Ash Coyote [Fursday Spotlight]February 7, 2019
Welcome, one and all, to the first of what I’m hoping will be a regular feature on the site: The Fursday Spotlight. Here, I will be featuring my fellow furries and explaining why you – whether you’re a furry or not – should check them out.
Today’s feature is on Ash Coyote, a furry YouTuber and cinematographer that produces a wide variety of content, including Q&As, documentaries, gaming videos and some beautifully shot scenic clips accompanied by music. With so much to delve into, I think that the best place to start would be with her channel trailer:
So, I actually only saw Ash for the first time back in December. That was all thanks to an article of Dogpatch Press. From a personal standpoint, while the overall quality of her work is excellent, one thing stood out the most for me: the trans content. Ash is openly intersex and a transwoman, and a good chunk of the content covers these subjects. Where she really shines with this is in the way that she presents what is essentially educational material in two very distinct, but accessible formats. The first of these is the Ask Ash series, where she provides short form but informative answers to questions from viewers. This has so far covered everything from what transitioning entails, all the way up to the other terms under the trans umbrella. Meanwhile, the Trans Voices series sees Ash give space to other members of the transgender community to tell their stories in a documentary format. These are longer videos, running to around 8-10 minutes, and provide some thoroughly personal insights into the various guests’ lives.
Of course, the trans content isn’t the only thing worth checking out! Yapping With Ash Coyote mostly follows a similar time format to Ask Ash, but places the focus on the furry fandom at large. From general advice to opinion pieces, the series is not only great for furries but also gives a nice insight as to what sort of things we get up to as a fandom.
On top of all that, Ash is a lovely person. The positivity on her Twitter feed should show that, but I thought it would be nice to give you all a bit more of a personal way to meet her. I reached out to Ash before I started writing this piece and she very kindly agreed to do an interview to accompany the article. So, I give you…Ash Coyote.
Hi Ash, and welcome to the site! I want to touch a little on everything today, so my apologies in advance for the prodding and prying. I wanted to start with something relatively obvious though: you’re a furry. Despite our shared love of anthropomorphic animals, everyone seems to find the fandom in different ways, so I was curious as to when you first encountered the term furry, and what were your initial impressions were?
I first encountered the term furry when I was in high school, I believe. So, I had a friend in the anime club and she wanted to really show me the art that she was interested in, and she, of course, started drawing furries on the whiteboard. I was like, oh okay, I mean, I liked anthros, but I didn’t know that there was a term for it. She kind of introduced me to the fandom that way.
How long did it take you to realize that you were a furry, and when did you first start engaging with the community at large?
So, I identified as furry as soon as I kind of had a label for it, but as far as interacting with the community-at-large, that was a little harder for me. I had a few bad experiences; some really weird house parties that I went to, and some weird people that I met that were furry, and I was just like, oh okay, maybe this isn’t for me, at least as far as the community part goes. I mean, I was happy to still enjoy the artwork and everything else. I had a small group of furry friends that I hung out with locally from time to time, and this guy invited me to the house party where I met my husband. I brought some beer, we met, our eyes locked, we fell in love; it was awesome.
What has been your favorite thing about the furry fandom so far?
I think my favorite thing about the fandom is probably something that the fandom also needs to fix, which is the furry fandom has always been a really accepting place. That’s great, it’s wonderful, I mean, as a trans woman, having an accepting environment for me to kind of come into myself has been fantastic. But there are also issues within the fandom that kind of allow the less than savory types to thrive too. You’ll see this kind of endless torrent of drama that occurs on Twitter and social media propagated by those people. The people that were able to use it as a platform for negativity as opposed to a platform for positivity. Yeah, so I mean, I guess it’s a two-way street.
If you had to pick, what would you say are your top 5 favorite furry characters from popular media?
My top 5 furry characters I would probably say…I really like Nick Wilde, I like Robin Hood, I love Judy Hopps, I think she’s adorable. I always had a thing for The Lion King, I just thought it was a cool film, and I also liked the Animaniacs.
Your Ash fursuit looks wonderfully well made. Was it something you built yourself, or did you buy it? How long did it take to design the character?
