Furries In The Media
Here is an article on the website of 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR news station:
The world’s largest convention for furries, those fascinated with anthropomorphics, returns to Pittsburgh this weekend joining thousands of attendees Downtown in custom fursuits, ears, tails and everything in between.
“We’re expecting a little over 6,000 this year,” said Samuel Conway, convention chair and chief executive of Anthrocon Inc. “It’s had fairly steady and fairly sharp growth ever since we started.”
The convention began in 1997 with about 300 attendees before deciding on Pittsburgh in 2006. Organizers have returned every year.
“They’ve embraced us and we’ve embraced them right back,” said Tom Loftus, vice president for communications with tourism advocacy group VisitPittsburgh. “To be honest, in 2006 it was a curiosity. People didn’t know who they were, but now when it comes to July we’re wondering where the furries are. We love them; they’re a great group.”
The convention has always included an annual fursuit parade, but 2015 will mark the first time furries will march outdoors. The Fursuit Walk parade, expected to include about 1,300 characters, will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday on Tenth Street outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Though those in full fursuits are typically more visible, Conway said 80 percent of furries do not wear full animal suits. Many come for the artwork, to meet people who design and create costumes and connect with others who share a love of cartoon animals.
“We have an entire world of dreamers that look to animals for their inspiration,” Conway said. “How great would it be if animals could walk and talk as we could? And the image of the anthropomorphic animal is a universally accepted image.”
Anthrocon includes workshops, acting seminars, costume-building, animation, writing, art, design, lectures and more. Conway said furry fandom encompasses a diverse group.
“We have teachers, we have union laborers, we have scientists, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, computer programmers, you name it,” he said. “Anybody out there who is able to dream and likes animals can be a furry.”
As tourists, Loftus said the furries leave an even greater economic impact on the city at large.
“This year alone there’s going to be $5.7 million in direct spending,” Loftus said. “But I think even a cooler story is every year they donate money back to the community. They choose a charity or a non-profit and this year it’s going to be the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.”
Last year, convention-goers donated to the National Aviary.
PITTSBURGH —Downtown Pittsburgh will take another walk on the wild side with the annual Anthrocon this weekend.
The furries -- people who are fascinated with anthropomorphics -- arrived Thursday for their national convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The event runs through Sunday.
Anthrocon Chairman Samuel Conway says downtown has received his group with enthusiasm. "At lunch time, (people from) businesses come down and interact with us and it's like a big street party," Conway said. "It's fantastic."
While in town, many of the 5,000-plus visitors will stay dressed in full or partial animal costumes as they walk through the streets of the Golden Triangle.
Sometimes they're bombarded with requests to pose for pictures. Other times, people think they're weird.
"If they think we're weird, I suppose we are. This is not the type of thing you see every day," Conway said.
Anthrocon includes workshops, panel discussions, art exhibitions and vendors catering to fans of the human-like animal characters.
VisitPittsburgh estimates the convention has brought more than $34 million in direct spending to the city since it first arrived in 2006. Anthrocon has also raised more than $100,000 for local charities.
------------firstname.lastname@example.org or tap the u local button on the WTAE mobile
From KDKA - http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2015/07/09/furries-back-in-pittsburgh-for-4-day-anthrocon-convention/
And WPXI - http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/anthrocon-2015-makes-its-way-pittsburgh/nmwMB/
About 6,000 fans of humanized animals are descending on Pittsburgh for the four-day Anthrocon 2015 convention that starts Thursday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Many Pittsburghers take part in furry watching during the event, bringing even more people downtown. The event is a boon to Pittsburgh businesses, especially along Penn and Liberty near the convention center.
e is a reminder of what you'll see downtown this weekend, a slideshow of photographs from Anthrocon 2014 taken by attendees.
This year's fursuit parade, which takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday, will leave the convention center for the first time so the public can watch.
