Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Four Most Common Myths I Hear About Furries

You can't always pick your antlers.
I'm going to write a little about animal spirit work as I haven't been writing as much about Paganism as I assumed I would be by now.  But really I'm writing more about furry fandom, because reasons.  One of these reasons is that an alarming number of my friends are unaware of my involvement in the furry fandom and because of it they have been known to say some chronically wrong things about it, so it's fresh in my mind.  Yuck.

First, what is furry fandom?  Furry fandom is a huge community in which the main thing we have in common is that we have some sort of affinity for anthropomorphized animals.

This includes fursuiters, who dress up as anthropomorphized animals, but it also includes people who have a specific appreciation for anthropomorphic animals in entertainment, therians, fetishists, people who have a spiritual connection to animals, and several others.  Not all people who are interested in these things identify with furry fandom... the point here is that furry fandom is a big thing.

In my case, I have an interest in anthropomorphic animation and love fursuits, but the thing that really got me started was a deep spiritual connection with animals that developed into a core part of my religious practice as a Pagan, including costuming and dance magick.  I was trying to avoid mindlessly yanking things from other cultures to shove into a boiling pot of animal magick, and although I am a spiritual anarchist who does take inspiration from multiple cultures, in my own socio-cultural context many of these things already existed in furry fandom.  For me, the fact that people fursuit is only an expression of a cultural universal.

So I straddle many of these aspects of the furry community--spiritual shapeshifter, person who enjoys anthropomorphic animals in film and art, person who likes fursuits--but most of my friends aren't aware of this.  This leads to passing phrases that are unintentionally insulting, proving that many otherwise-tolerant people really have no idea what the hell a furry is.

For those among you who are in this situation:
  1. Being a furry does not automatically mean you are in it for sex.
    One of the more irritating things about being in the furry fandom without friends knowing it is that it's usually brought up in a sexual context.  People will say things like "Well, it's no worse than any other fetish," or something like that, without realizing that there is a very large non-sexual component to the fandom.
    Last I checked any sort of statistics, most furries have some sort of interest in furry erotica, but for most the main appeal of the fandom is its childlike whimsy and fun.  Those who do have an interest in furry erotica don't necessarily have sex in fursuits, either... in fact...
  2. Being a furry doesn't mean you fursuit.
    Fursuits are expensive, so people like to assume we as a whole are just brimming with expendable income.  Some of us obviously are, but many of us either go with minimalistic suits (like my headband with the ears or a head-only get-up) or, shocking I know, no suit at all.  Most furry conventions are filled to the brim with people who are not fursuiting, many of whom do not fursuit at all.  This is possible because fursuiting is only one aspect of the community.
  3. Being a furry is not the same as being a therian.
    Some transgender friends of mine have brought up furries specifically to make a statement implying we believe we are non-human animals trapped in human bodies.  Somewhere in there it turned into all furries wanting to appropriate transgender struggles by being considered transspecies.
    Furries in general don't believe this sort of thing.  Although our fursonas (furry characters) are offshoots of our personalities, and we may view them as ourselves, most people feel the same about their creations... it doesn't mean we necessarily want to be considered animals.
    Do some furries feel that way?  Yes.  This is due to overlap with the therian community, which is a group of people who believe they are either psychologically or spiritually a different animal than human.  Although I personally strive to accept therians, it does annoy me when people use the term "furry" when what they're talking about are actually therians.
  4. You might know a furry even if you have never seen someone show up wearing a tail.
    I have had this conversation more than once:
    Friend:  [Somewhat-related Conversation]... but I wouldn't know, I don't know any furries.
    Me:  Yes, you do.  I'm a furry.
    Friend:  Really?!The fact that this shocks people suggests that people have this automatic image of what a furry is, and apparently I'm not it.  Somehow.  I think they expect me to wear something like this and make animal noises all the time.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.
So why is this important in the context of my blog?  I wasn't going to write that, because to be honest I consider this my personal "anything goes" blog and I'll write about the Real Housewives of Atlanta if I damned well please,* but I consider this an important issue because it refers to a deeper value of acceptance that I'm not seeing enough of in many of my communities.

What I mean is going to a festival and watching a couple of guys in furry garb get booed at a fetish wear contest.  It was a sex-positive crowd being the opposite of sex-positive.  I mean being really gung-ho about allowing other people the right to self-identify and then slamming the door as soon as a furry comes along, even if we don't self-identify as anything other than human.  And probably most importantly, the furry community has a big overlap between the queer and Pagan communities, so it's likely you will meet more of us, whether you know it or not.  I'm hoping this post will be a stepping stone so that you can learn to open up to more than just acronyms and mainstream people.

* I do not actually watch this show, nor will I, so do not fear that I will start writing about the Real Housewives of Atlanta.