I’m taking a break from writing an essay (wherein I am mashing up social class, punk rock, straddlers, boingboing, Mr. Jalopy, the trailer I spent my first two years in, the internets, and John Scalzi into one steaming helping of mashed goodness with cheese) to point out why I am a furry.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO HIDE THE CHILDREN.
I’m only a furry in Second Life, and then only incidentally. My avatar is an anthropomorphized bear. (I have one that looks a lot like me in real life too, pictured below.) I’ve got a little bear paw logo on my imaginary car, yadda yadda. But that’s it. I know of yiffing, but want nothing to do with it. Honestly, the idea of sex in Second Life strikes me as funny, not arousing. I do not “have a spirit of a bear living inside me”. I have no desire to put on a fur suit in real life, let alone… eww. But I like my bear.
I started thinking about this after reading Alter Ego, and noticing there wasn’t a single fur in the book. Tails were mentioned once, but that was it. Further, an old friend of mine from real life is opening her Clockwork Panda club in SL this weekend, and that made me think about it more. Originally, I made the avatar because I was trying to visualize a werebear character in a story I’m working on. Then, when I reconnected with my friend (who goes around as a panda), I kept it on when I was visiting with her… but eventually realized that the bear had become my default avatar. I kind of identified with him.
I don’t buy the spirit guardian thing. But if I did have to choose an animal to identify with? Yup. Bears. A lot of the stereotypical behaviors of bears do fit me – both good and bad. Baloo was far and away my favorite character in Disney’s Jungle Book, and I just liked both TaleSpin and (the animated cartoon) the Gummi Bears. And I found that it was easier for me to talk to other people this way. My appearance got some comments (mostly kind or curious, with just a few jerks), and could spark some discussion. But it wasn’t about “appearance” the same way it is in real life.
And I found myself labeled as a furry.
Let’s make this crystal clear – the idea of anthropomorphized animals “getting it on” does not do it for me. Humans dressing up as anthropomorphized animals and “getting it on” kind of queases me out. Pretty much all the behavior complained about on godhatesfurries.com isn’t my thing. This XKCD pretty much sums up my attitude towards sexualized furries. But godhatesfurries goes too far – both by insisting that others have the same kinks as they do (and most Americans have kinks – like oversized breasts – that are far from “natural”), or by making sweeping generalizations.
That second error is the dangerous one. The same problem happens with religions, or race, or any other grouping that’s based on one widely-held criteria. Call yourself a Christian? That one criteria is held by straights, gays, people on the right and left, pacifists and war-mongers. That one criteria covers both Mother Teresa and Rev. Phelps, even though they are hugely dissimilar people.
The problem comes when we form a normative image of a group based on only some of its members – or pretend that the image applies equally to all members of that group. It’s when our thinking becomes lazy, and we pretend that all – or even most – people who share a few criteria are alike. Or worse – we take the most sensational examples of a group (see Phelps again) and think that there is a relationship between how much noise they make in our media and how frequent those behaviors are.
So when I swing by Clockwork Panda this weekend, there will be all types of furry types there. Some rich (inworld or out), some not. They might be different races, genders, or religions. Some might think they have a spiritual connection with their animal, some might fetishize the whole thing. I don’t know. Unless they’re doing it in front of me, I don’t care.
I will work to treat each of them as a person, no matter how they choose to represent themselves, or what labels they carry. If they behave badly or inappropriately, that’s a problem with an individual, not with a group.
And if you run into me?
You could call me a furry (even though I will not wear a fursuit in real life). You could call me a liberal, or a student, or any one of dozens of labels that could apply to me.
But I’d prefer that you said hello, and just called me by name.
You can IM me inworld as Uriel Wheeler, or even stop by my place. (Though you should ask before going in – there are bees inside. Bear and all.)