I’ve been asked a lot of interesting questions from newcomers to the online furry community, particularly in the relatively large non-RP (Role-Playing) IRC channel that I call home. Most recently, I was asked why there are so many males presenting themselves as females, and what to think and do about it. Obviously, this works both ways, and there are plenty of females presenting as males, and my opinions below apply to them as well.
The following are five common situations in which people represent themselves as having a different gender than their biological sex. Some people may fall into more than one category.
In comparison to the general population, the furry fandom appears to have a higher percentage of LGBT members. This may be largely due to the generally accepting nature of the fandom, and the fact that most members create personas (or “fursonas,” or characters) based on attributes they desire and/or admire. Simply put, being a furry makes it easier to present yourself as you feel and wish to be.
I truly respect those struggling with gender issues, and especially those who have overcome their struggles by becoming and accepting the person they wish to be. Newcomers should be accepting and tolerant, and they should respect the gender choices of these individuals.
In my opinion, part of that respect is not spreading rumors, taunting or teasing, or sharing personal information in public forums about a person’s biological sex.
Some in the community may disagree with this last opinion, but I do feel that a transgender person has a moral obligation to be truthful on this matter when becoming romantically involved. This is only fair and can prevent a lot of heartache and drama on both sides.
While some see furry as a way to virtually become and explore the form (and gender) they wish they had in real life, others see their characters from the outside, as writers creating realtime and interactive stories. Like method actors, many of these carry aspects of their characters into non-RP chat rooms and forums, for fun and out of habit.
In role-playing/collaborative writing channels, these furries will sometimes indicate when they are speaking out of character (marking lines as OOC). At the very least, others shouldn’t make any assumptions of true sex or gender in these situations. In non-RP chat rooms, however, this can often be confusing and misleading.
I personally am not comfortable with someone acting as a completely fictional character in a non-RP chat room. To make a comparison to fursuiters, I see non-RP channels as somewhat of a “headless lounge,” where we check the backstories of our characters at the door and engage in real conversation.
Similar to the above, some create a character outside of how they see themselves, but this time for the purpose of engaging in sexually explicit chat. The motives may be innocent, such as exploring different aspects of sexuality and being sexually creative, to sleazy, such as a male unable to find a suitable female partner and who then creates and plays a female character to attract males.
Yes, those looking for sex online should not assume the gender of the person they are getting on (or off) with. It becomes a problem when people seek more than a casual sexual encounter and lead a prospective partner on with no intent of sharing their true gender.
In my opinion this last situation is unacceptable, and perpetrators deserve to be outed for their behavior, at the very least to stop others from being duped.
In a fandom that has a relatively high male to female ratio, one of the best ways to get attention (not necessarily sexual/romantic attention) is to be a female. Many times, attention seekers will have many characters, including males, females, and anything in between, of many species and combinations of species, and often with very unique attributes (we call them sparkle dogs).
In this case, playing different genders is a means of getting attention and popularity. While I don’t have much respect for these motives, they do not pose a problem as long as people are truthful in real and meaningful relationships, including online relationships. Otherwise, these people tend to get hurt easily when the truth comes out in an uncomfortable way.
Finally, the worst sort. While we’ve talked about people changing genders to be themselves, be a character, or even be popular, this last sort does it strictly out of malice. Some trolls will take on another gender specifically to lure victims, or to choose a more effective form to intimidate, coerce, or attack their target(s). An example might be a male posing as a female to infiltrate or more effectively attack a channel focused on lesbian issues.
This last dangerous, sociopathic behavior is not tolerated in any group I am in, and such individuals deserve to be banned on sight.
Whatever your sex or gender, be tolerant, be considerate, be aware, and be yourself. The furry community should be a fun and safe place for all, and it’s the responsibility of all of us to make it so.