I'd like to begin this year, if you will indulge me, with a little editorial on my thoughts about the fandom and being a furry in general.
This year, Papabear will turn 59, which is the age that my late husbear, Jim, died, so you might imagine this is cause for reflection for me. Also, I am trying very hard to finish my book about the furry fandom, so it is a year for a couple of milestones for me. SO MUCH has changed in the fandom since I began researching my book way back in 2015! SO MUCH has changed since I started this advice column in 2012! Heck, so much has changed in general. I'm also thinking a lot about what furry means to me and where the fandom is going.
In human society (at least, in the American society with which I am intimately familiar), we go through the following stages in life:
The above is a generalization, of course, but it is the basic pattern I see in our society.
But what if we refused to follow that pattern? What if, after figuring out what the world is about (e.g., being a nice little cog in the Wheel of Society), we reject this paradigm, skip Phase 2, fast-forward Phase 3, and enjoy the self-actualization of Phase 4 from our 20s all the way until death?
That, for me, is what the furry fandom is about in many ways: exploring the TRUE YOU through imaginative play and creativity, free from all the constraints that enslave the unhappy throngs that imprison most of the population.
When Jim was still alive, we would go to cons together (he wasn't a furry, but he was very supportive just like my current husband, Michael). I think it was at MFF (c. 2011, I believe) when he made an observation that struck me as quite perceptive. "Kevin," he said, "these furries are an awful lot like the hippies in the Sixties." In other words, this isn't just a fandom, it's a countercultural movement.
Admittedly, there are a lot of furries who just indulge in the fandom for its shock value and for something to do because "they're bored." I've heard quite a few young people say that. They are the kind of furries who leave the fandom when they eventually buy into Phase 2.
For the rest of us, furry is a way to shed all those expectations, requirements, judgments, and rules imposed upon us by society. Being an anthro is the overt way of expressing rebellion for human ways, but internally we are also searching for secret doors to passages that will allow us to escape the predetermined molds into which we are expected to fit.
This is why it is ironic when certain furries try to impose rules designed to judge whether or not you are a "real furry." This is totally counter to the spirit of the fandom, which is iconoclastic at its very core.
Some of these gatekeepers are from the Old Guard (furries who've been around 30-40 years or so) who don't like how the fandom has changed. Well, it's OK for it to change. If it didn't, it would become stagnant and soon die.
Some of these gatekeepers are newer to the fandom, but they impose "rules" in order to set themselves up as the "real furries" who are in charge and get to tell others what is right or wrong about the fandom. They usually seek power and influence because they are trying to hide their own low self-esteem by putting others down.
Don't listen to either group.
What makes the furry fandom different from all other fandoms is that it is the members of this fandom who determine its nature, not some TV or movie franchise, not some corporate entity like Paramount or Lucas Films or Disney, and not even some nonprofit organization.
No. WE make the fandom what it is today, and WE will make it what it will be tomorrow.
No rules. Just play.
Play is important. Don't disregard the value of play. Avoid the people who want to take the play away.
Changes in the fandom are accelerating exponentially. We can look forward to many developments as the fandom continues to grow, gets influenced by outside cultural changes, and finds new opportunities for expression through advancing technologies. By 2034 it might not even be recognizable compared to 2024. I know it has changed considerably since 2014, so I expect even greater changes in another 10 years.
Here's the point (in case you were wondering): If you came to the fandom as a way to escape the doldrums and judgment of mainstream society and better express yourself; if you came here to find furiends like yourself; then don't worry about whether or not you fit in and what rules you must follow. You DO fit in and there are NO RULES except the ones you write for yourself.
This fandom is for YOU not some verkokte gatekeeper.
Oh, and BUCKLE UP! The next 10 years are going to be a WILD RIDE!
Happy New Year!
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.