Furry As A Queer Identity

LGBT stands for two things: firstly, a delicious sandwich (lettuce, guacamole, bacon & tomato); secondly a group of people who don’t easily fit into a heterosexual, binary gendered world.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are lumped together into LGBT mostly for convenience. The four groups are discriminated against in a similar way and the political action required for equality are much the same. LGBT people can generally be classified as being ‘queer’ which roughly means that they diverge from a traditional sexual or gender identity.

Of course, there are plenty of people who diverge from a traditional sexual or gender paradigm who are neither L, G, B or T. And so we can continually add letters to LGBT until it spells something awesome like TERABULGE, or we can toss a catch-all Q to give us LGBTQ, an acronym which is gaining traction.

We furries are already accepted within the LGBT community to a large extent, which is at least partly due to our own gender and sexual diversity. But I think that there is a strong argument that the entirety of furry can be recognized as a queer identity, a Q, including the 30% or so (according to the 2012 Furrypoll) of us that are heterosexual and cis-gendered.

Before I go any further, I want to talk about my language and nomenclature. The English language implicitly classifies people by gender, as denoted by gender pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’. The limitations of these pronouns aren’t limited to the genderqueer; they also reinforce an assumption of heterosexuality. (As anyone who has ever written gay pornography can attest, we don’t have an elegant way of making a distinction between ‘him’ and ‘him’.) The word pair of his/hers, he/she are perfect for talking about a heterosexual couple, and the elegance and utility of these terms reinforces the idea that a couple is comprised of one member of each gender.

The LGBT community has language problems too. When LGBT issues started to come to the fore, they were called gay issues. After some time, the group started to be called ‘gays and lesbians’, which grew into to LGB, and more recently to LGBT. The problem is that all these terms are a ‘whitelist’: they require us to list the identities that diverge from ‘normal’. We’d be far better off with a term that meant ‘everyone who isn’t straight and cis-gendered’, but we don’t have one in wide circulation.

Even the term LGBT doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, because T (transgendered) is out of place. The other three terms refer to sexual orientation, and many people who are T are also L, G, or B. And if we use LGBTQ, then surely the LGBT become redundant, as they are all Q in their own way.

So, some definitions: I’m going to use LGBT as my catch-all, and it’s intended to include I (intersex), A (asexual), H (hijra), P (pansexual), and who ever else wants to come along for the ride. Further along, I’m also going to include zoophiles and furries.My usage of LGBT means ‘queer’, but without the (slightly archaic) offensive connotations.

Despite the apparently fundamental difference between those with a divergent sexual orientation (LGB), and those with a divergent gender identity (T), all LGBT people suffer from the same prejudice. They all suffer because they are subverting traditional ideas of gender.

The yin-yang dichotomy of masculinity and femininity suggests that there is a strong, active, lead role (the man) and a weak, passive, following role (the woman). This totally unfair basis makes up the foundation of most societies around the world, and it creates a reality where the men are the presumptive leaders. It’s the foundation of sexism.

Any man or woman who breaks the stereotype of their gender can be subject to discrimination, because they challenge this patriarchal version of reality. So women who excel in sports or business may be thought of as ‘butch’, and men who excel in the arts may be thought of as ‘girly’.

Homosexual activity challenges gender stereotypes, in part because of the sex act itself. A patriarchal society demands male and female roles, which can’t work when sex involves two members of the same gender. So lesbians may be seen as ‘less feminine’ and gay men seen as ‘less masculine’.

The implied requirement for gender roles persists even in LGBT circles, especially with gay sex, where the penetrative role is ‘dominant’ and the receptive role is ‘submissive’. The idea that a gay men must choose a role, where the ‘top’ should be masculine, and the ‘bottom’ should be effeminate is no longer the default, it’s more ‘opt-in’ nowadays. And while nominally dominant/submissive roles in gay sex are enjoyed by furry wolves/foxes everywhere, we (happily) live in a world where all sex must be consensual, and any situation where one party is literally all-dominant is rape.

There are plenty of artefacts of the stigmatization of gay sex. In Iran, for example, someone convicted of receptive gay sex is sentenced to death, whereas someone convicted of penetrative gay sex will receive a less severe punishment. In more enlightened society, gay men entering their compulsory military service in Singapore will be asked whether they engage in penetrative or receptive gay sex, with the receptive parties being given more feminine duties. And the idea that a gay couple has a nominal ‘man’ and ‘woman’ still persists all around the world.

Consider a male NBA player, who comes out as gay. He’ll be big news. Whereas a lesbian WNBA player will be met with yawns. Each player is meeting prejudice when he/she challenges the gender stereotype: the man when it’s revealed that he’s gay; the women when it’s revealed that she plays basketball. Make no mistake; sexism is at the heart of much of the prejudice towards LGBT people. Challenging traditional gender boundaries is taboo.

The species boundary is another great taboo. I’ve written about zoophiles here on [a][s] before and I know that it’s a sensitive topic. If you are anti-zoophile, or think that zoophilia is wrong, or that zoophilia is irrelevant to furry, then I strongly suggest that you read my previous articles (here, here, and here) before you read further. I don’t want to repeat myself here, but suffice to say that I think that zoophiles are subject to unfair discrimination comparable to that of gay men in 1950s. (And, no, I am not a zoophile myself.)

Zoophiles are discriminated against because they cross the species boundary. We live in a world where a strong line is drawn between ‘humans’ and ‘animals’, despite the fact that humans are also animals. We care for human life; we eat animals. Human suffering matters a lot; animal suffering matters less.

We furries are crossing the species barrier as well. We, or at least those of us who have a strong furry identity, like to think of ourselves as a hybrid of human and non-human—as animal-people. We do our best to bring our animal-people into the real world: with art, with fursuits, with the way we interact, and with our sexuality. Furry isn’t about sex, but sexuality can be a big part of identity. And so sex plays an important part in our furry experience.

It’s common for people with a passing awareness of furry to be slightly freaked out by the sexual nature of it all. Some members of sci-fi and related fandoms find the sexual component to be repugnant, and this attitude leaked into some of the furry media coverage around the turn of the century, back when furry was more closely aligned with fandom. People react strongly to the sexual component of furry because we are blurring the species boundary: the idea of a Thundercats orgy garners much the same reaction (from anti-furries) as the idea of a Bert/Ernie love-in (from homophobes).