So, my fursuit was made by madefuryou. They are a fantastic company run by Syber, who is an amazing person. I have had this character for several years now. I got Ash at the beginning of my transition and I had a long-standing commission with madefuryou that I just kind of put on hold. I’d been waiting for a fursuit from another maker for a very long time, and I just wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get it. So, I commissioned Syber in addition to that and of course, by the time I get that other character, I am starting to go through my transition. Syber hit me up and was like, “Hey, can I just make the female version of your character?” She designed it, sent me a picture, I fell in love with it and I got the suit that year at BLFC (Biggest Little Fur Con).
You’re also open about being both intersex and a transwoman. It’s often said that the furry fandom is very open and welcoming to the LGBTQ community. Is that something you’ve found to be true so far?
So, that’s a very interesting question. See, there are parts the fandom that are very open and accepting and parts that need some work. When I first came out as trans, I was met with an interesting opposition. I met my husband before I transitioned and we’ve been together at that point for five years. We came out to our friend group and talked to them and let them know that I was transitioning. Of course, the first reaction that I get from members of my own community is to ostracize me or treat me like I did something wrong, like I was hurting my husband on purpose. It’s kind of one of those funny dualities; when somebody transitions, everybody takes it differently and it’s often said that when one person transitions, the people around you will choose to too, or they’ll get out of your life. I believe that to be very true, especially in this case, because I certainly lost I would say about three-quarters of my friends through that process. It was very hard, and I still get sad thinking about the distances that were created between us and the experiences that I have lost with these people. But I guess that’s what happens when you build friendships like that. I don’t know, I just don’t know what to say.
Sticking with this topic, the first thing I noticed when I started watching your channel was the sheer amount of content you put out that dealt with trans issues. It’s such a complicated subject and one that still suffers from a lot of misconceptions in the wider world, which is why I think creators such as yourself are so important. Going back through your channel, you’ve been doing content like this from very early on too. When you started looking at YouTube as a creative outlet, was it always your plan to add to the transgender voices out there or was it something that evolved naturally when you started filming?
My husband told me, “I think you could do really well on YouTube. I mean, furry YouTube is apparently a thing, and I think that your skills would fit this, and you should give it a shot.” And so, I did. As far as, like, what subjects I approached, that was kind of one of those just find it as I go sort of routines. I knew the trans issues were the top of my list for the previously mentioned issues.
You do a wonderful job in providing both longer-form pieces like your Trans Voices series and more bite-sized snippets when answering questions in your Ask Ash segment. I really like this approach as it gives people two very different ways to find information regarding what it’s like being trans. When you’re answering questions for Ask Ash, do you ever find it difficult to keep the answers as succinct as you do?
One of the goals for my channel was to do something different than what other folks do. See, a lot of times with YouTube, folks dump these five-to-ten minute things on you because you get more advertising time and viewer time.
I was like, you know what, most people just want the answer. Ask Ash was kind of constructed around the idea that information is consumable and can be quick too. I’ll try and write out a thoughtful yet succinct answer so that people get to learn something new without 15 minutes of filler.
I love that you talk about how personal an experience being trans is, and especially how surgery isn’t a necessary step for everyone. I know that when I started questioning my own gender, trans as a term was very much seen as meaning having to go through all the available surgeries, which never felt like the right fit for me. Nowadays, there are far more personal journeys out there in the public view, with a whole host of terms attached to them. I know that the number of labels that are out there now can be a bit of a divisive topic for some, but do you think that seeing so many different experiences makes it easier for people to understand themselves in terms of gender?
I think that all these different diverse experiences allow us to really discover ourselves. Gender is kind of an interesting and complicated issue for a lot of folks, it’s not black and white. Treating it like it’s black and white makes it even more complicated. We have to kind of breakdown what society has really programmed into us, which is that there are two genders. I mean, if you count intersex conditions, its easily probably into a hundred different real biological genders or gender variations. The important thing is to help people really understand that you should just be yourself; present yourself as yourself, be you, be honest about you, and find the areas in which you fit in. It took me a long time to really figure out that I don’t have to have every surgery to be valid as a woman.
The first part of your documentary series Trans Voices went live in October 2018. What inspired you to start this series, and how much planning had to go into getting it all set up with the people involved?
