Furries In The Media
Dated June 4, here is an article in Minnesota's Star Tribune newspaper:
The article describes the wedding of local furries Kelly "Aurora Star" McLaughlin and Joey "Lucky Pup" Mullen, which was attended by several other furries (including some full fursuiters).
Call of the wild: Local Furries say they are misunderstood
Wolves and bunnies and dragons, oh, my! Furries find community in costume.
Beneath a tree at the edge of the woods, Kelly McLaughlin looked out at the loved ones who had gathered here for her wedding.
Interspersed among her family and friends stood a black and white wolf, a red and blue winged dragon and some jungle cats. Near her side, a bridesmaid was bedecked not in a gown, but in the costume of a fantastical fuzzy creature with a spiky tail. Hairy purple ears peeked out from McLaughlin’s bridal veil. Her beloved Joey Mullen’s tri-color tail rustled in a pre-storm breeze.
This love story was not one of sci-fi or Greek mythology. McLaughlin and Mullen are just two members of a local contingent of furries, a subculture of creative, and often misunderstood, animal lovers who had come together, some in costume, for the group’s annual picnic in St. Paul.
The Minnesota chapter of furries regularly draws 100 or more members to events, but organizers say there are many more people across the country who partake in the fandom, or community.
“Think of geek fandoms — animé, steampunk, sci-fi, ‘Star Wars,’?” said Matt Hibbard, MNFurs president and human alter ego of Aerak, a wolf. “This is anthropomorphic animals.”
Ever been to a comic book convention, or even a “Mad Men” party? People dress up as their favorite characters all the time. The difference with furries is that these fans of cute creatures create their own characters rather than turn to the pages of a comic or to a TV show. Many of them draw or write whole back stories.
Only about a quarter of the group’s members dress up in character, Hibbard said. For one thing, the cost of a full “fursuit” can be prohibitive (starting at $1,000 or more). Plus, the fursuits can be hot and uncomfortable (small fans inside the foam-padded heads can help). Many furries, therefore, will come only with a tail tied onto a belt, or fuzzy slippers that resemble paws, or headbands topped with perky ears.
The species run the gamut: everything from lovable back-yard bunnies to mythical dragons and unicorns. Then there are the animals heretofore unheard of in nature or literature, with coats of hot pink or Cookie Monster blue, a rainbow tail or wings on land creatures that have never flown.
Many furries say they realized early on that they had a connection with animals, and it sometimes alienated them until they found online or in-person communities.
Collin O’Connor, MNFurs secretary, had a rough childhood, and “the one thing that had always called to me was the animal world,” he said. “Animals always went through challenges and overcame. I would think, ‘Why can’t I overcome, too?’?”
He learned about the spiritual side of animals in American Indian faiths, how some represented courage and strength, “and that really clicked with me.” At 16, he discovered a Twin Cities area community of people who felt about animals the way he did. He went to a meeting.
“I got up there, and I was like, ‘I found people like me,’?” he said. “These were people who understood me, and I felt accepted for the first time.”
O’Connor doesn’t outfit himself as the creature he’s created — a dragon named Ridayah. But costuming helps some furries express themselves in ways they couldn’t in everyday clothes.
Andy Laub, who was suited up at the picnic as a “deer with a little bit of raccoon thrown in” named Ringer, gave his character qualities he wished he had in himself: “more outgoing, able to have a better time and less inhibited,” he said.
“The nice thing about that,” Laub said, “is that once you start portraying the part, you start to become that way outside of the suit.”
Furries’ bad rap
Public gatherings in costume can be a spectacle. Traffic on the road alongside the picnic slowed as rubberneckers rolled past a meadow full of human-sized cartoon creatures.
Furries tend to use that visual attention to do some good. The local chapter, which was recently granted nonprofit status, volunteers each year at the Como Zoo Boo, marches in the Winter Carnival parade and helps out at animal shelters to find adoptive families. Hibbard even starred, as his wolf, in a closed-circuit television show broadcast at St. Paul Children’s Hospital.
Furries say it’s about being social — meeting people with similar interests and helping brighten other people’s days. They recoil at the idea, put forth on a 2003 episode of “CSI,” that it is a sexual fetish.
“This suit will never be used for anything other than being outside, having fun,” said Kristian Johnson, who was outfitted as an Australian sugar glider named Agave that looked like the cute little skunk from “Bambi.”
The idea that all furries are doing something taboo was perpetuated in news media reports last fall, when a Chicago hotel was evacuated during a furry convention because of a chlorine gas attack. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski walked off the set laughing during a news segment about the incident.
“People are uncomfortable about things they don’t understand,” said picnicker Dave Engle, who was robed in black, carried a staff and wore the head of a villainous-looking crow named Xiouo.
Furries say those misconceptions damage their reputations and create a hurtful stigma that can follow them into their day-to-day lives. Two furries at the picnic asked that their last names not be used because they worried that being associated with the fandom would affect their career prospects as a law enforcement officer and a pilot.
Kristin C., whose family ran an animal rescue in Dakota County, always had an affinity for animals. In the red, yellow and orange suit of Banana, a “winged fox corgi,” she said she tries to keep her personal life separate from her professional life. “Going into a [police] department, [being known as a furry] can cause problems, because they can question what you are doing,” she said. “When I interview, I want to interview based on my merit.”
But Keith E., a pilot now based in Maine, whose alter ego is a fox named Vulan, admitted it’s not just because of “CSI” that outsiders might bristle at the activity. “This is weird,” he said. “The reason I think people push it way out is because we are already on the edge.”
Frolicking and Frisbee
On the meadows and under the trees at Hidden Falls Regional Park, the picnic’s activities were innocent. Furries in and out of costume grilled burgers, threw a Frisbee, played Hacky Sack and horsed around the same as any other group of friends might. A couple of them brought their kids. As for contact, they did hug a lot. But who wouldn’t want to hug a 6-foot bunny?
The wedding couple decided to forego full suits of fur, which would have precluded them from speaking their vows audibly and exchanging rings. Ears and tails were their versions of a gown and tux.
The ceremony was quick. McLaughlin, aka Aurora Star (part wolf, part husky), and Mullen, aka Lucky Pup (a fox-wolf), each read, from a slip of paper, the standard vows ending with “till death do us part.”
Then the officiant, who identifies as a gray house cat named Lady Amethyst, pronounced the couple husband and wife. The audience applauded, and the furry animals danced and cheered.
As far as weddings go, said McLaughlin, this one was “something different.”
Dated May 21, here is an article on syracuse.com, the website of The Post-Standard of Syracuse, New York:
The article discusses this weekend's FurryCon, and includes interviews with attendees Hoth and Zeigler.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Today is the first day of FurryCon, the only anthropomorphic convention for furry fandom in New York state.
Rochester's annual five-day event unites hundreds of people who identify as "furries." They create their own characters based on favorite animals, then spend the weekend socializing, dancing and attending panels in character, sometimes in costume.
Furry fandom gets a bad rap, thanks to a string of kinky magazine stories and a "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" episode. Furries are well-aware of their public perception. They readily refuse interviews. All press are barred from FurryCon 2015.
Two furries agreed to chat for this story on the condition we don't use their names. We used their "fursonas."
Hoth, a furry from Central New York, will attend FurryCon this year. She says her fursona, an arctic fox, is very personal.
"Your character is what you feel you'd be like if you were an animal or anthropomorphic being, or a fantasy character of what you wish you were like," she said. "I don't walk around thinking, 'I'm a fox!'"
Zeigler, a communications professional from Skokie, Ill., has attended Midwest FurFest near Chicago three times and Anthrocon (founded in Albany) in Pittsburgh twice. His fursona is a jaguar.
"I don't believe my character is my true self, trapped in a human body," said Zeigler, 27. "It's an avatar, a way to represent myself in an artistic medium."
Historically, modern furry fandom splintered off the sci-fi cons of the 1980s, but people have been humanizing animals in art and literature for centuries.
Look at Anubis in Ancient Egyptian art or the coyote in Native American myths. Look at modern fairy tales, like Goldilocks and the three bears. Consider Disney's portrayal of Robin Hood as a fox. Aslan. Barney. Big Bird. They're all entry points into the fandom.
Conceptually, furries are pure science fiction. It's a draw for creative individuals. Many furries are artists or writers. But they're also bankers, teachers and business professionals.
Zeigler describes furry fandom as the bottom of the massive nerd totem pole. You've got your Whovians, your Harry Potterheads, Whedonites, Twi-hards and so on. Then you've got your furries.
"We're the people the Trekkies look down on," Zeigler said. "For a long time we've been the punching bags for the entire nerd hierarchy, but it takes a certain self-confidence to take that degree of wild mockery."
Furry fandom isn't a monoculture. Both Hoth and Zeigler can't speak for the masses, but they shared what they believe are the major misconceptions of furry fandom.
5 misconceptions of furry fandom
Misconception #1: Furry fandom = fetish
Let's address the elephant in the room, pun intended.
"The stereotype in the minds of those outside the fandom is that furries participate in one big, plushy orgy," Zeigler said.
