Tag Archives: identity

The Uniquely Furry Distortions of Gender

Guest post by Thesis White. Thesis is a writer-artist, cognitive science student, and peachy dalmatian who loves creating their own discourse. (Thesis is on Twitter and FX.)

The furry identity is thought by many to be one of sexual and romantic liberation, where furs can engage in relationships with others, bound by a shared sense of playfulness and fetishism. Not all furries have exclusively romantic interests towards others within the fandom; I myself am mated with a non-fur. However, where there is much literature about sexuality and relationships in the furry world, it is outside of what I’m going to discuss. More interesting and dynamic than our sexuality is the uniquely furry distortions of gender.

The internet facilitates our ability to be furry. For most furries, furryness is an interest and a self-identification through a fursona, but to understand it, we must understand its origins. A legacy of human-animal hybrids throughout mythology and 20th-century fiction is behind us, and in our early years exists televised pictures of Bugs Bunny and Balto. Where originally the mythical monstrosities of human and animal were to be feared as gods and demons in the flesh, modern anthropomorphics are adored primarily by children in an intimate relationship between entertainer and audience.

What types of images did we see, though? Many furry cartoon characters weren’t physically sexed, but given gendered social roles. Disney’s fox, Robin Hood, wore no pants and was explicitly physically androgynous, but still played the role of the masculine hero and saved the princess from the horrid King Richard. As we move into adulthood and gain entrance to a mature furry community, we see both sexed and non-sexed furs. As we reach puberty and onward, we discover that our furry personas can serve a sexuality and character that we adopt to explore ourselves and our interests.

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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.

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Are You An Introvert: The Quiz

Last week I wrote an article titled Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert? It was written partly in response to a new definition of introvert that has cropped up in the last five years or so, where introverts are loosely defined as people who ‘gain energy’ when alone and ‘expend energy’ when around other people.

It’s a compelling way of looking at things, and it’s helped people shift books with titles like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The author of that book (Susan Cain) gave a TED talk exploring the idea, and it’s been loosely adapted into webcomics and other sharable media. It has been a successful meme.

People find it easy to identify as an “introvert” using this new definition. My article was about how such self-diagnosis can be harmful, but I don’t want to repeat myself here. I think that labels are important, but that some labels are damaging. (Previously, I tackled another potentially harmful label, which is also subject to rampant self-diagnosis within the furry community, in an articled titled No, You Don’t Have Asperger’s.)

In my enthusiasm to talk about labels and self-identity, I failed to define what “introvert” actually means. This article remedies that oversight, and talks about how introversion ties into the furry condition. And, yes, there is a simple one-question quiz at the end which will help you understand where you sit on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.

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Are You An Introvert or an Extrovert?

There is a display of religious pamphlets outside Liverpool Street station, which I pass on my stroll into work each morning. A recent pamphlet title: Pornography: Harmless or Toxic?.

The pamphlets are being peddled by Jehovah’s Witnesses, a well-funded American-based group that attempts to practise Christianity as it was 2000 years ago. They are probably best known for refusing all blood transfusions, including those that might be life-saving, because “the Bible prohibits health treatments or procedures that include occult practices” (ref jw.org).

I, like most people who don’t subscribe to the JW’s very special brand of stupidity, am pro-pornography. So I think to myself “pornography is harmless“. But I’m wrong, because I can immediately think of examples where pornography is harmful. And so I wonder if the JW’s might be on to something. (Spoiler: they are not.)

I’ve been caught into a logical bind because I’ve tacitly accepted the premise of their question. They have cleverly phrased their title, drawing on a trick used by salesmen and interviewers everywhere: by offering up two competing categories, people are drawn towards one or the other.

And so it is with the title of this article: Are You An Introvert or an Extrovert? You, dear reader, almost definitely chose “introvert”. You did that because I wanted you to. In reality, the label of “introvert” can be a harmful one, and it is probably a label you should reject. Let me explain why.

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Evidence that Furry is Following the Rest of the World

Guest post by Amethyst Basilisk, written as a counterpoint to JM’s article, Evidence that Furry Is Leading the Rest of the World.

One of the best benefits from participating in a creatively chaotic community such as furry is the ability to be whoever you’d like to be. It’s an important outlet for many of us – our expressions tend to come out in terms of being who we feel we’re not necessarily allowed to be from a greater cultural perspective. Most of us didn’t fit in, wherever we came from. Most of us were too geeky – too awkward, even. Too loud and boisterous, too strange or too tweaked. As a result, we’ve fled to and cultivated ourselves a safe haven from emotional treachery. The only explicit laws against fantasy in most cultures are typically put in place to prevent fraud and violence. However, there also exists a social hierarchy which takes every opportunity to reinforce one’s alleged place in its expansive machinery. A plethora of societal and financial pressures as well as generalized threats on survival are applied in order to enforce this order whenever possible. A lack of order, as the host species appears to feel, is a formula for destruction.

