What’s life like for a teenage LGBT furry fan in Iran?

by Patch O'Furr

Fursona of Rastin, a furry in Tehran

Governments are supposed to represent their people. Instead they often end up representing a few haves against many have-nots. It might put oligarchy and corporate greed first, or theocracy and military power. You can read between the lines of headlines about the USA vs. Iran.

But how often do people in both places talk to each other directly without borders, filters, propaganda, stereotyping, and forced conflict? And when they’re pitted against each other, what could these different societies possibly share in common?

Like pizza, you don’t need to speak the same language to love art. So furry fandom builds bridges around the world. That’s how Croc (@Microdile), a California furry, first made friends with Rastin (@Rastin_woof). Rastin is a 16 year old member of a generation living after the 1979 Iranian revolution, which put religion and laws together, unlike the USA which separates church and state (at least in theory.)

In the following Q&A, Rastin uses forbidden internet contact to discuss forbidden topics — criticizing authority, oppressed LGBT identity, parents who don’t understand, and fandom that isn’t shared by anybody near him. His fursona species isn’t even tolerated (dogs aren’t loved pets in Iran.) What stands out more than differences is the universal stuff in common: creativity and self expression, and wishes to escape to a more peaceful world.

(Dogpatch Press:) Hi Rastin, I was looking for Iranian furries when Croc tweeted about you. Do you know any others?

Hello, unfortunately I don’t know any other furries who live here.

I have heard of a few others, but I’m guessing they’re rare so there probably isn’t any community for it besides online. It may be mostly ex-patriot Persian people in other countries, but I’m glad to find you! Can you give me a bio in a few lines about yourself?

I’m 16 years old. As mentioned in the tweet, I live in Tehran and have for all of my life. I’m currently in 11th grade and yeah, trying to find a way to transfer to a foreign school. Regarding the ex-pat situation you mentioned, it’s fairly accurate, most with a well off income or wealth (of their parents) tend to leave Iran rather than invest their money here.

How did you find furry? Was it from Croc?

Croc wasn’t my first encounter with furry but it was most certainly an encouraging one. The first time I remember seeing anything about furry is when pictures of Cosmic Wuffy showed up on my private Instagram. His photos and videos led to me searching for them on YouTube, considering it’s a platform of which I spend a lot of my time on, and I found the ‘Paws’ furry music video.

How easy is it to look at where you are? I was curious about internet access, if they specifically block furry stuff or it has to be kept hidden.

As of late, that has been a very inconsistent topic considering Iran’s government has gone back and forth but also has permanently blocked out websites such as Twitter, YouTube and Telegram. The difficulty of getting around it is nothing significant considering it only requires a working VPN. So it may not be ideal for me, but I personally don’t have any struggles when it comes to being able to get ahold of furries and furry content.

What are the security policies about communication?

Their version of secure is “don’t use them”. It’s fucking garbage and pisses me off so much. “Oh Americans, use Telegram to talk and talk about politics too”, so Telegram should be banned in Iran. Which it is. We have to use VPNs to bypass it. Also of which they are trying to block, break and ban.

What does furry stuff mean to you, why do you like it and how important is it?

I feel like I’ve been drawn to ‘furry related’ subjects from a very young age and didn’t even know that until my mother pointed it out. I guess the reason I joined the fandom was the sheer amount of creativity and diversity there was along with all the cuteness that came with it. But the reason I stayed was the immense amount of love and acceptance that the fandom has which I am very thankful for.

Can I ask more about you as a furry, like your fursona or how it makes your life better?

Furry to me is a community of kind and accepting people who ALSO have an interest in anthropomorphic animals. To me the anthro part comes second. I think with most fandoms, you get absorbed because of the thing that the fandom loves. But whether or not you stay is up to how the community of people treat you. The furry community has had a lot of ups and downs for me emotionally, mainly having to do with the support of others and on the other hand, the immense amount of FOMO that has come with it.

French-made animated film based on Marjane Satrapi’s comic about growing up during the Iranian revolution.

Does it have any connection to where you live… like is there animation in Iran that you like?

