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When I tell people I have five animal heads in my bedroom, they go woah! But when I tell them they are only five custom-made cartoon animal heads, they look away from me like they are ashamed. Whereas I am not. I have five custom-made cartoon animal heads, and my favourite is Bubbles, who is a kind of bunny-weasel hybrid and who is also a hybrid of me. She lights up a room. And I tried to tell the journalist just how it is, but he was full of slippy questions. It was like finding yourself sliding into a pit.
What was it that got you into Bubbles? was one. So I said well I got into the furry fandom first and then Bubbles sort of emerged from within. She is, I am, a unique fursona, and I suppose it’s like the fandom always say: If you don’t fit the mould, custom-mould your own! But he meant a specific thing by his into, and I should have known, really, from the way he made the plosive B, B for Bubbles, with his lips all slowed down and sensuous.
Except, there is nothing especially seductive-themed about Bubbles – if we are talking seductive in the covert come-hither way. She does have these streaks of pink and purple, but that’s mainly for showcasing my femininity. In fact, what with the cartoon dramatisation of Bubbles’ face, she is really quite transparent. You can see what she’s about even from a considerable distance, and this is one of the qualities I like about furries in general – they emote. I am a big believer, you see, in the aesthetic and emotional wow of creative exaggeration. And Bubbles is, clearly, happy, adorable, mischievous. As I say – a mixture of bunny and weasel. She is everything I am not quite, or as Wolfie tells me – everything I’m getting good at letting myself just be. Wolfie, I should say, is my favourite human – they are caring, strong, dapper. It is what happened to them that made me get to meeting with the journalist. I thought I could, in a small way, tell the world who we are, so that they, you, would let us be.
To begin with the journalist’s focus was relaxed and sort of ambient – spread across my living room and not just me. He asked about the paintings on my wall – landscapes of skies and moonshine – and I tried to tell him that Wolfie does them, that it was actually how we met. But then he started zeroing in with his specifications. Do you identify as LGBTQ? he asked me. I said I identify as queer. He said, Because 80 percent of the furry community identify as LGBTQ. Then he wanted to know which letter I was. I said, Q. And he said, Not F? You say you’re a furry – when did you come out as a furry?
What I wanted to say was that I was at a convention, admiring the sky paintings at a stall, when this grey furry came over and quipped – A penny for your thoughts? I said I’ll give you the penny and my thoughts, which I was pleased with, and that was the beginning of me and Wolfie. And that’s another thing about the furry fandom – I wouldn’t have met a human like Wolfie otherwise. And maybe I wouldn’t have spoken to them. But when I slip the fur-suit on and fit my large head onto my knob-like one, it is like I come alive. Like I’m charged – full of the kind of confidence that comes from feeling compact.
What I said to the journalist was – I knew from the moment I set paw into a convention that I had found my people. And he said, Your animals? You see he kept zeroing in on the animal aspect, as if there is something wrong with human-animal mixing. As if we haven’t just undergone a big human-animal co-evolution. And, as if the human in an animal as a cute cartoon isn’t just an embodied way of doing what Disney does already. But without the intellectual property. I am getting ahead of myself.
It was CSI’s 2003 episode Fur and Loathing that started the stigma. Such representation can do terrible things to a community. If my loving must be known, then I’ll tell you. When I got to meeting Wolfie outside of the fur-suit, they told me I was completely perfect. But it wasn’t sinister, they weren’t waxing lyrical for predatory purposes, because the way Wolfie said it they were sort of embarrassed. They did this grin that is also a wince and I knew then I was in the presence of a fellow introvert. And our loving is like that too – introverted, like a folding in. The centre where the love is.
The journalist only had careful close-lipped smiles for me. And this is what slid out of his mouth in his feature on us:
Samantha has struggled with depression since the age of twelve. When she brings out the huge smiling head to show me, I am reminded of the sad clown paradox. It is hard, however, to shake off the creeping suspicion that this is more than fanciful mania. There appears to be something darker at play here, something that Samantha, or “Bubbles,” is taking great pains to keep from me. Namely, why animals? From the moment she set “paw” into the convention, Samantha informs me, she knew she had found her animals. Whoops! “People,” she quickly corrects herself. I begin to wonder at the ethics of letting vulnerable people like Samantha pretend to be animals, indeed believe they are animals, in amongst adult men in costumes. Is it something about the purity and innocence of animals that appeals to Samantha and others like her? The subversive potential perhaps of underwriting that innocence by what is done in, or to, the animal? I hesitate to guess. But what becomes clear as our meeting progresses is that Samantha either cannot, or does not want to, find the words for it. She is wearing a chaotically patterned pink and purple T-shirt, but except for this, she is a woman you may not notice at first glance. Small and bespectacled, Samantha’s manner is distinctively fidgety, and periodically throughout our interview she winces as if at an invisible enemy. I can’t help but feel slightly worried for her. Therefore, when she tells me that she is trying to get good at “being a mischievous weasel,” that she is in love with a wolf, and further, that she believes weasels and wolves are a part of the LGBTQ community, I think I should set off an alarm. Is this the new identity politics of our sad era? Or is it simply something more akin to CSI’s 2003 episode “Fur and Loathing”: a giant sex orgy? I wouldn’t know. Only furries allowed.
And this last bit is true, at least – only furries, and furry-friendlies, allowed please.
So this is what happened to Wolfie – it is important for you to know. We were on our way back from a furry meet, Wolfie and I, and a group zeroed in on Wolfie. Maybe because Wolfie has furry abs and I have pink and purple, maybe they thought it was chivalry to not push me to the ground. And at first Wolfie was just sort of squirming horizontally – not feeling much because of the padding. But then they pulled Wolfie’s head off, shouting pervert, and all I could hear was my screaming, and all I could look at was Wolfie’s cartoon head that had lolled to the side and was smiling still.
In my own words – it is as simple as moving together, doing the regular things, as a bright, furry haven. A colourful wow under the dark skies.