We’ve more-or-less all been coping with the pandemic since early March.
During this time, I’ve seen a lot of people stressed and depressed to their breaking points, usually while also blaming themselves for not being able to bottle their feelings up and believing no one else is at their limit.
And that’s simply not true. Everyone is suffering, everyone is coping. Not just from the pandemic and the stress and isolation of avoiding the risk of infection, but from the other social ills of our world.
In a different vein, three different colleagues recently told me that I make blogging “look easy” because of the rate that I manage to output new blog posts here.
And if we take a step back and look at both situations, there’s a subtle theme here that I’d like to explore: The unseen.
Seeing Without Seeing
Everything you know about the world is an abstraction of the truth.
That isn’t some philosophical pontification, it’s a plain and simple fact. You don’t know what’s going on in anyone else’s brain at any given moment (especially if they have no inner monologue at all).
Under better times and better conditions, I’d say that the surest and fastest path to being mental unwell (depressed, anxious, etc.) is comparing your behind-the-scenes footage to other peoples’ highlight reels.
Social media is nothing but highlight reels.
Hell, this very blog is a highlight reel of the ideas I managed to flesh out into a coherent structure.
Nobody would ever have known the stress, frustration, and nihilism that goes into trying to come up with a topic to write about if I didn’t just allude to it in this sentence. My writing process is too informal to articulate and very unhelpful to anyone who has to write words for a living: If I can’t think of what I want to say and why, I don’t write. It’s that simple. I can’t force it. I’ve tried. And sometimes I have very strong opinions about certain topics, or something really funny happened, or I observed something really noteworthy that should probably be captured and immortalized in prose… yet, I just can’t figure out how to put it into words, so it languishes forever.
And yet, so many people are so over-exposed to this polished and curated filter bubble, I fear they’ve lost sight of the human experience, and how badly we all struggle and fuck up all the time.
The isolation sure isn’t helping.
The Political Queer Experience
Being LGBTQIA+ in the United States of America is quite an experience, whew, let me tell ya.
Sometimes I have to ask myself: Does anyone really believe that the Trump administration or the GOP is actually pro-LGBT? Surely nobody could have missed the memo? To wit:
- GLAAD has outlined all the ways that Trump has harmed LGBT rights.
- The Human Rights Campaign has outlined Trump’s timeline of hate.
- The Republican Party platform for 2020 under Trump’s leadership (PDF) specifically called for a reversal of Obergefell v. Hodges (the case that allowed for gay marriage rights). See Page 9.
It’s even worse when you hear from alleged “Gays for Trump” or even “Furries for Trump”.
It’s bizarre; how can so many people support someone who wants to hurt them?
Enter Dean Browning
Dean Browning is a political candidate from Pennsylvania who lost the Republican primary in 2020. He also runs a PAC.
When he’s not siphoning money from the pockets of gullible American conservatives, Dean Browning likes to pretend to be a black gay guy named Dan Purdy on social media to try to deceive the public about the Republicans’ intentions for the LGBTQIA+ community.
His cover was blown when he forgot to switch to his alt account (which apparently is owned by his adopted son?) to attempt to astroturf a critic. He then tried to offer “context” into the tweet.
Neither the original fuck-up nor his nonpology went unnoticed:
Sometimes the unseen gets revealed to us through truly spectacular mistakes.
Furries Improve Everything
I know I just talked about politics and we’re all sick of it, but I want to briefly visit this topic one more time for the sake of setting the stage.
Never one to miss a beat, Coopertom (the cat fursuiter from the infamous cursed photo) decided to remake this hilarious performance art of a gaffe in VRChat.
For many readers, this is the first time they read about the furry fandom in a positive light.
For the first many years of the furry fandom’s existence, our media strategy was nonexistent.
We kinda just winged it (with apologies to avian furries), and the end result was an episode of CSI about furries that was so inaccurate and bad in its portrayal of the furry fandom as sex-obsessed losers that if you type “that episode” into Google, it’s the first search result.
Unfortunately, this has stuck in the public imagination for many, many years since. Almost every interaction I’ve had online has been colored by a history of bad press that the many recent years of fair coverage hasn’t abated.
As a result, almost nobody outside of the furry fandom truly has the slightest clue about who we really are, or how incredible the community can be.
Even most furries don’t know this!
Let’s circle back to Coopertom. What many of the folks who saw the news coverage of his VRChat world didn’t see is that he later posted this…
…followed a few hours later by this:
I don’t think even Coopertom anticipated how much love and kindness he would be met with by the community he’s been a part of for at least a decade. He surely wasn’t counting on it. You can hear that much in his voice.
Everyone who hates furries because an old CSI episode portrayed us in an unflattering light–or because of the actions of a scant few individuals that did terrible things and are consequently not welcome in our community–has chosen to blind themselves to what this fandom is really about, and they will forever be Plato’s cave-dwellers as a result.
The furry fandom has always been about humanity.
Whether to celebrate or to critique? That depends on the individual.
Anyone who tells you different is missing the point. (To be explicit: The point isn’t sex, although we aren’t exactly prudes.)
Can We Take the Blinders Off?
A few years ago there was a TED talk to commemorate 1000 TED Talks, in which the speaker recursively used Amazon Mechanical Turk to summarize each of the talks into six words each, and then to summarize the summaries, etc. until he landed on a mere six.
In the same spirit, I’ve been thinking what the six words that describe the furry fandom would be. (Spoiler: See the title of this blog post.)
Whether you’ve been a furry since the days of SomethingAwful trolls or are just discovering your interest for anthropomorphic characters, you’re not alone.
No matter how depressed, frustrated, stressed, angry, despaired, hollow, hopeless, or scared you might feel about your life, it gets better.
This video was made before the pandemic, but it hits differently after:
If I can be said to be coping well (and making blogging seem easy as a result), it’s simply because I’m privileged to have so many good friends to lift up my spirits. It’s not a reflection of me being somehow special, and it isn’t a poor reflection on you or anyone else if you aren’t.
But on the other paw, I utterly failed to gripe about a recent irksome instance of sensationalist cryptography reporting, as well as the recent anti-encryption legislation in the Five Eyes nations. So maybe I’m not doing as hot as some of you might think I am? Win some, lose some.