Today I interviewed Kevin Hile, he is better known for as being the Admin in charge of the Greymuzzle group on Facebook as well as his own site Ask Papa Bear which as far as I know is the only furry advice site out there. Over the years I became aware of him, I found his logic sound and that he is quite compassionate. He is also one Furry You Should Know.
Q: Your background?
A: Well, as quickly as I can summarize it: I am a 50-year-old, widowed, gay furry. I have a B.A. in English literature and German and am a professional editor and author. I have been a furry all my life, before I even knew what a furry was. When I was in grade school in the early 1970s, I pretended I was a wolf or dragon. I loved getting away inside my imagination. I was inspired by everything from Disney animated features to Kipling’s The Jungle Book (which I reread many times as a cub). I grew up rather sheltered, and for this reason didn’t understand much about the LGBT community. It was only when I was 40 and had been married for 20 years (I have no children) that I stumbled upon the subculture of the bear community, which turned my world upside down. I eventually told my wife I was gay. This was extremely difficult, but she remains my friend, happily. I met Jim (Yogi) and fell in love and we started a business in Michigan that failed (backstabbing partners), and then we decided to move to Palm Springs, California. Jim worked as a freelance journalist and I as a freelance editor. I really thought my life was going to be wonderful and then Jim died suddenly last year from a pulmonary embolism. I have been alone since then.
Q: How did you come to find the Furry Fandom? How has it changed your life or outlook?
A: Like many people, I stumbled upon it while browsing the Internet. I’ve always loved anthro characters, and one day while searching for art and cartoons I stumbled upon FurNation (now defunct, sadly). At first, I thought it was an anomaly—a place where a tiny number of artists who drew anthro animals posted their drawings. Then I learned about furries and that there were many people like me.
How did it change my outlook and life? Well, before finding FurNation, I thought I was a freak an no one out there was like me (including the physical attraction to anthros). I found out I was not alone, which made me feel considerably less lonely and less like there was something wrong with me.
I didn’t discover the furry community until the 1990s. By then, I was already in my 30s, which is considered greymuzzle (or elderfur, if you prefur). So, I’ve had a harder time relating to the younger furs, especially those who obsess about video games, anime, and some of the music I don’t relate to. I’ve made a few younger friends, but most of my furiends are greymuzzles like myself.
Being a furry does not change my outlook on life, however. I’m the same person, just furrier.
Q: Is Furry a Hobby or a Lifestyle for you? Do you have a fursona or two or more?
A: Yes, I have a fursona: Grubbs Grizzly. I have no need for another fursona because Grubbs is most definitely my alter ego, another expression of myself and who I am. I don’t really know where I fall when it comes to hobby v. lifestyle. I think, like many things, there is a spectrum. While I do feel that Grubbs is a part of who I am, I don’t live as a furry every day. Indeed, most days I’m just Kevin. Furry is more than a hobby to me (like playing piano is a hobby), but neither is it a devoted lifestyle.
Q: Have you ever been to a furcon? If so, which ones?
A: Oh, yes, indeed I have. I’ve been to MFF, FurtherConfusion, Furry Convention North (now Motor City Furry Con in Novi, Michigan), Arizona Furcon, and Califur. I’d like to go to AC one day, and I’d really like to go on the Furry Cruise from Florida.
Q: Do you fursuit, if you do own one have you ever fursuited outside of fur cons?
A: Yes, and yes. I have a wonderful fursuit that was sewn by Beastcub. I have fursuited several times outside of furcons.
Q: Do you paint or write stories?
A: I have tried art (taken art classes), preferring colored pencils, charcoal, and conte crayon, but have never drawn a furry (yet). I am a professional editor and an author. I have written mostly nonfiction, but I also published a fantasy novel, The Steel of Enadia, that won a competition judged by Piers Anthony. One of the main characters in that book is an anthro, but most of the characters are human.
Q: Which came first, the Greymuzzle group on Facebook or “Ask Papabear”?
A: “Ask Papabear” has been around for four years; I think the Greymuzzle group is around 2. I also started a Bear Furries group that began in Yahoo Groups and is now on Facebook. That group is actually older than the column.
Q: What if any problems you faced while running the Greymuzzle group, have you ever had to slam your foot down and say no?
A: I’m pleased to say that the vast majority of our 1,000+ members are totally cool. We have only had to block 5 people since the group began. Some people, really, are just a bit emotionally unstable and should not be on Facebook at all.
Q: What made you start “Ask Papa Bear”?
A: Somehow, younger furs (mostly) began asking me questions and started seeing me as a papa in the fandom. After a while, this happened so frequently that I felt it would be a good idea to start an advice column directed at furries. The main benefit of this to the furry community, I feel, is that they can come to me and know that I am not going to judge them harshly (I’m very open minded about things), and hopefully I point them in the right direction to help them resolve their problems.
Q: Regarding “Ask Papa Bear”: Did you start out slow, and what problems if any you had back in those early days?
A: Because no one had ever written a column for furries like this before, I had people criticize me a couple times. They believed I was trying to be a popufur, take advantage of people, make money off of them. Actually, I am in the red on this one. Paying for the Web address and the site space costs money. I don’t make a dime off of this, and that was never my intention. You might notice I have an “Ask Papabear” store. I put it up in hopes it would pay for my expenses, but after 3 years I have yet to sell a single mug or shirt. Ah, well….
Q: I remember seeing you mention in the Greymuzzle group of your longtime partner passing on, how did this affect your life?
A: I’m not really sure how this relates to my furry life, but okay, I’ll respond. Losing Jim 9 months ago has been devastating. I am still in deep mourning. It has made it very difficult for me to work, and, sadly, I’m not writing my column as much as I used to. To lose someone so suddenly and unexpectedly whom you loved with all your heart and with whom you thought you would spend the rest of your life is an agonizing mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical pain that cannot be accurately described to anyone who has not experienced a similar loss.
Q: Has it become easier to run “Ask Papa Bear”, and the Greymuzzle group?
A: As noted above, “Ask Papa Bear” has been more difficult lately, but I hope that will eventually change. The Greymuzzle group is easy to run, mostly running itself, really, except that I have to approve member applications.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I am very behind on my next personal project, The Furry Book: The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of the Furry Fandom, because of what has happened in my personal life, but I am working on it. In October, my book The Handy California Answer Book will be published by Visible Ink Press. This book is close to my heart because it is the book Jim started writing when he died. I was allowed to finish it for him.
The “Ask Papabear” column will continue as best I can. I will continue to be an admin for the Greymuzzle and Bear Furries groups. As for my personal life, I really don’t know. I am trusting in my Spirit Bear to help guide me in that respect….