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Generous furries help save at-risk libraries cut off by mayor over gay books

Maggie Baska February 7, 2022
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Two furries greeting each other by touching noses

Furry enthusiasts greet one another at the Eurofurence 2014 conference. (Adam Berry/Getty)

A library system that was denied funding unless it removed LGBT+ books from shelves has raised vital cash with help of the furry community.

In January, the Madison County Library System in Mississippi revealed that Gene McGee, the mayor of the city of Ridgeland, had withheld $110,000 in funding until “homosexual materials” were removed from libraries.

Tonja Johnson, executive director for the Madison County Library System, said that McGee told her that the vital payment wouldn’t be issued as the libraries contained books that “went against his Christian beliefs”.

Undeterred by the mayor’s anti-LGBT+ stance, the library set out to raise the much-needed funds to preserve its ability to serve the local community. And they’ve gotten help from seemingly the most unlikely of places – the furry community.

Soatok, a member of the furry community, decided to take action after seeing a tweet about the library’s predicament.

He wrote on Twitter that the Ridgeland mayor was demanding the libraries “purge the shelves of LGBTQ+ books” if they wanted to get the much-needed money.

Soatok – who uses an avatar of a blue wolf-like creature – said he contacted the library to find out how he could help, and the library pointed him towards their Friends of the Ridgeland Library fundraising campaign.

He called on the furry community to help the library out and “tell their mayor to f**k off”, even donating $500 himself.

“The mayor is threatening to withhold $110,000 from the library,” Soatok wrote on Twitter. “This isn’t small potatoes, but it’s within the reach of the amounts raised by furries for charities at conventions all the time.”

Soatok told Vice News that McGee’s actions had struck a “chord with a lot of people” in the furry community as many people also identify as part of the LGBT+ community.

“When they hear that Ridgeland has a mayor who is being homophobic, it strikes a chord with a lot of people, especially if you’ve been a victim of homophobic violence,” he said.

Soatok added that donating to good causes is “kinda in the culture” of the furry community as many conventions have a “charity that they’re trying to raise money for”.

“Like the DEFCON Furs, we raise money for a youth centre in Las Vegas,” Soatok said. “Or Midwest FurFest, which is in Chicago, raises money for a no-kill animal shelter every year.”

As of the time of publication, the Friends of the Ridgeland Library campaign has raised over $95,350 (£70,511) in just 11 days with the help of members of the public and the furry community.

McGee, a Republican mayor who has been in charge of the Jackson suburb since 1989, has seemingly not backed down from his stance on withholding vital funding from the Madison County Library System.

In the wake of the controversy, McGee made a statement to news outlets. He did not confirm that he had expressly held back the funding over LGBT+ books, but he said that he believes some of the books in the libraries are “inappropriate for children”.

“There is a minimum, sexual connotations are not appropriate for children when they enter the library,” he added.

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