My 13 year old step-son told his mother yesterday that he wants to be a "furry."

A couple days ago he decided he wanted to make a cat costume. I just shake my head most of the time when he comes up with these ideas and try to remind him he's 13 now and that might not be the priority at the moment (like saving for a car and other teen boy interests). He has ADHD, so his personality is that of a very sensitive and slightly immature nature.

He ended up making his costume and wearing it to school. I didn't know this until after the fact. But his mother (my wife) said that while no one laughed or made fun of him in front of him there was probably some talk behind his back. It is a very small school in a very rural part of the US.

This prompted my wife to have him Google what a "furry" is and after doing so discussing it a bit further on his feelings about that topic. I'm sure the whole concept was introduced to him from spending too much time on YouTube and coming across things which may seem innocent but have longer term effects or other connotations attached to them.

He said he wanted to do this "because he can be who he is." I think the whole thing was pretty innocent but a bit off for a 13 y/o. After the later discussion he expressed that the costuming and what-not would just be a hobby for him, that its not some kind of lifestyle change or related to fetishism.

I'm concerned for a number of reasons. While I struggle with the idea, I worry more for him dealing with it all. I don't see his bio-father taking it well nor his maternal grandfather. Maybe that won't be a big deal if its only a costume making hobby. Should it be a regular thing to wear to school, etc., I see problems. Being in a small town, yet big enough for weirdos as it is, people are very judgmental.

My Question is this:

  • What should I do?
  • How can we be supportive of him in his choices without him being bullied?
  • Do we help him embrace this or try to deter him away from it?
  • Are we over-thinking this at this point in time?
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    "For those unfamiliar, I suggest Google." - Usually, a question should be self-contained. You might loose users that might be able to help you, but don't bother googling and doing extra-research. While it wouldn't hurt you to explain it in a sentence or two. – Arsak Sep 26 '18 at 14:44
  • I added a link, but agree with @Marzipanherz that a bit of a definition right in the question would be advisable. – Stephie Sep 26 '18 at 15:00
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    Actually, 13 is a pretty typical age to become interested in the furry subculture, so I wouldn't focus too much on the age aspect, unless it adds to any safety or bullying concerns. – user14172 Sep 26 '18 at 20:28
  • I should have explained it, you're right. Thanks for adding a link, I'll update the question when I have a few more minutes to do so. I was kinda rushing to get all my thoughts about it down before it became a rambling mess. – user20343 Sep 26 '18 at 22:07

There actually are studies on this phenomenon, but they are often small, not well done, and/or contradict each other, so to answer the "Are we overthinking this...", the answer is "unknown, but probably not."

How can we be supportive of him in his choices without him being bullied?

You cannot control what other people do, otherwise no child of a loving parent would ever experience bullying, physical or emotional abuse, kidnapping, etc. (Not stating these as equivalents, just saying...) You can only control yourself.

In this case, start building up your child's potential for resilience by reading about it, and teaching your child critical thinking skills, self-control, exercising optimism and gratitude, and making sure his home environment is a loving and supportive one.

You can meet with his teachers/the principal to see what kind of anti-bullying measures are in place in the school and whether they are proactive as well as reactive.

Do we help him embrace this or try to deter him away from it?

POB, but do what you think loving parents concerned for the well being of their child would do. If I were in this situation, I would approach this like any other decision: discuss the pros and cons of wearing the costume to school/other places where costume play is usually unexpected. Do this lovingly but honestly. Don't imply "You're asking for trouble...", but rather frame it as discomfort, confusion or intolerance: "Some people have different ideas about how others should dress and due to confusion or intolerance, they can sometimes be [intentionally or unintentionally unkind/whatever...]." At a certain age, kids make their own decisions and experience the consequences. You know your child better than we do and know if his decisions are impulsive or well thought out.

What should I do?

Whatever you won't regret when you look back on this in 30 years. Unfortunately, we never know these things in advance, so just do your best.

Scholar Google "furry fandom effects on children"
Enhancing Resilience in Children: A Proactive Approach
How to Bully-Proof Your Children by Building Their Resilience How to protect children against the painful effects of bullying

  • Sorry if it's a dumb question but, can you define "POB", please ? – iizno Oct 8 '18 at 11:17
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    @iizno - "Primarily Opinion Based", one of the close reasons. :) – anongoodnurse Oct 8 '18 at 13:08

(Edited to clarify my assumptions - thanks @Kai) Based on the statement "After the later discussion he expressed that the costuming and what-not would just be a hobby for him", I would bet he wants to be a "cosplayer", not a "furry", and would be happy with any venue in which a costume is welcome.