He and Hoth blame that reputation on the "highly distorted" portrayal of furries in that 2003 CSI episode. The episode, titled "Fur and Loathing," depicted furries as sexual deviants detached from reality. Perverts in plush.
"It was hilariously inaccurate and it was seen by millions of people," he said. "That stupid CSI episode probably runs somewhere every single day."
In 2010, Skaneateles native and filmmaker Curt Pehrson attended the Midwest Furfest to make a documentary called "Furries: An Inside Look." (See it below.)
Pehrson interviewed several furries for the documentary and learned many reporters would focus on the fandom as some kind of kinky outlet.
"It makes furries very defensive," said Pehrson. "Some people will say they're sexually attracted to animals, and that's absurd. "It's like saying someone who likes horseback riding is sexually attracted to horses."
In any large group of people, particularly young people, surely a few would be inclined to experiment sexually? Hoth says some people do go to conventions with the goal of having a sexual experience.
"I don't really know how they operate at a con, because that's not my goal while I'm there," Hoth said. "Any fandom has weirdos, but they're typically the minority."
Zeigler hasn't met any.
"The idea of conventions as orgies is a complete myth," Zeigler said. "People have sex. The huge lie is that it's prevalent in costume."
Zeigler says the entire concept became taboo in furry communities because it's how they've been defined in popular imagination.
"It's been wildly damaging to the fandom's public image," he said.
Furries-2010-2.jpgFurries attend the Midwest FurFest in 2010.Curt Pehrson | Video still from "Furries: An Inside Look"
Misconception #2: All furries dress up like animals
Don't get furries confused with fursuiters.
A furry is anyone playing an anthropomorphic animal character, but a fursuiter is anyone who dresses like that character.
"So many people think furries all have a big, cartoony suit," Zeigler said. "Most people don't."
At conventions, he says maybe 10 or 15 percent will wear a partial costume: a furry glove, head, paw or tail. Others may look completely normal.
Hoth doesn't own a fursuit. They're expensive, ranging from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
"I'm big into the role-playing part of the fandom," she said. "The suits do cost a lot and I have different priorities right now."
Misconception #3: Furries dress like animals to shock people
Zeigler spent many years without a suit. He decided he wanted a suit after borrowing one and wearing it on a golf course.
"There were all these seniors there who loved it," he said. "We created a story for somebody to tell at dinner that night. It was so much fun to be part of that."
For him, it's about making memories. This year, he felt financially secure enough to buy a handmade jaguar suit. It will cost him $3,800.
"I went with one of the best," he said. "But I know a guy who spent $15,000 on a handwoven suit from a Hollywood special effects company."
At the biggest furry conventions, you'll find the highest-end suits. Some furries get light-up eyes, moving jaws or padding to make them look muscular.
"Some people find it intrinsically creepy and that's fine," Zeigler said. "They judge based on quarter truths, rampant misinformation and their own sense of discomfort with the entire concept."
Misconception #4: Furries are always in character
At conventions, furries are especially indulgent in their characters, so Zeigler says first-time attendees often assume this is how furries always act.
"People think furries live their entire lives in their suits," he said. "This doesn't define our entire existence. We have day jobs and 98 percent of our lives is doing perfectly normal things."
Most furries have to be working professionals, Zeigler said, because active fandom costs money. Attending a convention can cost $500 for one weekend.
Some furries legitimately identify more as animal than human, but it's just a fantasy hobby for Zeigler.
"If it's preventing you into being a contributing member of society, you're doing it wrong," he said.
Pehrson said some people take on characters as a hobby, while some use it as escapism, perhaps to address their own social anxieties.
"It's a creative outlet for some people," he said. "Maybe it's a bit weird but it's not hurting anyone."
Misconception #5: Furries try to convert people
Pehrson thinks this stereotype is ridiculous.
"I think furries are nice people and will invite people to come along, but it's not proselytization," he said.
Zeigler says furry fandom tends to go wrong when fans try to convince people it's normal, when people aren't mentally prepared to accept it.
"You have to acknowledge the quirkiness," he said. "But is it that much odder than a guy who puts on cheesehead and pays $500 to sit in the freezing cold and scream at the Vikings? We accept that as a standard in American culture. It's a matter of perspective."
No one egged him on to join. Zeigler first encountered furry culture as a teen. Someone in his class regularly wore a tail in high school. He later started dating a girl who was part of the fandom.
"I started going to conventions and met the most wonderful people," Zeigler said. "I was kicking myself for not joining 8-9 years ago."
Now he regularly plays golf, poker and softball with friends he made at furry conventions and meetups.
"It was the best thing that ever happened for my social life and overall being," he said.
FurryCon runs from Thursday, May 21 through Monday, May 25 in Rochester.
I'm standing next to a man in a fox costume in a hotel room at Edmonton's Ramada Inn. The room is cramped because of a beer pong table. We need to make three cups in a row, or else we lose the game to the wolf and sabre-tooth tiger across from us. I sink the first cup, my partner sinks the second. It was now or never. I take a breath, line up the cup, and shoot. I miss. The chupacabra across from me grabs a bottle of rum and pours me a strong drink. I cheers my foxy friend and slam it.
I don't know what I expected to find when I decided to attend Fur-Eh, Edmonton's premiere Furry convention, last weekend.
It certainly wasn't this.
Fur-Eh is a convention that caters to the furry subculture/fandom. The fandom is made up of people who enjoy anthropomorphic animals—animals with human characteristics. This usually takes the form of a character that the furry creates. It doesn't matter what creature it is as long as it is unique to the creator. Over the duration of the weekend I saw dogs, dragons, cats, and some creatures that the creators must have made up themselves. Visually, it was stunning.
Not all members of this fandom dress up. Only 20 percent actually own a suit, most likely due to the fact that a full suit is damn expensive. Typically, a suit can run over a few thousand dollars. So to mediate this, some furries just wear tails, some just ears, but they almost all had something on that signified them as a furry. It's not too far separated from what you would see at a typical comic con, just instead of dressing up as a character someone else created you are dressing up as your own.
Their characters, known as "fursonas," vary in extremes much like their creators. Throughout a con, you won't see one suit identical to another. There exists stereotypes within the factions of the fandom in something known as "speciesism."
"Because foxes are more popular I guess they get a lot of the hate, but they are known for being really into sexual stuff. So are otters, who are known for being really submissive," one attendee, a cat, told me. "People that dress up as dragons are known to being really ego minded because they're dragons right? Like, what's crazier than a dragon? It's the most intense creature. The stereotype probably draws you to your fursona."
I asked him what it meant to dress as a cat.
"Cats are just jerks," he said with a laugh. "We think everyone is here for us."
People outside the subculture often assume that there is a sexually deviant aspect to the fandom. This perception can be traced back to popular media which in the past has portrayed the subculture as being solely populated with sexually deviant members. I asked two dogs, a fox, and a deer, why they thought the subculture got such a bum rap and almost all of them got a scornful look on their face and said something along the lines of "Fucking CSI, man... fucking CSI."
There have been numerous offenders that have sensationalized and painted this subculture as deviant but none cut as deep as CSI. The crime show ran an episode in 2003 entitled "Fur and Loathing" that focused on the fandom. It's an episode that still haunts the fandom over a decade later. In it, the heroes investigate the murder of a man in a racoon suit. Not only is the plot ridiculously dumb, the final twist is that a man mistook the man in a fur suit for a coyote and shot him. But it completely gets the fandom wrong. The episode portrays furries as a group that will essentially get together and just fuck each other in their fursuits, in a full-out, weird-ass orgy.
I asked several furries about this practice—which I now know is called "yiffing."
"Sure, that happens. In every group you'll find weird sex things," one attendee who went by the name Rave Fox told me. "But that's like one percent of the people and honestly it would wreck the suit.
"Do you know how much these things cost?"
I heard rumblings that some people actually had specially made suits with holes in them, but I was unable to find a single person at the convention who had one.
Rave Fox and I had to cut our conversation short because DJ Recca was playing, and Rave Fox had to be there.
DJ Recca is a well-known furry DJ, who has played a lot of large cons and has a rather large following. It was a big deal that he played a small con like Fur-Eh. The Seattle-based wolf made his way up to Edmonton for the festivities and was doing a surprise set. Rave Fox said that this wasn't an event to miss. He was right.
Across the floor were probably 100 furries—some in suits and some not—while Recca stood behind the board with his fur suit half on. There were wolves dancing with dragons, huskies dancing with sabretooth cats, and everything in between. One furry, a dragon-eagle hybrid I think, had lights sewn into the wings of the costume so he or she lit up the dance floor. I took a drink of Rave Fox's Everclear and orange juice mix and joined in.
It was surreal. It was weird. It was a ton of fun.
Rave Fox is a popufur—a popular furry—and after the dance concluded he told me that he will show me exactly what a conference is about for a young furry—the people and the party.
I show up the next night, and Rave Fox comes up to me in full regalia.
"Fuck yeah buddy, let's get liquored."
Rave was pretty far gone at this point so I headed up to the lounge to catch up. While there, a group of furries invited me to sit with them.
