Why did Rainbow Ark officially switch from being progressive Christian to Interfaith? To become a larger umbrella to help LGBT people of faiths other than Christian to also find peace between their orientation and their faith. This desire for change did not come from our admin, but from our members. It was discussed at length on our LiveJournal. It was then voted on, and an overwhelming number of participants in the poll chose the option to be intentionally interfaith. Most in our membership are still of the Christian faith, and while Christian discussion is just as welcome as before, we now equally welcome discussion representing any other faith, including Atheist, and Agnostic. None are excluded.
Who came up with the organization name of Rainbow Ark, and why? That would be the wife of Jarrell, writer/artist Renee Carter Hall. The name encompasses the triad of our focus: Noah’s Ark represents an interfaith reference (of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions), the animals of the Ark are the Furry community, and the Rainbow is the LGBT aspect. About half of the other organizations with a similar name which can also be found online, were formed after we established our name in February 2004.
Why is advocacy needed in the furry fandom for religious and gay people? Religious and furry, no problem. Gay and furry, no problem there either. But gay and religious (specifically Christian), historically a huge problem, creating all sorts of strife within the fandom, a place that’s supposed to be fun and accepting. Largely through the work of Rainbow Ark since 2004, and others since, things are quite a bit friendlier here between religious and LGBT people and for non-straight furs of faith.
I’m a gay furry, but I'm not religious. Am I welcome? Yes. Being interfaith, we welcome not only all religious affiliations, but equally welcome those who are Agnostic or Atheist. Whatever your path, we don’t reject or categorize anyone. All are equally welcome to participate, and there is no proselytizing allowed.
I’m a gay Christian, but I’m not a furry. Is there a place for me? Sure! About a quarter of our members don’t identify as furry. Rainbow Ark began within the furry fandom—that is our roots. There are dozens of organizations whose websites support the coexistence of various religious faiths and non-hetero orientations. We have chosen to remain an advocate for those within the furry community as we’ve always been. But ever since our LiveJournal started in ’04, it’s had members, and even maintainers who were not furry. Among the “Critters and Crew” of the Ark, we affectionately refer to the non-furries as Crew, and appreciate both equally.
How can I be sure that God is okay with my gay orientation?
How can you call this a religious site with such non-religious beliefs? Looking at Jesus’ ministry for instance, during His three-and-a-half year ministry He constantly cheesed off the religious fundamentalists of His day, like when He and his disciples picked ears of wheat on the Sabbath and rubbed them in their unwashed hands! The conservative religious leaders were furious since He disregarded the Law and encouraged others to do the same. He also touched people who the Law called unclean. Rainbow Ark doesn’t display a virtual parchment with bulleted items entitled “We Believe” and we don’t have a checklist of dos and don’ts for prospective members to follow or be turned away. We’ve been accused of ‘looking the other way’ in terms of the sexual or fetish aspects of furry. Actually we’ve been accused of a lot of things. Scripture indicates Jesus said, “Come ye all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He always ministered to the outcasts—the ones who the religious leaders deemed to be unworthy, unfit, and outside of God’s grace. Each person has their own personal journey through life. We simply encourage each one to follow their path in our nurturing environment. We like the short quote by St. Francis when he said “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” You won’t find a lot of words preached here, but you will find caring individuals who are happy to pray with you and who share their faith by their actions.
What percentage of Rainbow Ark members are lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc? We actually don’t know—we’ve never kept track. There’re also transgender and intersex, those who are questioning their orientation, those who prefer not to be classified as a particular gender, and there are straight allies of people with different orientations and gender identities. We all stand side by side in hope that one day we will live in a world where it simply won’t matter—when we will be recognized for the people we are, instead of being judged for who we love.
Why is there such an emphasis on sexual orientation? Why not just live your life? When Jarrell founded Rainbow Ark, he figured it would be a place members wouldn’t ever have to talk about their orientations. Christians on other sites would often talk about others’ orientations in derogatory ways. In spite of that, orientation is often a main topic—it helps to talk over these things in a safe environment. The non-heterosexual individual often finds they’re at odds with a vast majority of cultural norms constructed for and by heterosexuals who themselves may never consider the thousands of implications. Dating, forming relationships, getting married, and raising a family, all seem like typical and reasonable stages in a person’s life—except when you’re gay and your actions don’t fit what is expected of you. We would love to live our lives and never mention sexual orientation, but we often have to fight for even the most basic of civil rights which others take for granted. When you’re condemned for who you love, it has a deep impact upon your self-esteem, and so self-loathing is common when gay people feel they are disappointing their family, their pastor, their parents, and their closest friends. No matter how hard they try, they cannot align their lives to the expectations of others, and they feel flawed, are led to believe their faith is weak, or that God must hate them, and this line of thinking can lead to suicide. Gay youth are up to eight times more likely to commit suicide than others their own age. That’s why we talk about our orientations, because no one else will except in derogatory terms; because heterosexuals often talk about their own every time they mention their wife or their husband, or their boyfriend, or girlfriend, even in the most general of terms. They never have to defend their orientation because no one is challenging it. Gay people constantly have their orientation challenged as a choice, as a sinful “lifestyle” against God’s plan, or as a result of demon possession. Under such condemnation it is therefore important to not keep silent.
I’m still deciding what I believe about gay relationships, but I think I’d like to be a member of either the Rainbow Ark LiveJournal community or MyRainbowArk forums. What types of discussion are not acceptable? We welcome those who may not yet be allies and are sincerely seeking to be more tolerant, but it is important to know that Rainbow Ark is a “safe zone” for LGBT people. This means that we are a nurturing environment for people who are not heterosexual. We’re not a panel of representatives all sitting at our microphones, ready to take your questions. We’re just people who are going about our lives, often nursing wounds inflicted by proclamations of former friends or the Church or our parents. If your aim is to use the Bible to condemn us, ye shall walk the plank, arrr! If you want to know how we might interpret scripture on the subject of gay relationships, we’ll likely redirect you to our Yes, Jesus Loves Me Bible Study rather than rehashing it all in open discussion. There are YJLMs associated with both the LiveJournal and this website. If you have semantical concerns about civil unions as opposed to gay marriage for instance, that is something which we’ll likely be open to discuss. Something to remember in your participation is to think less about asking a lot of questions, and more about simply taking part, even telling us a bit about yourself. We don’t bite... well, let me preface that with, we’re mostly furries, so biting isn’t a foreign concept, but what I mean is, we don’t have our proverbial teeth bared to visitors. Sometimes we might seem cautious until we get to know you.
Can I or someone I know turn gay as a result of becoming involved in the furry fandom? No. Associating with furries or gay people will not change your sexual orientation. Sometimes people experiment sexually outside of their orientation, but doing so does not change their orientation.
Why then is there a higher percentage of gay people in the furry fandom than in the general population? People who are in their mid-teens to mid-20s make up about half of the total furries. This has been the case for many years, even as the older furries age beyond this demographic, because some of them lose interest in and leave the fandom, while an increasing number of younger furries take their place. LGBT people in approximately this same age group are the most vulnerable to societal and familial problems related to their often newly-realized sexual orientation. The multiple-species aspect of the furry fandom is appealing because it is a symbolic parallel to their own need of acceptance for their sexuality in the spectrum of sexualities. There is also a general encouragement in the fandom for everyone to be themselves, and many LGBT people find this atmosphere better than the closet. As a result, the furry fandom provides the effect rather than the cause for the higher ratio of non-straights to straights as compared to the general population. When you look at the polls, the highest percentage of furries don’t actually identify as gay, but as bisexual. Straight and gay are the two which are often tied for second place.
Please alert Jarrell if there are other questions you can think of.