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Ganahl's Cat Claims Open the Furry Rabbit Hole
“We bite and scratch and scream all night . . . / How could we miss /
Someone as dumb as this?”—The Cure
Not many people know that we have furries in Colorado schools. Have you heard about this [Jimmy]? Yeah, kids identifying as cats. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s happening all over Colorado and schools are tolerating it. It’s insane. What on earth are we doing? Knock it off, schools. Put your foot down. Like, stop it. Let’s get back to teaching basics and not allow this woke ideology, ideological stuff, infiltrate our schools. And it is happening here in Colorado. It’s why I moved from Boulder Valley to Douglas County, because it was happening in my kids’ schools four years ago.
Okay, it is not “happening all over Colorado” that kids are “identifying as cats.” The most charitable interpretation is that Ganahl is saying “woke ideology” is widespread, and she included the bit about cats as a surprising but non-representative illustration.
In reaction to Beedle’s story, Chase Woodruff opined:
It’s a really serious structural problem for the media that Ganahl has routinely been able to indulge unhinged nonsense like this while still being treated like a candidate whose views on like taxes or transportation or housing policy are worthy of good-faith engagement.
But this stuff is in the conservative “air.” As Beedle mentions, Nebraska State Senator Bruce Bostelman worried that children were identifying as cats and dogs in schools and that schools were considering installing litter boxes for these children. His claim was total bullshit, leading him to “backtrack” on it, as the Washington Post reports. Michelle Goldberg mentions some other examples. The Washington Examiner mocks a “cat” girl from Australia.
Claims of people pretending to be animals is not coming totally out of the blue. Some “students . . . are a part of the niche subculture that embraces anthropomorphic art and cosplay—and is predominantly LGBTQ,” Beedle suggests. Beedle mentions a 2003 episode of CSI about furries; the idea has been around for a while.
Beedle also references her 2018 article, where she says that a “vast collection of diverse individuals . . . make up the furry fandom within broader nerd culture.” She adds that “furries are finally starting to make inroads in mainstream popular culture.” Beedle writes about “Chip, a red fox who’s been a furry since he was a child,” and Chip’s “coyote wife” Ash.
Beedle writes about the link between “furry” life and LGBTQ life:
While furry is not an exclusively LGBTQ phenomenon, it skews pretty gay due to its obvious LGBTQ appeal. “Furry allows you to try out different identities,” says Chip. “If you’re not sure if you’re gay, you can roleplay as a gay character. If you’re not sure if you’re trans, you can roleplay as a different gender. Furry allows you to experiment.”
One of the people that Beedle interviews is a then-sixteen-year-old “wolfdog” who attended meetups, not around Boulder, but in Colorado Springs.
At one point there was a “Rocky Mountain Fur Con,” but it “was canceled in 2017 due to threats of violence,” Beedle writes.
Things get even stranger when Beedle mentions the “Furry Raiders, an alt-right group” of furries.
In another article from 2018, Henry Netherland discusses “accusations of ties to the alt-right” among some furries. Yet Lee Miller, aka Foxler Nightfire, leader of the Furry Raiders, “denies any political affiliation with the alt-right,” writes Netherland.
Netherland mentions two 2017 articles about the controversy. Vice published Allie Conti’s “Even Furries Are Fighting Fascists,” and Rolling Stone published Eric Killelea’s “Does the Furry Community Have a Nazi Problem?”
To be clear, Nazis are not new to the furry community. All the way back in 2007, a group called Furzi clashed with Jewish users of the game Second Life, which is a popular place for furries to congregate. Several members of the fandom told me that the ideology has festered among some furries ever since. More recently, a group called the Furry Raiders has become emboldened by the campaign, and eventual victory, of Donald Trump.
The “Antifa Furries” rose up to counter the “Nazifurs,” Conti writes.
About Miller, Conti writes:
[H]e used to look exclusively at 4Chan, he says, but now he's starting to read about “SJWs” and “safe spaces” and getting more involved in what might be termed slightly more mainstream right-wing modes of thought. . . . Miller says he originally supported Bernie Sanders, but now agrees with at least some of Trump’s views. He also admires Trump’s campaign tactics and the way the orange-faced provocateur played the media into giving him coverage.
Killelea reviews the same controversy and mentions a short Denver Post article by Tom McGhee on the matter.
So this story definitely got a lot weirder than I ever imagined at the outset. There’s more! A few years ago a University of Colorado student explored the “linguistically sophisticated” furry subculture. In 2018 Arizona State Representative Kelly Townsend initially tangled with the furry community before releasing her own “fursona.” There’s even a Christian sub-subculture of furries; see Joey Thurmond’s two-part article.
Getting back to the original report: Why would Ganahl focus on such a bizarre non-issue in the lead-up to the election? Partly, I think, it’s just because Ganahl is inept when it comes to politics. She was successful in business, having created . . . wait for it . . . Camp Bow Wow, a chain of dog-care facilities. Partly, I think, it’s because Ganahl wants to cast aspersions on transgender people without doing so overtly. It’s easier for her to discuss the non-existing “problem” of children identifying as cats than the real issue of some children identifying as transgender. (See also Beedle’s previous article about Ganahl’s participation in a group seeking to limit the access of transgender people to facilities and sports, which I discussed.)
My take? No, the furries are not taking over our schools or corrupting our youth. A few people in this subculture create problems, but they’re a minority and not representative (any more than child-abusing priests are representative of Catholics). I think furry fandom is a peculiar subculture, but no more so than the people who like to play Dungeons and Dragons, attend Star Trek conventions and the like, or sincerely claim that snakes and donkeys can talk to people and that people can magically walk on water. Live and let live, I say.