Furry and Magic
I want to talk a little bit about how magical furry is.
Magic, as they say, is nothing more than an act of intent. It is "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will," if one is to believe Crowley (not necessarily recommended). In this sense, if spells are acts of intent, then coming up with spells is the act of defining one's intentions. In this sense, magic is living deliberately.
I've had a lot of thoughts like this on my mind, lately, for a lot of different reasons. Perhaps it's worth expanding on them
Gender: Furry II (Now With More Scales)
Guest post by V, who's gone through a variety of names that people found hard to pronounce and eventually settled for simple. V is a dragonish critter who's been floating around the outskirts of furry since the early 00's. They've written previously about species identity as lizardywizard, and can currently be found on Mastodon, as @firstname.lastname@example.org, and Twitter as magnetongue.
I've read a lot (a lot!) of great writing on gender here at [a][s], and Makyo's recent post "Gender: Furry" was no exception. I must admit, however, that I clicked on the title expecting, hoping for—and yet, deep down, knowing I probably wouldn't find—something different.
See, as much as [a][s] is a site that dares to go deep into questions of gender, sexuality, and how those things are expressed in the playground of liminal, hot-swappable identity that is furry, there are surprisingly few writings on species as identity.
Therians and otherkin are more common in furry than we seem—when mentioning I'm a therian at furmeets or in chats, I always get at least one person per gathering who admits "Me too". It's obvious in hindsight that if anywhere would be a natural fit for such people, of course it would be furry, where we live out a startlingly profound yet largely unspoken agreement: to set aside our human personas completely among our friends, even when not roleplaying. Think about it for a moment. While there's no requirement in furry to portray yourself as your character, wouldn't a furry who used a human name and avatar for all their interactions seem weirdly out of place? The default, the expected, is that we uphold the masquerade. Through fursuits, avatars, usernames and conbadges, we ensure that our friends in the community know us primarily for our fursonas, not our physical forms.
Yet despite the obvious overlap, the topic by and large remains the elephant (or wolf, or cougar) in the room that is furry, just as furry seems to be a verboten subject in therian communities. Somewhere down the line, we mutually agreed to ignore each other's existences.
I've got some theories on why, but those will come a little later. First, my story.
Gender: Furry was originally commissioned for and published in Furries Among Us II, released by Thurston Howl Publications. You can purchase Furries Among Us II here. Do pick it up to read this and other essays by fascinating by some of furry's finest minds. The anthology has been nominated for Best Non-fiction Work in the Ursa Major Awards! You may vote for this and other wonderful furry works here.
Many people, I suspect, use the idiom, “hindsight is twenty-twenty,” in a way that is better served by other, more appropriate words or phrases. The sense in which I hear it most commonly used is perhaps more adequately covered by the beautiful portmanteau, “regretrospect”. That is, now that things are said and done, I regret a lot of what happened during this adventure.
Also, it’s my second favorite portmanteau after “congratudolences” and really ought to see wider use.
No, I think “hindsight is twenty-twenty” is better reserved for cases when seemingly unrelated occurrences come together to form an outcome that seems to be greater than the sum of the parts. It fits best when you look back at your life and see disparate, unconnected events come together to make the situation you find yourself in now.
I came out to myself and my (at the time) fiancé as transgender over a process of several months. It began sometime in 2010 or so, when I started to feel like I was able to put words to the things that were making me feel bad. I began by identifying as genderqueer, and although that label still fits very well, I adopted ‘transgender’ in 2015 as the one that I use in day-to-day life to describe myself, as it leaves the fewest questions as to why I’m a six-foot-two rectangular man-shape in feminine clothing and makeup.
But we’re talking about hindsight, so it’s worth bringing up that one of the only things I ever stole was the book “The Boy Who Thought He Was A Girl”, back in second grade. I’m guessing at the title here, as I can find no record of it through casual Googling, however, I remember that it was a trashy, essentialist book about a boy who wanted to learn how to kiss, which somehow made him girly and, thus, confused about whether he should actually be a girl. Of course, in the end, his understanding of his gender role as a boy were firmly straightened out by strict-yet-loving family.
Or perhaps another step in this path of hindsight was sneaking into my step-mom’s spare room when I was about twelve and trying on one of her old dresses. At that point, I had yet to become the lummox that would be my post-pubertal destiny, and so the dress fit, albeit poorly.
Or, hey, skip ahead to 2006, when I had just turned twenty and realized that it felt just as good to role-play online as a vixen as it did as a tod, though I told myself at the time that it was because I wanted to experience more relationship configurations than the male homosexual relationships I’d had to that point.
Each of these things, and so many more, felt like an independent, unconnected occurrence to me. It’s only in hindsight that I can see that there were aspects of me straining towards some way to feel happy and comfortable. When I was growing up, they were simple oddities, but now just another way to see the present more clearly.
I think that it’s fairly common that one comes to terms with a portion of one’s identity in this fashion. Before I came out as trans and made the question of sexual orientation at least twice as complicated, I went through the process of figuring out that, despite being born male, I was also attracted to other boys as well as girls. Those ‘crushes’ in elementary school make more sense, and so on.
There had to be some lever that pushed each of those instances from a collection of loosely related occurrences into the formation of a strong facet of my own identity. With orientation, it was obviously the rush of hormones that came with puberty: all of the sudden, ‘liking boys’ took on a new tenor.
With gender, it was almost entirely the furry subculture’s fault.