We furries are queer: we diverge from the traditional species paradigm. We belong with the LGBT. Our zoophile brothers and sisters (and Ts) belong there as well. We’re all different, but we suffer from the same source of discrimination: we all cross, in one way or another, a societal boundary that is arbitrarily taboo.

Nowadays, furries are regular and long-time participants in Gay Pride events in San Francisco, Sydney, and elsewhere around the world. Our representation at these events should not be only those of us who are LGBT: we should participate because we want to publicly express and celebrate our queerness—our furry identity—regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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39 thoughts on “Furry As A Queer Identity

  1. ” When LGBT issues started to come to the fore, they were called gay issues. After some time, the group started to be called ‘gays and lesbians’, which grew into to LGB, and more recently to LGBT. The problem is that all these terms are a ‘whitelist’”

    I don’t know about that. The early reference to Gay may have in fact been an open term for any deviation from pure cisgendered heterosexual. When I was growing up “gay” was certainly used this way. There were gay men and gay women. It is just later “lesbian” was decided as the preferred to term for gay women and so with it no longer used to modify women, gay men and gay came to be seen as synonymous. I have problems with “queer” myself since it still resonates with hatred for me.

    “The limitations of these pronouns aren’t limited to the genderqueer; they also reinforce an assumption of heterosexuality. (As anyone who has ever written gay pornography can attest, we don’t have an elegant way of making a distinction between ‘him’ and ‘him’.) The word pair of his/hers, he/she are perfect for talking about a heterosexual couple,”

    You are showing third person prejudice here. You don’t have worry about these issues if only you would embrace the first person narrative!

    I have talked to several people and read much about the whole top/bottom issue (because it makes no sense to me) and most with whom I spoke said that it is a distinct issue from dominant/submissive. One can be a dommy bottom, submissive top, a dommy switch, a bottom who is neither dommy nor subby, etc.

    I am furry, but your description of furries does not fit me at all; I am not sure how well it fits others, but I do not feel that I cross a species boundary at all. Finally I would argue that the species boundary is not arbitrary. One might argue that there is more ado made about it than there ought to be but that is not the same thing as arbitrary–there is a reason and rationale for it whether you agree with it or not.

    1. Hi Keito, thanks for the comment. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that the progression of terminology from “gay” to LGBTQ (and beyond) was largely yoinked from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT).

      I hardly ever use Wikipedia as a primary reference, but in this case I thought it was the safest option. Queer politics, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a bit of a minefield with some very strong, and very worthwhile opinions. It’s important and emotive stuff, and wasn’t even sure I could pull off my TERABULGE joke without getting something horribly wrong.

      Your comments about furry, in your final paragraph, have really got me thinking (you seem to have the knack). Furry is a personal thing, and so it’s fine that my attempt to describe furry in one or two sentences has some shortcomings. But it’s your comment about the species boundary that has piqued my interest.

      Firstly: yes, clearly the species boundary is neither arbitrary nor poorly delineated. However this is biological taxonomy; I was thinking more about the spiritual aspect of the whole thing. I don’t subscribe to the idea of “species identity disorder” that has been floated by one researcher, but I do think that people draw aspects of non-human species into their own identity. Totemists do, furries do, and plenty of others do too (like Winston Churchill – http://www.adjectivespecies.com/2012/12/28/blood-toil-tears-and-fur/).

      And so I agree, as you say, that the species boundary is not arbitrary. But I my comment was that society’s reaction (to people crossing gender and species boundaries) is arbitrarily taboo. As in, it is a taboo that is not based in logic.

      Finally, excellent advice on describing gay sex. it sounds to me like you’re our go-to person on the topic.

  2. Furry is discriminated against in the same way cosplayers are discriminated against. People may call you mean names because of it, they may even try to hurt you because of it, but there isn’t a cultural wide apathy towards violence directed at furries. No one is going to fire you because of your “furry-ness” unless it interferes with your productivity. Not being able to wear your tail to work isn’t the same as not being able to hold hands with the person you love in public, or getting denied housing because you want to live with your same-sex partner. Sure, it sucks to have people be mean to you in the first place, but people generally realize “Hey that guy didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t deserve to get the snot knocked out of him.” Violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans* individuals are generally excused, because they are accused of flaunting their identity.

    The inter-species taboo isn’t arbitrary. In other species, inter-species intercourse is a display of dominance, not a means to get pleasure. Inter-species intercourse is a taboo because it’s almost always a powerplay. The fact that zoophiles usually choose domesticated animals, animals that depend on humans for their wellbeing, means they have a lot of power over the animals they are attracted to. It’s one of the reasons sex with a minor is outlawed. Adults simply have more power, mentally and physically, over children and teenagers. It’s like if a foster parent takes care of a child, conditioning it that it’s only natural that since you are feeding them and they aren’t really your parents that you reciprocate by being worked to the bone. They can act nice about it, but it doesn’t make it any less wrong. This idea that animals give their consent to humans of their own free will is ridiculous because animals are conditioned learners. They learn that if they let you have your way with them, they get to sleep on something more comfortable than a floor, or they get an extra treat, or they don’t get kicked around that day.

    1. Hi Mutt, thanks for the thoughtful comment and the considerate tone. It’s never easy to be critical, especially online, while being friendly and without being defensive. So thank you for disagreeing in an agreeable fashion.

      Furries in no way suffer from the same problems that LGBT and zoophiles face. Furries are not at threat of violence or any other significant discrimination because of who they are.

      I lumped furries in with LGBT and zoos, I said “We’re all different, but we suffer from the same source of discrimination”. The key word is “source”, and I didn’t mean to imply that we suffer the same severity of discrimination. I completely agree that I should have been much, much, much clearer on that point, and I was wrong not to do so. Thank you for bringing it up, and bringing it up so eloquently.