Here is an another article on WTAE-TV's website, about their coverage of the weekend's Anthrocon convention:
PITTSBURGH —WTAE Digital Producer Daisy Ruth will be taking us inside the Anthrocon convention this year and hang out with the Furries! You can follow along in our "Furries" Live Wire: http://wtae.tv/6010B8lfQ
Anthrocon, the convention for those fascinated with Anthropomorphics, returns to Pittsburgh July 9-12, 2015.
If you see a furry this weekend downtown, don’t be afraid to say hello to these people who may be a bit different than you. Ask (stress: ASK) for a selfie or photo with them, and send them in to WTAE using #WTAEfurries.
You can also share the "Furries" graphic below on your social media accounts...
It describes Anthrocon's impact on the local economy.
The business of the furry convention
Anthrocon estimated to bring in $5.7 million to Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH —One of the largest conventions to hit Pittsburgh is back this weekend, and it’s bringing a whole lot of business with it.
Anthrocon 2015 (also known as the furry convention) hits the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this weekend. Businesses downtown are already preparing for 6,000 fursuitted guests to arrive.
Visit Pittsburgh estimates that Anthrocon 2015 will bring in $5.7 million in direct spending to the city of Pittsburgh. The furries also collect donations for a local charity every year. This year’s is the Humane Society of Western PA.
Tom Martini, general manager of the Westin hotel, said Anthrocon is always the second or third largest convention for the hotel every year. Martini said there are around 2,300 rooms booked for Anthrocon this year.
The Pittsburgh Business Times stresses just how important the convention is for the area in the summer.
Last year, according to their book of lists, Anthrocon was the sixth largest convention in Pittsburgh, including destination events including the NCAA hockey championship and the Pittsburgh marathon.
“Anthrocon specifically, the furries, tend to be pretty social and get out into the neighborhood and frequent the restaurants and the bars in the area,” said Pittsburgh Business Times research director Ethan Lott. “From talking to them, those establishments expect to see increases in their businesses and they look forward to them coming to town.”
No one prepares quite like Fernando’s Café on Liberty Avenue, a short walk from the Convention Center.
At one time, Fernado’s was slated to close. Taking a look at the restaurant’s Facebook page, one finds that the furries are responsible for pulling owner Ali Budak and his business out of the recession.
The post on the page, shared from another Facebook user and titled “Furnandocon 2012” states that the furries came together back in 2012 and raised a total of $21,000 in donations to support this local Pittsburgh business.
“We have our regulars come in every other Friday, they’re from Pittsburgh,” said Budak, who was setting up his t-shirt and bowl stand when Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 arrived. “I just love them so much because they bring a lot of business here. They bring fun, they bring happiness, and they just bring the childhood out in us again.”
Budak is offering his “bowl special” to convention goers for $15, including a wrap, two slices of pizza, a drink, and chips. He says the lasagna wrap is the most popular thing of the furries.
Furryland Café also serve breakfast every morning at 7 for their furry friends.
“We turn this place, instead of Fernado’s, to Furryland Café, so we just work for them, for a whole week, we help them.”
Budak says he is going to have cooling stations all over the restaurant and outside, with cold water and big fans to help those who helped him.
If you see a furry this weekend downtown, don’t be afraid to say hello to these people who may be a bit different than you. Ask (stress: ASK) for a selfie or photo with them, and send them in to WTAE using #WTAEfurries. Stay tuned to the link to our LiveWire for everything furry this weekend.
And another article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this time about Pittsburgh's local furry community:
In the article, the interviewer speaks with furries Paige Ward ("Sage Firefox"), Carl K. ("R.C. Fox"), Khalil Brown, and Courtney Wagner.
One Friday a month, Pittsburgh’s Furries flock to Fernando’s Cafe on Liberty Avenue. This meetup is their second most popular, next to bowling.
Last Friday, about 20 locals were eating and talking when someone put “Le Freak” by Chic on the stereo. A few jumped up — some in fur suits, some not — and joined in a disco line.