International FurScience Survey
The Third [adjective][species] Poetry Collection
Welcome to The Third [adjective][species] Poetry Collection! Each year, for the past few years, we have collected some poetry from those within the fandom centered around a loose theme. This year's theme was **comunity and belonging**. Below are the submissions we received in no particular order (other than the fact that the first made Makyo cry on the plane).
The furry subculture is full of unbelievable talent, and it is our pleasure to showcase poetry from those who make up the fandom.
Editorial: On Words (repost)
You'll have to forgive your self-indulgent author, today. Every year, around this time, I get very maudlin. Part of it is the big change in my life around work that happened a while back, part of it is that lasting sense of "this is when the school year begins", and part of it is grief.
In my Kaddish article these many years ago, I talk about the Mourner's Kaddish, a prayer said after the death of one's parents. It's spoken daily for eleven months, and then yearly on the anniversary of the death. It's said in order to ease the burden of grief over time so that it does not remain an overwhelming force in life.
Would that I had the faith to let go. Still, no harm in trying.
So, in that vein, on this anniversary, yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba...
Five years ago, on September 6th, a friend of mine passed away.
I'd not really had all that much exposure to death before that, if I'm honest. My step-adoptive-grandfather died when I was fairly young, and all I really remember out of that was the funeral, and inheriting a small medal he'd won from Colorado State University, something about soil science and geology. After that, I had dream after dream about what winning that medal must've been like, walking through some grand oaken hall to receive a pewter medal on a velvet pillow. That I later attended CSU, and that CSU had no oaken halls as in my dreams, always left me vaguely disappointed.
Other than that, my brush with mortality was limited to my grandmother, who passed some time later. The unfortunate part of her passing was that, for years before, she had been deep in a mire of dementia that left her a pallid shadow of her former self. From her, I remember that a lot of our final interactions were beset by confusion, frustration, and tears. "You're [my mom]'s son, right?" she asked in the airport. She repeated the question seven or eight times, being sure, each time, to comfort herself that the person pushing her wheelchair was someone known to her.
My mom and I had flown out to see her as she got settled into a final stage of her life in Charlotte, North Carolina. My mom flew out to see her one more time before she died, but, after a long talk, it was decided that I would stay home. "I can't handle it. I can't be in that role again," I pleaded, and my mom let me stay with my dad while she flew out of town.
Call for Submissions: The Third [adjective][species] Poetry Collection
We are proud to announce the Third [adjective][species] Poetry Collection! We have run two such collections before, one in 2015 and one in 2016, and are looking to continue the tradition of featuring some of the fandom's poets here on the site.
As with last year, we are looking to feature poems with a specific focus. This year's theme will be community and belonging. Poems can be about furry itself, or about animals (anthro and otherwise), but must include at least some mention of animals or furry. There are many excellent poets out there in the subculture, and we'd love to showcase their work here!
The fine print on what to send:
Furry Non-Fiction Giveaway
There are a lot of writers within the fandom. By our estimates, something like 40% of furries consider themselves writers of a sort. That can mean a lot of things, of course. It could mean that the writer is someone who spends a lot of time writing stories and novels, or it could mean someone who writes one or two non-fiction articles a year for a website with a random wolf mascot.
Either way, there's a lot of words out there, which can be attested to by the number of furry and furry-friendly publishing houses that have cropped up. One of those houses is Thurston Howl Publications, with whom I work as an editor. The thing that got me interested in working with THP was its anthology Furries Among Us. The first book was an excellent collection of essays on furry - what made it up, what furries did, who was a furry, and so on.
Howl invited me to participate in the second volume, so I had the chance to write a longer article than I normally do. It involves data and gender, to absolutely no one's surprise ever.
Well, that second volume just came out! You can find it on Amazon for the wallet-friendly price of $7.99.
In a shameless attempt to boost furry non-fiction within and around the fandom, [a][s] is happy to offer a giveaway! Keep an eye on our twitter for the link - there will be ten copies up for grabs, first come, first serve. Note that the link is only applicable for the continental US - Amazon's restriction, not ours, alas.
Furry Migration, The Furry Writers' Guild, and [a][s]
This year, August 25-27, Furry Migration will be taking place in Minneapolis, MN! The guests of honor include voice actor and comedian Malcom Ray, artist Talenshi, and *drumroll* The Furry Writers' Guild! The Guild's mission is to support, inform, elevate, and promote quality anthropomorphic fiction and its creators.
I'm posting this here for two and one third reasons.
Species, Gender, and Data
One of the neat things about identity is the fact that a shared identity can lead to a community.
This is the way furry works, after all. A bunch of folks all around the world started identifying with this thing. Maybe they identify as folks who see themselves as something other than human. Or maybe they identify as someone who really likes art of anthropomorphic animals. There's a lot of different ways to approach the topic of anthropomorphics.
Getting a bunch of folks together with a shared identity takes a lot of organization. That is, unless you've got the internet.
Suddenly, we start to see a community cohere out of shared identity. It's a strange attractor of sorts: folks who are outside furry but share that identity are drawn in, making the sense of community more appealing to those outside, yet still have the shared identity.
Similar things happen within the LGBT community. Parties, gay clubs, and pride parades are some of the most visible aspects of this, of course. Still, much the same happens with trans folk. There are whole houses and communities of trans people in the embodied world, and online, the community becomes even grander. We talk of the gender cascade or the transplosion, the idea of "the act of seeing in others that portion of identity we find within ourselves that lends the greatest validation to our membership". Seeing others live happily embracing their identity makes it easier to embrace our own identity.
Now, come with me on a short diversion through furry fiction.