Furry is probably the most foreign in Iran, there are no events, there are no cons, I’ve never seen someone in a suit here either. I’d say Iran and its religious beliefs are the furthest things from furries.

Luckily I was mainly raised by Americans (aside from mom who is Iranian) and that in particular is one of the reasons I’ve been told that I look and act like a foreigner in my own country. Iran has NO regard for copyright when it comes to foreign content, which led to me watching a lot of the cartoons and shows that an American kid would watch. (Most of the cartoons sold here were stolen from Disney and whatnot.)

I have also been lucky enough to have access to satellite, which in Iran is considered a crime but it’s not taken too seriously. That also had a huge impact on me. Iran has made several attempts at making their own animations but their efforts are anything but plausible.

How is furry regarded there, if anyone you know knows about it?  

This one’s a mixed bag, no one in my family and relatives knew about it until I explained it to them. My mom did some research on her own, and at one point was thinking that it was all about sex, and that Croc was a pedo. I calmly explained it to her and changed her mind. My father never really cared for much of my interests, so he just thought it was weird and insults me here and there about it to this day. Some of the kids at school who knew also knew it as only a sexual fetish, but some of them are far too stubborn for me to want to try and change their mind about it.

Where do you see yourself in furry fandom in the future? Would you go to cons, get a fursuit or start a Youtube channel?

It very much depends on whether or not I can leave this country or not. I CAN’T go to 95% of the cons even if I wanted to, they don’t grant visas to Iranians for most of those places. I can’t get anything from other countries SHIPPED here because of the sanctions, we don’t have international post like EVERYONE else. YouTube is very much a hassle in my country, not to mention that there is no way I could generate revenue from it.

How about just writing or drawing?

I designed and drew my own ‘sona. I did get help with a body reference but I’ve been practicing it here and there. (The one in my icon is commissioned.)

It makes me wonder if there is much nerd stuff in Iran… science fiction, comics, gaming? And if so, is any of it home grown, or is it mostly from elsewhere?

Considering how bad and half-assed most of Iran’s products are, most are influenced by foreign markets.

I watched this travel documentary to help ask questions: Rick Steves’ Iran: Yesterday and Today

“Join Rick as he explores the most surprising and fascinating land he’s ever visited: Iran. In a one-hour, ground-breaking travel special on public television, you’ll discover the splendid monuments of Iran’s rich and glorious past, learn more about the 20th-century story of this perplexing nation, and experience Iranian life today in its historic capital and in a countryside village. Most important, you’ll meet the people of this nation whose government so exasperates our own.”

The show talks about people having vacations, and if you cant leave the country there seem to be lots of places with amazing sights to see inside. They went to 3 or 4 cities. Have you done any trips you liked?

More than 70% of iranians don’t even have passports. With how bad the economy and incomes are, only the wealthy can afford to travel let alone stay in hotels and fly. So, a considerable amount of them are rich enough to find a way around it. The people who can AFFORD it are also the only people who will complain about not being able to do it.

What kind of animals might you be close to in Iran? Wildlife, zoos, or pets?

First off, dogs are considered sinful animals, especially as pets. I think that’s absolute BS and I adore dogs. Same goes for pigs, meat from the pig is considered as very sinful and dirty. Same goes for alcohol.

The travel show visited a book store that had a lot of poetry. It reminded me of hearing that some Islamic culture avoids showing humanlike intelligent animals because of religious teachings, and it had to do with art being geometric with beautiful patterns and less emphasis on humans. I wonder if art around you is traditional without much place for stuff furries like, or is it no big deal to talk about cartoons and stuff like that? 

Satellite and cartoons and stuff are thanks to me using it as a way to learn English at a very young age. It’s not the fact that we can’t talk about it, but when it comes to animal related stuff, very few people are enthusiastic about it. Also, something you might not know, with dogs being considered as sins, very few people own pets and interact with animals. Therefore that idea is not that popular either for that reason.

No cats either?

Some do but very very few.

I saw horses and sheep in the travel show, and the shepherd had a working dog. That’s not an every day city thing though.

Well sure but one in 1 million people do that. Keep in mind I said it’s a sin to have them as a PET. I really love dogs.