Fur-Eh is a small conference, so the majority of these people know each other merely through online conversations. The fandom is one with a massive online community and that is where the majority of these people meet. This event is one of the only opportunities they have to get together in person, giving it a high school reunion feel. People were sharing drinks and catching up. That's what this table felt like—just a bunch of old friends getting together. The point of conversation was in regards to furry sexuality. As it turns out, a disproportionate amount of furries identify as gay or bi: some numbers report 25 percent and some even go as high as 50 percent. The majority of the men around the table were gay, and one told me that the furry convention is just like any other big party—some people are there to get laid.
"A lot of people just report on the innocence of fur cons. The innocence is real, we all love being part of a thing, everyone does," one told me. "Some of us here just love to get fucked. I love to fuck!
"Not everyone is here just to fuck each other, but some of us are."
Now, he was a little hyperbolic when he told me this, but he assured me that there was a lot of human, non-furry, sex occurring at this conference between the attendees.
I finished my drinks with these guys and headed back to the dance. DJ Recca wasn't playing that night, so the turnout wasn't as impressive as the night before. I spot Rave drinking his Everclear and orange juice through his furry head just outside.
"If you're in fursuit you've gotta have your liquor," he laughed.
"You gotta stay hydrated," his girlfriend, also in fursuit, chimed in.
They told me that tonight the dance isn't the place to be—the place to be is the room parties—and they invited me up to play some beer pong. We headed on up to DJ Recca's room. He and his roommate love themselves some beer pong so they brought a table up from Seattle with them. Rave and I challenged Recca and his roommate Mix. Their friend in the corner, Pickles, was feeding us caesars with horse radish the whole time. Rave and I played on a team together and eventually lost, meaning we had to drink another full drink in addition to what we did during the game. Pickles then slammed the rest of the Kraken from the bottle.
These furries could drink.
With Pickles in mid chug, the door flung open, and a loud guy sporting a tail walked in. He was muscular and looked like he would fit in more at a gym then a furry convention. He was something I never thought I would encounter, a furry bro. (A Brofur?)
His name was Shady. Shady was a sabretooth tiger. Shady was awesome. Shady and I drank a lot together.
Our group grew to around 15 as we wandered the halls of the hotel. It was past 2 AM, so everything was shut down, but that didn't stop us. We shared several bottles of booze between us, swigging straight from the bottle. At one point an extremely hammered wolf, who is also a welder from Ponoka, stumbled into one of the Ramada's little indoor gardens and couldn't get up. After we all recovered from our laughter we pulled the wolf up. While we were doing this, Shady turned to me and told me about how varied the group was.
"That's the beauty of it. I'm a mechanic, she works for the government in the states, and we're rooming with an engineer," Shady told me. "That's how different it gets. He makes shit; I fix it, and she tells lies about my shit. You go on any business trip that's what you're going to see. People having fun. At a furry fandom convention, you can't get more real than this. This is people from the heart having fun. You can't fake that. You can walk into any group, and they are still going to treat me as friendly."
He pointed at the headless lounge, the room where furries go to take their heads off and relax.
"Whoever comes out of that door is honest. We're all honest."
Furries sharing mushrooms and clamato juice, because they do not fuck around
As the night wound down we ended up sitting in the abandoned lounge together and started chatting. I found out that one of the furries in our rank, Violet Jake, a Husky, came from Fort Saskatchewan, my hometown. We were only a year apart and knew a lot of the same people. In fact, we weren't much different at all. The only major difference was that he liked to have a character and spend time, when he can, with others that do, too. In the end, that's all that it was. These people aren't weird or deviant by any means. They just have an interest and act out on that interest. Some people like sports and go to hockey games. This group likes this fandom and going to cons. That's it.
Rave, sitting next to me, stretched out on his chair, took a swig of the Sailor Jerry rum that was making the rounds, and looked at me.
"Man, why the fuck aren't you a furry?"
And by the end of discussion, we decided that if I was a furry, I would be a sabretooth, just like my boy Shady.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.
The furries are mentioned, albeit very briefly.
The clip is from an 18-minute podcast about anthropomorphism, "Animals Are Us?"; an episode of "The Why Factor", a programme exploring "the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions".
Flayrah has a transcript and background on how the interviews came about. The full episode will be broadcast internationally in 24 hours, with repeats through Monday.
Here, dated April 20, is a brief article in The Washtenaw Voice, the student newspaper of Washtenaw Community College (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA):
The article contains interviews with local furries Andrew Cook, Wesley "Alister" Wafter-Turner, and Matthew Gleason.
By ERIN FEDESON
Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are well-beloved cartoon characters seen on TV and in movies, but few might know that they are known as “anthropomorphic animal characters.”
Anthropomorphic characters, while not being human, act as humans and share physical attributes with humans that their animal counterparts do not have.
A fan of anthropomorphic characters is known as a furry, Andrew Cook, of Chelsea, explained.
Every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m., Cook meets with fellow furries in TI 116 for the Furry Club where they do crafts or play games, like Cards Against Humanity.
“I thought (the club) wouldn’t go, but it had gone further than I expected,” Wesley Wafter-Turner, the club’s president, explained.
Wafter-Turner founded the club in the 2014 winter semester because he wanted a place for furries to meet and where others can learn more about the fandom. The club now has about 10 members, Wafter-Turner said.
Some furry members identified themselves as a character based on their personality, Cook explained.
The character is known as a “fursona,” a furry persona, according to Wafter-Turner.
“It’s a way of expressing yourself,” Wafter-Turner said. His fursona is a red wolf named Alister. Wafter-Turner identifies with the wolf’s pack mentality and leadership qualities.
A fursona can also be a hybrid, as Matthew Gleason, a 32-year-old WCC student in the automotive program, has a tiger-husky fursona.
Gleason grew up with Disney and other anthropomorphic animal characters, which is where his interest started.
“I always view animals as being more human than most humans,” Gleason said. He explained that when someone adopts a pet from the shelter and brings it home, the pet is more accepting of a person than a human that is not related.
Dated April 16, here is an article in the online "College" section of USA Today:
The article has interviews with furries Cory Grube and Chris "Kalahari" Evans, with additional material from Samuel "Uncle Kage" Conway.
In his free time, Cory Grube likes to do what every other college student likes to do: go out with friends, see a movie, try a new restaurant and — on occasion — don a giant homemade snow leopard suit and wander around downtown State College, Pa.
“A lot of times I’ll just like to put that on and go wander around downtown, usually late at night on the weekends or something when there are a lot of drunk people around,” he says. “It’s just fun to pretend to be something that you’re not or that you can’t physically be. Like a giant snow leopard.”
And he’s not alone. Grube, a senior studying chemical engineering at Pennsylvania State University, is part of the growing community of “furries,” or people who enjoy dressing up as — or simply just admiring — anthropomorphic animal characters. Furries develop “personas,” a kind of alter-ego based on an animal of their choosing, with names such as “Razgriz” or “Fenrari.” They then often share their characters with people by creating online profiles or attending various fandom conventions around the world.
In the past, some have associated furry fandom with fetishized, criminal or bizarre activities. But for most, being a furry is simply a way of getting involved in a somewhat offbeat art scene.
“I think it’s the furries that get out in the spotlight and do these outrageous things that give everyone else a bad wrap and kind of keep the community hidden away for fear of public ridicule,” says Chris Evans, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Georgia (UGA). “What really sparked my interest was the artistic community, that there was this incredible amount of creativity and it didn’t seem like other fandoms. I hadn’t drawn artwork in years and this gave me the initiative to start up again. I felt like I had a place that I could express myself and be heard again.”
Evans’ persona is a fox named Kalahari, which he says was a natural choice for him since foxes are “intelligent, quick, slight-of-build and rely on their minds more than their physical strength.” Although he doesn’t have a fur suit, he sometimes wears a foxtail in public. Despite recent attacks on furry conventions in the U.S., he says he hasn’t yet experienced any kind of discrimination, something he attributes to the accepting mindset of UGA and Athens, Ga.
“I’ve been able to wear a foxtail out to the supermarket on a couple of occasions … and people gave some looks, but I never noticed any negativity and the kids really seemed to love it,” Evans says.
According to WikiFur, a popular website for furries, the fandom most likely has its roots in the 1980s, when anthropomorphic cartoons and anime characters first began to gain widespread popularity at conventions. With the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, Grube says furry culture took off with the Millennial generation — something that is increasingly evidence on college campuses.
“I’d say the reason that it’s really getting so big predominantly in college-aged students is the fact that the Internet kind of started really evolving when these people were kids, so that’s when they got introduced to it,” he says. “A lot of people are starting to hit that college age and coming into campus knowing that they’re interested in it, and now they have — with Facebook and lots of other social media online — ways to connect with the people at these campuses.”
Grube says he first became interested in furry fandom in high school while playing online games and chatting in forums dedicated to cartoon characters. When he got to campus, he immediately joined the close-knit group Penn State Furries — something he says was one of the best decisions of his college career.
