Welcome to the third and final Pride Month spotlight. This time we talked to Kayodé Lycaon (he/him), who has kindly answered our questions about his identity and his struggles. Please note that there is a content warning for some abusive subjects in some of these answers – Kayodé has highlighted them at the beginning of the relevant answers.
FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.
Kayodé: Hi! I’m Kayodé Lycaon, a gregarious painted wolf living in the questionable habitat of southwestern Ohio, and I like to talk. A lot. So, steal a seat, grab someone else’s drink, and get comfortable.
I’ve done and learned a lot of things in my life. To misquote a phrase, I’m a wolf of many trades, master of one. I’m a senior software engineer who has worked in insurance, education, and now online sales. I’ve run a furry convention. I’m excellent at logistics. I read scientific papers, court cases, and textbooks. I run and play tabletop rpgs with friends. I leave dishes piled up next to the sink until I’m out of forks, but the kitchen table is always clean.
It’s a bit of a crazy life. (More on that later.)
FWG: What is your favourite work that you have written?
Kayodé: This is where I plug my wares, right? My story Dark Garden Lake in The Reclamation Project – Year One (Available in paperback from FurPlanet and ebook from Bad Dog Books.)
Shameless plugging aside, I really do love it. The setting of The Reclamation Project is full of moral and technological complexity. There’s a lot of room to explore ideas and characters. It’s a really good anthology that I was proud to contribute to.
The story itself is a huge milestone for me. It is the first story I consider to be “good”. Many of my previous dabbles at writing have had good concepts and ideas, but this was the first to have good execution. There are flaws, but for being so early in my writing career it’s better than it has any right to be.
When I finished writing Dark Garden Lake, I knew I had created something special. Every time I feel like a failure, I can look back at it and know that I’m both a writer and an author. Even if I never write again, I will still be those things.
FWG: What do you think makes a good story?
Kayodé: A good story engages with the reader’s imagination. All art has an audience, even if that is just the artist. Every reader has their own experiences to bring to the table. Every word the author doesn’t write, gets written by the reader.
In my own works, I’ll paint a scene with a few choice details and give the audience room to imagine. I drop a hint or two at a backstory that only exists in my notes. I slowly give the reader’s my characters’ thoughts, fears, and motivations so when the action hits, they know how the character feels without me having to say it.
FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?
Kayodé: I haven’t been around here all that long. I officially became a member December 2019 about a year after I had started hanging out in the Telegram channel. A few months later, I was asked to fill in the Vice President role due to my prior experience in similar positions. Then the fire nation attac…the pandemic happened.
People stepped up to help run Oxfurred Comma. The newsletter is going out regularly. The guild has a number of volunteers who have come on board. It’s all very exciting and I’m looking forward to the future.
FWG: Can you give us a little insight into your identity, and how you fit onto the lgbtq+ spectrum?
Kayodé: I’m asexual, panromantic, and very much interested in sex. That last part throws people. (More on that when I talk about discovering my identity.)
There is an assumption by many people that asexuality is about lack of interest in sex. This belief is so pervasive that asexuality is seen as “opting out” of the LGBTQ+ community. The truth is, for some people, they identify as asexual because they have “opted out”. Since these people may later change their identification, this adds weight to this idea.
This incorrect belief is compounded by what asexuality actually is. Asexuality is about a lack of sexual attraction, not lack of interest in sex. For allosexual (non-asexual) people, sexual attraction is a fundamental experience. It is difficult to imagine what something feels like when you lack equivalent or applicable experience.
When I try to explain what asexuality feels like, I describe it as being horny without a target, but this leads people to imagine being frustrated or thwarted. This could not be further from the truth. When it comes to sex, I have plenty of choices, some being multi-player. I don’t feel any special connection to sex, it simply is, and I can do whatever I want with it.
This last part has led to many misunderstandings as I am also panromantic. I crave deep, meaningful relationships regardless of a person’s sexuality or gender, but those relationships have nothing to do with sex. This becomes a bit of a problem, as I can’t tell when someone thinks I’m flirting with them. It’s been a source of some painful misunderstandings and the butt of insensitive jokes.
It would be easier to deal with by “opting out” and just being on the sidelines as an ally, but I shouldn’t have to opt out. My experience is fundamentally different from a heterosexual person’s, and I have to deal with the same societal prejudices. Sexual attraction is pervasive at every level of society and culture. I’m constantly reminded that “your kind doesn’t belong here.” Whether I want sex or not, that makes me part of the LGBTQ+ community.
FWG: What does Pride mean to you?
Kayodé: Honestly, very little. I’ve always felt excluded from it as Kayodé and my memories prior to changing my name in 2019 are extremely spotty.
The one thing I do remember is being in fursuit on a float in a pride parade. Seeing all of the people in the crowd made me feel like I was on the outside looking at something beautiful within.
FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us?
Kayodé: It’s a long story inseparably linked to being bipolar and growing up in an emotionally abusive home. I’ll do my best to keep my descriptions brief, but my answer is long and may be triggering to some readers. Feel free to skip to the next bolded question.
I grew up in a family that considered mental illness to be at best a lack of character and at worst demon possession. “Try harder,” “suck it up,” and “you have no right to feel that way” were the messages I grew up with. Sexual desire of any kind was an unforgivable sin.
