Tuesday, October 11, 2016

National Coming Out Day: Nonstandard Identity Edition

Warning: one-to-many heart-to-heart

Although I try strategically to come out as gay to most people I meet, subtly so as not to put them on the spot, I'm lucky to have the benefit of having my homosexuality treated with respect, politeness, and widespread acceptance in the [sub]communities where I live.  I've never personally been accosted for my homosexuality.  That's probably largely because of which communities I choose to be a part of, but in any case it's easy to find people who are accepting of being gay.  I'm really grateful for that.

Yet I don't generally make it clear that I'm also a furry, which is at the end of the day a pretty significant part of my identity that is not treated with the same level of dignity as gender queerness and gender-orientation queerness.  It's an aspect of my identity that people don't touch with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole if they can help it, and for that reason it's still something I don't mention to people unless I really trust them to respond positively on that specific topic.  To be honest, even people who I otherwise very much care about and who legitimately care about me often don't fit the bill.  Some of my best friends used to feel extremely averse to this part of my identity, and it took them a long time to see it as something other than freaky.  Given that it's a topic that at least in the mainstream eye overlaps with fetish territory, I'm obviously not expecting to shout it off the rooftops, but it is in totality an identity.  Identity has many dimensions, and intersects with sexuality.  Being open with identity is important for finding people to talk to, for feeling validation, for networking to find people with similar interests, and for generating acceptance.

But I just can't know how people will respond to the topic of furry, so I'm not really as "out" as I would like to be.  Instead of admitting it up front, I usually try beating around the bush to get some clues, and maybe drop hints that might lead to a conversation where being furry comes up.  Ultimately, it's not super important that people know this about me, I just know so few other furries that I'm always hoping I'll find somebody who shares this dimension of identity.  But today, in the spirit of national coming out day, and in the spirit of baring one's self to represent non-normalized demographics, in order to give them visibility and help earn them some dignity, I will go ahead and make my identification very clear:

I am a furry.  I find kinship with nonhumans, specifically persons (with all the connotations of the word person) who are not human.  Nonhuman people do not exist, are not a part of our reality, and so any expression of this aspect of my identity is relegated to fantasy.  Although there is no extant alternative to being human, I don't really identify with my species--or any other, for that matter.  In the same way other people feel genderqueer, I feel speciesqueer.

It's kind of soul-crushing to find kinship and align with a type of person that literally doesn't exist.  Humans are the only people with whom we can talk.  Aliens, furries, mythical creatures--the nonhuman people with whom furries align--remain fictitious.  And the quality of being fictional is not something that causes furries to identify with them, it is merely an incidental fact.  That no nonhuman linguistically-competent persons exist is a depressing reality of which furries are constantly aware.  Fursuits are merely the approximation of some individuals to having a nonhuman form.  Just like cross-dressing does not instantly confer the body that transsexual individuals feel comfortable in, fursuits are obviously incomplete as a means of finding comfort in one's body.  Not all trans people feel comfortable partaking in existing means of physically embodying their gender, because they are too turned off by the weirdness or inadequacy of existing transitional devices.  Even sex reassignment surgery is still an incomplete set of technologies.  Likewise, plenty of furries find the idea of fursuits off-putting and uncomfortable.  And there is no analogous species reassignment surgery.  So a furry who feels nonhuman cannot become nonhuman.  Neither can they simply keep company with nonhuman persons, because there are no talking nonhumans.  Furries often like animals, sure, but having a pet or hanging out with wild animals comes nowhere near to having a friend with whom you can discuss complex ideas and clearly communicate deep, nuanced feelings.  Connections can be made, sure, but there always remains a language barrier which prevents them from truly becoming part of our world.  Consequently, being furry is an identity that doesn't have any means for authentically, completely expressing itself.  So it makes do with art and clothing.

Haters are gonna hate.  At the end of the day, you have to be honest with yourself and open enough that you can find those like you.  Coming out is getting easier for some groups of people, as they gain mainstream acceptance, but the need for heightening visibility for non-normatized identities and standing up for their dignity has not yet disappeared.  That is why Coming Out Day exists, and that's why I'm coming out as something that isn't accepted in the mainstream.

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