“It’s really been a great experience to make long-lasting friends … there’s just a great experience of community here and it’s really been something that’s kept me motivated to stay involved,” Grube says. “When I’m in my suit, I’ll be hanging around downtown and I’ll just get lots of people cheering, come give me a high-five, get a picture with me. There’s really next to no backlash anymore. That’s kind of a thing of the past at this point.”
And that community is growing across the country.
At Anthrocon, the largest convention for anthropomorphic animal lovers in the world, more than 6,000 furries are expected to be present this year — the biggest turnout in the event’s 18-year history. Despite common misconceptions about what it means to be a furry, Anthrocon chairman Samuel Conway says no one person that attends the event is the same.
“The misconception is that we’re all fat, 45-year-old virgins who live in our mothers’ basements. I am none of the above,” says Conway, who holds a Ph.D in chemistry from Dartmouth College and works in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina. “No particular kind of person is the kind to attend Anthrocon. Anyone out there with the depth of imagination to picture a cartoon animal is pretty much welcome.”
Furries that attend the convention often dress up in giant costumes that depict their animal persona, and participate in dance competitions, a large art show and dealer’s rooms with a variety of cartoonish paraphernalia. But Conway says what really makes furries different from other fandoms such as Star Trek or anime lies in their innate creativity.
“That is what sets us off — we are creators, we’re not consumers. All the other fandoms are consumers of something that studio has turned out, that a writer has turned out,” he says. “All of the other fandoms, they can point to a TV show, to a movie, to a book and say ‘This is what we’re all about.’ But furries, what we’re all about, it’s very personal — it’s a mystery to the outside world.”
Why be a furry? Conway says the answer is simple.
“Basically walking, talking animals is what we’re all about,” he says. “Why? Because it’s fun — why the heck not?”
Dated March 24, here is an article in the Star Observer, a free tabloid and online newspaper that caters to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and intersex communities in the eastern States of Australia:
The article presents an interview with Melbourne fursuiter Matt "Makoh" Sim.
If you ask someone what they know about furries, a very specific but probably inaccurate image usually comes to mind. Benjamin Riley spoke to one member of Australia's fast-growing furry fandom about misconceptions, community, and how dressing up as an anthropomorphic cartoon animal can be the most liberating thing in the world.
OVER a couple of drinks after work in a beer garden in Melbourne’s Collingwood neighbourhood, Matt Sim explained the origins of his character, Makoh.
“I sometimes find myself being awkward or shy — this character would be outgoing and very social,” he said.
“He has a lithe build — I’m not fat, but I’m bigger than the character would be. He’s very friendly, where I can be a bit dickish at times.
“It’s how I would envisage myself as the perfect me. Even if I think of the perfect me as a human, it’s how I would transfer that over to a character. That’s what a lot of people think — it’s what they would be if they could be anything. That’s what I would be if I could be anything.”
Makoh is an African wild dog. He is both a character, and Sim himself. Makoh is Sim’s “fursona” — who Sim becomes when he puts on the $4000, custom-made suit that allows him to act out this idealised version of himself.
Sim belongs to Australia’s burgeoning furry community. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what it means to be a part of that community, but for the most part it revolves around dressing up as and having appreciation for anthropomorphic cartoon animals. Far from the image of middle-aged men dressing up like mascots to have sex, it seems that within some loose thematic boundaries, furry fandom can look like almost anything.
“To me, furry is a very broad topic,” Sim said.
“There’s the people who dress up, there’s the artists who draw artwork, which often the characters are designed off of to make the fur suits, and then there’s writers who write fan fiction, and people like myself who appreciate all of this.”
For Sim, furry is a hobby, and a community based around that hobby.
He’s 23 now, and he’s been living in Melbourne since moving here from Dunedin in New Zealand a few years back. Sim first got into furry when he was 16, through online chat rooms. He bought his Makoh fursuit less than a year ago, so most of his involvement in the community has been as an admirer. He explained that, largely due to the costs of a good quality fursuit, only a minority of people in the community are what’s called “fursuiters”.
As a concept, Sim’s fursona Makoh is only a couple of years old.
“I talked with my friend who’s an artist, and we sat down and formed this design of my character,” he said.
“I tried to encompass features of myself, but it’s also an ideal I have, this ideal character that I would like to be if I was in that position… both personality and physically.”
Once Sim was happy with the design, he got in touch with a well-known American fursuit maker who goes by ByCats4Cats (he’s since branched out into other animals) to have Makoh created. Between manufacturing and shipping the suit from the US to Melbourne, it cost Sim around $4000 AUD. He could have paid a lot less (though even a cheap fursuit will set you back around $1000), but Sim explained the best quality fursuits are highly prized in the community.
“There’s definitely people out there who do them cheaper, but those are often the people that aren’t as well-known,” he said.
“There’s the renown factor, the quality and the look of it… It costs so much because there’s so much patchwork in it.”
There aren’t a lot of people wearing suits at most “furmeets”, though there are usually specific events organised for fursuiters.
The furry community is now a huge part of Sim’s life, and knowing people online meant furries were the only people he knew when he moved to Australia. He said the majority of his friends are furries, including his boyfriend.
That’s another thing: the community is really gay. Sim estimates that in Melbourne, the community is around 70 per cent male, and most of those men (as well as most of the women in the community) aren’t straight. Sim said it goes hand-in-hand with the shy, awkward archetype of the furry fan. Furry fandom is both a haven for outcasts and a space to try being something different.
“It definitely helped me when I was younger to come into my own as a gay male,” Sim argued.
“It’s a very open community. There’s no ‘off-limits’ to just chat about, I find. Furries tend to be happy to talk about sexuality like it’s not a big deal.”
Sim was happy to discuss the subject of sexuality and furry fandom. He wants people to understand the community better, especially given the many misconceptions about furries. He said most wouldn’t even talk to a journalist about it, after a wave of mainstream media coverage a while back painted the community as completely sex-obsessed. Some media coverage of furry fandom has even drawn a connection between furry fandom and bestiality, which Sim vehemently rejected as both offensive and untrue.
Sim said most fursuiters would never have sex in the suit (known as “yiffing”) — their exorbitant cost is a good incentive to keep them clean.
“I won’t deny that there are some people that do that — denying that’s just stupid because it happens,” he said.
“It can be a very sexual thing for some people. It can be a completely non-sexual thing for others.”
Although only a small minority of furries have sex in the suits, furry fandom can be sexual in other ways. Sim said it’s common for people in the community to commission sexualised “pin-ups” of their characters, or just straight-up illustrations of their fursona having sex with another fursona.
“An artist generally won’t draw something without both parties saying, ‘hey, I want this drawn’,” Sim explained.
“It’s reasonably common, surprisingly, for people to have artwork drawn of say, them fucking each other. But that doesn’t mean that anything would actually happen between those two people, it’s just the characters.”
After years spent admiring fursuits, Sim remembers what it was like the first time he went to a furry event as Makoh.
“I didn’t really know how to act. I felt slightly awkward at first, before I started to come into my own in it, because it’s a very interesting feeling being inside that fursuit… you overheat very quickly, and your vision is limited. But once that went away, it felt really liberating,” he said.
“It’s an interesting feeling when everyone finds you cute. Suddenly everyone wants your attention, everyone wants to be around you, everyone wants pictures with you, everyone compliments you. It feels good. I won’t lie, the attention is a good feeling. I have always lacked that in myself — I have never felt overly attractive.
“In some ways it feels fake, or that they just like what’s on the outside of you, but at the same time, it still feels nice.”
Sim believes being Makoh has changed how he feels in his everyday life, outside the suit.
“I feel like a normal, confident person since I got Makoh,” he said.
“It’s made me feel more confident in myself, more confident in my own appearance, my own personality. I think I act a bit more outgoing. It’s in some ways changed me into that more ideal self that I thought of when I created Makoh. It’s liberating.”
on the New Jersey news site nj.com, deals with the shutting down of West Windsor's Twin "W" Rescue Squad. Towards the end of the article, the (alleged) inappropriate activity at the 2012 NJ FurBQ is mentioned, as it was held on the squad premises.
c/o Mwalimu on Flayrah, here is an article, dated April 1, in Vermont's Seven Days newspaper:
Jessica Owens is 32 years old, lives in Milton and works as a secretary. On a rainy night last week, she agreed to meet at Wicked Wings in Essex Junction. She showed up in a black sweatshirt, but on a different day, might have been dressed in her custom-made corgi suit.
Owens is part of a subculture of people called "furries" who are passionate about anthropomorphized cartoon animals. Conventions across the country attract thousands; many come wearing bespoke hirsute costumes.
Joined at the restaurant by two fellow furries — her husband, Jonathan, and a friend, Rob — Owens explained the particulars of furry culture with the rehearsed manner of someone used to dispelling misconceptions.
No, they don't actually believe they are animals. Yes, they do cultivate "fursonas." Owens explained that she chose a race-car-driving corgi named Rally as hers partly because she shares the breed's outgoing and assertive personality.
"I'm her codriver," her husband chimed in. The 36-year-old, who delivers appliances for a living, identifies as Ahzlon, a black panther with blue hair.
