When Determining What to Do in Life, Sexuality and Career Don't Mix Well Together
First off, I just want to thank you for what you do. I discovered your site a couple of years ago and very much enjoyed reading through the questions people have sent and your thoroughly kind and thoughtful responses. I just randomly thought of you again recently and decided to write you a letter about an issue that’s come to the forefront of my mind lately. It’s a rather awkward issue and, since I’m a pretty reserved, private person, I don’t know anyone personally who I could talk to about it.
I’ll try to keep things brief as I explain my problem (I have a tendency to ramble when writing about myself).
I stumbled across the Furry fandom around the time I was starting middle school and immediately found the whole subculture fascinating, since I have always had in interest in anthropomorphic animals. But at around the same time, (the beginning of puberty) I began having these interests and sexual fantasies involving male cross-dressing and generally feminine males. I’ve only ever felt really attracted to females IRL, so I guess I’m sort of mildly bisexual. And, not to be pious, but my interests aren’t anything straight-up pornographic, mostly more romantic and intimate, somewhat risqué at worst. I’ve never been comfortable with pornography or anything hardcore; it’s just not my cup of tea.
Now to be perfectly clear, I wouldn’t say that I find furry characters inherently sexually attractive, any more than I find anime-style art to be more attractive than real-life humans, but the majority of my sexual fantasies ended up involving furry characters anyways, and that, along with my understanding of the general public perception of furries, led me to keep both of these interests as private, shameful secrets.
Being a relatively imaginative person, I ended up constructing whole fictional settings/worlds for these stories, branching out to subjects erotic and chaste, furry and human. Gradually these turned into written short stories (mostly the fantasies) and eventually I started trying my hand at serious drawing, beginning in late 2010.
I’d never considered myself artistically talented before, and most of my early attempts were fairly terrible, but the arousal and personal satisfaction I got from transforming my ideas into a form of reality did a lot in helping me get over that initial awkward stage and start getting somewhat talented at art. But because arousal was the main reason I drew, most of what I made involved cross-dressing, so I was too embarrassed to show it to anyone.
Over time, as I got more comfortable with drawing, I started showing some of my family members my non-furry, non-CD art, and got back some mildly positive responses. At around that time, I ‘came out’ as a furry (with much preparation and nervousness) to my younger sister, the person in my family I have the most in common with, and she was totally okay with it, even if she herself wasn’t interested being a furry. Since it’s never been a pressing issue, I never brought it up to the rest of my family or to any of my friends/acquaintances. Based on a few offhand remarks, my family’s awareness of the furry fandom is limited to “weird people who dress up like animals” or, in the case of my brother-in-law (and maybe my dad since he watches so many of those CSI-type crime shows) “Perverts who like to have sex dressed up as animals”.
But lately I’ve been making even bigger improvements in my art abilities, drawing on a daily basis, and getting to the point where I feel like I could gain a lot of admiration and even be able to make a living if I put my art online and. did commissions. Making a webcomic is something else I’ve been hoping to do for quite a while, and I’ve spent more time recently doing some solid character, setting, and plot development.
This is all floating around in my head lately since, with my 20th birthday in a few months, I’m reaching the point in my life where I really need to stop hoping and imagining and wishing for things that could happen and actually start doing them.
I’ve been working part-time for about a year and a half, and taking classes part-time at my local community college for even longer (I started in high school with a dual-credit program) and now I’m only a couple of classes away from getting my Associate’s degree. My parents (who I still live with) want me to continue my education and get a Bachelor’s in a general business degree, (something I have already done a few electives for) but I’m having doubts about it. I’ve never really felt comfortable or excelled in the academic environment and I’m not exactly looking forward to taking 20-odd classes with names like “Basic Marketing Principles” and “Workplace Leadership”. I took a college-level art class once a couple of years ago, but I had trouble with the assignments and ultimately dropped out of it. I don’t really want to, or feel like I need to, get an art degree. I understand the benefits, but I just don’t think it’s necessary for me.
As for my current low-paying employment at a grocery store, the work itself is fine, but there isn’t really any room for promotion aside from being a manager, and I just don’t see myself as having a ‘managerial’ personality, and I don’t really connect with anyone in my small group of co-workers, mainly since they come from a very different background than me, and a fair few are immigrants don’t speak English very well. There are some nice people, but not really anything more than work-friends.
I understand having a career as an independent artist is a bit of a long-shot and not nearly as secure as an office job, and I don’t have a problem with having a “day job” that pays more than $10 an hour (unlike my current job) to support myself until (if ever) my dreams become a reality, but I just don’t know if I can make myself sit in all of those classes and pretend to be interested in something I’m not for a couple more years just to scrape by and get a potentially pointless degree.
I really don’t have an excuse for not already doing what I want to with my life, other than that I’ve always had trouble making myself do difficult things someone else doesn’t expect or require me to do, and well, what I want to do is something that no one has ever told me I should do.
After quite a bit of thought, I’ve come to a three-option fork in the road, and thus, my dilemma. See, for all my love of drawing, a large part of what I like drawing the most is still cross-dressing focused stuff, and I am still very hesitant about revealing that aspect of myself to others.
I don’t tell anyone I know about my art, I just start posting whatever I’m inspired to draw online. The good part of this option is that I’m totally free to just be myself and not self-censor my creative flow. The bad part is that it means I either can’t show my family what I make and love to do, or I do show them and let them, well, know that I’m interested in that sort of thing. I can understand coming out as gay or transsexual, but you don’t really need to ‘come out’ as enjoying a particular sexual kink. That’s not the kind of thing you should just go shoving in people’s faces. Also, I might feel uncomfortable about meeting people IRL at conventions and whatnot who aware of that element of my personality. And sure, I might be able to get commissions from like-minded people of cross-dressing related art, but I feel like my other art and webcomics and whatnot would be ‘tainted’ for some people by the association of my personal ‘interests’.