      I think that the species barrier is a contributing factor to some knee-jerk reaction to furry. It’s pretty minor, and completely trivial to the reaction suffers by LGBT people and zoos. Phil Guesz, whose writing attracts furry and non-furry audiences, has written about this before http://www.adjectivespecies.com/2012/12/14/of-rabbits-and-rayguns/

      And on your zoo comments, I understand that my opinion is decidedly non-mainstream. I encourage you to read through the articles I have written on the topic, especially this one – http://www.adjectivespecies.com/2013/01/28/the-science-of-zoophilia/

      I don’t believe that consent is an issue when it comes to sexual activity, human or otherwise. What is important is harm. Sex with underage or vulnerable people is wrong because it’s harmful, or because it might be harmful. So consent is absolutely 100% non-negotiable when it comes to sex between two humans. Zoophilia, on the other hand, is not necessarily harmful, and certainly not harmful when compared with the way animals are treated in mainstream society (for example as food). It’s also worth keeping in mind that zoophiles are true animal lovers. You say that zoophilia is “wrong”, and I’d encourage you to unpack why you feel that way. (And this is the point where I reinforce that I, personally, am not a zoophile.)

      But anyway, that’s another article. Thanks for reading this one closely, and pointing out where I have got things wrong. I, personally, appreciate it, and I’m sure that other readers of this article will appreciate it too. Thanks again.

  3. While I have no trouble being identified with LGBT(Q) as an individual, I do have a lot of trouble seeing any genuine connection between furry and sexual or gender identity. To me, that seems coincidental or circumstantial, rather than a valid correlation. It’s rather like saying that because I am gay, organists and ham radio operators and weavers and writers and horse owners and fursuiters must also be gay. Those are all groups or labels that apply to me, but the inference doesn’t work.

    It doesn’t work just as saying that furry fandom is a subset of cosplay fandom. It isn’t, and we know it isn’t, because the majority of people who do self-identify as furry are NOT fursuiters. Not even the majority of furry convention attendees are fursuiters.

    And, as you and Makyo have pointed out in the past, the surveys indicate that a majority of self-identified furries are not LGBT(Q) either. While I’ve serious questions about the validity of the survey statistics, I do agree that you can’t predict gender identity or sexual orientation from the fact that a person identifies as furry.

    Furries, and particularly younger ones who still live at home and may be actively connected with certain rather intolerant religious groups do tend to see themselves as oppressed and discriminated against. I think this is largely a self-perception that isn’t born out by actual fact. Even if it were a common truth, it wouldn’t be adequate to make the connection you seem to have made here.

    For me and, I suspect, for a substantial percentage of other furries even if not a majority, being furry is not an issue of sexual identity or orientation. It may be deeply emotional or merely intellectual, and for some it may be quasi-religious but it’s not about sex. The issue of sexuality in furry fandom comes not from the subject matter of the fandom, but from the high percentage of participants who are, by coincidence, also of an age where hormones tend to overpower reason and responsibility at times.

    1. Hi Tivo, thanks for the thoughtful comment

      As I said in the article, about 70% of furries are LGBT. Alex was able to look at the responses to sexual orientation and gender, and tally up those that are non-heterosexual and/or trans. Like you, I don’t believe that furry is directly relevant to sexual orientation or even sexuality, but I do believe that sexual identity is an important part of identity. You might argue that I spend too much time talking about here on [a][s] but, hey, I think it’s interesting, and besides, we have stats.

      Your point that furries are barely oppressed or discriminated against (especially when compared to LGBT people) is an important one, and well made. It’s something that should have been in my article.

  4. TERABULGE :D

    Point of order about your comment that we care more for human lives than animals, that “human suffering matters a lot, animal suffering matters less”. In fact for much of our recent history the opposite has been true: we’ve long cared more about how we treat animals than how we treat people, at least in part because in many societies and religions, animals are seen as innocent, while humans, even children, are seen as fallen, unclean, inferior, or justifiably brought low for their perceived sins or the sins of their forebears. For reference, here’s a short excerpt from Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our Nature” (which is bloody brilliant, albeit a bit of a slog) that surprised me:

    “In Manhattan in 1874, the neighbours of ten-year-old Mary Ellen McCormack, an orphan being raised by an adoptive mother and her second husband, noticed suspicious cuts and bruises on the girl’s body. They reported her to the Department of Public Charities and Correction, which administered the city’s jails, poorhouses, orphanages, and insane asylums. Since there were no laws that specifically protected children, the caseworker contact the American Society for the Protection of Animals. The society’s founder saw an analogy between the plight of the girl and the plight of the horses he rescued from violent stable owners. […] In England the first legal case to protect a child against an abusive parent was taken up but the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and out of it grew the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.”

    This doesn’t diminish your general argument; in fact I think it strengthens it. We’ve long held animal cruelty to be abhorrent behaviour, but as inexcusable as it is, man’s cruelty towards animals pales in significance to the range, breadth and scale of cruelty towards our fellow men. Laws protecting horses, cattle and sheep from cruelty were introduced in the UK in 1822, preceding the abolition of slavery by 13 years, and while the banning of dog-fighting, bear-baiting, cock-fighting and cat-burning soon followed, war – with all its concomitant rape and genocide – continued to be seen as a righteous and noble duty until uncomfortably recently. It wasn’t until 1928 that all women were given the same voting rights as men in the UK, and as we know the right for gay men to be recognised in both law and society as equal continues to this day, and we’ve got it good! There are still countries where being queer is literally a death sentence.

    I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an omnivore who’s truly indifferent to – let alone at ease with – animal suffering. I eat meat, but the humane treatment of animals is important to me, and the thought of the animals I eat being mistreated sickens me. We in Europe spend tremendous effort minimising the suffering of livestock animals and both the law and society in general take a very dim view of those who flout the regulations that cover everything from drastically reducing transportation distances, to better living conditions, access to water, open space, freedom from pain, fear, distress and disease. And that’s just the animals we *eat*. The ones we bring into our lives and our homes are almost universally better treated than humans outside our circle of sympathy. Few pet owners stop to think about how much human suffering they could eliminate if they spent half the time, attention and money tackling poverty, disease and famine as they do having an animal bred for their pleasure, and while many adopt stray pets, few would invite a homeless man for a meal and a shower.

    All of which is to say: we’re rather better towards animals and worse towards humans than you implied, though in both cases we’re getting better :)

    1. Thanks for the comment, and especially the story from The Better Angels Of Our Nature. It’s an excellent tale, and one I wasn’t aware of. I totally reserve the right to cannibalize the idea and regurgitate it here on [a][s] at some point in the future.

