The Furry Dream

Guest post by Hemms. Hemms is a Fox from southern California who has been in the Furry Fandom for 7 years, since discovering it when he was 14 on Christmas Morning in 2006. A Lifestyler through and through, Furry is the driving motivation behind everything he does and studies. He is a student of Anthropology and forever a dreamer. He seeks to understand Furry culture, History, and dreams of a unified Fandom that realizes just how important and powerful it really is. Hemms is on Twitter and Fur Affinity.

In my seven years as a Furry I have witnessed what I believe amounts to a cultural revolution that occurred beyond the view of the public at large. I frequently attest to the view that the Furry Fandom is not just a fandom but a culture in its own right. I don’t expect this view to be the same for everyone.

There are Lifestylers and there are Hobbyists, and the argument over which one is the correct “way to Furry” is an argument that still rages in this Fandom despite this matter having supposedly been settled with the Burned Furs conflict in 1998. Arguing over whether Hobbyists aren’t Furry enough or that Lifestylers really ought to calm down and take off the tail in public is pointless. I’m not writing this to assert whether one view or the other is the right way or not. I’m writing to assert that there is a reason why the argument is still deemed important enough to be worth arguing.

The interesting thing about this argument is that both sides of the Furry ideological track agree that the other side is still Furry. The Lifestyler v. Burned Fur argument could have splintered the Fandom, but it didn’t, and I theorize that the reason it didn’t is the same reason we still see the argument as having value. The Furry Fandom isn’t your garden variety fandom that springs up around a television show or a book or web comic. We are a Fandom stemming from an idea, not a product or franchise, and with that idea I believe evolves ideals that culminate in what I call The Furry Dream.

The other fandoms of this world rely on a company or artist to produce the works that the fans follow, and without which there would be no fandom. The Furry Fandom relies on no such company. We only rely on ourselves to perpetuate the culture of our Fandom, and because we rely on ourselves we value voluntary self-governance.

The heads of Furry conventions, people like Uncle Kage, are Furries themselves and run our Fandom’s most important cultural centers based on the input of the people they serve. Think about anime fandom or Star Wars fans. The source material of these fandoms must be produced by someone who isn’t necessarily in the fan community. Fans must wait for this material to be made and shipped, and if it isn’t, then the fandom may die off. Their material is made largely without their input, and if they don’t like something it’s almost impossible to change it. It also makes it so that the gap between fan and producer is almost impossible to bridge. A fan cannot easily become a producer for their fandom in a way that amounts to more than fan art. But Furries decide our own course in our Fandom, and I don’t think we could imagine it any other way. It doesn’t naturally function any other way. If it did, we would lose a key part of our unique “Furriness”.

Uniqueness is in and of itself a value of this Fandom. We don’t just tolerate diversity in this Fandom, we celebrate it. Diversity is seen as a great benefit in this Fandom, and the more of an individual you can be the better. This Fandom is and always will be the port in the storm for the downtrodden refugee of the status quo.

When this Fandom was founded it was derived from the pre-existing fandoms of anime and science fiction, people who were already on the fringes of society and who were already doing a good job at diversity . When the Furry Fandom became its own entity, it had people from all walks of life, and in order to function it immediately destroyed social barriers that sometimes cripple the rest of the world. It normalized homosexuality; it legitimized other alternative sexualities; it liberated sexuality in general; obliterated the gender binary; it removed race as a playing factor to someone’s acceptance; mixed far-flung lifestyles; made class unimportant, and; above all, made self-expression take importance over group conformity.

Without self-expression there would be no creativity, and with no creativity there would be no Furry Fandom. The two go paw in paw. When you have a million people all with different ways of expressing themselves, which leads to a million different ways of being creative, you get a people whose continuity is fueled by their diverse individuality. That individuality becomes a necessity, and thus a value. That individuality causes a proliferation of the definition of what the self is, what a Furry is, and that’s why the whole Burned Fur vs. Lifestyler argument is still discussed, although no consensus is ever reached. We could define, once and for all, what a Furry is, but we don’t want to because we all came to this Fandom as individuals and want to stay that way because we all understand what it is like to be different. We don’t want to box in our individuality. We know how to function very well with diversity (and the rest of the world might want to take some notes).

