Applying the phrase “coming out” to being a Furry or suggesting there is such a thing as a “Furry closet” might not make sense to a very large part of the community, especially those who identify as Furry only by nature of their being a part of the Fandom. Before proceeding, I need to be clear that I personally feel that the admiration, cultivation, encouragement, and support of the Furry artistic community within the Fandom is vital and indispensable, and I would in no way seek to diminish that. Suffice it to say that there are some of us within the community for whom our Furry nature goes well beyond the appreciation or creation of art, costumes, fiction, and performance. Because of this, being a Furry can be a deeply personal and emotional experience that is very difficult to share with loved ones. The criticism and judgment of those about whom we care the most can be painful, and we may experience powerful fear when considering the possibility of bringing change into the relationships we depend upon the most. I recognize that some members of the Fandom will not fully understand this, let alone the general public, and so I want to take the time to elaborate upon it a bit.
It is evident that the Furry community struggles within itself for a clear definition of its identity. While that struggle is an important part of the process of the growth and evolution of any group or community, this subject (what it means to be a Furry), has at times been a source of disagreement, contention, controversy, and alienation. There is a large part Fandom for whom the idea of being anything more than a fan or enthusiast seems awkward or strange. As these members of the Furry community struggle to come to terms with and integrate their admittedly unusual interest, which their family or friends might regard as somehow concerning, it is very natural that they would want to distance themselves from the more peculiar facets of being a Furry. I do very much respect their concerns. At the same time, I feel that it is important to provide enough room within the community as a whole to welcome and encourage those who do want to take it a bit further. Finding a way to bring the Fandom together in a way that celebrates what we share and respects our differences is a challenging and long term goal, but it is certainly possible.
It is fairly well accepted, even within the Fandom, for Furries to embrace or adopt a Furry persona or “Fursona”. For some, this may be only a visual image that represents their personal connection to the Fandom, an avatar for online social interaction. Others fully develop their Fursona to the extent that they have a back story, a rich, multidimensional personality, and a unique social presence. This is one of the many reasons that role playing and gaming have been so important to the Fandom since its earliest days. The freedom of these interactive environments provides these Fursonas with plenty of freedom to explore and express themselves.
There is also substantial acceptance within the Fandom for costuming and Fursuiting, or at least the use of Furry accessories like tails, ears, and the like. Here we share some common ground with certain segments of the Anime Fandom. Along with the flourishing world of Furry artwork, there has risen a vibrant community of Fursuit and Furry accessory designers, creators, and craftspeople. For some Furries, Fursuiting is actually part of their professional life as entertainers, character performers, or mascots. For others, costuming and cosplay provide even greater freedom to become their Fursona physically while socially interacting with other Furries and non-Furries in a way that fully transcends an electronic role play or social experience.
Even beyond this, there are Furries for whom the Fursona is much more than a role to play or a mask to wear. It is a very real part of their experience of identity. I do not mean to suggest something that is a form of escapism or disconnection from life, but rather something that a Furry feels deeply to be part of their wholly integrated Self. Their Furry identity is something that they actively engage with as part of their sense of being. This brings them authenticity, wholeness, healing, self-actualization, and well-being. This is fully in keeping with Carl Gustav Jung, one of the founders of analytical psychology, who emphasized the importance of a process he termed “individuation”. Individuation involves the discovery, exploration, and integration of underdeveloped or unconscious aspects of ourselves, as well as repressed thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Left to their own within the unconscious, these shadow aspects may fuel our greatest challenges and difficulties. However, once brought within our conscious experience, they may be transformed into sources of great potential, creativity, and joy.
Now that I hope you have some understanding of the depth and richness within the experience of being a Furry, please stick around for Coming Out of the Furry Closet: Part 2 – Precious Gift of Authenticity, in which I explore what it might mean to “come out” of the Furry closet.