Pittsburgh reacts to Anthrocon 2013
Pittsburgh's appreciation for Anthrocon was proudly advertised on the active block of shops, restaurants and bars by the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Many had windows and signs marked with "Welcome furries!", cartoon foxes, and Furry-themed specials. Hanlon's, next to Fernando's even served breakfast in souvenir dog bowls. (Yum!)
One block over, I enjoyed a friendly lunch with Flayrah editor GreenReaper, and almost got away with joking about my stories without revealing they were mine, when someone else brought up San Francisco furry activity.
Identity confusion came from the fursuit I wore when we met earlier. Fursuits and furry names have confused me many times, too – it's a reason for badges, and nothing to be embarrassed about. This can lead to benignly playful and revealing situations. I experienced the latter on an airport shuttle.
The driver of my outbound airport shuttle complained that his company was asked for a special deal for Anthrocon, but they denied it, to his disappointment. His appreciation contrasted with a passenger on a previous hotel shuttle.
The shuttle mostly held con-goers having friendly, animated conversation. It invited a middle-aged woman to get unusually chatty with strangers. She was a bit mismatched among nerdy guys. We talked about traveling in Europe, liking Prague, and her amazement at seeing music hand-written by Beethoven there. Loving art was a nice way to relate to each other. She asked about our reason to come from places like San Francisco, and she made fun of tourism to a place like Pittsburgh. We explained that it was for a convention. "What kind?" she asked. "For nerds", I offered vaguely.
As we pulled up to the hotel, she saw a crowd wearing ears and tails. "Ooh… are the furries in town?" she said in a slightly scandalized, yet amused tone. "Who?" I pretended. "Yeah, who are they?" some other passengers snickered. "You might be among them"... someone said in the back, but she didn't hear.
"Oh, they're these creepy, creepy people who pretend to be animals. Like, what do you talk about when you get dressed up like that?" I just laughed, and asked if she saw that on the news.
After the driver got my fursuit bin from the back, I made sure to say goodbye. "You're right", I said with mock horror... "I totally saw them!" as two wolves walked by. But she was already clued in. She gave me a huge, apologetic smile and waved.
In the headline, I didn't say what kind of reaction happened in Pittsburgh. Hoarding t-shirts for profit and calling furries "creepy" can make things ambiguous, bring to mind the term "two-faced" or invite cynicism about capitalistic interest. (But at least positive advertising is a start, right?)
But I remember how the lady on the shuttle smiled. We made a good impression on her, before she knew who we were. She seemed genuinely sorry for judging. It makes me believe that whatever people think they know about furries, they are not hard to win over. When no other city gives such a welcome, it's a step forward.
The con was far too big for me to report on beyond this tidbit, but I'd say the dance competition was worth a trip by itself. If I met someone who wanted an introduction to Furries, I'd show them the amazing costumed dance talent on display.
Did you go to Anthrocon? What reactions did you notice?