A Furry Situation
I love when readers send me ideas for topics for TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less. More often than not, they tend to be clever and thoughtful suggestions. This past week, a friend of mine texted me and said that I should write about high school students who have started to “identify” as cats, with some going so far as to request litter boxes be put into non-gendered bathrooms for their use. My initial reaction was that I did not want to touch this with a 10’ pole as it seemed to me that this would inevitably lead to many folks thinking that I was trivializing transgender identification. But as I started to do my own research into this topic, it turned out that there was a much larger issue at hand.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with all of this, and up until a couple of days ago, you could have counted me amongst them, there is a growing movement, particularly amongst teenagers, of dressing up as cats or other woodland creatures. These folks call themselves “furries”, and they will sometimes even engage in animal-like behaviors such as walking on all fours or purring. But “identifying” as a cat is a somewhat different equation altogether. It is one thing to “pretend” to be something that you are not and “identifying” as something. When I was a kid, I would wear Spiderman Underoos (google it if you have no idea what I am talking about) and “pretend” to be a super hero. It was great fun and led to some remarkable imaginary adventures, but at the end of the day, as my mom called me back upstairs to take a bath, I knew I was not a super hero, that I did not have the power to shoot webs out of my wrist or crawl up walls. But “identifying” as something goes well beyond that. For those folks who identify as male or female despite genitalia that would suggest otherwise, they are not pretending. That is because gender is a more fluid concept than mere biological parts. These folks really are the vision they have of themselves as either male or female.
But if you throw on a cat costume and really believe that you are a cat, well, let me let you in on a little secret: You’re not. No, you’re just plain fucking nuts. There are certain DNA specifications that define a cat, and as a human being, you do not have them. Want to know one way to tell that you are not a cat? First and foremost, you are capable of reading this because the last time I checked, cats can’t read. If you want to pretend to be a cat, go right ahead. I like to pretend that I’m an NFL quarterback. But the reality is that I am not, and just because I pretend to be something doesn’t mean that people should go around tacitly endorsing that falsehood. So you can pretend to be a cat all you like, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should be validating that falsehood and pandering to your imagination as if it were somehow magically turned into a reality. As such, when my friend told me that students were requesting litter boxes in schools, I was both shocked and amused. But that’s just it- they aren’t.
As I started looking into this, yes many students are starting to dress up as cats, but the idea that they are actually “identifying” as cats or asking for litter boxes is demonstrably false. And yet, go google “students identifying as cats”, and you will find endless articles about this non-existent phenomenon. Why? Because this whole thing is just another propaganda technique being employed by right wing media to scare the shit out of susceptible rubes who continue to believe anything FOX News and others tell them.
Rumors have begun spreading across a number of states that schools in their districts are putting in litter boxes for students who identify as cats, even though not a single school in the entire United States has actually done so. In Michigan, for example, Midland Superintendent Michael Sharrow was compelled to send out an email to parents declaring that the school had not put litter boxes into restrooms after Meshawn Maddock, the co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party shared an unsubstantiated comment on Facebook, driving concerned parents out of their minds. Nebraska state lawmaker Bruce Bostelman had to make a public retraction after airing false claims that went viral suggesting that litter boxes were being put in Nebraska school bathrooms. In fact, school leaders in New Jersey, Idaho, New York, Iowa, North Carolina and more have all had to issue preposterous statements assuring grossly misinformed parents that no litter boxes have been placed in their schools. Yes, people are just that stupid.
So why is this happening (or, in this case, not happening) and why are people believing it? The fact is that the answer to both of those questions lies in the highly gullible naivety of right wing media purveyors. Emboldened by an audience that continues to believe any asinine bullshit FOX News spews at them, right wing media outlets have continued to ramp up the bullshit meter, knowing that their audience is too stupid, lazy, and susceptible to false information to actually fact-check the nonsense they create. And so, they just keeping pushing the envelope of credulity further and further, ramping up the fears that our society is being taken over by absurd acquiesces to litter boxes and other social dangers that don’t actually exist.
So how do we fix this dilemma? Read. That’s right- from the crowd who so likes to “do their own research”, well, maybe they should actually do some of that research they like to suggest they are doing. If you hear something on the news that sounds too good (or for that matter, too bad) to be true- do some research on it. Find out if what you are being told is actually true or not. You know, sort of like what you were told to do for high school History papers, assuming you did, in fact, graduate from high school. And do all the rest of us a favor- don’t repeat that nonsense until you have actually fact-checked it. Because the rest of us are sick and tired of picking up the doodie you just left us in the litter box of right wing misinformation.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com