Cameron Bess: The furry influencer launching into space on board Blue Origin flight

Blue Origin Strahan (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Blue Origin Strahan (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Cameron Bess, one of the passengers on board Blue Origin’s latest flight, is making history in a number of ways.

They are the first out pansexual person to go to space, and the first to go alongside a parent. But perhaps the most notable first is one that Bess seems keen to stress: they will be the first furry in space.

Furries are a group of people who are interested in anthropomorphic animals, often indulging that through both artistic representations and dressing up as those animals in real life. While the community is often associated with a sexual interest in those animals, not all furries identify that way.

And while furries tend to be associated with the internet, the roots of the community stretch back until at least the 1980s. Through all of those years, however, none have gone to space – as far as anyone knows.

Cameron Bess looks set to change that. When they make use of their ticket on board Jeff Bezos’s private space flight – apparently bought by their father, Lane Bess, one of three businesspeople who paid for the expensive tickets on the trip – they will be breaking through a barrier that many people might never have thought about.

Bess’s entry on the Blue Origin website makes no mention of their interest in being a furry. And the write-up focuses mostly on the two honorary guests who have been given their tickets by Blue Origin: Michael Strahan, the footballer turned TV presenter, as well as Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly to space.

“Cameron is a content creator with a passion for creating and expressing themselves in ways that can brighten a person’s day,” a profile on the Blue Origin website reads. “After studying Computer Science and Game Design at DigiPen Institute for Technology in Washington, they’ve developed an engaged community across multiple platforms, producing original content and developing proprietary software to support their audience.

“Cameron identifies as pansexual and is proud to represent marginalized communities and hopes their journey can inspire others.”

The audience that Blue Origin references is partly on Twitter, where Bess maintains a Twitter account that regularly posts to 2,291 followers. (Bess also maintains another Twitter account, which is private and marked as “not safe for work”, which has more followers.)

In recent days, Bess has been documenting the process of getting ready for the flight, which is currently scheduled for Saturday.

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On that account, they have documented the process of preparing for the mission – and some of the troubles that have come with the task of being the first furry in space. That includes restrictions on wearing a fursuit, or animal outfit, during launch and preparations.

“Official word is no fursuit head on launch grounds or training,” they wrote on Twitter. “I respect that! I will have it with me at the astronaut village and will make sure to take a photo there with my flight suit and head on!

“(Also that’s probably for the better because I don’t want to be that weird dude on tv with a fursuit head without being able to control the narrative a bit better).”

In a follow-up post, Bess explained that the concern was that the fursuit is flammable and so could pose a hazard on the ship.

Bess has also suggested they might not be the first furry in space, and that unknown others might have gone before. For that reason, they are not explicitly claiming the title, they said.

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As with other private trips to space, Bess’s journey has not been met with universal acclaim. When Blue Origin first posted about the passengers, Bess re-shared the post – and received some 400 replies, many of which criticised the trip and the vast amount of money it cost.

Bess also garnered criticism from many followers from being called an “astronaut”. The word has been the source of much dispute, and arguments over whether passengers on an automated flight should be able to use it for themselves.

It was apparently in response to such criticism that Bess posted a long thread on Twitter on Thursday. They argued that astronaut is a “valid title”, and that objections were unfair.

They also seemed to hit back against criticism that the trips on board Blue Origin were largely very expensive but useless joyrides into space.

“By supporting Blue I am supporting them sending scientific payloads and lowering the cost of sending rockets to space,” they wrote. “Blue’s vision of ‘enabling a future where millions of people are living... in space for the benefit of Earth’ is amazing and my trip is part of the first step.

“I’m no hero, but this is much more than just ‘millionaires taking a joyride to space’.”

In a number of tweets, they also suggested they were legally restricted from commenting more on the Jeff Bezos, or his aims in setting up the private space company.

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