The issue is not whether or not cosplay is healthy, but when and where it is acceptable. Having a time and place for cosplay is probably your best option.

Even in rural towns, there can be opportunity for cosplay. In my town we have an anime cafe that offers discounts to cosplayers. My entire family will periodically show up dressed as our favorite characters from anime/manga. I draw the line at Gray Fullbuster's combat uniform, however.

Check out local role playing gamers - D&D for example. There is often overlap with the cosplay community. For example, the Society for Creative Anachronism evolved out a group of D&D afficionados that wanted to take the game to a new level, before "cosplay" was a word. Hardcore RPG gamers tend to be very accepting - if you can play the game and stay in character, it doesn't matter to them if you're closer to 10 or 100. A little cosplay adds atmosphere to the game.

Check out anime and manga clubs. Again, they have a strong cosplay community, and cosplay simply adds atmosphere to the meetings.

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    Adding to DnD groups - LARP groups would be perfect for this sort of thing. – BunnyKnitter Sep 26 '18 at 18:31
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    This first statement is incorrect. Wearing an animal costume is very much part of the furry subculture, and not necessarily "just cosplay." Also the furry subculture is at best adjacent to the anime/manga and tabletop gaming subcultures. Showing up in these spaces while wearing your fursuit might still be seen as a little weird, like showing up dressed as Batman at a Star Trek convention. Though many would probably still overlook it. – user14172 Sep 26 '18 at 20:46
  • I dunno - showing up as "Happy" you might suddenly find yourself hanging out with a bunch of Natsu's. Is he specifically interested in the costuming, or the furry aspect? I admit I'm taking a wild guess based on the "After the later discussion he expressed that the costuming and what-not would just be a hobby for him" statement – pojo-guy Sep 26 '18 at 21:38
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    I should have been more clear in that statement. He very much expressed his desire to be a cat, and to dress as one because "that's who he is." I believe part of it is just a kid trying to express himself in the only way he knows how. But I'm not really sure, he's my first teenager. I also think it is about the costuming aspect more than just living as a cat or whatever. In any case I'll take whatever advise I can get on it. – user20343 Sep 26 '18 at 22:11
  • My 8 year old runs around being a cat (he's miaowing right now), but so does my 19 year old sometimes. I start recruiting kids for my webcast team at 11, and treat them as adults in the context of the webcast. My best technical director is a 12 year old with ADHD, who is like an air traffic controller during production. Every so often I have to remind myself that my shorter crew members are kids, can't maintain the professional facade all the time, and have to let loose. – pojo-guy Sep 26 '18 at 22:22

Furry is different to cosplay. Cosplay generally entails dressing as a specific character and often for specific events. Furry is more of a "I feel like I AM this character" sort of thing where the character is usually a custom thing. There are some VERY NSFW sides to furryness but it can also be perfectly innocent. (You should know that the commonly known stereotype of Furries is the NSFW version. There is much more to it that that, but the rest is less "well known". That is, for someone who has barely heard if it, it is likely they will only know of the NSFW side of it. So bear this in mind if/when you mention it/talk about it with others.)

The first thing is to ask WHY he wants to be a furry. If he actually wants to be a furry or if he just wants to wear a costume.

He said he wanted to do this "because he can be who he is."

That might be something to explore - why does he need a costume to be who he is? Is there some reason he can't be who he is as a human boy?

Ask him to show you some of the videos that gave him this idea too - its a bonding experience by you showing interest, and also gives you an opportunity to discuss things with him.

Regarding wearing costumes to school, it might be good to gently remind him that children can be cruel and help him research other more appropriate places he can wear his costume. Perhaps some compromise can be reached where he is happy but that minimized the bullying potential. For example, he wears a hat with ears to school but you guys make special trips to places he can wear his full costume a few times a month. Its been mentioned in other answers but DND groups, LARP groups, possibly Ren-Faires, Comicons/Comic shops, board game conventions, (basically anywhere with a large nerd-presence), etc. Maybe see if you can START a DND group or something similar for kids his age (an adult would probably need to run it as the rules can get a bit complex) and encourage coming in costume if you can't find anything.


[Edited to more directly answer questions.]

In this I try to answer what a furry is just to clear up any confusion. The tl:dr is;

  • What should I do?

Honestly, Nothing. It's just a hobby some people have.

  • How can we be supportive of his choices without him being bullied?