My struggle with identity started when I was nine years old and started having hypersexual episodes. Hypersexuality is terrible. At worst, hypersexuality is an unrelenting, insatiable need for sex. There is no relief from it. At best, sex consumes hours of each day just to stay sane. As I write this, I haven’t gotten to bed on time in weeks. Doctors and psychiatrists like to treat this as an addiction even though it is a well-documented symptom of mania. My parents were less charitable.
When I was twelve and other children were starting to go through puberty, I learned about how boys desire girls. It was all around me. At one point I got punched in the face by a jealous boyfriend getting mad for me talking to the person they had claimed. I didn’t understand any of it. I was constantly accused of being gay (an unforgivable sin) by my classmates because I wasn’t lusting after girls like they were.
By the time I was an adult, I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I wanted to have sex, but there was no one I wanted to have sex with. I wanted to focus on my schoolwork, but I couldn’t. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t stick with it. I wanted to have self-control, but I didn’t. This was all my fault.
When I moved to Ohio, I attended my first furry convention and finally found a community where I belonged. The next year I was on staff. Slowly, through my first fursona, I started to explore who I was. The end result was depressing. I was a fatally flawed person condemned to fight the same struggles and make the same mistakes over and over again. My sexuality and gender were empty, null values that were assumed to be “straight” and “male” because that’s how everyone expected me to be.
Eventually, I started to discover my lack of sexual attraction had a label, but I was too busy with year-long cycles of depression and mania. In 2018, I made the mistake of letting someone talk me into being chairman of a convention. In August of that year, the accumulated stress of a lifetime caused something in my brain to snap and thus begin a four-month long descent into madness. Prior to this I’d long avoided engaging with the sexual side of the fandom. I embraced it fully and read everything furry and erotic I could get my paws on.
In Feburary 2019, I was diagnosed bipolar and started treatment. At the time, I described my brain, identity, and memories as a vase thrown against a wall and I was sitting on the floor looking at the pieces. My fursona was the only thing I could cling to remember who I was.
In June, he died. Slowly, medication gave me the self-control I had always lacked, and I began to realize it wasn’t me that was flawed. My previous fursona proved to be nothing more than a false mirror. And I broke. I became nothing.
In the aftermath, I had to build a new self. I sifted through the shattered pieces of who I used to be. I built a new fursona and gave him those pieces to carry. Slowly, Kayodé emerged. I read about asexuality and learned there was nothing wrong with my sexuality. I read about romantic and aromantic people and understood why I wanted the relationships I did.
I’m still grappling with who I’m becoming. My psychotic break severely damaged my long-term memory and I’m sure bipolar medication isn’t helping in that respect. I don’t have much to connect me to my past. My identity still has no gender. It is a complete blank that I have no strong feelings about. I’m used to being treated as male, so I use male pronouns. When I hear Kayodé or my legal name, I don’t recognize them as referring to me. When I hear my previous fursona’s name, it brings up a past I want nothing to do with.
But I know the important things. I know the things I want to do. I know why I feel the way I feel and I know there is nothing wrong with what I feel. That’s good enough for now.
FWG: How do you think being lgbtq+ has inspired or affected your stories? Have you written lgbtq+ characters into your works?
Kayodé: My own struggles with identity and relationships has more than inspired me—they are the entire purpose that drives my writing. Every one of my characters deliberately embodies a struggle or experience I have. It is somewhat unfortunate that I have an endless supply of source material.
Bipolar is defined by extremes. I have lived and experienced more in thirty years than a dozen neurotypical people would have in a lifetime. Mania fuels every extreme of emotion, from rage, to paranoia, to indescribable joy. Depression is an all-consuming emptiness. Psychosis is imagination unhinged, indistinguishable from reality. In four months, I lived an entire lifetime as an anthropomorphic wolf. Sadly, his experiences were worse than my own.
As a result, my (mostly male) characters span the entire rainbow: ace, bi, gay, trans, and more. I’ve found common experiences with all of them. With every story, I hope to give my audience a glimpse into a perspective they might not otherwise have seen.
FWG: Do you have favourite queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?
Kayodé: I have limited experience with furry literature and none with any queer literature outside of the fandom. But since I’m here… I’ll embarrass the hell out of NightEyes, because that’s always fun! His short story A Moment of Darkness in Knotted (Available in paperback from FurPlanet and ebook from Bad Dog Books) was a story I really connected with. It’s taken me a while to notice, but reading it made me much more comfortable writing the stories I like to write. If he can write about cancer, I can write about mental health.
FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be?
Kayodé: Without a doubt, Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I particularly like the audio book. It’s a book about the process of making art—“ordinary art”, as they call it. How many times do we sit down in front of a keyboard and get nothing done? This book won’t fix that, but it will explain, in depth, how art gets made (or not made). There are pitfalls everyone falls into. Insecurity about the things we create is the rule, not the exception.
If you want to have a better relationship with your writing, Art & Fear is a good book to read.
FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?
Kayodé: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading my answers as much as I enjoyed writing them. (Also, buy the books!)
That is the last of the Pride Month spotlights for this year. We will be doing more spotlights throughout the year, of course.
The furry fandom is a special place because of (amongst other things) how open and welcoming it is to lgbtq+ people. It is a safe haven for many to explore and develop their identities, and this is something we need to cherish and embrace. This month and every month.
We at the Furry Writers’ Guild encourage everyone – our members, future members, and readers – to embrace and explore the myriad of identities that make us so special.
Stay Proud. Stay safe.