      Having said that, I’m going to wildly disagree with your statement that “man’s cruelty towards animals pales in significance to the range, breadth and scale of cruelty towards our fellow men”. It’s certainly true that man has been, and continues to be, very cruel towards our fellow men, and you examples that span around the likes of war and rape are well made.

      But, seriously, animals are farmed for profit. There are regulations related to the raising of animals, but even in enlightened countries, those conditions are worse than any human equivalent. The animals have no rights and no formal advocacy beyond cruelty laws (which are mostly geared towards pet owners or otherwise visible, non-commercial acts of cruelty). Non-human animals are, in general, less able to feel pain than humans, but consider the numbers: the average annual consumption of meat, worldwide, is 46.5 kg (in 2007) per person. And the population of the world is 7.1 billion. That’s a lot of animals being raised for their flesh.

      1. I’m surprised by “non-human animals are, in general, less able to feel pain than humans”. Even if it’s true, I think it’s immaterial; I’d be uncomfortable using that fact to support my stance on … well, anything. Pain is pain, and we as sympathetic, moral people have an ethical duty to seek to prevent it.

        I think there are a couple of misleading errors in your counter-argument here. Most obviously, the world is not made up of 7.1 billion meat-eaters. Meat consumption is strongly correlated with a higher standard of living, which is (unfortunately not as strongly) correlated with higher standards of animal welfare.

        Secondly you draw a false correlation between farming for profit and a definition of cruelty which, while not invalid, goes beyond the welfare of any individual animal in question and instead describes the practice as a whole. That’s going to take longer to argue (or maybe it doesn’t and you can stop reading now :)

        I think it’s important to distinguish the industrialised wholesale raising and slaughter of animals for food from the intentional infliction of pain and suffering, although it’s perhaps only a matter of degree to you. If for example (and I hasten to admit that this is by no means the norm, though it is increasingly common), a cow is raised in open fields where it can graze at leisure, is carefully tended, well-fed, protected from stress and predation, then one day its consciousness is snuffed out in the blink of an eye by a bolt through the brain, then that indeed constitutes a form of cruelty, but one that is entirely abstract to the animal in question. It has not suffered physically, mentally, or spiritually.

        You could retort with, “well would you like that done to you?”, and the answer is “no of course not”, but then one of the hallmarks of human consciousness (not unique as it turns out, but certainly not universal) is a highly specialised capability for abstract reasoning. The mere knowledge that they might be killed, even instantly and painlessly, causes significant suffering to humans, while it might not occur to a cow at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying slaughter isn’t cruel, or that this absolves or excuses us (if anything, it creates a moral responsibility to apply our sympathy and standards for wellbeing in an ever-widening circle), but I’m saying that standards for animal welfare, though they have a long way to go, are higher than many people assume because it’s in our nature to anthropomorphise in the classical sense: to put ourselves in another person’s skin, but not in their brain. We imagine ourselves sick with fear and worry that at any moment we’d be led into a stinking room full of grizzly gore-spattered equipment, and our lives extinguished. These are not thoughts that, to the best of our knowledge, occur to cows. To put it fatuously, a cow would not be happier if it was given access to free education, but it very much appreciates not being kicked to death for sport or being unable to lie down, sleep or eat on its own terms. That’s why much of animal welfare is focused on preventing suffering, rather than giving them the same rights as humans – I think we’ll eventually get there, but it’s somewhat irrelevant as far as the animal is concerned.

        Furthermore my argument from the standpoint of the inflicting of suffering on animals, in as much as we understand and can prevent it, leaves aside deeper and larger questions of whether the practice itself is cruel, whether we should eat meat at all given the ecological pressure it creates, and whether it’s moral to bring a life into the world purely for our own benefit (a subject which arguably also encompass parenthood and pet breeding, but I won’t kick that particular hornet’s nest). You’d be hard pressed to find anyone living in a modern western democracy, vegetarian or omnivore, who would not be appalled at intentional physical cruelty towards animals. That kind of disregard is (as I understand it) a hallmark of psychopathy.

        So industrialised farming has a long way to go before my example becomes the norm, particularly outside of western europe (for example the US, and in the global halal meat industry), but I think it’s unfair of you to equate meat consumption with a tolerance for animal cruelty.

        1. I suspect that this is a better conversation around a beer at some point. I’m pretty big on the ethics of animal treatment, as you might expect, but I don’t really think it’s relevant to furry, except as a tangent like in this article. I’m not an idealist by any stretch of the imagination, but I understand that I’m in a small minority (as an ethical vegetarian), and I don’t want to appear that I’m pushing my personal beliefs on other people.

          My comments about suffering, and that various species have more or less capacity for suffering, is a pretty standard argument in utilitarian circles. It’s the one that Peter Singer uses in Animal Liberation, and I think it’s a pretty good premise: that more suffering is worse than less suffering.

          My comment about profit is more of a personal perspective. I don’t see any problem with people who own pets, raise their own animals for food, or subsistence farming. I diverge from many, if not most, animal rights advocates at this point. My point on profit is pretty simple: if you’re raising animals for profit, sometimes there will be a conflict between the animal’s best interests and the profit motive. And sometimes the animal’s best interests will come second. I do, therefore, think that meat consumption causes suffering of animals.

          So I don’t buy meat, or eat meat that’s been bought. But if you want to invite me around for your family’s hobby farm for goat stew or coq au vin, I’m there.

          I’ll add that the 46.5 kg worldwide annual meat consumption average includes everyone: adults and children; meat eaters and non meat-eaters; poor Africans and rich Americans. For comparison, people in western countries eat about three times that amount each year.

          1. Argh, computer crashed right at the end of this comment. Sorry if I skip ahead a bit; might even be brief this time!

            1. Totally agree about carrying on over a friendly pint or two.
            2. Absolutely did not intend to present an argument against vegetarianism, particularly yours, which I know is well-reasoned, internally consistent, and ethically sound. I wouldn’t put up a good defence for eating meat either.
            3. I’m curious about your invocation of Utilitarianism. Love to talk it out over a couple of drinks.
            4. I’ve got a sort of half-formed opinion on ethical commerce which needs knocking down a peg or two before I’d feel comfortable writing it down. Suffice to say I think external factors might prevent the desire for profit from causing suffering in animals (short version: you make it very costly).
            5. Yes, western developed nations skew the figures on meat consumption massively – that was the point I was trying to cackhandedly make in my second paragraph, somewhat undermined because the US is included in that list and they (comparatively) suck at animal welfare in the food industry.
            6. And finally, because I neglected to mention it: I like the idea of furry being part of the queer … er… panoply? It fits, it’s mutually supportive, and I think the more the merrier.