People in the USA think of Iran as religiously repressive. I was hoping to help people understand another person like them living there. I suspect the government isn’t the same as how people really think. 

A lot of the religion brings up dumb rules. However the society itself doesn’t bring a lot of enforcement on it. Even in situations where they should. So suuure alcohol is illegal and you would go to jail if cops found some in your house, but we still have it. You can’t easily purchase it, hence why some people try and make it themselves, but it really isn’t taken THAT seriously for people to completely avoid it. It’s like the law is there but everyone is just walking past it. You’ll only have issues if you run into it. And yes, it’s the government that is forcing us, those of us that aren’t crazy religious hate it too.

(Markus Scholz/AFP/Getty Images). Slate.com: What Iran—Yes, Iran—Can Teach America About the Fight for LGBTQ Rights. 1970’s Iran was islamic but inching towards gay rights, which was rolled back. Today it’s illegal to enter the country for that, do activism inside, or blog about it.

Can we talk about LGBT stuff?  I read this: LGBT rights in Iran. Let me know if anything is off limits or scary or might cause trouble… will the government take notice of you talking about this if an American furry news site publishes it? 

I’ve read it before, and know it very well. And it’s not like nobody dares to do anything in private. It’s one of the dumbest things in the Muslim culture and especially how much it’s enforced in Iran. For the government, I’m safe to answer any questions I feel comfortable answering.

The travel show showed so much history, but the cities looked modern. The biggest difference was theocracy at the top, which hands down difference in how people relate to each other, like restricted public display of affection (PDA). Furries are known for hugs when they meet, so that must be interesting to see. Like you say, the government can’t watch everything in private so I wonder how much unapproved socializing there is, even if people are badly punished if things get too high profile. Can you say anything about the private side, like how do people meet if it’s not approved?

The part about religion and government is so true to the point where it hurts me to even watch the news. But if found out, LGBT stuff is taken very seriously, I did get removed from my last school because of it (they didn’t expel me because they didn’t want to ruin their brand.) It’s serious if you get caught. But it’s hard to get caught unless someone is really out to get you or you’re doing it in public.

About religion, is worship expected a lot or just a little for you?

Unfortunately for me, I went to a very religious school from 5th grade to the beginning-ish of 10th grade. The schools before that were a bit religious too. In that school you had to go to the school’s mosque. We would sometimes hide away from the teachers so they couldn’t take us. But it was mandatory.

For what it involved besides praying, I don’t think this is something that exists where you are, but we have a whole subject for religion in school, that we have to give exams for and stuff. And also, before 10th grade we had to be able to read the Quran well and memorize some of it. It’s actually taken very seriously. Even the private schools that I go to — (public and private schools are different from the definition around the world) — are still looked after by the government, so it’s mandatory and taken very seriously.

I guess you have to be very involved with it to have any job in military or government.

Not so sure about the details of that, because I haven’t looked into it. But private jobs mostly don’t care. By private I mean not involving the government.

I saw there are some political parties interested in making things more secular (opposite of religious) from some parties that might not be the powerful ones. Like the communist or green parties saying LGBT people should be free to choose relationships, or similar words.

Personally, I didn’t even know that. So that should tell you that they have nowhere near enough power and traction to do anything. The only thing that I have ever seen or heard of are protests and that didn’t involve LGBT. It was just about women’s dress code.

Croc wrote about you having hardship, like bullying in school, disapproval of parents, and getting beaten and having to pay the medical cost.  How much of a worry is that? Is there anything you need or people can do to help?

People can help by not being selfish cruel assholes. The hardships are significantly more serious than bullying or harrassment, but that is as much as I want to say about what happened to me. As for parents, they don’t support it, my dad is kind of in denial. My mom is disgusted.

I’m sorry to hear that, I hope things change. Have you seen any signs of hope or is leaving the country the best hope?

Honestly? No. The economy and the relationship Iran has with other countries is getting worse by the day. At this rate I don’t think I can even go to Canada if for whatever reason Iran goes to war with the US.

I hope it doesn’t. Canada is a great place that is welcoming if it can be done.

Let’s hope it stays that way for another year or two.


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