The trio belongs to the Vermont Furs club, which has been around since the early 2000s and has a membership that fluctuates between 20 and 40 people. The local furries get together at bowling alleys and pool halls — sometimes in suits, other times not — and look for opportunities to entertain at events such as charity walks and Christmas-tree lightings.
"We're just here to put smiles on people's faces," Owens said.
Not everyone has been so charmed. In fact, some city authorities seem a little freaked out.
Two months ago, Owens and 11 other furries joined the crowds at Burlington's annual Mardi Gras celebration. Decked out in green, gold and purple beads like the rest of the partygoers, the seven of them in costume high-fived little kids and posed with people in a photo booth on Church Street.
After about an hour and a half, a Church Street Marketplace rep confronted the group outside the mall and requested that they remove their animal heads, because they didn't have permission to perform on Church Street.
Why were they being singled out, the furries wanted to know, when the streets were teeming with other strangely dressed revelers?
"It's just different," was the response, Owens said.
Offended, the group walked into an alley, where they removed their masks, or "broke the magic" as they describe it. Later, the Vermont Furs filed a formal complaint with the city, calling the incident an act of "blatant discrimination."
The Church Street Marketplace, which regulates the street, issues permits to people who want to busk on the brick promenade. To make the cut, street performers must audition in front of marketplace staff and pass a background check. Vermont Furs had a permit, but it expired at the end of last year. When Owens tried to renew it in January, she was told she couldn't yet because the permit system was getting revamped.
As bidden, the Vermont Furs had stayed off Church Street. They showed up at Mardi Gras because they didn't think they'd be breaking any rules.
Ron Redmond is the executive director of the marketplace. Asked about the incident, his response was simple: Google "Elmo" and "Times Square."
The first result was a New York Post story headlined "Elmo in Handcuffs After Times Square Bust." A woman wearing an Elmo suit had been arrested for aggressive panhandling. Elmo wasn't the only character to act out. In June, two different Spider-Man look-alikes were taken into custody on charges of groping and assaulting women. A Cookie Monster allegedly shoved a child and ... you get the idea.
Redmond's point: Fear of the big, fluffy creatures isn't totally irrational. He stressed that marketplace staff have a responsibility to the public to keep the pedestrian mall safe, which requires vetting all performers. "It's become a national issue where, in some cities, people dress up in these outfits and aren't necessarily doing it to connect with children," he explained.
The Vermont Furs club is a different breed than the panhandling denizens of Times Square. The former belong to a tradition that dates back at least to the 1980s and grew out of science-fiction and anime fandoms. When out in public, they abide by certain rules. They're always accompanied by a non-costumed "handler," and they bend down rather than tower over small children so as not to intimidate them. Owens emphatically pointed out that they never accept cash.
"We're just like other fandoms except we're cuter, furrier and we do it for free," she said.
It hasn't helped the cause that several stories have linked furries to plushophilia — an attraction to stuffed animals — and other sexual fetishes. "It's a stigma we've dealt with for a very, very long time," Owens said. "As with any fandom, regardless if you're 'Star Trek' fans, My Little Pony fans, those romantic themes are out there." For Vermont Furs, and for the majority of furries, Owens continued, sex has nothing to do with it.
"We know they are really, genuinely good people," Redmond said of the Vermont Furs. Pointing out that the marketplace sometimes hires high school students to dress up as Frosty the Snowman or other characters, he stressed that they've got nothing against costumed creatures per se. Regarding the Mardi Gras situation, he admitted, "I'm not sure if that was the right move."
In Redmond's opinion, furries don't really fit the street-performer category, which puts them in a regulatory gray area. "It's an interesting and complex issue," he noted.
Even before the furry quandary, the marketplace had decided to revisit its street-performer system in response to complaints from "our more successful street performers," Redmond said. Under the current arrangement, he estimates that roughly 95 percent of people pass their auditions. As a result, an abundance of performers crowd the street, sometimes creating sonic overload. The likely solution: more rigorous auditions.
Church Street is the commercial lifeblood of Burlington, and its custodians are understandably concerned about preserving its charm. But some residents have criticized several recent policies — a smoking ban and a no-trespass ordinance allowing police officers to ban unruly people from the promenade — as overzealous attempts to sanitize the place. For some, raising the bar for street performers could carry the same whiff of elitism. How will those in charge address the concern? "It's a great question. I don't know the answer, but we've got to find the answer," Redmond said.
If there's a stricter audition process, will the furries — whose repertoire consists of high-fives rather than fancy tricks — make the cut?
Redmond said the marketplace is committed to carving out space for them; they just need some time to figure it out. One solution, he suggested, would be to give registered furries a badge or a pin with Church Street insignia showing that they've cleared the same background checks street performers undergo.
In the meantime, the Vermont Furs members are frustrated. Places like Essex Junction have welcomed them with open arms, but "at this point, the entire city of Burlington is off-limits to us."
The problem is not just on Church Street. For years, furries did their thing in Burlington, undisturbed, amusing people at events such as the weekly farmers market in City Hall Park. But last summer, a police officer notified one of them that the city of Burlington's mask ordinance forbade that kind of attire. Perplexed, Owens went in person to the police department.
She found out Queen City regulations favor the underdressed over the overdressed. It's perfectly legal to parade around in the buff, but Burlington prohibits anyone over 21 from wearing a mask in public. The ban dates back to the days of the Ku Klux Klan, according to the Vermont Historical Society. In 1924, the hate group burned crosses on Lake Champlain's breakwater, and city officials passed the ordinance to prevent anything similar. The police department continues to enforce the ban, largely because people often wear masks when committing crimes.
"I'm, like, OK, well how does the didgeridoo guy with the cat mask get away with it?" Owens remembers asking a police officer, referring to a man she'd seen on Church Street.
The officer explained the street-performer permit system, and Owens later got one for the group.
Deputy police chief Bruce Bovat said he wasn't familiar with the incident — or the furries. He noted that officers only apply the ordinance within reason. But Bovat declined to weigh in on whether the ordinance should apply to furries — "I'm wary to put something out there that's so black-and-white."
For the Owenses, being furry is a social thing. The couple has traveled to conventions, and they love being a part of the community.
Their friend, Rob, has never been to one. The 35-year-old auto parts salesman and backyard mechanic was quieter than his two companions. He's been a furry since age 15, but he didn't want to be identified because he's never told his family and doubts it would go over well.
Rob doesn't have a suit, but he's refurbished an old Ford Escort to resemble his fursona — a zebra with white stripes on black named Zytx. "I am terribly shy. Just coming down here tonight I got the shakes," he admitted, raising his hands to demonstrate. His fursona and his friends in Vermont Furs force him out of his shell.
The Owens talked about hosting a convention that even Rob would attend — one right here in Burlington. They already have a name: Green Mountain Fur Con.
But given the current situation, they know that for now, it's just a fantasy.
Where the Furries Are
You might live in a hotbed of people named AssassinWulf and Keenora Fluffball and not even know it.
Furries! Perhaps you've run into these animal enthusiasts, bumbling around in bulky costumes that are half-sports mascot, half-animatronic musician from Chuck E. Cheese's band. Or maybe you are a furry, in which case I say greetings, Zume Frostpaw, Jasper Nightlynx, AssassinWulf, or whatever your "fursona" name is!
Folks wanting to spend more time with furries—or less, due to an irrational fear of cartoon foxes entering the physical world—might be happy to know there's a tool for tracking them called the "Heat Map of Furries World-Wide." Made with geolocated data on nearly 7,500 furries, the bestial atlas uncovers dense clumps of rainbow hair and giant, anime-style eyes in the United States, Mexico, South America, England, and Germany ... oh so many furries in Germany. (Guten tag, Schattenwolf, PolarbaerInu, and Keenora Fluffball!).
But perhaps we should back up a minute and answer the question, "What's a furry"? Somebody who commented on the map explains it this way:
Furries, in a nutshell, are big fans of Anthropomorphic animal characters, usually to the point of having their own character (fursona) that they use as an avatar in the community. Furries are first and foremost a community, which is what draws most of them I suspect. It's a place where you can create an idealized or fantasy version of yourself to interact with others with. That snowballs into tons of art and interaction shared amongst the group. Conventions are huge (here in Pittsburgh we have a big one, maybe the largest in North America?) There is a big sexual element for many, but not all. Furry Porn (yiff) is common, and less-common is fursuit sex. (Fursuits, unsurprisingly, are costumes of furry characters).
How did the person who made the heat map, Reddit's direwoof—who has not responded to a request for comment—learn enough about this elusive tribe to map it? Does the government tag and track furries in the manner of whales and grizzlies? Anything is possible these days, but this map is actually based on user-submitted profiles on another "Furry Map" made by a Germany-based coder. That's caused some critics to complain it's presenting a skewed version of the world's true furry distribution.
And they do seem to have something of a case. "Yeah, one look at Japan told me how wrong this map is," notes one commenter, referencing the Land of the Rising Sun's rising furridom. Another skeptical commenter figured "there has to be at least 1" furry in a state as large as Texas. (If there is, it's gotta be Toughset the Armadillo, who "can roll up in a ball... but prefers not to, due to lack of coordination.")