Pittsburgh’s annual Anthrocon, which begins Thursday, draws all the attention as costumed enthusiasts suddenly appear in Downtown. But really, the Furries have never left. Active and visible year-round, the city’s Furry community provides not only an anchor for the convention but also a welcoming social environment for like-minded people — with or without fur suits.
“We’ve jokingly referred to Pittsburgh as ‘Furry Mecca,’ ” said Paige Ward, 29, of Allentown.
Ms. Ward, who works as a document custodian at BNY Mellon, wore a pair of red ears to Fernando’s. As she ate a slice of pizza, her red panda helmet looked out from the table. “Sage Firefox,” Ms. Ward’s chosen fursona (a fictional animal alter-ego), is a reflection of her personality, she said.
“For me, being a Furry is acknowledging and embracing the animal side of me,” Ms. Ward said. “I have that connection on a spiritual level with the animal I chose to represent myself.”
That connection varies from Furry to Furry.
“I’m totally human from top to bottom,” Ms. Ward said. “Within our local fandom, I know of at least three ‘therians’ — a wolf, a fox and a phylocene — and for them, their spirit is that animal, and their body does not match what their spirit says they are.”
Ms. Ward, who helps organize the local group, didn’t identify as a Furry until 2008, after she graduated from Marietta College in Ohio. Like many local Furries, she found her way into fandom through its anthropomorphic artwork.
“It’s kind of an all-or-nothing thing,” she said. “You start going, they drag you to the convention, and that’s it, you’re done.”
Around Pennsylvania, Furries congregate on one online forum, www.pa-furry.org, and a handful of Facebook and Twitter groups. Anywhere between a dozen and a hundred Furries, friends and family show up to the local events, which become more frequent in the summer.
Pittsburgh’s Furries gather outdoors in Schenley Plaza and Alameda Park (in costume), take trips to Kennywood (no costumes), and even go ice-skating (just ears and tails). Last month, around 50 marched in the Pittsburgh Pride parade, and a group participated in Midland’s July 4th parade. The scene has never been so big.
“It was more underground in the ’90s and ’00s,” said Carl K., 31, who asked that his last name not be used. “Anthrocon was our saving grace.”
When Carl — “R.C. Fox” in costume — found the fandom, it was 1997, and online forums were all they had. The very first Western Pennsylvania Furry Weekend, now held annually in September or October, didn’t appear until four years later, in 2001. Now he wears his suit to Station Square, where he works as a network engineer. He’s even suited up for a Penguins game.
There’s no one way to participate, however. Of the crowd at Fernando’s, only three had full fur suits, which aren’t cheap. Carl bought his custom-made one last year for $2,500. The rest wore some combination of ears, tails, convention T-shirts, or maybe just a badge with their fursona on it.
Neither Morningside resident Khalil Brown, 21, or Highland Park resident Courtney Wagner, 22, have fur suits, but both said they found the community welcoming. Ms. Wagner said she’s been a Furry her whole life, but only realized it when she became a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
“When I found out about the fandom, it was like, yes, this is what I am.”
Dated July 8, here is an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the upcoming Anthrocon convention:
Restaurants will be selling food out of dog bowls and drinks with 36-inch straws (long enough to fit under a fur suit).
With Anthrocon opening Thursday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown businesses are preparing for the nearly 6,000 Furries expected to hit town through Sunday.
Baris Budak, owner of Pizza Parma and Fernando’s Cafe, stocks up on dog bowls and straws, hires as many temps as he can afford and orders ingredients by the truckload for the Furries’ favorite lasagna wrap.
“We start shopping two weeks before,” Mr. Budak said, “Even big companies like Coke will make an exception and do an extra delivery at night.”