But these are all just values, and I haven’t touched on what The Furry Dream actually is. Well, logically, the Dream must be the fulfillment of these values. Why did you join this Fandom? More importantly, why did you stay? It’s like explaining the American Dream. There is a soundbite that is commonly quipped, but most Americans have an idea of what the ephemeral American Dream is for them, and for everyone it is a little different. The ways of attaining it are infinite, with multiple ideologies about how one does so. But if The Furry Dream were to be written out in a way that made it applicable to all, I think it would read something similar to this:

“We the Furries dream of limitless diversity, creativity, self-discovery, and autonomy.” And may I add, “We will fight to keep it.”


Furries Aeterna

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6 thoughts on “The Furry Dream

  1. I’ve known Hemms for a long time, he’s a great friend to have, a while back when he started a furry club at his college, he wanted to contribute to this fandom to help improve it’s overall reputation. Back then it seemed like very few people were standing by his side on his ambitions, but now he’s very well respected for the love, dedication, and hard work he has brought to our local community.

    It’s inspired a lot of us!

  2. Very nice piece! But I’d respectfully suggest that the reason no one’s defined the fandom is because it’s at the very least an extraordinarily difficult task and perhaps an impossible one. Is it so difficult because it’s genuinely something new under the sun? I’m reluctant to go there simply because I’ve read enough history to realize how very much more of it there is that I’m entirely ignorant of. Yes the Internet, without which the fandom is almost inconceivable, genuinely _is_ a new phenomenon. But…

    Before you tout the fandom’s tolerance and mutual respect for diversity too terribly much, you might wish to consider the treatment that many, say, George Bush-supporting Republican furries get in chatrooms and at room parties should their true political feelings dare emerge from the closet. Or Christians of many flavors, for that matter. One may argue that the name-calling and worse I’ve witnessed are merely a reaction to perceived (most often incorrectly or they wouldn’t be trying to have a good time at a furmeet) intolerance, but… This is after all supposed to be a politically and religiously free country and society. I’ve personally witnessed off-the-scale hostility towards friendly and welcoming members of both groups from we supposedly uber-tolerant and loving furs, sometimes directed even against long-time pillars of the fandom. The fact is that the furrydom is largely young, largely male, and disproportionately of alternative sexuality. The “tolerance” you see is more a near-unanimity of social/political opinion on key issues rather than a fundamental change in human nature, I would submit. Furries are in my experience every bit as hard on those who are “different” as society as a whole– the only factor that changes is the definition of “different”.

    BTW, in the interest of making sure that the oncoming shower of hurled fecal matter is properly aimed… I’m a small-government Libertarian who thinks that shrinking the size, influence, power and cost of government is far and away the most important issue facing America today and votes accordingly. I’m not interested in what happen in anyone’s bedroom. I’m definitely not a Bush-loving Republican, though many of my friends are– in fact I’m angry at him for growing the government. I’m also an agnostic, but tolerant of Christians of all stripes so long as they’re tolerant of me.

    I also usually reply to comments made on A/S. This time, I very likely shall not. I’ve said all I have to say, and feel sure that my point is entirely clear. Besides, I’ve been screamed at by politically-enraged furs before for daring to be heterodox, and it grows tiresome explaining myself to those who don’t listen very well over the years.

    1. > The “tolerance” you see is more a near-unanimity of social/political opinion on key issues rather than a fundamental change in human nature, I would submit.

      Rabbit, that’s a fascinating idea, and certainly not one I hear very often around furry circles. I have certainly seen religious furs, and right-wing furs, be on the receiving end of some poor behaviour. In fact I’ve long thought that religious furs in particular are often poorly treated.

      I would add that furry is not, on the whole, a welcoming environment towards women. And I guess this supports your idea, that furry’s supposed tolerance is more factor of its demographics (male; queer; left-wing) than any inherent tolerance.

      In any event, I don’t think you need to worry too much about people attacking you for your beliefs here on [a][s]. We’ve written on some (very) delicate and controversial topics and experience shows that we have a very kind and thoughtful group of commentators. I think it helps that, like Hemms’s article, we tend to write about things in a broad and well-developed fashion.

    2. Religion and politics are frequently divisive, and I agree that there are many furries who are not as open to different views in these areas.

  3. People don’t define Furry, due to the fact that the term is open to interpretation is what draws a lot of us to it.

    Its not that the people in the fandom want to maintain their individuality, in reality it is completely different from one person to the next.

    Some are in it for the costuming, others art, partying, meeting people, writing stories, designing characters, ect.

    There is no blunt way to define furry, its a blanket term that can describe anyone who considers themselves one. And that is what makes it so great.

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