But much of the map appears accurate if we can assume furries, like so many subcultures, clump up in urban areas. "I live in Orlando, FL. I can confirm there is a dense population of Furricus-Sapien," says one dude. Another person adds: "As someone who lives a ferry ride away from seattle I can unfortunately confirm."
Here are a couple closer views of earth's packed furry dens:
Here is an article, dated February 26, in The Arbiter, the student newspaper of Boise State University:
On most days, Treasure Valley resident A.C. Arment spends his days like any other average human: working, eating and sleeping. On other days, he puts on a green fur suit and becomes Camochi, the anthropomorphic animal hybrid.
“On any given day, I could be hit by a bus or just eat a few slices of pepperoni pizza, just like anyone else,” Arment said. “Camochi is just a little part
Arment is part of the ever-growing furry fandom, a group, mainly consisting of Internet and convention interaction, which shares a common love for the anthropomorphic, whether it be dance, graphic design or even prose.
When making a fur suit or any piece of artwork, furries often draw inspiration from their fursonas, idealized, anthropomorphized versions of themselves.
Camochi has a biohazard sign on his back. According to Arment, this represents several years of bullying from his childhood years.
“I thought I was a plague and that I’d be better off dead,” Arment said. “But then I met wonderful people at conventions and made Camochi.”
In an article entitled “Furries and the Limits of Species Identity Disorder,” Fiona Probyn-Rapsey of the University of Sydney cites a survey done at a furry convention, where researchers found that 46 percent of furry participants identified as less than 100 percent human.
Sophomore English major and member of the furry community Nicholas Walker found that, with many furries, identifying with animals is significantly easier than identifying with humans.
“It’s easier to communicate with animals that won’t talk back or scorn you,” Walker said.
Professor of psychology Matthew Genuchi stressed the importance of finding an accepting community of like-minded people when battling negative emotional effects.
“It can provide you with possible avenues to form deep and meaningful relationships based on those shared interests,” Genuchi said.
According to Walker, the furry fandom offers this community and often helps members battle feelings of exclusion or social anxiety.
But, because the community is so accepting of all possible preferences, Walker finds furries garnering disdain from many.
“There are highbrowed types that really get into the art, but there is also that one person that wants to see two dogs getting it on,” Walker said. “The latter brings out the stigma.”
Arment hopes that people can acknowledge the warm community fostered within the furry fandom instead of “those two dark eggs that ruin the whole bunch.”
He continued to describe the ridiculousness of engaging in fur-related sex.
“I don’t want anyone getting their bodily juices on my $1,000 suit,” Arment said.
the unfortunate issie this story has to be in, not that it surprises me anymore lol...
Sitting in an armchair at Because Coffee, Michael Genzoli hoists a big, blue fox head out of his bag and combs the turquoise shock of hair between its ears. If the weather holds, he and his roommate, who suits up as a white tiger, are going out for Arts! Alive in Old Town Eureka. "If we do, there'll be lots of hugs. And tail pulling," he adds with a shrug. They hate tail pulling. Once the head is on, along with paws and a fat swoosh of a tail, so is Genzoli, hamming it up in pantomime for the photographer. Two young women in the corner, Alexis Roberts and Marie Profant, ask to take a picture and he obliges. When they hear the word "furries," Profant's face freezes and the women exchange a look. If Genzoli notices, it doesn't show. He cocks his head for the crouching photographer. He knows the drill; he's a furry.
Furries — in suits or otherwise — are tired of being labeled deviants, and they're quick to point out that it's a fandom — a group of like-minded fans — not a fetish. Sensational portrayals of fur-suited sex romps in the media and conflation of the group's love of humanoid animals with bestiality have left many skittish about talking to outsiders and the press about the subculture at all, much less anything beyond a G rating. Sex, as it turns out, is only a part of the picture, and not in the way you might think. In fact, this community of fluffy pariahs may have created a uniquely accepting place to experiment with who they are — or could be — including their sexuality and gender.
Remember how much you loved talking cartoon animals as a kid? What if you still loved them? A lot? Just as Trekkies love Star Trek, furries define themselves as fans of fictional anthropomorphic characters — animals that look or behave like people — the kind you might find in a Disney movie, a folk tale or a comic book. And just as not all Trekkies wear Spock ears or Starfleet uniforms, not all furries dress up as animals. In fact, according to the International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP), a team of social scientists who've surveyed thousands of self-identified furries annually over the past five years, fewer than 15 percent of self-proclaimed furries own suits. The vast majority of furries are white males under the age of 30 with some secondary education.
Their numbers in Humboldt County are tough to estimate, since many keep their interests secret from all but the closest of friends due to the social stigma. Owners of one local fursuit company declined to comment for this story because they didn't want to draw attention to themselves in connection with furries, and most of those who would talk opted not to use their real names. But the Humboldt Furries Facebook page has 18 friends and Humfurs, a local MeetUp group, has 22 members. They're out there.
Kylani is a bobcat. Well, in real life, she's an undergraduate wildlife major at Humboldt State University who got into the furry fandom six years ago through her interest in drawing animals, which she finds far more captivating than humans. "Eh," she says over the phone, "[human] faces all look the same." Kylani isn't her name, either, it's her fursona, an alter ego she created. Like most furries, who typically only have one or two over the years, she chose her fursona for personal reasons, starting with an animal that spoke to her and creating a version of herself as she'd like to be. It's similar to cosplay, in which fans dress as favorite characters, but without a ready-made identity and backstory or, necessarily, a costume. (Kylani doesn't have one.) "For me, personally, it's about expressing an inner personality," she says. Like her, bobcats aren't very large, but "they're very adaptable, often ignored, but pretty fierce, pretty awesome creatures."
For Kylani, being a furry isn't about sex at all. Her fursona is a creative outlet, a stronger self she leans on. "I was heavily bullied, I suffered from depression. In my first year of college, I was sexually assaulted," she says with a quiet, steady voice. Her imagination was "a place of refuge" and, in the aftermath of the assault, it was easier to channel her anger through drawings of Kylani than it was to express it directly. "She's got the claws, she's got the teeth," she says, her voice lifting a little. She still struggles, sometimes turning to Kylani for inspiration. "I did not get justice," she says, but she's turned some of her energies to victim support and rape prevention, which, evidently, is what Kylani would do.
Dr. Courtney Plante is a psychology researcher at the University of Waterloo and a co-founder of the IARP. (He's also the only furry on the five-person research team.) Plante says he's interviewed furries who say the escape and community of furry fandom have saved their lives. Acceptance by other furries is "a source of self-esteem for them, sometimes for the first time in their lives." He also notes that, according to the study, some 25 percent of furries keep their fursonas totally separate from their sex lives. For many furries, he says, "This is an idealized version of themselves and they don't want to taint it. For them it would be like drawing genitals on Mickey Mouse."
While Kylani knows there are furries who are into the sexual aspect of the lifestyle, she doesn't know any, and she's not wild about being accused of bestiality or stereotyped as hypersexual. She's also skeptical about those apocryphal tales of costumed orgies. "I'm very sex positive. As long as it's two or more consenting adults," she says. But, "the last thing people want is to get semen on their very expensive fursuit. ... They get very hot and very sweaty and not in a sexy way ... and they're super hard to wash," she adds, laughing. It's an observation repeated (usually with chuckling) by every furry who agreed to be interviewed. In fact, those suits are damn pricey — upward of $2,000 for a custom model. And they're so cumbersome and stuffy that some furry conventions feature "headless lounges" where participants can take off their foam-packed animal heads and sit in front of a fan.
The bestiality rap is unearned, according to Plante, and abusing animals is reviled among the community, which is largely made up of animal lovers. In fact, he says, "There's been a long history of people missing the point ... they go on the assumption that this is a fetish." He says there is a sexual aspect to the fandom because furries are, after all, only human. Mind you, roughly 38 percent of furries surveyed by the IARP say sex is part of their interest but not a defining element (most cite community as key). Thirty-six percent say the sexual aspect is a major draw. Plante estimates that sexual themes are no more prevalent than among comic book fans, for instance. "If you are a 25-year-old male and you're into comic books ... the natural sex drive is already there," he says. And if superheroes enter your sexual imagination and your eyes linger over those tights, "you're just combining your interests."
Fair enough when it comes to Captain America and Wonder Woman, but what about the animal thing? Plante finds the hand wringing silly and blames a "sex negative" society. "You pop a pair of furry cat ears on somebody instead of lingerie and suddenly it's scandalous. ... A Playboy bunny can put on a pair of ears and nobody bats an eye." The bunnies shaking their tails around Hefner's mansion and people in skimpy animal costumes on Halloween are accentuating their human bodies and hinting at an animal nature. And that's a far cry from bestiality. It's actually pretty cliché.
Tucking a lock of wavy brown hair behind her ear, Crysta (fursona name) leafs through sketches — some naturalistic, some humanoid — from the wolf comic she's working on. She wears a tie-dyed T-shirt emblazoned with a phoenix. She's in her 20s but came up with her fursona as a child. It morphs into a new creature every year — a dog, a horse, a snake and once even a human. It wasn't until an old boyfriend introduced her to furry culture that she put a name to the role-play she'd kept going in her imagination into adulthood.