Fernando’s Cafe has a special place in the hearts of Furries. Its original owner. Fernando DeCarvalho, became famous in the Anthro community after he was hit in the head with a brick while defending a Furry. Now a missionary in South America, Mr. DeCervalho left the cafe to Mr. Budak, who continues to welcome them each year and renames the cafe Furryland when the convention is in town.
Mr. Budak is not the only one to benefit from Anthrocon. Since the convention moved to Pittsburgh in 2006, it has brought in $39.6 million, according to Visit Pittsburgh. It’s expected to generate $5.7 million this year, $200,000 more than last year.
Hotels also prepare for the Furry invasion. “We expect that they travel with a lot of luggage, so we have extra carts to help them on the day of arrival,” said Tim Zugger, general manager at the Downtown DoubleTree, one of eight hotels hosting Anthrocon attendees.
Only about 20 percent of attendees don the full fur suit; many choose to wear ears, a tail or just a button with a picture of their anthropomorphic alter ego, said Anthrocon board member Karl Jorgensen of Leesburg, Va.. “For the most part it’s people who develop their own characters, and each character is unique to that person,” he explained. Characters can range from wolves to dragons to bears, and, for those who don’t want to wear a fur suit, there are artists at the convention who will draw their character for pins or for posting online.
In addition to Artists Alley and the Dealers Room, where Furry memorabilia can be purchased, the convention has events ranging from the Fur Suit Olympics to a comedy show called “Whose Lion Is It Anyway?” There are also workshops where Furries can hone their acting, drawing and writing skills.
A fur suit can cost thousands of dollars, especially if it’s customized with robotic parts like wiggling ears or blinking eyes. But it gets hot in Pittsburgh in July.
“It can be exhausting and stressful to be walking around in that costume for all that time,” Mr. Jorgensen said, “They need lots of water, so we provide a headless zone for them to cool down, relax, take their heads off, take a break and rest.”
When Anthrocon’s animals aren’t roaming Downtown streets, they might be found at one of several charity events. The board chooses a different local animal-related charity each year and collects donations through raffles, auctions and poker tournaments. Last year, Anthrocon donated more than $32,000 to The National Aviary, and this year, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society will be the beneficiary.
Mr. Budak plans to set up a cooling station with fans and barrels of bottled water for his Furry customers. He also has themed shirts, hats and dog bowls to sell during the convention, and donates $1 from every item sold to Mr. DeCarvalho’s missionary work in South America. This year’s memorabilia features a graphic of the Earth with a tail and says: “Save the Earth. It’s the only planet with chocolate, pizza and furries.”
London's furries hanging out by the Thames (Photos by the author)
"I've never had relations with a snake-lion before. There's something about racoons, though. And wolves, too. They're kind of sexy."
It's 2PM on a sweltering Saturday afternoon in a wine bar near St Paul's Cathedral. During the week, this place would be populated by the investment banker types that give Occupy protesters fever dreams. Today, however, it's playing host to a meet-up of London's furry community, people who dress up in animal costumes – or costumes of new, imagined creatures – and hang out in wine bars, or other suitable venues.
The guy I'm talking to is wearing a badge with "SciBat" – his furry name – written on it, alongside a hand-drawn illustration of a faux-mythical, disconcertingly buff creature with bat ears. More prosaically, SciBat – who's real name is Gavin, a computer programmer from Hither Green – has thinning hair tied into a ponytail and wears an ill-fitting shirt covered in psychedelic patterns.
London's fur-wearing enthusiasts congregate here twice a month for a friendly knees-up in which they sit around playing complicated fantasy board games like Space Alert, draw animal cartoons in sketchpads or simply drink and shoot the shit about the difficulty of buying a unicorn outfit to fit a 48-inch chest. From where I'm standing, I can see at least 20 fully-grown adults in colourful animal outfits being served by slightly bemused weekend bar staff. There's a Japanese guy wearing a ratty dinosaur's tail; a man in a plaid shirt with a multi-coloured racoon's head; a white tiger with a perky tail; a kitten with giant, sad eyes; several wolves; and a dinosaur with a yellow Mohican. I'm here to try to understand just what it is about dressing up as a big sad cat-human in public that's so compelling.