That's hard to do. The furry fandom isn't widely known and it's something alot of people only know negative info on.

  • Do we help him embrace this or try to deter him away from it?

I would say embrace it.

  • Are we over-thinking this at this point in time?

A little bit, yeah.

Okay. I'll go a little more into your questions here and truly explain what a furry is the best I can.

As a furry myself for 4 years, I will try to explain to the best of my ability. And sorry for replying 9 months late but better late than never. Warning: I will be a bit biased as I am a furry myself.

In no specific order:

  • A furry can either be an anthropomorphic character(https://imgur.com/a/pxizdwS) or someone who considers themself a part of the furry fandom.
  • Anyone in the furry fandom can fall one or more of the following catagories.
  • -A fan of anthropomorphic characters.
  • -Frequently draws art of anthropomorphic characters.
  • -Someone who has a fursona.
  • -Someone who goes to Furry Conventions.
  • -Someone who participates in furry roleplay.
  • -ect.
  • Furries will sometimes create fursonas. A fursona is basically a recreation of the person as an anthropomorphic character that they then you online to identify themself, roleplay, and/or fursuit as.
  • My fursona is a anthro-goat.(https://imgur.com/a/LP5qsak) It has the same personality as me, same age as me, and much more, but it's a goat. It's a little more friendly, outgoing, and polite than real me. (all things I want to be more of) Overall it's me but better. A fursona is the you you want to be. Pretending to be your fursona online or at a convention in a fursuit allows you to be what you want to be. It's a form of escapism and expression. As someone who lives in a country in which he barely knows the language with two stressful and demanding jobs, I need to be able to turn on my computer, join a online voice chat, and pretend to be a better me. ML (my fursona) travels the world and makes lots of friends, two things I can't do. He doesn't have my stressful jobs. When I'm ML, I'm happy. Same when fursuiting.
  • What happens at furry conventions? Furry conventions are really no different from and comic or anime convention. Infact, a more than 85% people don't even wear fursuits at furry conventions. During a convention there are dance competitions, art and posters for sale, gaming, entertainment, panels, karaoke and much more! They can have over 7,000 members and are (with the exception of Eurofurence) super open to kids.
  • We are frequently compared to otherkin. (people who believe they are an animal) We do not believe we are animals in spirit or body. In fact, furry characters are less "animals with human features" and more of "humans with animal features!"
  • Michael McNamara, reports that that "[the deviancy] probably represents about 2% of [the] fandom but it’s the one ... that the press always gleefully jumps [to]." Due to general lack of knowledge and misinformation from things like "Fur and Loathing" and "r/yiffinhell," it is sometimes assumed that being a furry is a "sexual" thing. This is not true. While there are some who make it sexual. It is no more sexual than the anime community, comic community, or any other similar community as in only a small 1%'s focus is in anything sexual to do with furries.

Now, I'll go over the best and worst that the community has to offer.

  • The furry fandom is extremely open and supportive and probably the most wholesome community around. They are open to people with autism and all sexualities, races, and religions. We are known for our frequent charity fundraisers and are super friendly and wanting to help out anyone in need.
  • While small, there is a very open anti-furry group. From my own experience they either don't actually know what a furry is or are racists and/or homophobes. The reason why he's more likely to encounter it is if he's wearing the fursuit he's letting them know he's a furry, while someone that's gay won't have the same problem because the only way they would know is if he told them.

That is all I have. If you have any more questions try checking out these videos!

You can also contact me at https://twitter.com/MLisDreaming if you need to ask me anything else.

  • Good luck! ------ Malachi Dreemurr
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    Hi and welcome to Parenting.SE! Please take the tour and read the help center. The OP asks how they, as parents, can support their 13-year-old son, not what furries are in general. Can you add parenting advise to your post so it becomes an actual answer to the question? Also, where does Mr. McNamara report that - can you name the source? – Anne Daunted Jul 16 at 7:51
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    The OP's questions are: "What should I do? How can we be supportive of him in his choices without him being bullied? Do we help him embrace this or try to deter him away from it? Are we over-thinking this at this point in time?" If you ave answered this. please highlight where you did that as I didn't find it on a cursory reading. If not, please edit to actually provide an answer, as this is a Q&A site (not a discussion forum with which you might be more familiar), and we need an actual answer to the question asked, or the answer will be flagged as "Not an Answer" and removed. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Jul 16 at 13:24
  • I edited to reflect your comment. – ML Dream Aug 7 at 18:46

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