Waterways is why I Love the Furry Fandom
by Pup Matthias
I love the Furry Fandom. I love how weird, crazy, silly, creative, and open-minded the fandom is. Just like how every other fandom says they’re weird, crazy, silly, creative, and open-minded. But in all seriousness, I do appreciate what the fandom is and what it keeps trying to do. I am indebted to the Furry Fandom. My life would not be where it is today because of it. If I had any regrets in life, one of them would be to wish I knew about the fandom earlier so I could spend more years exploring it, but that’s wishful thinking, and in all honesty, would undermine my personal growth.
The first time I’ve ever heard about the fandom was during a countdown on Animal Planet’s “Weird, True & Freaky” around 2008. Before that, I knew I loved the concept of anthropomorphic animals. Mainly through the Redwall book series and TV show, which was my only “Furry” fix growing up. I don’t really remember if there were other factors like Disney’s Robin Hood or Bugs Bunny, Crash or Ratchet, Swat Kats or Road Rovers. But I do know when Weird, True & Freaky showed Furries I wanted to know more.
I don’t remember much about the segment. I know it was talked about during a countdown of humanimals, looks at how far humans include animals into their lives. The fandom only made number 4 or 3 out of 7, and while it did bring up the topic of sex, it wasn’t the main reason it made the list. Just the whole, “Can you believe people dress up in fursuits? Look at how quirky and weird these Furries be…” blah, blah, blah. In hindsight, considering what most media depictions of Furries were like at the time, this one was fairly open. But once it aired I didn’t really look into it more. I was a senior in high school. My life was more focused about college, scholarships, and getting ready for our high school production of Grease.
It wasn’t till after I started college in the fall of 2009 that I remember the segment about Furries, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what the fandom was called. So I had to do some really weird Google searches to remember what those fluffy people in suits that pretend to be walking, talking animals called themselves. I began to find results through the web comic scene with works like Better Days, Jack, and Fur-Piled. Which in term lead to me discovering what these weirdoes called themselves and the creative sites dedicated to them. I had found the Furries.
The first Furry site I became really involved with was SoFurry, or Yiffstar as it was called at the time to prove my old school Furry cred; and I devoured everything. Visiting the site every day to look at the art, read the stories, maybe check out a song or two, etc… And most of it was porn. Gay porn to be exact. I would spend hours going through the M/M tag and know God was ringing his bell of shame on me. Oh please, don’t give me that look.
One thing you have to know about me is that at the time I was in the closet. I’ve had fantasies about being with other men, but when you’re growing up in a small suburb in Cleveland, Ohio who went to church to hear how the things in my head were not only wrong, but also a ticket to hell. Yeah, for a young teenager in the early 2000’s who can’t express his sexuality to anyone without fear you look for a release in any way you can. So when you discover something you like (walking, talking animals) with something you really like (sex) and combine them together…OMG what do you know I really like this. What a shocker! My brain can’t even.
Of course part of me didn’t like it. Part of me absolutely hated it. Part of me was disgusted with myself. How dare I think about sex with another man? How dare I look at gay sex between fake anthro animals? How dare I enjoy something that the public already decided for me was wrong and therefore must be punished with my own hate and self-pity? How dare I think about being happy? How dare I choose to be weird? Why can’t I be like everyone else?
There were many nights I went to bed angry with myself. Sometimes I even cried cause I knew I could never be the perfect normal person everyone was hoping for me to be. I tried. As God as my witness I bloody tried. I tried looking at straight porn. It didn’t work. I tried looking at “Lesbian” (for straight people) porn. It didn’t work. Sorry to all the ladies, but I never found the female body sexy.
I tried to keep my mind off it by doing as much work as possible. It didn’t work. I tried praying to God. It didn’t work. I’m sure there is someone out there reading this saying, “You should of tried harder.” Honey, I gave it my hardest. It was to the point I was telling myself “I like gay sex, but I’m into women” excuse. I was so far in the closet I was playing in Narnia. Don’t you dare cum to me saying I didn’t try. I did, I tried to pretend I was something else, and guess why? It didn’t work!
So here I was a confused, frustrated, even miserable college freshmen who discovered a fandom he likes, but was only using it to fill his base desires. To be fair, it was not always about sex. I’m not a complete pervert. Maybe 80%. I did enjoy several non-sexual works, but my search history would tell you otherwise, and I can’t pretend this wasn’t my main interest back in the day. Well one day, I was searching for some “good” stories and SoFurry had this recommendation feature showcasing what most people on the site considered was the best. Through there I would find an author who became my go to writer, Kyell Gold.
It seems clichéd to talk about Gold. For those you not in the know, Kyell Gold is the most popular Furry writer. His book sell like hotcakes, he’s praised all the time, and was awarded so much he actively banned himself from winning any awards just so other writers could have a shot. He’s kind of a big deal. One of the biggest factors that made his work popular was they focused on gay characters usually having sex. So when I discovered all his works on SoFurry I was hooked.
