Anthro Northwest expeditiously banned Furlandia board member in 2019 - warns of "cancel culture" in 2023
On June 9th, 2023 the furry world was baffled by a newsletter from Washington state’s convention Anthro Northwest that has since been removed from the internet. On their social media page this letter was headered with the statement “Something had to be said”. The letter opened as if it is about to take an action that would cause controversy to protect their gathering, but then moved forward with meandering prose about the dangers of ostracizing others based on accusation, which they later refer to be related to a phenomenon that has been deemed as “cancel culture”. However, in its statement it also didn’t really announce any action that the organization would take to combat these issues it deemed important to state are occurring.
This meandering and winding prose about “seeing through the glass darkly” certainly caught a lot of attention. Because of the vagueness and the context of being an official statement it led many to speculate what could have prompted the post that read more like a defensive personal blog. Soon other furry conventions and organizations would capitalize on the public relations blunder by making parodies of their own.
But perhaps at the end of the day, the glass that ANW’s chair, Gabriel Felix, was seeing through dimly was that of the house he resided in. The shattered pieces reflected upon him for a past where he ignored his own currently presented ideals. Because while the chair asks the fandom to be slower to judge and to be more judicious with our actions to outcast others among us, on May 8th, 2019 his convention had banned the Furlandia soon-to-be-chair at the time, Richard “Saphy” Thomas, from being able to attend ANW.
Note for clarity: Saphy was the promoted to chair from vice-chair of Furlandia following their 2019 gathering just after he was banned from ANW, the current chair in 2023 (Rex) is not banned from ANW. To make the story more clear the headline working verbiage around the titles have been updated in the article.
When Anthro Northwest canceled the Furlandia board member
Just past midnight on that spring 2019 day, the board member, of the Portland convention Furlandia had received an instant message from the Anthro Northwest convention’s Telegram account informing him that he could no longer attend the convention unless he filed for appeal to the board.
Given that just after this event Saphy would be promoted to be the chair, this marks what is perhaps the first time that a furry convention had barred the active head of another furry convention from their premises. These two gatherings were around the same size at the time with Portland’s Furlandia having 1,031 attendees in 2018 while Seattle’s Anthro Northwest, a newer convention, had 1,113 participants that same year.
The reason for the ban?
Saphy inquired for the reason he was not permitted to attend, a notice he received without even having registered to attend ANW at the time, nor had he attended the year before. Therefore, the prompt for him to appeal the board was an unsolicited request and not in response for any desire for him to attend the space he no longer was allowed to.
In response to the inquiry, Saphy was told it was due to two statements he made in separate chats. One was a tongue-in-cheek reaction to a false rumor that he had sabotaged the ball pit with a diaper from a 2017 log of an unofficial "Not Safe for Work" ANW convention group chat. The other was a statement that simply noted that he doesn’t go to conventions for wholesome family fun.
If these two statements are the only reason for this ban, it highlights that the leadership of the Anthro Northwest seemed to be a bit paranoid about furry relations with the hotels in the Washington state area. After Rainfurrest’s rowdy nature had soured the relations between the state’s hotels and the fandom, it probably took quite an effort to shake off that reputation in order to secure ANW’s place in the state.
However, instead of taking the time to speak with Saphy to discuss the context of those two statements, or if he had any intention of doing harm to the Seattle convention, Anthro Northwest decided to act without any due process to actually assess the fellow fur as a threat. And given Saphy is head staff at a nearby convention, it would be very risky for him to actually do anything that would harm the fandom at another convention without damaging his own.
In the context of the bad blood between these two convention leaders, it must be noted that their personas have very opposing backgrounds as well. Gabriel being more straight-laced and pious in their Christian faith, while Saphy being more of a free-spirit secular individual who enjoys hedonistic pleasures such as recreational drugs. It is possible that this may have had some weight in the decision as well.
Asking to not judge is easy, but life is a series of judgment
At the end of the day, both Gabriel and Richard have continued to run their prospective conventions in relative peace (besides that whole pandemic thing). This ostracization of a furry leader from their neighbor’s convention may not have done too much harm, and went under the radar for the last four years. So it was not a decision Gabriel faced any consequence or push back from the mainstream of the fandom.
It is easy to demand that individuals not be quick to judge those in power by those in that chair. However, one of the reasons we have to judge those in power more thoroughly is because those in power— they kind of have the power. And when you have power, you may take actions that you believe are for the protection of your organization, your loved ones, or yourself, but do so based on flimsy evidence. On an individual basis these quick decisions may not cause too much harm. But if you lead an organization, such acts of casting a person away can do more damage.
So perhaps instead of asking all furries to be slower to judge, and instead of asking the masses through a newsletter to be wary of casting out people, it may be more prudent to ensure that a system of checks and balances exists before a decision to banish an individual from your spaces is made. Ensure that there are procedures so that you don’t do unusual things such as texting someone at midnight unprompted about coming before the board to appease them of your unspoken transgressions.
In the end, if our furry organizations are going to demand that we forgive our trespassers, perhaps the organization can lead by example and forgive those they ousted for allegedly trespassing them. If banning Saphy was done due to fears that his type would harm the convention’s reputation in the sensitive state Washington was in in the 2010s, the scar of Rainfurrest’s reputation has surely been healed a bit by now due to the hard work of Anthro Northwest by this point. Why not take back the action taken against Saphy as a way to lead by example?
On the other hand, maybe Anthro Northwest considers its agency more important and that it should be allowed to disallow attendance in any means it deems fit. And such a decision is none of some reporter or their audience’s business. But in that case they need to reconsider their statement about criticizing the agency of individuals to make those same types of decisions.
This is why the statement compelled me to dust off this piece I started in 2019, rework it, and publish it. Before this open letter this ANW decision, in my judgement, was a convention simply making a choice and trying to advert risk. But now that the convention made the judgement to publish the letter criticizing the rest of us for doing the same in our day to day lives. So my prior assessment changed and it was a perfect opportunity for me to update the record that should have been four years ago. In the end, I think many can agree, it is the worst when people make demands about the ethics that others must follow, give themselves a pass to do those very things that they see as problematic in others.