  5. Maybe I am missing something here but this article seems to be more about LGBT than furry.

    I’ll have to echo Altivo’s comments that for me, furry has nothing to do with sexual identity or orientation. There would also be a large number of straight furs that would object to the correlation between furry and “queer”.

    I personally don’t believe zoophilia should have even been mentioned in this article. I do not appreciate the connection between the furry and zoophiles. It is something I have struggled to convince my partner of for as long as I’ve been a furry. Not all furries are zoos and not all zoos are furries. People just connect them because its an easy assumption to make.

    1. Hi Shadow, thanks for the comment.

      I agree that furry isn’t directly related to anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. I’d be curious to see whether some of the 30% or so of furs who are non-LGBT would find it objectionable to have it suggested that being furry might be considered to be queer. I haven’t any comments in (direct) response to this article, but that doesn’t mean that nobody feels that way. It’s an interesting thought, and hopefully a person or two will see this comment and add their thoughts.

      I won’t belabour the zoo connection, except to refer back to my previously written articles. I certainly don’t believe that being a zoophile makes you furry, or that being furry make you a zoophile. But I do think that zoophilia is very relevant to furry, an argument I’ve made here: http://www.adjectivespecies.com/2013/01/14/why-zoophilia-is-a-furry-issue/

  6. I see where you are going in the most general sense, but in doing you so forgot to look at the details. While I agree that furry may be discriminated against more in relation to other fandoms, just because it’s lower on the totem poll doesn’t mean it should be included with LGBT. Quite frankly, the two have nothing to do with each other.

    LGBT are different sexual orientations and genders. Furry is a subject of interest. Yes, there are LGBT people in it, but it’s not a requirement, and being a furry does not mean you are somehow LGBT. So yes, while being a furry may be “queer” in terms of ‘it’s different from social norms’, liking anthropomorphic animals =/= a non-hetronormative gender or orientation.

    1. Scape, thanks for the comment, and you’re spot on. Only 70% (or so) of furries are LGBT. Alex, he guy who runs Furrypoll, was kind enough to pull some numbers from last year, cross-referencing the responses to sexual orientation and gender.

      My argument was more about societal taboo. I think that there is evidence that furry receives a negative response from some groups because we are flirting with the human/non-human species barrier. I see that as being similar in origin, although nowhere near as severe, as the negative response that zoophiles receive. From that perspective, I completely agree that furry “may be “queer” in terms of ‘it’s different from social norms’”. It’s not related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

      1. Ah, I see. Re-reading, I can see that you make that point, however, when you said “We belong with the LGBT.”, I and apparently others read that as “we are somehow a sexual orientation so belong in the LGBT”.

  7. I would disagree with your notion that distinguishing ‘him’ and ‘him’ is a a difficultly by some sort of inherit design in English to be biased towards heterosexual relationships for 2 reasons.

    1) Language’s has far more usage then merely talking about sex. There are plenty of instances where you’re going to have people of the same gender engaging in activities even in non-homosexual literature.

    2) I run into similar “difficulties” when writing scenes with two creatures of the same species (non-pornographic). Therefore to me what you’re seeing is the inherit difficulty when you run into discussing two things that share a commonality. When you’re trying to distinguish who’s committing an action it is far easier if they have a difference to refer to. Gender is one of the first things that can distinguish one from the other, failing that you could use a modifier/adjective “old man”, “short girl”, etc. Furries have species to refer to, but once again. It’s harder to just say “the wolf” when there is a pack of them. So if you have character that SHARE characteristics it will always be harder then if they’re different. This isn’t because the English language is suggesting that creatures of the same species shouldn’t be together, it’s because you need to find something you can use that makes wolf A distinguishable from wolf B.

    1. Hi Tantroo, thanks for the comment.

      My him/him comment was a bit of a weak joke, and you’re quite right to pick flaws in my reasoning. Your argument is spot on, and well made.

      My comments on the English language were really about its inherent sexism. Doublets like “man and wife” tacitly reinforce the idea that men and women go together, and that the woman is subservient. Language changes slowly, of course, and women’s rights have come a long way in the last 100 years (as have LGBT rights). There is still a long way to go though.

  8. I really don’t see how it makes for a useful or meaningful grouping to lump human/animal border crossing behaviors with LGBT.
    At that point, you’re really arguing for grouping all people not looking to date a single adult female feminine human woman or a single adult male masculine human man in an heterosexual way.
    And, then what? Is it just a thought experiment for you?
    (I’m myself a furry, a zoo, gay and transsexual)

    1. Hi Mirvan, thanks for the interesting comment. It is a thought experiment, yes. My intent is to explore the furry identity, and see what it might have in common with existing non-mainstream identities and identity politics.

      I really like the way that you’ve extended the idea to its natural conclusion. I do think that (most) people who diverge from garden-variety heteronormativity are subject to societal discrimination in one way or another. So on one hand it makes sense for an all-inclusive ‘queer’ category; on the other hand this risks deprecating the very real and very serious problems suffered by many LGBT individuals. I think it’s worthwhile thinking about, at the very least.

  9. This is horrible, get out. Stop writing. My god, just stop.

    Straight people are not queer. Queer is an epithet that we reclaim, which specifically implies gay/lesbian. Trans* people are included because they have complex identities that blur the lines of what it means to be heterosexual. Straight people are not queer, it is right there in the definition. Being furry does not make one LGBT, and therefore does not make one queer, by definition. Your torturous attempts to rewrite the meanings of these terms, and your extraordinarily poor grasp on the issues you are discussing and the divergent viewpoints on them, do not change the core facts.

    1. Benjie, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      I understand your point, and that I’m discussing how LGBT (or ‘queer) might be extended beyond its current definition, to include zoophiles and furries. This is a thought experiment; I’m discussing who qualifies as LGBT, and why, and using that to draw parallels with the furry identity.