I was in it for the sex, but as I read more of his stories, I discovered I like them more then just the sex. That unlike others I’ve read, his had an actual story and character behind it. It made me realize the difference between porn and erotica. Porn stories are focused only on the sex and how quick they can get to it. Erotica tells a story that features sex to help develop the plot and characters. Most of Gold’s works is erotica. There are expectations and lord knows there are other writers outside of Gold, but at the time, this was my Gold standard. Pun intended. #NOREGRETS
Everyday, I would go through his archive, discover a new story, and love it. Then one day I decided to look at a short story about a high school otter and his relationship with a fox. The story was called ‘Streams’ and that story changed my life.
‘Streams’ is the second of three novellas Kyell would combine to form Waterways. The plot is simply. Kory, a teenage otter, is having a hard time at school. He broke up with his girlfriend, is hounded by everyone about what college will he go to, and is being bullied cause he wrote a poem and what kind of guy would even write a poem, bro? He tries to relax at a public pool when he bumps into a fox. His name is Samaki and after the two hang out for the day, Kory begins to realize he may have feelings for the fox. But Samaki is a boy and Kory is a boy. Uh oh.
All of that is actually from the first novella, Aquifer. I didn’t know Streams was a sequel, but when I started to read it I couldn’t stop. Kory and Samaki are in a relationship, and yes they did it. No not ‘it’, but it. However, the only other person who knows is Kory’s little brother and Samaki’s family. Samaki is open about his sexuality, but Kory is scared. He lives with a religious mother and is always looking over his shoulder when he’s with Samaki. There’s more that happens in Streams. The boys volunteer at an LGBT runaway house, Kory starts to confront people about who he is, and he is working super hard on getting into college.
There are 118 pages to Stream, the longest of the novellas, and I read all of it in one night. I don’t remember how late, but I did nothing else the entire night but read that story. The reason was simple. I discovered I was Kory. The thoughts, fears, and love Kory showed in Streams were the exact thoughts, fears, and love I’ve always had in my head, but to that point I only pushed it away. Reading Waterways was a watershed moment. Pun intended again. Sue me.
I read a lot of books. Ever since I was a kid, I read books of all kinds. I must of read over 1000 at this point in my life, but I’m not keeping track. There were books I formed an attachment to like Harry Potter, The Giver, Redwall, whatever Sci Fi/ Fantasy series binge I was on, but none of them have affected me like Waterways.
Reading about Kory was like looking at a mirror, but not a regular mirror. This mirror was cracked and broken; encrusted with my blood from all the years I tried to destroy it. Hating what I was seeing. Seeing a man who is gay. How dare I see that I’m gay? I can’t be this. No one likes this. I must hide it. Never admit it. And whenever I saw who I really was in that mirror, my only reaction was to punch it till all I could see were fragments of myself. After I came to the end of Streams, which was like six hours I think, I was looking myself in that mirror again, but instead of punching it, I finally decided to put the pieces back together and really take a look at myself.
I don’t remember sleeping much that night. My brain was processing how a fictional otter’s love for a fox of the same sex was affecting me so much. But again it was simple, Kory’s feelings were my feelings, and his fears matched mine. A fear that’s followed me through out my life. Reading about Kory’s experience made me realize I didn’t want to live with that fear any more. I didn’t want to hide anymore. That night I thought then said the words in my brain, ‘I’m gay,’ and my sexuality journey began.
I prayed that night as well. I’m not a religious man, but I do believe in a higher plain and while I don’t go to church, I do pray to God when I feel I need guidance, comfort, or just put my thoughts out into the open. I’m not sure if there’s a grand design, but the next few days I noticed more stories about LGBT being accepted then before. It felt like a sign, take it for what you will, but whoever up there was looking out for me was telling me ‘yes, you are on the right path,’ and I thank that being with every ounce of my body.
Soon I was going to my local LGBT centers coming out group and let me tell you, everyone says the first step is the hardest one, but no one tells you what a bitch the second one is. Especially when you walk into a coming out group where you expect to see mostly 20 something’s only to find a group of men all about twice your age. Believe me, part of me just wanted to turn around and forget everything. No way was I walking into a lion’s den being the youngest by twenty years. Fresh meat boys.
But I stayed and I came back every other week and started to form friendships with the people there. They helped me understand that being gay does not define me. It’s just a part of me who is made up of so much else. It also gave me a bigger perspective cause many of those men were dealing with coming out as well. Some were even married and had kids. They made me realize just how far we go to pretend to make others happy when we must recognize our own happiness. Thank you all for teaching me and to think I was afraid of you cause they were older. Then I came out to my sister.
She was visiting me during college and the night I finally said the words, I was scared. I did not know if my sister would accept me. That I might go down the path Kory went, but I knew I couldn’t be happy with myself, but hide it from others to make them comfortable. My sister was taken back at first. She brought up how I seem to have this crush for a girl in high school, but I never had to guts to move forward with it. I liked her, but it never felt like I loved her. I just started to mechanically think who would be the best match for me cause that what straight people do right? Thank God, I never went forward with that.
