Oklahoma has just declared war against “furries” in the classroom. Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey recently introduced House Bill 3084, which prohibits furries from K-12 school campuses: “Students who purport to be an imaginary animal or animal species, or who engage in anthropomorphic behavior commonly referred to as furries at school shall not be allowed to participate in school curriculum or activities.” If students violate this rule, their parents will be asked to pick them up, and if they’re unavailable, “animal control services shall be contacted to remove the student.”
While funny, it’s debatable whether HB 3084 should be an actual law. At first glance, Humphrey’s bill seems like the Republican version of Democrats in 2022 passing a law against lynching: political pandering that doesn’t address any real need. There’s an array of other laws and policies (dress codes, student conduct handbooks, etc.) already in place to remedy the issue should it arise.
But there’s more to this bill than meets the eye. This isn’t just about cracking down on furries. As Humphrey explains, this is about mental health: “If you think that you’re an animal, that’s a mental health issue, and we need to get you mental health assistance. Some people are going to say, ‘Well, they’re being artistic.’ There’s nothing artistic about mental illness.”
Causes of the Problem
Although I have no experience with furries, I’ve witnessed many students struggling with poor mental health. Indeed, this is one of the hallmarks of Gen Z, and there’s no mystery behind the cause. They spend too much time on screens, avoiding forming close connections with anyone and living most of their waking lives online. Altogether, this makes many of them feel anxious and depressed.
By extension, it also causes them to obsess over their identities and adopt destructive habits. For any adults tasked with taking care of these young people, intervention can become tricky. True, they can speak up if they see obvious signs of self-harm, anorexia, or outward aggression that harms other kids, but if they see a girl changing her name and taking hormones or a boy wearing a collar and crawling to class, they may be required to respect that person’s (or furry’s) new “identity.”
Thus, these young people act like freaks (for lack of a better word), and neither their peers nor their teachers can ask what’s wrong with them. They have to pretend like this is normal when it’s obvious to everyone that happy, well-adjusted people don’t act this way. There is always some toxic online influence, abusive relationship, harmful addiction, or source of deep insecurity that inspires a person to buy wholeheartedly into a ridiculous delusion. In the past, such kids were given reality checks from loved ones that broke the spell of confusion and helped them live healthy, productive lives. Today, they are validated and celebrated, which worsens the spell and alienates them further from their community.
Of course, those on the identitarian left would object that there is nothing “wrong” with people who feel more comfortable identifying as something they’re not, since this is who they are on the inside. OK, then investigating the source of a youth’s new identity and checking on their circumstances should bear this out. If this is something natural and nondisruptive and makes the person feel happy and fulfilled, then he or she should be left alone. But if the person’s identity is something unnatural, disruptive, and the expression of a deep sadness with life, then he or she should get help.
For the time being, too many of these kids are not getting any help, and studies suggest this will affect them well into adulthood. Their mental and emotional disorders are being relabeled as “alternative lifestyles,” and everyone who cares for them is forced to play along. It may seem heavy-handed to pass a law that draws the line at furries, but it’s better than nothing. With any hope, parents who have children struggling with mental illness may finally be emboldened to take action, have an honest conversation, and give them a much-needed hug.