Before coming, I'd worried slightly about what to wear, but there was no need. According to a recent survey, only 15 percent of furries actually dress up, although a majority have anthropomorphic avatars – animals with which they identify and feel "an important emotional or spiritual connection" to, be the creature "real, fictional or symbolic". Buying all the gear isn't cheap – a partial animal costume, including a head, paws and tail, will set you back £300. A bespoke full-body suit can be ten times that or more.
"You've got to decide whether you're natural or a toony," Rufus the Tiger tells me, his tail straggling over his blue camo trousers. "A lot of people are toonies." Looking around, I see what he means: there are very few realistic animals here. Most costumes are a blend of two or more creatures – there's a goat with a dorsal fin enjoying some pork scratchings at the bar, for example. Many more veer towards the fantastical, with Pokemon and Japanese manga influences both popular.
I turn back to SciBat. What's the most important aspect when creating a costume?
"How cute it is."
Cutesiness definitely appears to be a big factor, with a lot of the mascots gambolling around the room or whooping and cuddling in the garden outside. Many don't respond verbally when spoken to, instead cradling their cheeks with an "oh me, oh my" coyness. While most are chilled out, there is a sense of hyperactive near-hysteria among others, as though they're a bunch of nerdy kids in the playground given an hour's respite while the school bully's inside bog-washing emos.
No doubt this is partly due to the crowd's composition. The first thing that strikes me is how young a lot of the people are, with many either 17 or 18. One 24-year-old tells me he feels ancient, though in reality there are plenty here in their thirties, forties and above. The second thing I note is the scene's inherent geekiness. This is a room full of desperately nervous young men, the snaggle-toothed, soft-bellied and pony-tailed. It's a room in which Game of Thrones viewers will have already read all the books, a fact they will remind you of regularly.
The so-called "furry fandom" itself is relatively new, born out of sci-fi and comic conventions in the 80s and then disseminated via fanzines and the internet. Furriness is an 80 percent male persuasion, though girls are increasingly getting into the scene, with some here today. Like all subcultures, this one has its own vocabulary. Terms include "scritching" (mutual grooming); a "fur pile" (when a bunch of furries lay on top of one another); "yiffing" (having sex) and "spooging" (ejaculating).
I get chatting to two very cute dogs by the fruit machines. At least, I assume they're dogs. One turns out to be a "Mango" – a mixture between a mongoose and a dingo – and the other is a prairie dog called Éclair. One of the things about this environment is that you tend not to have any idea of the genders beneath the suits, and I'd been under the impression that both were guys. In fact, Mango is an IT worker called Antony, and Éclair is a girl called Anne-Marie. I ask how long they've been into dressing up.
"He's five years old," Antony says, referring to Mango as though it were a separate, sentient being.
Are he and Éclair a couple?
"Yeah, more or less."
Apparently they met on a furries dating website called pounced.com.
Just then, a man with a goatee and a ponytail turns up. It appears he is a furry-fancier, or "furvert".
"Can you bark?" he demands of Éclair over his pint of London Pride.
"You don't bark very loudly. But that's the kind of dog you are – a little yappy dog. Can you yap?"
A koala bear at the next table looks on.
"And your nose – papier mâché, right?"
"It's plastic, actually."
"I bet it gets covered in cum," says the man with ponytail, breathlessly.
This seems like a natural point in the conversation to ask about the more sexual elements of the fandom, but Mango and Éclair amble out into the beer garden before I can bring it up.
The issue of how sexual the culture is won't go away. Furries themselves are understandably cagey; many distrust the media, who they say sensationalise things by making out that they're nothing but a bunch of perverts who get off on having sex in sweaty animal suits. Bar the excited furvert, I don't see much evidence of this. However, with the prevalence of furry pornographic images online, it's slightly disingenuous to claim that the scene has nothing to do with sex at all.
