I have not told my family that I'm a furry and that I'm transgender. It is hard these days, with all the bad thing about us, but I get by. But I'm very scared, and I do not know what to do. I try to sneak it in, but some people are just stupid. I just feel like my own kind are the only ones that get me. I just want to be loved for who I am without hiding who I am. (Oh, and I have not changed genders just yet, so I'm still a boy.)
I just do not want to hate who I am. I want to embrace it because it is me. Do you think you can help me? I also would like it if you can share what you say to others like me. Thank you in advance. Oh, and I believe we need, as a furry community, to stop the false information and hateful things like the uwu and judgement on us. Sorry if I'm oversharing to you; it is just that I have so much to say. Thank you.
Ivy Black (age 14)
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Although we're dealing with two things here--being furry and being transgender--it is possible that they are related. Before I get into your specific situation, please indulge me as I talk about a topic of importance that may or may not have to do with you (it popped into my head because of your comment about not wanting to hate yourself).
The issue here that Papabear has been hearing about and learning about more and more has to do with body dysmorphia (or, more formally, Body Dysmorphic Disorder). This is a fancy term for not liking your own body. Related to this is gender dysmorphia, or not liking the gender you currently inhabit.
According to the Mayo Clinic: "Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:
This is a vital question to ask, investigate, and answer before you continue on your life journey. At 14, you are, of course, in puberty, and you are being filled with a lot of hormones and emotions. It is important not to make any rash decisions now that will affect your entire life in a very powerful way and that you might regret later on. I'm glad you have not had any surgical procedures yet. You should really hold off on those for a few more years (and despite what some people have written me, I happen to know there are some clinics that perform sex-reassignment surgeries on kids under 16, so, readers, please do not write to me about that).
Anyway, the same might be said for some furries (and, I think, for people who describe themselves as lycanthropes, therianthropes, and otherkin). I know it is true for yours truly, for if there were a medical procedure available that would turn me into a bear, I honestly think I would consider it (I don't regard myself as a werebear, though). A lot of furries feel that having fur, tails, snouts, etc. are beautiful and they would be happy to look more like an anthro. Alas, it is not to be.
Before any of us pursue physical or hormonal therapies, I think it would benefit anyone to stop for a moment and consider working on body acceptance. Too often, we allow ourselves to be beaten down by what others say about our appearance to the point that we hate how we look. This often involves fat-shaming, but can include everything from height, hair, facial features, musculature, skin color, teeth, etc. etc. For example, I am fair-skinned, always have been, because I'm a semi-ginger and I freckle but don't tan. As a kid in Van Nuys, California, I was mocked all the time for not being bronze-skinned. At summer camp, they called me "Caspar the Friendly Ghost." This hurt a lot to the point I was constantly trying to tan and, instead, ended up burning myself to the point of getting blisters. Not good. Eventually, I woke up to the fact that I was hurting myself because of a bunch of shallow idiots. Don't follow my lead. Don't listen to others.
I am, admittedly, using your letter as a jumping-off-place to discuss the important point that we need to learn body acceptance. Obviously, only a small number of furries really have body dysmorphia, and most trans people want to get surgery for their own, not others', reasons. I just urge caution, especially for those who are still going through puberty. You can do a lot of damage to your body if you go through hormone therapy before your body can handle it. Hormone therapy side effects can include heart disease, certain cancers, liver damage, blood clots, stroke, and dangerous drops or increases in blood pressure. Genital surgery (vaginoplasty, in your case) can sometimes have unpleasant complications, too, including difficulty with urination and the formation of fistulas, which might lead to feces being excreted from the newly constructed vagina. Needless to say, this can adversely affect one's love life as well as one's physical and mental health.
I'm writing the above not to freak you out but to make sure you are aware of all the dangers. Depending on the source, anywhere between 1% and 8% of those who underwent surgery decided to detransition, but even this is not always successful. On the more optimistic side, this means that as many as 99% are happy with the results. Last word: be absolutely certain this is right for you before pursuing surgery or hormone therapy. That's all I'm really saying here.
Okay, with all that aside (whew! and sorry!) let's get into the broader issue of acceptance. I will definitely say that, in this bear's experience, the furry fandom is tremendously accepting of transexual and transgender people. Indeed, two of the four Good Furry Award winners are transexuals, and people win that award by being nominated and voted on by the furry community.
Another way, therefore, that your transgender and furry desires are related would be exactly what you said in your letter: seeking to find acceptance for being yourself. Of the two subjects, I think the one to address first is your being transgender. It is important to note that there is a difference between saying "I am transgender" and "I am a transexual."
Transgender is an umbrella term used for anyone who feels that their gender is not in alignment with the sex they were born with. For example, a male born with, obviously, a penis and scrotum feels inside himself that he is really a female. This is not limited to just female and male genders but can encompass the many and wide variety of genders being defined today, including intersex, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, androgynous, bygender, neutrois, and on and on.
Transexual is a much narrower category that falls within transgender (that is, all transexuals are transgender but not all transgender people are transexual). Although the definition I'm about to give has been starting to change, for purposes of this discussion we will define transexual as someone who has finished or commenced with a medical procedure for sexual reassignment.
It sounds to me that you have correctly identified yourself as transgender and that you are considering becoming transexual (the above is for the benefit of my other readers).
You have every right to be yourself and to be accepted as yourself. You shouldn't have to hide who you are from your family and friends. When it comes to friends, the good news is you can pick and choose. Pick the people who support you to be your friends, and anyone who does not support you is not really a friend, so don't worry about them. You don't need them in your life and you do not need their validation.
Family is more of a challenge. You can't pick your blood, so if they don't accept you, you're still kind of stuck with them, especially at your age when you're still a dependent. You don't say anything about your family, so this is a bit hard for me to gauge. Parents and other relatives can run the gamut from unsupportive, judgmental, and strict to loving, supportive, and flexible. The Planned Parenthood website has some solid advice on coming out trans to family, and they also note some other helpful and supportive organizations such as GLAAD. Be prepared to educate your family as to what being transgender really means to you, and be able to answer their questions. Most fears people have about something like transgender people stem from the fact that they are simply ignorant and have a lot of wild ideas that are incorrect. If your parents are religious, another good resource is Rainbow Ark, which offers support to LGBTQIIA+ furries from religious families.
Ignorance of the facts is also a problem for those who criticize or are fearful of the furry fandom. For them, a good documentary to watch is Ash Coyote's The Fandom. It gives a good enough overview of the fandom, what it is, its history, in a way that is not threatening to normies. There are other documentaries out there, too, but this one is an hour and a half and free.
The way to fight judgment and negativity about transgender people and furries is the same: education. The more people understand something, the less likely it is that their imaginations and fears will run wild. The more people like your peers and your family understand you, the less you should be afraid of opening up to them. When you conceal your identity and shamefully keep things hidden away, people sense that. You aren't fooling your parents, for example. They know something is going on with you, though they might not understand exactly what. You can alleviate their fears by calmly opening up to them. Educate them. Answer their questions.
You aren't doing anything for which you should be ashamed. So, don't be ashamed. Perhaps not all people will "get you" or accept you, but that's their problem, not yours. And you might be very surprised by how many people do accept you once you open up to them.
Sorry for the long reply. I haven't written back to anyone in a while and had a lot to get out LOL. I certainly hope this is helpful. Please feel free to write again if you have more questions.
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.