      I’d argue that there are plenty of trans* people who are heterosexual, simply and without complication. Someone who is male, say, who has a sexual orientation geared exclusively towards women: this guy is heterosexual, regardless of his biological sex and/or the way he was raised. He will, of course, challenge society’s expectations: but these are expectations of gender, not of sexual orientation. I would argue that the discrimination felt by LGB people is also significantly due to their divergence from society’s ideas of gender, for the reasons I lay out in my article.

      Queer does not, as you say in your comment, “specifically imply gay/lesbian. Queerness is more complex than sexual orientation.

      If you consider challenging the gender paradigm to be a societal taboo (and I do), then it seems like there is a comparison with those who change the species paradigm taboo, which is where the zoos and furries come in. That’s a connection made by more people than just me: Drs Williams & Weinberg, two of the earliest post-Kinsey researchers into homosexuality, draw a direct comparison between homosexuals of the 1960s and the zoophiles of the early 21st century.

      And so I think it’s an idea worth exploring. Neither you nor I are the arbiter of what ‘queer’ means. It’s a very difficult topic to discuss using direct language, because it’s so easy to make statements that are not wholly true for everyone. The jargon used in queer politics is therefore soft and a bit impenetrable, which is why I have tried to write this article using lay language. In doing so, I fully understand that I will inadvertently make statements that some will find disagreeable, and so I expected criticism from people such as yourself.

      I really appreciate your criticism, and I think it’s important that diverging opinions are made in comments so that readers of my articles don’t get the impression that my words are the be-all-and-end-all. But I don’t appreciate your suggestion that my words shouldn’t be written, and I don’t appreciate your bullying tone.

      We don’t have any specific commenting guidelines here at [a][s], and we encourage criticism and counter-arguments. So please continue to comment and disagree but, in future, please be respectful.

      1. You can disagree with facts, but that does not make them not facts. That parallels can be drawn between two things does not make them equivalent. The queer umbrella should not be expanded to the point that it becomes meaningless. It is, without a doubt, still an epithet used for LGB people first and foremost, and its usage in LGBT circles is respectful and aware of this fact. I think you do a disservice to the furry community when you write about LGBTQ issues, I don’t know that there’s a respectful way of saying that.

        1. While I don’t agree with all that JM says here, it is true that queer didn’t start out as a sexually-oriented term, and you can’t just say “it’s ours, now and forever” (any more than those who used it in a derogatory sense for homosexual men could prevent such men and their friends from “claiming” it for themselves).

          Indeed, the original definition of “a person with mild derangement or who exhibits socially inappropriate behaviour” seems quite appropriate for many furries. :-)

  10. “So on one hand it makes sense for an all-inclusive ‘queer’ category; on the other hand this risks deprecating the very real and very serious problems suffered by many LGBT individuals. I think it’s worthwhile thinking about, at the very least.”
    I think the risks of conflating any subcultural identity that crosses lines into the realm of taboo with “queer” or “LGBT” are much greater than the “sense” it supposedly makes.
    In many parts of the world, LGBT people are *assumed* to be zoophiles, kinksters, or have other, actually harmful preferences (consider how the attacks on gay men in Russia are called attacks on “pedophiles” even when the victims are teenagers themselves). To say that the furry subculture equates to queerness could very easily harm non-furry, non-zoophile, non-kink LGBT folks who are striving for safety and acceptance in places where they do not have those things.

    I also think you are making some sweeping assumptions that are doing a disservice to a few varieties of people.
    A: While there are a lot of queer furries, and many furries who are allies, there are straight/cis furries who I’m sure don’t want to be called queer just because of their presence in the furry community. As a queer furry, I would be *really* skeptical of some straight cis dude running around laying claim to the word “queer” just because he likes anthro art or getting up in a fursuit sometimes. Has he been jeered at for holding hands with the person he loves? Misgendered? Told “the right man/woman” (or rape) would “cure” him? Been unable to marry his loved one because of being a furry? Been denied visiting his partner in the hospital because of being a furry? Discharged from the military because of being a furry? I don’t think so.
    I have also, unfortunately, run also across homophobes and transphobes (especially transphobes) in the furry community, and as violently as I disagree with those people’s prejudices (as a queer woman dating a transman), I don’t think it’s fair to ‘phobic furries or queer folks to call said ‘phobes “queer.”
    B: There are furries (both queer and straight) who do not define themselves by a sense of animal identity, and to call them queer just because of a hobby/interest they have is, in my mind, quite ridiculous.
    C: Have you ever heard the acronym “GSD” for “Gender and Sexual Differences”? It was proposed as a concise alternative to the growing LGBTQQIAA/QUILTBAG/etc. acronyms. Furry is not generally a gender or sexual difference, but even if we are to include the sexual aspect alone, there are many furries for whom the fandom is irrelevant to their sexual preferences or gender, and calling them queer even though they don’t participate in the sexual part of the furry fandom, and might be a straight cis person who just draws anthros and walks around in a fursuit, seems even more meaningless than if they are straight/cis, but in the furry fandom for the sexual parts.
    D: Moreover, if everyone who “cross[ed], in one way or another, a societal boundary that is arbitrarily taboo” did “belong with the LGBT,” whose taboos are we judging by? Non-heteronormative sex and nonbinary gender have been not-taboo in different times and places, to begin with. And, there are plenty of things that are currently taboo in different cultures, and even when we travel from one country to another, those taboos sometimes are confronted. Does that mean that immigrants struggling to conform to a new country’s expectations “belong with the LGBT,” just because the culture they were raised in has practices that cross taboo lines in their new home? Does every individual whose everyday experiences challenge what is “normal” and “acceptable” need to be equated to queer folks? As someone else pointed out, it becomes possible to call *everyone* queer except the most stereotypically heteronormative, and that is, in my opinion, robbing LGBT folks of a necessary word meaning “Non-heterocentric or non-heteronormative.”