I start showing my art online, but not any of my cross-dressing related stuff. This option has the benefit of me being able to tell people I know about it, and not experiencing any form of guilt about it, but at the cost of self-censoring my creativity, which would make it more difficult for me to ‘give my all’ in the art I make. It’s not that I only like drawing CD stuff, it’s just that my ‘muse’, as it were, gives me more fuel to make the best art I can when I have a *ahem* vested interest in the subject matter.
This is a combination of the other two: I have one account where I post all of my regular stuff on a place like Deviant Art, and another account on a different art site where I keep all of my CD-related stuff. That way, no one would have to see what they don’t want to. But I don’t think I would be able to keep them so separate that people couldn’t put two-and-two together and catch me with my metaphorical pants down. If so, that might be even worse than the first option where I’m open about everything, since it would make me look like a two-faced hypocrite.
I just… I feel like my life has been stuck in a rut for a long time, and I have no good reason to be. I have a car, plenty of money (I’ve been saving practically all of what I’ve earned from my job), and seem to be an intelligent, creative person. I mean heck, I live pretty close to a good-sized furry convention (like, less than a half hour’s drive) and I’ve never been. I’m a lurker on all of the websites I frequent, and I’ve grown apart from the people I was friends with in middle and high school, so I’m basically friendless now, and I have difficulty interacting with people I don’t know well, even online. I hardly leave the house anymore for a non-work non-school reason, and when I do, it’s with members of my immediate family. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being afraid to be myself, but at the same time, I have no idea how to get out of this rut and start doing things and meeting people and not just being comfortable with mediocrity anymore.
I know my parents want what’s best for me and to support me, and I love my family immensely. This is part of the reason why these thoughts are troubling me. I want to be able to share my life with them, not just run off and do my own thing entirely, or put on a mask every time I see or talk to them.
So, to take all of this and try to condense it into an answerable question, “How should I handle my personal sexual interest in relation to my overall artistic ambitions”, or more broadly, “What am I gonna do with my life?!”
Thanks for taking the time to read through all of this, and I hope to be hearing from you soon.
–The Invisible Artist (age 19)
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Wow, this is a lot of questions, actually. My general policy is to answer one per letter. Basically, I guess one could summarize it as: what should I do with my life? And so I will try to respond at this more fundamental level.
At 19 you’re going through a major transitional phase in your life between cubhood and adulthood. No breaking news there. But it is a chapter that many people make the mistake of allowing others to write. Often, it is the parents who write it; at other times, it is peers; sometimes, it is just circumstances in life. I’ll give you a case in point: my sister was pressured by our dad to major in business at the University of Michigan (kind of like your parents wanting you to take business courses). She hated it so much, but for three and a half years she did what Dad wanted. Finally, just a few courses short of a bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university, she couldn’t take it anymore. One night, we got a telegram (I was still living at home with my parents, as I was still in high school); all it said was she was okay but that she was leaving. She quit school and disappeared for months (although she did call a couple times). She spent a couple years working odd jobs, but eventually went back to school and got a Ph.D. in a subject she actually liked: biology. Now she is a tenured professor.
The point is that she decided to do what she wanted to do, and, although it was a huge struggle, she eventually achieved her goal and is so much more happy than if she had listened to Dad. But, because she had listened to him for so long, she really wasted years of her life that could have been better spent working toward her biology degree. Oh, and she also came out as a lesbian and is now happily married to a doctor.
What you are seeking, fundamentally, is happiness, no? And you won’t find it by doing things to please your parents or to please furries online or to please your bosses. I can’t tell you what you want to do, but what you need is to really figure out what your passion in life is. Finding a passion is not easy, and many people live out their lives without discovering it. The lucky ones not only find their passion but live it. Happy is the person whose job is his passion for he will never work a day in his life.
On the complementary issue: your sexual interests and how they influence your work. Unless sex is your job (i.e., you work in the profession), I wouldn’t advise mixing them together. From what I’ve seen in the art world, if you wish to be a successful artist, you really won’t become one by just drawing porn—even soft porn, and especially not furry porn. I agree that you don’t necessarily need an art degree (many great artists are self-taught, and many artists with degrees end up working at White Castle). If you want to make a living at it, you will need to work hard at improving and marketing your work. Same is true if you wish to be an author. I’ve been down that particular road, and it is extremely difficult. The key to both is—and you might hate me for saying this—learning the ropes of business, marketing, and public relations. The most successful artists excel at marketing themselves. Therefore (ouch), you might actually learn a lot of valuable skills by taking business courses (how’d we get to this point, eh?) You’re now, like, wait a minute, but you said about your sister...? That’s different. A biology professor has no need to market herself to succeed. If you go into the arts, you will definitely benefit from those skills.
My conclusion for you, then, is to go to business school with the intention of learning how to market yourself as an artist. In other words, don’t do it because your parents said so, do it because it will help you get what you want (this is all assuming you want to pursue the arts). Specialize, for example, in how to market and do PR in the entertainment industry. I know a couple people who specialized in organizing and promoting conventions (not furry ones, although furcon organizers could certainly learn from people who organize, say, auto shows) and entertainment acts and they are now quite amazingly wealthy.
Meanwhile, keep your sexual interests to yourself, where they should be. Your sexuality is a private matter and should be kept separate from your career goals. Concerning this: examine deeply why you wish to post soft porn furry art on the Internet. Are you doing it because you want an art career (buzz! wrong! see above!), or are you doing it for validation, the deep-seated urge to be recognized? If the latter, then keep that to the side, an avocation rather than a vocation.
Wishing you luck,
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