjust to life in the real world? Even such mundane things as clothing and furniture would be difficult (you mention a hole in the pants for a tail—well, try stuffing your tail through that every day—annoying). Being able to talk when your mouth is shaped like a wolf’s would be nearly impossible (I would imagine a new type of language would have to develop). Most disturbing, though, would be the instant prejudice furries would face from the human race. We’d be “freaks.” We wouldn’t be allowed to get jobs or go to school or live in neighborhoods with humans. Total alienation would result. The only way it might possibly work would be if everyone were a furry. But, I imagine, if that happened, we’d be faced with new prejudices, such as wolves against rabbits, bears against tigers, and so forth, prejudices that would be even more pronounced than our current racial troubles because the differences would be much more physically obvious.
There are people in the real world who have had body modifications in order to look more like an animal. The most extreme example that I can think of was Dennis Avner (aka Stalking Cat). He tattooed his body with stripes, put implants in his cheeks to make them more pronounced, teeth were filed into fangs, ears surgically modified to be pointed, even whisker implants and a robotic tiger tail became a part of him. He was a tiger in his soul, as well, adhering to Native American spiritualism, which is where he got his feline name. In the end, he died in what was an apparent suicide (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/dennis-avner-stalking-cat-dead-suicide_n_2122947.html). The poor man must have been very unhappy deep down inside. Did he die because he concluded he could never be fully who he wanted to be? Or perhaps because he realized just how much he had destroyed his body and the realization was too much of a shock? Perhaps he could simply no longer bear existing within human society? Only he knew.
There is a theory that furries are the way they are because they reject being in the human race, or even have what might be called “species identification” issues. This would be rather akin to what psychologists called “gender identity disorder” in which, for example, a boy identifies with being a girl and feels as if he were born the wrong gender. I, personally, don’t like calling it a “disorder.” Species identification “complex,” shall we say, would be the extreme end of the spectrum compared to furries who are merely hobbyists. That’s how it all started, after all, as a hobby, and that’s how many furries say it should remain. A small group of people meeting at science fiction conventions who liked to talk about fiction involving anthropomorphized characters are the ones who founded the modern furry fandom. But to a large portion of the fandom—sometimes called “lifestylers”—it is much more than that. You fit into this latter group.
Okay, so we’ve established you are not alone and we’ve established that actually becoming your fursona in a physical way is neither realistic nor practical, possibly even harmful. You also mention a bit of wishful thinking that, after you pass on to the next life, you will be able to be your fursona in the other world—a thought that frightens you. Again, I empathize. My spiritual teacher, who is a bear therian, truly believes he will rejoin with Mother Bear in the next world. I would love it, too, if I could achieve my true form after this life.
But let’s not rush into anything.
Papabear believes we are given this life in order to learn from it, in order to accomplish something in this life. For instance, my teacher, Blackbear, founded a nonprofit in order to help save bears and also to educate dunderheads (“civilized people” who have only witnessed wildlife on TV and movies) how to behave properly when camping in bear territory (http://www.byronbear.com/default.asp or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Byron-T-Bear-Foundation/120005704736959).
After decades of struggle, I now believe that Papabear was put here to write this column. Years ago, if I had succeeded in my suicide attempt during one of the most troubled times of my life, I would not be here today to help others. You are here, too, to help others in some way, but you haven’t found that purpose quite yet at the tender age of 17. So, please do stick around and don’t wish for that final day, which will come soon enough, believe me.
You are not alone in wanting the impossible. But wishing for the impossible is how we dream. There was an author named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. You might be familiar with his other name: Lewis Carroll. He loved a girl named Alice, the daughter of Henry George Liddell, the dean of Christ Church College, Oxford. Carroll took a lot of photos of Alice, and he was truly enamored by her, though, she being just a girl, of course he could do nothing about it. Instead, he created a magical world called Wonderland that Alice, in his mind, could inhabit. There is one scene in Through the Looking Glass in which Alice is rescued from the woods by a knight whom many interpret to be Carroll. The knight, though heroic, is physically awkward (rather like Carroll). If you read the scene, there are few things as heart-wrenching as when the knight bids Alice farewell and she, crossing the last brook to go on her way, is transformed into a queen and leaves his life forever, just as Alice eventually left Carroll to live her life. Alice goes on to conquer the Red Queen, awakening to speculate that perhaps she, too, is just a dream.
What is more real? Reality or our dream of reality as it should be? Our imaginations, our hopes and dreams are just as real as houses and schools and taxes and politicians and jobs. They are just as much a part of us and they make us who we are.
Our physical form is a mere illusion. What is in your heart is what is real, Z-Man.
Even if people—including you—cannot see your tail.... it is there.
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