Opinions are split: in one survey, a sizeable minority of furries – 37 percent – said that sex is an important part of their activities, but then another quarter also said that it wasn't a factor at all. There are outfits specially modified for sex, "mursuits", but these are disparaged by many of the more straight-edge furries.
"We're not all fucking in the toilets like back in 1999," says Mike wistfully. He's a red-haired guy with a bird's nest of a beard and a Panama hat who introduces himself as a fine artist catering to the furry community. "The fandom has had to get a lot more careful."
Is being a furry all about sex?
"You're asking the wrong question. It's not that furries are sexual, per se. Furries are human, and humans are sexual beings. They say we're weird, but what about all those people who go to Star Wars conventions? I bet some of them have had sex in their costumes. It's no different, but the media never picks up on that."
So then what's the attraction of donning a squirrel suit to sink a few pints of real ale?
"It's about freedom. I prefer not to live in reality. My inner life is so vivid that it would be a waste of time. I worked in an office once, but I had to leave. Others have normal lives, and good luck to them, but I needed something different. Being furry is a reflection of that."
As we chat, a trio of volunteers in casual clothes and name-badges yell for everyone in costume to gather outside.
"Right, everyone keep together," they shout by the entrance of the bar. "Walkies!"
A parade of furries leaves the safe confines of the venue and marches into the street. I wonder how people will react, but the crowds – mainly tourists and people enjoying their weekends – are overwhelmingly positive. Taxis beep their horns, people wave from buses, tourists stand and stare. Kids in particular get incredibly excited, laughing and pointing and high-fiving the animals as they pass. To the uninitiated, I suppose the furries could just look like a bunch of slightly nightmarish football mascots on a bar crawl.
"Where are we going?" I ask a grizzled older guy in a cape.
"To the Tate Modern," he says "We're no longer welcome at St Paul's. We upstaged a wedding there once."
A hen-do on a beer-bike cheers. A Japanese woman says how sweet everyone looks and photographs her two daughters with the mascots. Soon we reach the riverbank and the furries mess around for a while, taking selfies at the foot of the Millennium Bridge. Then we cross the river. We're in front of the Tate's magnificent industrial façade. A street-performer blows huge, oily bubbles. The furries skip through them, goofing around with passers-by. A little girl plays with the pink tail of a dragon.
"It's like they're an exhibition from the gallery," a woman says.
"OK! Heads off!" shouts one of the organisers. He leads the group to a secluded spot by a nearby housing block. Here, everyone takes off the heads of their costumes and sits down, happy to escape the heat. Several of them place the heads on a row of bollards nearby. It's strange to see those heads all lined up there, disembodied, as though a bunch of revolutionary animals have just been guillotined.
"Orgy! Orgy!" the organiser jokes. "For the record, that's not happening."
When everyone's caught their breath, it's time to turn back. We cross Blackfriars Bridge, stopping for a group photo on the way.
Unexpectedly, I find the whole thing strangely moving. Many would regard furries as freaks, and even they admit that their interests are unconventional. But in defiance of people's opinions they're happy to reveal themselves to the world, coming out in public en masse, not giving a shit about what others think. And, of course, everyone we met along the way was accepting and positive anyway. Inadvertently, the furries have taught me a lesson – that it's OK to be who you want to be, and to celebrate it, as long as what you want to be isn't something super creepy that's going to bum out everyone around you.
As Mike says: "When you put on a fur suit you feel like you've changed, become better, something different, just for a while. You can do things you couldn't otherwise do."
All names have been changed.
July 6, 2015
Business & Tech News, News
The Furries are coming! Once again Pittsburgh welcomes Anthrocon for its 2015 Annual Convention, July 9-12, and this year the Furries are taking to the streets in the traditional parade that will be outside for the first time.