Her alter ego, a strong and adventurous heroine, goes into every part of her life. Among friends, she'll use animal gestures here and there and do a little "skritching," or affectionate scratching similar to grooming. "Gonna say it: Having someone scratch your head is the best thing ever," she proclaims. Like Kylani, she studied wildlife and loves furry art, but some of her drawings and the ones she enjoys looking at are a whole lot friskier.
Plante says the term for furry-themed erotic art, "yiff" (what the mating fox says, apparently), is used ironically and is as uncool as "nookie." But it still pulls up quite an inventory on Google — cartoon images (not actual animals, folks) of wildly varying artistic skill, that skew more Jessica Rabbit than Bugs Bunny.
"Sometimes I'm like, 'That's a really nice piece of art,' and sometimes it's like, 'That's hot," says Crysta. She laughs and turns her large, hazel eyes to the ceiling. "It's porn!"
According to the IARP's numbers, among furries, 96 percent of fellas and 78 percent of ladies view porn with anthropomorphic animal themes, though it seems to be mixed in with PG furry art. Crysta says it's all good fun; nobody gets hurt and it's a little more creative than typical pornography. "And there's a curiosity about what that would be like and feel like," she says, and she sees nothing wrong with exploring that kind of fantasy. She recalls a Christian friend confiding in her that he was worried about some of the images he'd been enjoying online. Crysta rolls her eyes at the memory. She told him to forward them to her for an opinion. "I was like, 'Dude, you might be a furry.'"
Crysta sees Puritanism and a warring obsession with sex as the reason the media and the general public freak out and zoom in on the sexual element of the furry life, ignoring the camaraderie of shared interests. She shrugs. "Because something is different, we're against it. We're horrified, but we're kind of curious." She says she's a sexual person, adding with a laugh, "even though I don't get any right now." She personally can't handle gory images and "vore," in which anthropomorphic characters engulf one another in a puzzling sexual way. "Sometimes I feel like, why is this a thing?" she asks, smiling and covering her face. But she's not judging anybody.
The nonjudgmental nature of the furry community is a big part of its draw. With the exception of things that are illegal, not too much will get you kicked out of the club. Still, Plante says the vast majority of furries "don't want to hear about sex in fursuits, and while they might not reject you, they don't want to know." The same goes for vore, enthusiasts of which he calls a "minuscule" part of the fandom. What will raise the hackles of fellow furries is making the community look pervy to outsiders. In March 2001, Vanity Fair ran an article, "Pleasures of the Fur," that lumped the fandom in with bestiality, animal cruelty and "plushies," people who have sex with stuffed animals. Then a 2003 episode of CSI titled "Fur and Loathing" depicted outlandish fursuited orgies. Those depictions caused many furries to tire of being portrayed as sex nuts in the media and they muzzled up.
Buster is not sure about talking. He leans into the table on his elbows and looks around the café. His backward hat tops a rounded face and soft, sleepy eyes. He's worried the article will reflect badly on the fandom and other furries will hold him responsible. He also doesn't want to use his real name, because neither his family nor his coworkers know he's a furry, and he's not confident they would understand.
While he's not a small guy, his fursona, Buster, is a brown shepherd-lab puppy who's all about play and joy. He doesn't own a suit but he lets the character come out through running, jumping and being "in the moment." He says his alter ego gives him freedom to return to childlike play and express his "authentic self," even if it's one he only shares with his closest friends or at conventions.
Buster draws a hard line between his fursona and his sexuality. He's homosexual, but he's not out to his family about that, either. He'd always been "animalistic in the bedroom," scratching and biting here and there, so pet play was a natural fit. During pet play — a branch of submission/domination role play that is outside the furry fandom — he explains he's not a fully formed anthropomorphic character like Buster, just a dog with collar and a master who gives commands, expects obedience and might use a rolled up newspaper now and then. When you consider the mainstream success of E.L. James' books, it's not that wild — sort of Fifty Shades of Greyhound. The scene gives him some of the same respite from societal expectations that his fursona does — he references the famous Samuel Johnson quote, "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." Buster is about bringing out his true personality, but pet play is about vanishing into a role and becoming something he's not. And he doesn't expect all furries to understand. Even in the typically accepting fetish community, he says people who don't get what being a furry means are put off.
Plante says staying in the furry closet is not uncommon given the stigma surrounding the community, and there's even some nerd-on-nerd hate. According to the IARP's research, furries perceive hostility from outsiders keenly. And not for nothing. The group surveyed sports fans, whose response was "overwhelmingly negative" toward furries, and despite some overlap in membership, even anime fans' perception of furries was "generally negative." Et tu, Sailor Moon? Isn't that the pot calling the kettle freaky? Plante says it's not such a shock, just one stigmatized group throwing another one under the bus to avoid an embarrassing association.
The furry community may not have many allies outside, but inside it's created what Plante sees as a safe space to experiment with one's identity. He observes, "It's hard to judge someone if you're wearing a pair of cat ears." That applies to sexual orientation, too. A recent IARP study found that while 90 percent of Americans say they are heterosexual or mostly so, that number is down to 35 percent among furries, with 25 percent checking off mostly or exclusively homosexual and another 25 percent seeing themselves as bisexual. Nearly 2 percent of furries identify as transgender, which is twice the percentage of anime fans and four times that of fantasy sport fans.
When it comes to fursonas, things get, well, fuzzier. Let's say you identify as a heterosexual male. When it comes to your alter ego, it ain't necessarily so. Crysta says, "I identify as bi but lean toward straight. For my fursona, she's also bi, but I might express her a little more equal opportunity." Other fursonas may differ more strongly. In a 2011 IARP survey, the percentage of fursonas that were exclusively heterosexual was almost 10 percent lower than that of their real-life counterparts. There was a similar gap in the middle of the spectrum, with more fursonas than their furry owners marking off equally heterosexual and homosexual. "Our hypothesis," says Plante, emphasizing that more research and data are needed, "is that a fursona may be a way of compartmentalizing and testing the waters," saying, in effect, "'I'm not gay but my fursona is,'" and seeing how it goes. A fair amount of gender swapping goes on, too. The survey found that while 84 percent of furries at a convention were male and 16 percent were female, only 66 percent of fursonas were "entirely male," and 10 percent were "entirely female." The rest fell somewhere in between. "I would wager," Plante continues, "that there's nothing systematic about the fandom. ... More than anything, the fandom is a safe place for people to be who they want to be."
Michael Genzoli is 25, and he's been a furry since he was 12. He leans back in his chair, spiky black hair peeking out from a black ball cap with a fox logo. And he's fine using his real name instead of his fursona, Tokala. "It's never been anything I've ever felt I should be ashamed of," he says. He knows how lucky he is to be accepted by his family — his grandmother helped him find his first suit. He knows people who haven't had it so easy. His ex's mother, for example, "immediately got on the animal-fucker train" and refused to hear any more.
Tokala is blue — a Fennec fox and red fox hybrid — who's a bit more outgoing and playful than Genzoli is in daily life, though watching him chat up a woman about her boots, it's hard to imagine him as shy. His suit is partial — head, paws and a tail — but he's working on a full one, considering both the design and the maker as carefully as one might plan a serious tattoo. Since he was a kid, Genzoli has connected with animal characters in cartoons, and he wondered if it was normal that he was more interested in them than in fictional humans. Then he found his tribe. He's just gotten back from the Further Confusion conference in San Jose, where 3,560 attendees (some 700 in fursuits) showed up for panels, vendors, socializing and dance-offs. Genzoli especially loves watching people cut loose and get down in their animal get-ups, which is both physically impressive and hilarious. (Treat yourself to a video search — let's just say Lou Seal needs to step it up.) The conference was definitely not a den of faux fur lust. Neither are the furry hangouts with friends in town. Mostly they watch movies, drink, do some drawing and maybe scritch. "Who doesn't want to get their head scratched?" he asks. "It's great!" If somebody shows up with a suit, there's a lot of platonic hugging and petting, but not for too long, he says with a laugh, "those things are hot."
Which isn't to say he doesn't enjoy the sexual aspect of furry culture. "Something that arouses me is furry characters, so it kind of plays a part," he says. While Genzoli hasn't brought his fursona (or his suit) into the bedroom, his partners know about his interests before they start dating, since he and Tokala are more or less "inseparable." He does some online role play which can get steamy. Asked if he means an online game or chatting, he grins and taps his fingers on the table like a keyboard. His fursona is always male, and he prefers role play with women, but he's "not a stickler." In fact, he says of his online furry identity, "I am bisexual, but when it comes to me and other people [in daily life], I'm straight." As far as men in real life, "I've tried it and it just wasn't for me," but there are male characters that he finds "appealing."
He knows that some furries won't be thrilled that he's talking about his sexuality in relation to the fandom. "There are a lot of furries who wish it wasn't so ... denial might fit," he says. He says the hostility toward the community is unfair, noting that other fan groups, such as Trekkies, have adult themes, too, but aren't met with disgust from outside. "Who cares? Who cares if someone else wants to be an animal? Who cares if people want to have sex in their fursuits, or whatever?" Furries, he says, "aren't even the weirdest thing out there by societal standards."
