- Jun 2020
Furries are in the perilous position of having their interests form an integral part of their identity while simultaneously experiencing stigmatization from the world around them. For many, the fandom is their only source of social interaction and social support.
For an activity, and a fandom, that is such a large part of the practitioner's identity (see Gerbasi et. al 2008 and associated responses), it's no surprise that the stigmatization that comes with being a furry is an isolating experience. I believe that this is a large a part of the reason why acceptance is such a large tenant of the furry fandom. Exclusion elsewhere leads to increased inclusion in other areas and groups.
Non-judgementality should be the ultimate goal for health care workers in this position, but we have to recognize that it is a difficult, if not unrideable horse to handle.
A small subset of furries, called “therians,” go beyond the interest in developing a fursona and believe they are spiritually connected to animals, are less than 100 per-cent human, are an animal trapped in a human body, or were an animal in a former life (Gerbasi et al., 2008).
There's also the dissenting opinion that therians are a separate group from furries, an opinion perpetuated both by therians and "normal" furries, but it's generally the minority opinion, so for all intents and purposes, this is accurate.
She states that furry participants might identify as less than 100% human for reasons that she felt included, “not the least having a hangover from furry drinks the night before.” While it may be an attempt at humor, we find this comment to be egregiously offensive, derogatory, and insulting to the furry fandom and our participants. Ironically, this remark illustrates her subscription to the very stereotypes we were empirically testing and con-firms the necessity of our research.
This comment, framed as "egregiously offensive, derogatory, and insulting to the furry fandom and our participants", undermines the prevailing sense of identity in the furry fandom. I understand the transformative powers of alcohol, but in my uneducated opinion, it's a stretch that the furry identity for many people is activated by alcohol, and is not something that exists in all states of being (e.g.: sobriety).
Her focus on gender identity disorder misses the main point of the study, which was that it was the first empirical study to collect data scientifically and report find-ings on the furry fandom, an often misrepresented subculture.
One must admit that Flora Probyn-Rapsey's comparisons of gender identity disorder and the proposed "species identity disorder" were not without their merits, no? Heck, Gerbasi et. al were the ones to first make the comparison. It is true that it maybe took up too much of a focus in Probyn-Rapsey's criticism of the original paper. After all, the original paper only made use of the comparisons between the two disorders a few times to illustrate a larger point about disorder & confusion about furry identity, in themselves and in their place in the world at large.
Here the diagnosis slips from requiring both being “less than 100% human” and “being 0% human” to only requiring the first criterion—being “less than 100% human.” The implications of this rhetorical slip are a vast shift in proportion, since it triples the number of furries who are potentially diagnosable as having species identity disorder (from 31 to 99 [or 46%] of the 214 furries who answered).
I would argue that this is too loose of a definition. It does not simply refer to a physical body, which has pretty clear criteria for being considered 100% human. To be "less than 100% human" psychologically, while being a good basis for a disorder, does not adequately consider groups with a spiritual connection to animals, such as the Native American tradition of "spirit animals". This vague definition and exclusion of established cultural practices could prove harmful to the legitimacy of "species identity disorder".
The data on personality disorders showed that furries were less likely to judge other furries as disordered, while the control group (the psychology students) judged other college students “significantly more often” along the lines of personality trait disorders. That the control group was made up of psychology students is perhaps an important factor here; this group may display an increased sensi-tivity to normative behaviors and “disorder.”
When you ask a group of intermediate psychology students to judge whether furries are disordered, it's very likely that they will diagnose furries with personality trait disorder. They are psychology students, it seems pretty darn obvious that they would be more likely to diagnose psychological disorders, and there's the prevailing possibility of overdiagnosing, diagnosing a personality trait disorder where there may not be one. I am not in a position to say this is what is happening here, but considering the evidence, it's a reasonable possibility.
Species identity disorder is modeled on gender identity disorder, itself a highly controversial diagnosis that has been criticized for pathol-ogizing homosexuality and transgendered people.
This was also a major problem with the diagnosis "gender identity disorder", which was defined in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) IV as "A strong and persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex)."
In the DSM V, the diagnostic name "gender identity disorder" was replaced with "gender dysphoria", and other important clarifications, including the need for a formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria to go ahead with gender transition surgery.
- species identity disorder
- spirit animal
- annotated bibliography
- furry fandom
- Native American