From Thursday through Sunday, the annual Anthrocon Convention will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Also known as “the Furries,” the international convention has been hosted in Pittsburgh since 2006 and is the largest of its kind with 6,000 attendees representing 34 different countries expected this year.
“Pittsburgh is unique among cities that I have attended or been involved in planning events like this because, let’s face it…it can look unusual,” says Dr. Samuel C. Conway, chairman and chief organizer of Anthrocon. “But Pittsburgh not only greeted us, but really rolled out the red carpet.”
Conway (or Uncle Kage as he’s better known in the Furry community) explains that Pittsburgh has embraced the spirit of the annual event, and that Anthrocon “treasures its relationship with the city.”
The convention is expected to bring in more than $5.7 million in direct spending to the local economy. Along with the boost for local businesses, each year a Pittsburgh-area charity is chosen to be supported throughout the weekend in the form of auctions, performances and “bucket-brigade” collections by costumed attendees among other efforts. Over $32,000 was raised for the National Aviary over the course of last year’s convention. The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is the chosen beneficiary this year.
“You’re going to see a lot of folks in costumes running around; it is a unique feature … we are different from everybody else,” says Conway. “We are not a consumer fandom, we are a creator fandom. Every single costume is an original creation. They’re not commercial characters. They are wearable, original works of art.”
Though Anthrocon is mostly known for its uniquely costumed attendees, Conway suspects that the costumed group only represents about 20% of the convention with the majority being animators, writers, puppeteers, comic book artists, performers and casual fans.
“We’re not just costumers, there’s a lot more to us,” he says.
The 2015 theme is “Viking Invasion.” Though it’s a colorful and unique subject for attending artists to run with, it’s also a nod to the large number of Scandinavian fans expected to be in attendance. Guests of Honor this year are voice artist Kimlinh Tran and Ted Giannoulas, who is credited with creating the professional sports mascot with his persona, the San Diego Chicken.
Events throughout the convention weekend include a Dealer’s Room, art show and “artist alley” for on-the-spot creation, evening entertainment, dances, panel discussions, workshops and how-to presentations. Though membership is required for attendance, Anthrocon has day passes for the curious passerby.
“We have something for just about everyone,” says Conway.
If a 24-hour membership doesn’t suit you, the annual parade or “Fursuit Walk” will take place at 2 p.m. outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (10th Street) on July 11 and is open to the public for the first time.
“The people of Pittsburgh have been very good to us, and the parade is our showpiece. We’re very excited to share it,” says Conway.
Here is an article on the website of WTAE-TV (an ABC-affiliated television station located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania):
The article is a teaser for the Daisy Ruth's “Inside the Furries” coverage of this year’s Anthrocon.
PITTSBURGH —Stay tuned to WTAE.com for Daisy Ruth’s “Inside the Furries” coverage at this year’s Anthrocon to understand the fandom and learn more through her experiences.
One of the most wonderful things about Pittsburgh is that many people here understand that if everyone was the same, the world would be a very boring place. Many conventions of varied interests come through the city and no one bats at eyelash at how off the beaten path they may seem to be.
One of the biggest conventions to hit Pittsburgh is Anthrocon. This year’s will be held at the Westin hotel from July 9-12.
Dr. Courtney “Nuka” Plante is a doctor of psychology from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. He is a social psychologist and specializes in studying fan groups and those with shared fantasies. This doctor of sociology is also involved in one of the most criticized fandoms of all time – the furries, whose biggest convention is known as Anthrocon.
You’ve probably seen them around downtown, life-sized wolves and dragons and anything you could imagine.
This group of fur-suited fans has been the victim of negative media attacks for the past 10 years. Dr. Plante credits this to things such as an episode of "CSI" that depicted the fandom in an incorrect light and gave the general public misconceptions of furries as freaks with a serious fetish.
Plante is involved with the International Anthropomorphic Research Project, which conducts research of the furries and the fandom in general during conventions such as Anthrocon. These people work to research just how different these people are from fans of anything, particularly anime and fantasy sports fans.
