When did you realize you were a furry?

The question arises occasionally, and I must admit that I find it difficult to provide a concise answer. Despite its various formulations, the essence of the question ultimately reveals that I don’t quite know myself. When did you realise you were a furry? To offer a more elaborate response, we need to rewind to the beginning of Jakken’s journey and upbringing.

A seed of escapism

The year is 2000; the family has moved to an apartment downtown with enough space for everyone. It was close to everything: the candy store, grocery store, restaurants, and cinema. That spring, a program began airing in Sweden every Saturday and Sunday morning: Pokémon. As a child, there were many TV shows to watch, but this series was something entirely different. It had a completely new style, expressive, with everything from cute to cool monsters. Just like the rest of the world, Jakken became completely captivated. More than building with LEGO or engaging in various adventures, they spent much of their time drawing. Everything previously drawn, houses, flowers, figures, animals, was old news. Now, it had to be Pokémon. They had to be drawn or created. This fascination persisted for several years, actually quite a few years, so let’s fast forward a bit.

The year is now 2005

Another move has been made, and some of the siblings have moved out. Jakken has changed schools, and the circle of friends has narrowed. The new school is not to their liking at all. Many of the other children have a mentality of “king of the hill.” The fastest is the best. The strongest is the best. Looking the coolest is the best. Everything was measured, everyone had to know who was the best, and everyone had to know who was the worst. It was a completely skewed mentality that even infected the teachers. This is a rather dark time for Jakken, and they begin to more or less isolate themselves from the other children and teachers. The thoughts and ponderings they had were not shared outwardly but remained inside. Likewise, feelings. During lessons, Jakken drifts away from this reality to another world. Just imagine running out into the open, just being able to exist. The image of a wolf running through the forest, a bird flying between the treetops, a weasel digging tunnels in the ground. It is probably here that a seed is planted, escapism from our reality.

Opportunities or just a phase?

Years go by, and it means yet another school change between sixth and seventh grade. A completely new school means a completely new mentality. In Sweden, it’s called Högstadiet (junior high school), and for many, the perception of högstadiet is that it’s the worst of all the school years that can come and go. Many fear starting seventh grade, but Jakken saw an opportunity. They saw something that allowed them to come back to reality from their escapism; they saw a fresh start. New students, new teachers, everything new. The first year is tough, but they get to know a good friend who is still a key person in their life today. Jakken finds a newfound joy in creating, and it’s probably during this time that they draw and write the most. A year in junior high is like a transformation for Jakken. They’re back to reality and more like the individual they feel they can be. But those thoughts of being free and escaping the cruelty of the world linger and have taken the form of a wolf. A brown, shaggy-furred wolf. Jakken can’t just dismiss the wolf as if it were nothing; it had become a part of him.

Furry phase?

The year is 2008, and Jakken has encountered the phenomenon of the internet. Here, they find anime, forums, and art sites. They create an account on one of the more well-known art sites of their time and take pictures of their works to upload. Like any ignorant teenager, one is very proud of what they’ve created and eager to show it off. The best thing about such sites is that there are lots of people who also want to showcase their works. Among all these, Jakken manages to find an artist who depicts themselves as a panda. The panda is happy, lively, and expressive. It walks on two legs and, well, seems quite human. It’s actually here that Jakken gradually encounters the term “Furry”. There was something about this character that Jakken experienced, something they hadn’t felt from all the media they encountered during their upbringing, something they could relate to. In some way, they could recognize themselves in the panda. Without discussing this with anyone, they let it slide; it was probably just something for the moment anyway.

Inexplicable Darkness

During their teenage years, Jakken built up a large circle of friends with wonderful people. They organise movie nights, LAN parties, parties, and even attempt a YouTube channel. But what about drawing? From going from Pokémon to a free wolf, which then transforms into a bloodthirsty werewolf, to later becoming a fluffy furry wolf. And the artist with the panda that Jakken followed, they still experience a strong sense of recognition with. There doesn’t seem to be much out there that they feel a sense of belonging to. Nothing, really. This makes them ponder and wonder. Is there something wrong with them? The thoughts run deep, and the drawing, along with the texts, reflect their confusion. It’s a darkness they can’t grasp.

A couple of years pass, and one late night, Jakken lies in bed. The room is dark, and the silence of the night rests over the city. You could hear the ventilation system breathe in the stillness. They had broken up with their then-girlfriend a few weeks ago. The ending was in understanding terms, and they were in different chapters of their lives that didn’t quite align. Jakken thinks a lot about what love is, how love is. How does a relationship really work? These weren’t sad thoughts this time, but rather questioning, for something the girlfriend revealed late in the relationship was that they were asexual. Most people would have reacted to this, but not Jakken. For them, it wasn’t strange. They didn’t see her in that way. In fact, they had never seen her as a girlfriend. Clearly a close friend but not a girlfriend. But if they couldn’t feel such love, does that mean they won’t be able to enter into a relationship again?

Was it Furry or Something Else?

The thoughts raced, but somewhere in all of this, they felt that something was hiding here. Jakken was tired of that murky inexplicable thing deep inside them. They thought back, the only time they felt a sense of belonging was to that panda. Many in this panda’s circles were LGBTQ+ characters. In the same moment, the thought hits them like a thunder from the blue sky to their consciousness: “I’m gay.” Throughout Jakken’s upbringing, they never had a character to look up to, never a role model. The only thing that was relatable, a role model, was a furry panda drawn by an artist from a distant land. Throughout their upbringing, they had only been exposed to mainstream media, classic stereotypes. Perhaps the closest was Team Rocket from Pokémon. Apart from that, nothing at all. So the answer to the question of when Jakken became a furry, well, it was probably always there.

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