    I question why you are choosing to liken animal-identified people to LGBT/GSD folks in this. Yes, animal identity can and does have a very deep effect on one’s experiences and outlook – often similar in depth and level of how isolating it can be from others to queerness, yes – but so can many other non-queer identities (such as where one is born, what one’s or one’s family’s job is, what one’s passions are)… and we usually refer to those with the word “culture,” as in “nerd culture,” “sports culture,” “fisherman’s culture,” “American culture,” and so on. Is there something insufficient about “furry culture” or “animal-people culture” that makes likening to GSD people actually necessary?
    I see no issue with saying, “My animal identity affects many parts of my life, much like queer identity affects the life of a GSD person,” but saying “my animal identity makes me queer,” is getting into very touchy territory, particularly with people who have been ostracized or attacked for being queer.
    I don’t mean to be rude, because your article is, in many points, quite thoughtful, but I think it is very presumptuous to say that furry identity is queerness, and that celebrating it should be done along with LGBT/GSD. Furries (and nerds, and sports fans, and fishermen, and different national/ethnic groups, and so on) have their own places to celebrate the things that make them unique and different. And yes, there is intersectionality – I am a queer furry – but let those intersections be applied to the people who rest in them, not to the groups as a whole. Animal identity is certainly a taboo-confronting one, but it is not the same as gender identity or sexual identity – not for all of us.

    1. Hi Deer, thanks for the rather spirited comment. You don’t come off as rude, and I appreciate your lively combination of intelligence, outrage, and haphazardness.

      I hope you appreciate that your comment takes a bit of parsing, so please forgive me if I miss a key point or get something wrong. I’m going to respond to the spirit rather than the detail, which I hope is okay with you.

      You characterize my article as risky, meaning dangerous – “[it] could very easily harm non-furry, non-zoophile, non-kink LGBT folks who are striving for safety and acceptance”. I think this means that articles such as mine shouldn’t be written and shouldn’t be published. I strongly disagree with that. You make a good case for your statement, and I don’t think you’re advocating for censorship or anything like that, but even so I think that open discussion of ideas, especially if they controversial, is always a good thing.

      I think there is one main question in your comment, which I am going to edit here for clarity. Hopefully I have it (close enough to) right: “I question why you are choosing to liken animal-identified people to LGBT/GSD folks in this. Is there something insufficient about “furry culture” or “animal-people culture” that makes likening to GSD people actually necessary?”

      No. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. But I think the comparison worthwhile. I’ve chosen to compare the two groups—animal-identified people and LGBT/GSD—because I think it’s interesting to unpack the similarities in our relationship with society.

      Furry is a difficult thing to define. It tends to mean different things to different people, as your point out in your comment, and so any definition will tend to exclude some people. But we do have something in common, so it’s useful to look for analogies, and explore existing communities to see where furries fit in or diverge. So it’s not something insufficient about furry that me likening it to LGBT; it’s an attempt to understand what furry is, and why we are all here.

      Those are responses to just a couple of your points. I think most of what you’ve written is a valuable, vivid counterpoint to my article. On a personal note, I appreciate the criticism. It’s valuable and I learn from it. I also understand that it’s not easy to be critical in the right spirit, especially on the internet, so thank you for doing that here.

      1. Thanks for your response. I have a habit of getting so wordy that it’s clunky, and I appreciate that you made it through my comment with enough energy to write back!
        I suppose it’s not the article that’s risky in itself, though I admit it certainly got me quite riled up. As a thought experiment, you’re clearly having success; this definitely got me thinking, as evidenced by my wall of text above, and I don’t think the discussion shouldn’t be happening…. even if I don’t think well of the suggestions that furries should be considered queer. If I though this discussion was not worth having, I’d be responding with one of those disappointingly-discourse-precluding “no, just no” comments instead of, as you put it, haphazard outrage.
        What I *do* think is potentially harmful is the pronunciation that furries *are* queer as opposed to *can be* queer. I don’t want to be redundant, so to to state it briefly: the thought exercise is not what I think is dangerous, but I think the idea you’re presenting could be dangerous to GSD people if it were to catch on among non-GSD furries. I don’t think that’s especially likely, so as it stands, it makes for an interesting, if feather-ruffling discussion… but were it to catch on as something people actually believed, I’d fight it tooth and nail – “queer” in its usual “non-heteronormative” meaning is one I personally rely on very much.
        You’re right, that furry (and other animal identities) are difficult to define, often in ways that gender and sexuality are difficult to define, and I do agree with you that there can be similarities between the two – I can’t argue against that. I’ve bumped into queer animal-identified people who say their queerness and animality are very similar, and others who say the two are completely unrelated in their own minds. (For me, there is little similarity – being queer is one thing, being an animal-person is another.) And there are plenty of other identity-groups that share an outlook-changing commonality that leads into a notion of “otherness,” and often, the closest thing we can think of that is culturally relevant as an analogy for that otherness are GSD-issues, so I can see why you’d reach out for it as a comparison. I just honestly don’t believe that the similarities add up to enough to define the two experiences under the same word.
        Having slept on it and re-checked the comments, I believe I read your article as a bit more of a high-handed proclamation than you probably intended, as opposed to a mulling-over of what furry is.

        1. That’s a fascinating comment Deer, thanks for again taking the time to share your point of view.

          I find myself in complete agreement. I think you’ve summed up, and added to, the thought process I laid out in my article. And I think your criticism is spot on – I got a bit carried away with my own train of thought, and I was too keen to wrap up the article with a nice, neat “see, furries are queer after all”.

          Furries aren’t queer, at least not by the definition of queerness commonly used in LGBT circles. You’ve hit perfectly on what I was aiming for with your use of the term “otherness”.

          “Otherness” is the exact feeling I was trying to put into words. Unfortunately I was trying to balance two similar definitions of queer in my article: one definition as used in LGBT circles; another that covered my own expanded (and softened) usage. The second definition is better called “otherness”, not only because it’s saves confusion but because it’s more logical.

          I’ll store that one away and undoubtedly use it in future articles, so thankyou for helping me understand and discuss our community of animal-people.

          By the way, one of the sparks behind this article was a news piece I read (http://www.sexucation.org/blog/?p=260) where a sex researcher questioned why furries were attending pride parades. (She asks in a positive, curious, totally non-judgemental way.) My immediately thought was “loads of furries are LGBT, duh”, but then I questioned whether straight furs would be welcome to costume up and attend. And… of course they would be welcome, and in fact many do attend pride parades. So, why?

          The article is a reverse-engineering of my thought process, as many of my articles are. I identified a kinship between furries and LGBT groups. Thanks to your thoughts, I can see that kinship is best described as an “otherness”, a mutual celebration of whatever it is that makes us different from mainstream society.

          Comments like yours show why criticism is important. Thanks again.