I told my sister the basics and then she asked if I told anyone else, I didn’t. Then my sister said something I never thought I hear her say. We’ve gotten along, but before I came out, I always felt we were a little bit separate. She was the out-going one, I was the quiet one. She played sports, I played theater. Etc, etc… I always saw my sister as the strong, brave one. That night she told me she always saw me as brave and strong. I cried. I couldn’t hold back the tears hearing her say that. She accepted me for who I was, we were both crying like little babies, and gave each other the biggest hug knowing our relationship has become closer. Then my roommate walked in on our hug to see what was going on. I told him we were having a brother-sister moment and he let us be.
Soon I was out to my roommate, and everyone at college, the last hurtle for me was the hardest for everyone, parents. It took me years to finally come out to them. It wasn’t till I moved out to LA that I finally said enough is enough. One rule I put on myself was I was never going to get involved with anyone till I was open to my parents cause I didn’t want to put whoever I was in a relationship with to go through the same crap Kory put Samaki through. But I couldn’t say the words. I was still afraid they would hate me if they knew their little boy was gay.
I never said the words, I actually wrote them. I left a letter to break the ice during the night around New Years Eve for them to read in the mourning. It was my way to finally get it out there. Let me tell you, I should have said the words cause I know for a fact I didn’t get any sleep that night. My brain was a battlefield of leave the letter be or take it and hide for their comfort. Over and over my head played all the scenarios of love and hate. Just a waking sleep that never seem to end. The letter stayed and the next mourning they read it. We finally talked about it and they accepted me for who I was.
A lot has changed for me since then. I’m out and involved with the gay community in LA. I’m more confident with myself. I’m more outgoing then I’ve ever been before. I’m even working on making an impact in the fandom that helped me in anyway I can. Kyell’s story had inspired me to write again. I got involved with a Furry Podcast that never got off the ground, but I was recommended by the creator of Culturally F’d to help out with Dogpatch Press with Patch and Fred Patten. First working on formatting Fred’s many book reviews, but now working on my own articles. I’ve gone to my first fur cons last year and hosted panels discussing about furry media. I just got accepted in my first anthology. I…I… I am happy and it is all thanks to a little book I discovered on a furry website that was a gay erotic story between an otter and a fox.
The Furry fandom helped me. I won’t say save me because I never felt I was in danger of taking my life. But I feel I would not be where I am today if I didn’t read Streams. It would have been at least more boring. Hell, if I told high school me what life would be like for him he would think I’m crazy. This isn’t a review, but to anyone who is unsure about their sexuality, read the book. To those who want to understand the mindset of LGBT people, read the book. For those who are just looking to reading something different, read the book.
The Furry Fandom can sometimes be hard to explain to those outside it. In general it’s about people’s love for walking, talking animals, but beyond that is a lot. It’s a place for people to explore who they are by creating their own Fursona characters. It offers artist to create, whether it be art, stories, games, dance, fursuits, music, etc… It’s about community as you find people who share your interest. And it’s also about sex. Not for everyone (I’m contractually obligated to write that) but anyone who has been apart of the fandom for a while can tell you that the fandom has helped so many people be comfortable with who they are sexual. Hell, Kyell wrote a comic explaining that and what’s wrong with being happy with whom you are?
I actually got to meet Kyell Gold during Rainfurrest 2015 and thanked him personally. I even brought my copy of Waterways for him to sign, but I never got him to. I felt weird asking for his signature without thinking of myself as Spongebob. I even did a video review of the book when I started my web show, don’t watch it, I had no idea what I was doing at the time. And no I didn’t bring it up with Kyell. Again, it felt weird telling a man who has a life of his own to remind him of a little Internet video you made two years ago. Let alone I wasn’t the only one who embraced his sexuality cause of Waterways. My story isn’t that unique. Again, didn’t want to feel like a Spongebob.
The Furry Fandom is weird. We are a bunch of weirdoes with a hobby most people don’t understand both from people outside and inside the fandom. But when you realize you’re a big dork who loves books, movies, video games, anime, comic books, manga, discovered your sexuality through a gay love story between an otter and a fox, and is a Furry. Weird is in my DNA and the Furry Fandom fits me like a glove. Thanks to Waterways I am able to look at myself in the mirror, and no matter what life throws at me, I can look at myself and smile cause I know who I am and I’m proud to be me.
Thank you Furry Fandom for providing a community for weirdoes to explore themselves. I will support you till my dying day. Thank you Kyell Gold for writing a story for those confused and those who don’t know how to swim like an otter. Thank you to my family for accepting me for who I am. Thank you to everyone who have helped me and supported me. Thank you Kory and Samaki. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank you for your time and don’t forget to be awesome. Be amazing. Be you.