Trans Voices kind of started a little small. I knew some folks locally and I knew that I wanted to really address trans issues in Trump’s America. We’ve been taking a lot of flack, and I thought that it’s about time for us to have our own voice and platform. I made my first couple of episodes, and then of course, like immediately afterward, Trump releases this wonderful memo about wanting to try and invalidate transgenders basically across the board. I was just absolutely dumbfounded. I was like, okay, well I guess now’s the right time, let’s do it. And so, I just started hammering these out! I reached out to every single person that I could. All my friends, everybody that I knew, the people that I cared about, the people that I loved, and I asked them simply this: “Can you speak for us? Because we need it right now.” Strength doesn’t come from a single solitary voice, it comes from the voices of our community and the people that are affected. That’s why this is so important to me.
The series feels very hands-off to me. By that, I mean that you’re not on-screen in the episodes, but rather let the various interviewees tell their story unencumbered. Was it always your intent to give them a personal platform in that way, or was that something that came through during the editing process?
It was always my intention to let these people speak for themselves because I feel it makes it more powerful. Part of my vision for the series was that I wanted to capture the real-life experiences of trans individuals without interjecting my own voice. It’s kind of a backward approach to YouTube. I’m removing the “you” from it and I’m making it into something that’s not about me, it’s about these other people, it’s about the trans community. I think, as with anything, people carry baggage with them. Me as an individual, I might have different viewpoints, but I am not going to censor out these other people’s viewpoints either. I want people to hear the story as it is and see the reality of the situation and the experiences that everyone goes through.
I’ve often found that, certainly when I was younger, a lot of trans related media tended to focus on transwomen rather than transmen. Trans Voices is a little different as it features people from both ends of the spectrum, and also sees some of those featured mentioning non-binary terms. Was it important to you as a creator to ensure that there would be full representation in that regard?
I was absolutely important; it was literally the thing at the top of my list. I have always had an issue with the fact that people only focus on transwomen. I don’t understand why. It doesn’t make any sense. I wanted to focus on everyone. I wanted non-binary people to have a voice in it. I want transmen to have a voice in it because I feel like their story is under-told, under-experienced and misunderstood. I want it to get out there. Words cannot describe how frustrating it is for me when people only look at one element of the story instead of seeing the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that we are all people, we are all human, we all go about our lives….we just want to live our lives.
Do you have any recommendations for positive LGBTQ portrayals on TV, films or books?
I really did enjoy Laverne Cox’s performance in Orange is New Black as far as trans performances and stuff go. I watched Transparent for a little while and was never really connected to the show, and I mean, frankly that that kind of brings up another issue which is using a quote-unquote trans face for portraying us in media in the first place. I mean, really trans actors should be playing trans characters, just saying. Aside from that, I can’t really think of too much off the top of my head.
You have a pet dingo called Diego. How did you come to own a dingo, and have there been any particular challenges with doing so?
Yes, we do have a pet dingo named Diego, and he’s a total sweetheart. He is a very, very interesting dog to deal with. Dingoes are native dogs that were once domesticated and returned to the wild, so they’re kind of like a semi-domesticated breed. They don’t really understand ‘no’, so it’s a very, very challenging issue when training them. They’re kind of ridiculous dogs. Diego was born on my birthday. He first opened his eyes to us, and we’ve had him ever since. He’s a wonderful dog; highly intelligent, a little difficult at times, but wonderful.
If you had to pick, what would be your favorite video that you’ve produced so far?
I think my favorite video so far was the first video in the Trans Voices series. When I first met Heidi, we talked a little bit and we really connected. Heidi is a great person, they’re amazing, and eventually, I pitched the idea of interviewing her and she agreed. I was like, well okay, we’re doing this, and I made the video. We shot the b-roll and I sat down to edit it down. I remember sitting there on the edit bay in my basement and realizing how important this story and stories like it really are. I knew kind of at that point that this was something that I just needed to do, so I did.
What’s next for your channel? What are your plans for 2019 and beyond?
For 2019, we have a lot of cool stuff planned. I am editing down a series on the fandom sort of as a response to the CNN documentary. I got a lot of bigger YouTubers in it and a lot of folks that I know; fursuit makers, artists, stuff like that. I really just wanted folks to kind of talk about their experiences and share them with us. I felt like, while good and positive press, the CNN documentary missed out on a lot of levels for what the fandom is actually about, so I just decided to tackle it in my own way.
Last but not least, where on the net can people find you if they want to know more or support you? Do you have any final message for readers?
So, people can find me and support me on Patreon, and then there’s also YouTube and Twitter. I am very friendly, and I am always happy to have a conversation and talk about my experiences, so reaching out is all you have to do.