          1. Interesting! “Otherness” is a term that I see often in other communities that are prone to thoughtful discussion about identity, and it’s definitely less of a loaded word than “queer” – and I think it applies well to furries who feel they have an animal identity.
            I’ve definitely witnessed non-GSD people talking about their “otherness” (usually relating to species identity, neurodivergence, or spiritual practice) making them feel a kinship to the queer community – so straight/cis furries who feel “other” may certainly feel like they can safely express themselves in a queer venue, where costumes are common and identity is celebrated, especially if they have not found a space that addresses their specific variety of how they feel “other.”
            The linked article is also interesting, and I suppose my main guess besides your conclusion that loads of furries are LGBT, is that the straight furries at Pride are open-minded allies, and using an environment where costumes are considered appropriate to suit up and have fun as well as support their friends (considering that when I’ve attended Pride, I’ve been accompanied by straight friends who go for the fun of it). The question of whether more “out-there” costumes actually belong at Pride is a whole other question – I’m not sure how I even feel about it.
            It’s been a pleasure discussing this, and thank you for continuing to respond so thoughtfully and with such an open mind. Glad I ran across you here – I’ll keep an eye out for your writings!

    2. “I have also, unfortunately, run also across homophobes and transphobes (especially transphobes) in the furry community, and as violently as I disagree with those people’s prejudices (as a queer woman dating a transman), I don’t think it’s fair to ‘phobic furries or queer folks to call said ‘phobes “queer.””

      I’ve encountered transphobic LGB people, and homophobic trans people. I don’t think being transphobic or homophobic necessarily means you can’t be queer, and I especially don’t think belonging to the same category of people as someone who is homophobic or transphobic means anything about anything.

  11. I am not going to mince words but this post is absolutely subversive. I find it distastefully to offensive when advocates for one agenda try to lump us together especially in this example of the identity politics. The article shares major logical fallacies starting faulty comparisons between sexual orientation and furry fandom and committing a red herring in turning to persecution the LGBT community which has no relation with the furry fandom. The main fallacy goes like this: LGBT are persecuted , Furries are persecuted LGBT = Furry= Queer. Furies are not equal to LGBT for Furries ,regardless of orientation, nationality, and religious background, are often falsely persecuted for what we are not, a sexual fandom or fetish, where LGBT are persecuted around the world for what they are an attraction to the same sex. Furthermore you are engaging in of word obfuscation to link Queer culture, which I believe a radical subset of gay radicalism, on the west coast, and a view not shared by some who are in the gay community. Furry fandom contains a diverse group, from old to young, LGBT to straight, atheist to religious, liberal to conservative, coming together on the common of love of anthropomorphism in art, literature and fursuting Not all LGBT like to be called Queer; nether all LGBT are not furry nor all furries are LGBT, and especially many of us who are Evangelical Christian, Catholic but also furry.
    Furthermore may furries object to zoophiles, zoophiles are not brothers or sisters because we care for welfare of animals and consider zoophiles as a form of animal abuse. Animals cannot give consent nor are physically built for human-animal intercourse.
    I see this line of equivalence have very little value to the furry fandom and only add more problems to many of us who are Christian Furries and growing number of pre-adolescent to young teen furs who like the fandom for fursuits and cute art but not interested in the sexuality. Some have suffered undue hardship by ill-informed parents when the parents discover their child furry interest.

    I am not say one cannot go to gay pride as a furry but remember we are bigger and more diverse that the LGBT community or somebody’s political identity hobbyhorse .

    1. Hi Acton, thanks for the comment and thanks for making the case for a subset of furry that is too often ignored or shouted down.

      I think that most people would disagree with your suggestion that queer culture is “a radical subset of gay radicalism, on the west coast”. (And I think many people would challenge your Amerocentrism, but that’s a different article.) But I appreciate your perspective, that the queer community can me seen as divisive rather than inclusive, and that many straight furries would prefer not to be lumped in as queer. It’s something I didn’t consider in my article, and a point worth making.

  12. Just to make a quick comment… Queer identities resist definition, and queer used to note LGBT identities is wrong. Q means unclassifiable in either gender or sexuality, and here I think you’re trying to state Furry as in the LGBT Spectrum which, while some furries are LGBT, dosen’t necessarily have the same meaning. Furry isn’t a sexuality or gender identity necessarily.

    1. Hi Thesis, thanks for the comment.

      You are quite right to say that ‘queer’ is difficult to define! You can take a look at a couple of the more, er, confident comments I have received and you’ll see that they are mostly about problems with my language. Different people have different definitions for many of the terms I’ve used in this article.

      The problem stems from the fact I’ve used direct language with little jargon. Queer/LGBT politics language is heavy on jargon and uses a lot of passive terminology. Accordingly, it’s often somewhere between impenetrable and nonsensical, but this is a requirement to avoid alienating some people with very real and very valid points of view. The challenge for me, writing in a clearer and more lay style, is that I am unwittingly going to step on some toes.

      You say that “Q means unclassifiable in either gender or sexuality”. In my article, I’ve suggested that it’s a catch-all. You are right, in that your definition of Q more closely matches its intended use in LGBTQ. However this has the unfortunately consequence of excluding people who have a classifiable gender or sexuality, but are not LGBT (asexuals, or the intersex maybe). So I think that Q is used—in mainstream language, not in queer politics language—as a more general term. I’ve tried to express this in my article without getting bogged down in definitions.

      And so, when I say that furry might be considered a queer identity, I don’t mean that furry is a sexuality or gender identity. And that’s why I inclue the 30% of furries who are heterosexual and cis-gendered. I’ve tried to be consistent, so it should follow as long as you play along with the definition of Q I’ve set up in the first few paragraphs.

      I hope that makes sense. I feel like I’m chasing my tail a bit. Thanks for your intelligent (and succinct!) comment.

    1. It looks like it auto ping back my post. I have admit I use the term queer loosely; coming from my own observations of the controversy of the use of “queer” as in “support “queer” art and culture” in the 1990’s I know not all in LGBT support the use of the term. I caused a bit of a push back.
      I admit my distaste and reaction to identify politics in furry fandom come in part of my own struggles as a Black Male. Civil Rights activist expect me to call my self African American, be intercity centric, and tow the liberal democrat line, but I prefer Black, suburban, and individualist, capitalist with libertarian / objectivist leanings. I am sympatric to those who are outside of the expect LGBT community like Gay conservative-republicans.

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