Furries balk at this thought. Furries pretend to be whoever the heck they want to be, regardless of what others may think of them – at least non-furries, anyway. The community attempts to shed the societal pressures; intellectual disdain; and hatred toward experimentation; to craft crafts of provocative proportions. As a result, furries are outcasts for the things they enjoy doing, allegedly hated by the rest of the world for what’s perceived as anywhere from fun to enlightenment.

One of the sad ironies of cleverly crafted utopias are their abilities to mimic and even amplify the societal sundries they’re attempting to flee. Furry is Schrödinger’s Island.

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Evidence That Furry Is Leading the Rest of the World

The Stranger, a well-regarded alternative weekly newspaper from Seattle, has just published their Queer Issue for 2013 to coincide with the Seattle Pride Parade.

There’s a remarkable article titled Floating in Shades of Grey, written by Ray Van Fox, which talks about the furry experience. Except that Ray isn’t a furry—his vulpine nom de plume is coincidental—and his article doesn’t reference furry. Ray talks about a largely online community, where he and the other members “are re-creating ourselves in our own image in order to be seen for who we actually are.

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On “Real Life”

One of my classmates in college was pursuing what I believe was a double major in engineering and music composition. He was a pretty great guy, at his most helpful when it came to the discussions on sound and acoustics. He was also a huge nerd, but so were we all: we were the first class to help get the composition department at the university up and running, so we were the ones actually pushing to get the degree program started – my nerdiness took the form of running the composition lab.

For his junior recital, one of the two we were required to give consisting entirely of pieces we composed, he performed an extended three-movement piece for solo French Horn titled “Journey To Arelle”. It’s one of those titles you have to say out loud to get the joke. The song was a tone poem about what mental processes a character left to idle on Word of Warcraft must go through when their player went off to “deal with RL”.

The idea of RL – “Real Life” – in opposition to things furry is, I think, an interesting and telling one. There’s a lot to be said for immersion when it comes to gaming, for sure, but many furries apply it to much more than just an experience that can be had sitting at a console. We’re hardly the only ones, of course, but it helps in understanding just how the fandom works to know that it occurs in a context that is not always “real life.”

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A Horse’s Thoughts on the Horsemeat Scandal

Over here in the UK, there’s been an extended brouhaha after many cheap TV dinners, known as ‘ready meals’ locally, were found to contain large amounts of horse instead of the promised beef. Some of the meals contained 100% Pure Horse.

Nobody knows how long the horse has been there. It only came to light because a branch of the Irish Government performed some DNA tests and announced the presence of our equine friends in mid-January. And it’s been in the news since then.

I think it’s worth discussing here on [adjective][species] because it relates to our relationship with animals. Also, I’m a furry horse, so I get asked how I feel about horses as a source of meat.

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Furry as an Alternative to Religion

Furries are a diverse bunch.

Our diversity means that we’re often excluded from the mainstream. This is particularly evident in our sexual preferences – only about a third of us identify as ‘heterosexual’ or ‘mostly heterosexual’ (Ref). Other traits displayed by some furries – gender dysmorphia, heavy internet usage, or even simple geekiness – can also play a part in our diversion from society’s definition of ‘normal’.

Not surprisingly, furries do not closely embrace religion, a societal construct that can embody and tacitly enforce the norms of the mainstream. A little more than 50% of furries are essentially areligious (Ref). This rate is about five times higher than for the wider American population (Ref).

Furry provides some of the benefits of religion – I identify two in this article, loosely defined as ‘spirituality’ and ‘community’ – that provide insight into how mainstream society might react to the challenges of our changing world. Furries embody some of the biggest challenges to religion in the twenty-first century: acceptance of diversity, the growing online world and, most importantly, the increasing rejection of religion altogether.

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Subconscious Aspects of the Fandom

Did you know that I used to read tarot cards? I still have the embarrassingly large collection of decks, books, and other accessories that go along with the practice.  I pull them out every now and then to remember the person that I used to be.  I used to be intensely focused on the subconscious and all of the ways in which it wound itself through our waking lives. I used to daydream about spending the requisite hours necessary for a 78 card spread using every card in the standard deck, even if I only did it once,  At one point, I even vowed to do one reading for myself a day for 78 days in order to write a book about the experience (an idea that crops up with just about every interest I pick up, I should note).

I’ve talked about change before, and I have even laid bare some of the changes I have gone through personally.  Even though my fascination with tarot has waned, I still retain the general interest in the ways in which the subconscious works in our lives, and I can still appreciate the deep symbolism that goes along with it. I would be lying, in fact, if I were to say that there wasn’t some subconscious link tying me to the furry fandom. And, having had a few conversations on that point, I think that the same holds true for a lot of us here.

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