Fur Queen and Country
A friend of mine... hell, a roommate, attended a university seminar the other day (shocking in itself but that's hardly the point) on videogame culture, and, somehow, the topic sprung up. Y'know what topic I mean. THAT topic. The fandom.
Now, being as informed as he is (living with me helps the situation no end with my array of posters homaging Cleo from 'Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats' fawnicating the walls), brought it up, and was in turn the only person there to be fully aware of what he was on about. No one in that room of 15-18 20-somethings had a shiny shit of a clue about what a furry was apart from my somewhat embarrassed friend, who's had not one, but two furries as best friends for the past five years (though one denied it, despite being a regular user of FurryMUCK).
I was stunned. I myself had only discovered the art of the furry and alike whilst sitting my GCSEs, but was still summarily shocked by it's lack of outside knowledge in the land of 'Milk and Honey' (or whatever the blue hell you wanna call it.)
It's the same throughout the UK (certainly England at the very least). No one has a bloody clue what it is to be a 'furry', nor what to think of it (even slight mentions here and there define fandomers as merely 'folk who dress up as animals as a fetish', cringeworthy in it's lack of research).
The furries amongst us Brits that DO exist in the prime majority do so thanks to the advent of the internet, and the fandom's creation and growth from overseas. We see the conventions, we see the huge-scale meetups and pray one day we'll get a plane over to the Florida Keys for AC in the near future... knowing that 'furriness' is too low-scale in the UK to even have such a broad event to be considered hostage. The only UK fur meetups I've witnessed of late are those held by NorthernFurs, whom I cannot deny are doing a grand job and I myself one day hope to take to attending one of their events - weirdly (perhaps to those overseas) it's both humbling and exciting to imagine mixing with furries within my own country by just hopping on a train to Manchester.
Otherwise, it's a three-day trip to the Keys... and university has a sure-fire way of making sure a man can't get economic access to a plane for three years flat.
However, how does one, as a British fur, inform one's relatives, and one's friends/collegues, about one's possible attendance to such a scheme? I can bet several well-worn tenners that 89% of furs in Britain haven't informed folk around them of their hobby, due to their nearest and dearest not being likely to have a sodding clue what they're on with. It's hard to phrase something completely alien to someone, it truly is. I've been there. At most, there are two out of a hundred people in my life who know me as a lynx in a lab coat on my day-offs from the real world. Furryism isn't exactly 'covered' down our way.
Though, saying that, there's enough anthropomorphic characters, and even vaguely yiffy Brit-arted comics and fanzines lumbering around for the general national consensus to sit up and take a fat old gander at the vague chance that there MIGHT just be a fandom out there that appreciates animals with human characteristics; and even then without turning a snotty nose to it, deeming it an 'act of perversion' or some shit.
The British media in particular are VERY tight-arsed and conservative to an almost perpetual state of notoriousness (thank Murdoch, Clifford, et al.). To get a hold on the fandom and to spread consensus would require them deeming it as an 'alien art', or something twisting it so that the whole bloody thing looks positively illegal. Anyone with less than a slightly-narrow mind can sniff bullshit from a cow's arse several miles away, but the media wouldn't do us limeys any favours. Regrettably.
This article isn't merely a lament (though many of my articles are, as I'm sure you'll come to surmise) - I'm writing this so somehow, perhaps, stir the want for British furs to come forth and unite, perhaps even hold our own little Anthrocons and such... not necessarily under complete media scrutiny, but under no hidden shields.
More people round here need to know what the whole gig's about, that it's nothing inherently disturbing, and that if you have these particular fascinations and hobbies, it's not a bad thing - furries exist in Britain, but only just (it's interesting to note that at least three of the staff working on FT are British-born). Whilst a lot of us still aspire to get to Anthrocon this year, or perhaps in 2008, a lot of us are still hoping for a local alternative to not necessarily replace our US cousins' events, but to work as a local equivalent.
Whilst the British public is still very much in oblivion of the fandom save a few actual furries in the know thanks to the medium of the internet, this tiny island's comprehension of furriness is surely overdue a top up.
~ Diesel, Huddersfield's Loneliest Lynx