While he gets why so many furries hide, it saddens him. Furries, he feels, need to "stop being ashamed of what we are." And if someone reads this and judges Genzoli, then he or she probably isn't a person he needs in his life. After all, like he says of his fursona, "It's me."
Dated February 11, Inside Edition tells us "What Really Goes On At a Furries Convention" (in this case, Further Confusion 2015):
(Apparently, Inside Information were denied permission to film by FC's organisers, but went ahead and did it anyway.)
It's a convention for people who are anything but conventional.
They call themselves “furries,” and they gather by the hundreds wearing cartoon-animal costumes.
A photo was taken at a convention in Pittsburgh called “Anthrocon,” and can you believe more than 1,300 people showed up wearing furry costumes.
A YouTube video showed the hot new trend at furry conventions called “The Dance-Off.”
So, what's it like inside a furries convention?
INSIDE EDITION producer Nicole Kumar went in posing as a furry at the gathering in San Jose, California.
She said, “Just now, I was approached by someone who said I had to put a dollar on her antler and the beast would save my soul.”
Many of the furries posed for professional photos, like any family portrait, only a lot weirder.
Hotel guests could hardly believe what was going on around her.
Furries are triggering fierce criticism from some.
"Fur suits creep me out," is one of the milder comments on YouTube.
Others call furries "weird" and "losers."
Morgan Smejkal is a furry. She says, "To be a furry is to be an enthusiast of cartoon comics and art."
At her home in Iowa, she showed us some of her outfits. There was a giant pair of feet, a little padding on the hips and butt, and a zipper up the front. Then came the big finish, the headpiece, to complete a character she created which was a red panda named Katana Rose.
The price tag of her costume was $2,500.
She said, "I can breathe just fine. I can even get a drink of water of I want to, the mouth hole is right there."
It's not for everyone but it suits them.
Here is another article in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, about Further Confusion 2015:
San Jose was a lot furrier this weekend, as droves of friendly folks dressed up as cuddly animals descended on the city to meet, mingle and dance at Furcon 2015.
Photographer Vicki Thompson was on the ground in the convention, meeting the regulars and attending the Masquerade dance complete with costumes, smoke machines and a DJ.
What does a Furcon dance look like? Click through the slideshow to find out.
Furcon is serious business for San Jose, Further Confusion 2015 is expected to generate $3 million for San Jose merchants as furries occupy 3,200 hotel rooms, said Ben Roschke at Team San Jose, the nonprofit group that promotes the city as a destination and runs the convention center.
Also, as editor-in-chief Greg Baumann wrote last time the convention was in town, it's the best chance of injecting a bit of eccentricity into a city whose culture is overshadowed by San Francisco.
Here is an article, dated January 19, 2015, in the San Jose Mercury News:
It concerns Further Confusion 2015.
SAN JOSE -- The green-eyed werewolves, foxes in top hats and spectacle-wearing mice formed a fantastical wild kingdom, searching for camaraderie in one of the most curious celebrations of creative expression in Silicon Valley.
San Jose's annual FurCon kicked off last week and goes through Monday, converting the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and three downtown hotels into a colorful and odd collection of larger-than-life furry characters. The furries, as they call themselves, are people who love animals -- both real and fictional animal characters -- dress up as animals and collect anthropomorphic art.
"It's just expressing your creativity and being something else for a while," said Alexis Rudd, of Sonoma, who designs costumes for furries and animal puppets.
The 3,000 furries looked at times like a collection of sports team mascots or characters out of Aesop's Fables. But for many, the five-day convention, dubbed Further Confusion, marked a space where they could shed the identities they have at work or with their families and become, for a brief while, a dancing cheetah, cuddly and affectionate shark, party-loving dragon or tenderly shy unicorn.
Few costume-clad furries talk. Instead, they shake their giant animal head or offer a purr or squeak. Most only use their animal names, such as Moo or Spottacus, and basic identifying traits such as appearance, gender or profession become moot points.
"I don't have to explain anything, and I can share what I want," said Marie, a longtime Bay Area furry who was selling handcrafted goods at FurCon. She declined to share her last name because of what she called her conservative job in the legal field.
"It's a community you can always go back to," she said. "You can be a three-headed werewolf with wings, and I'm going to talk to you seriously."
The annual San Jose convention is one of the largest events of its kind, put on by Milpitas nonprofit Anthropomorphic Arts and Education to raise money for a charity. This year Rocket Dog Rescue, a San Francisco-based volunteer canine rescue organization, will receive the funds raised at FurCon -- where real four-legged furry creatures mixed with the human attendees at the event.
Beyond the money for charity, event organizers estimate that FurCon -- now in its 16th year -- brings about $3 million into the local community, with visitors spending money on hotels, restaurants and transportation, said Sam Rasmussen, FurCon's media liaison.
The Bay Area furries scene has blossomed in part because so many tech workers participate. The chairman of this year's convention works for Google; other furries said they worked at Yahoo, Apple and startups.
Some said the creative freedom encouraged in the furry community, which is unwaveringly judgment-free even when confronted by utter weirdness, is a relief from the rigors of coding and stress of deadlines.
At FurCon, attendees showed off their animal suits in a parade while Maroon 5's "Animals" appropriately played in the background; faced off in a dance competition; joined myriad social events including speed dating; and attended workshops in writing, drawing and puppetry.
"When you get a lot of people with open minds in the same room, it's a huge party," said convention Chairman Jeff Bowman.
But furry fandom -- the term for the community that gathers online and at furry conventions -- was also a buzzing center of commerce. Artists, costume designers, graphic novelists and comic book dealers crowded the Marriott Hotel adjacent to the convention center.
Furry fandom isn't just a fetish or a weekend lifestyle -- it's also a booming and lucrative business. On Saturday morning, costume designer Deanna Petro had just sold a hand-sewn gray wolf costume for $4,000. Animal suits can cost $1,000 to nearly $10,000.
But the lingering question many outside the community might have is: Why would anyone want to spend the day dressed up in a sweltering costume and adopt the personality of a mischievous wolf or flirtatious kangaroo?
For some furries, it's just that they really, really love animals.
"One day, I thought, 'What would it be like if I were a cat?' " said Cassy Abbott, 20, an art student from North Hollywood wearing a $1,900 cat costume. "It's fun to be acting like a cat, running around and nudging people and purring at them."
But for a lot of furries, there's more to it. It's the freedom of adopting a new identity behind the protective layer of a disguise. While many of these furries attend the same conventions, they recognize each other only by their animal persona -- and most took care never to remove their costumes during the convention, even though some of them heated up to 120 degrees and others required that they walk on all fours in a physically grueling display.
In costume, there's less fear of judgment. The closest most of the non-furry community gets to this is a really elaborate Halloween costume.
"People have expectations of you," said David Benaron, a four-decade furry, doctor, Stanford University professor of pediatric medicine and startup CEO. "When you're in this sort of costume, biases and judgments go away. I feel completely comfortable, and I'm not poised in the boardroom or watching the IPO market."
Here is an article, dated January 16, in the Silicon Valley Business Journal:
It concerns this weekend's Further Confusion convention.
Furries, the lovably idiosyncratic, non-threatening folk who cavort in animal costumes and descend on San Jose annually to mingle, learn and dance, are back.
Further Confusion 2015, the convention themed this year as "London Fog: A Victorian Murder Mystery," kicked off Thursday. So far, about 2,100 people have preregistered for the event at the McEnery Convention Center downtown. By the time things wrap up Monday, organizers expect that number to top the 3,560 that attended last year.
I said it last year: These Furcon festivals might be Silicon Valley's last, best hope at weird. And it's true. The homogenous, suburban culture that evolved out of our tech companies is now an economic liability as employers cluster closer to the urban amenities of San Francisco.
So furries are serious business. Beyond its abstract importance, Further Confusion 2015 is expected to generate $3 million for San Jose merchants as furries occupy 3,200 hotel rooms, said Ben Roschke at Team San Jose, the nonprofit group that promotes the city as a destination and runs the convention center.
This year, people from 12 countries including Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Bermuda and Singapore have preregistered, event organizers said. The event is one of a few significant furry gatherings annually. Furfest in Chicago is a big draw and AnthroCon in Pittsburgh is the biggest event for fur enthusiasts each year.
In San Jose, the annual Fanime animation event draws more people each year, Roschke said. That one generates about $10 million in economic activity and fills about 10,000 hotel rooms.
This journalist matter-of-factly calls the MWFF chemical attack a "hate crime" and "sabotage by anti-furry fetish terrorists." See if you can make sense of the bizarre description of the author at the end of the article.
Well, I started clicking through out of curiosity and noticed a blue fox/wolf in the background.
It's totally a fursuit. It looks like a legit fursuit & not one of those mass-produced bit of terribles.
And a few images later I see this:
And a better shot of the canine/fox suit:
It's certainly not the first time furries have shared the stage with music groups:
Flaming lips has them regularly, and even Incubus & Moby have featured them in videos.