“When we compare furries to sport fans, we’re a in sense asking the question: what’s the difference between a sort of accepted, mainstream fan group, and a more fringe or eccentric fan group?” said Plante.
In the research text "'By the Numbers': Comparing Furries and Related Fandoms," provided to Pittsburgh's Action News 4 by Plante, various statistics are provided to prove this fandom is as sane as the average Pittsburgher. The research was mostly conducted at various furry conventions, including Anthrocon. Online surveys were distributed to the fandom via email with a passcode as well.
According to the team's research, only about 6 percent of furries reported having some form of anxiety disorder. That includes social anxiety. In the general population (those who do not identify themselves as furry), that number sits at 30 percent.
Also, participants in a survey at the Anthrocon convention in 2013 who more strongly identified themselves as furries scored higher on a self-esteem scale. They are described as having "stronger feelings of significance in the world and events around them, an increased understanding (or impending understanding), and sharper/heightened cognitive abilities."
According to this research, furries as a whole are well-educated, with approximately 70 percent of furries reporting some form of completed or in-progress post-secondary education.
A large percentage of furries have a fursona, a definition Plante was happy to explain.
“An anthropomorphic animal representation of the self,” said Plante. “It’s sort of the character or the avatar you use to interact with the other members of the furry fandom.”
An avatar seems to be an accurate description, as only 15 percent of furries actually own a full fur suit, and most communicate with each other in the online universe. These younger furries often have trouble with finances when it comes to creating or purchasing a fur suit or traveling to conventions.
“More often than not, the vast majority of furries will create versions of themselves, fursonas that are like them but better versions of themselves,” said Plante. “So, when we ask people, ‘Describe your fursona,’ they say ‘Oh, my fursona’s a lot like me, but it’s a more outgoing, better, attractive, funnier, more playful version of me.'”
“Very few people say ,‘Oh, my fursona’s a jerk!’”
Developing a fursona and using it either online or at conventions like Anthrocon seem to be beneficial to those participating in the fandom personally. The team Plante is involved with has researched that as well.
“What we’re thinking is that if I’m a very shy person, but my fursona is much more outgoing, much more confident, well, if I spend two or three or four years interacting with other people as a more outgoing, extroverted, confident, funny version of myself, over time, I will start changing as well,” Plante explained.
Evidence suggests furries may have a better-developed, more stable sense of identity than non-furries. So if attending a convention with others like you is going to change you for the better, why not give it a shot, if that’s what you enjoy doing?
Pittsburgh has always been a welcoming, accepting city for this fandom, and here’s to hoping it continues for this year’s Anthrocon. If you happen to see one of these NORMAL people in incredible costumes walking the streets of Pittsburgh, don’t be afraid to say hello. It’s beneficial to all of us to learn from those with different interests than us.
The furry subculture has a certain connotation in popular culture for their, ahem, mating habits. But not much beyond this small facet of this vast culture is widely known.
We here at the Weekly enlisted the help of the world's leading television naturalist, Figgy Dobbs, to enlighten us beyond the Bloodhound Gang level of knowledge of this fascinating culture. Mr. Dobbs witnessed these creatures from afar at one of the country's largest furry conventions, located right here in Irvine.
He featured it in the latest episode of his nature documentary for us all to get a closer look of the elusive furry. Let's take a look.
Qui sont les furries, ces étranges créatures mi-hommes mi-peluches ?http://www.telerama.fr/sortir/qui-sont-les-furries-ces-etranges-creatures-mi-hommes-mi-peluches,128210.php
These anthropomorphism fans who think they are bisounours subject of a documentary currently visible to the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, where they will be present Sunday in flesh and hair. Deciphering the phenomenon "furry" by the filmmakers.
It is not always easy to identify. Some are content to display the image of an anthropomorphic animal on their Facebook pages. Other running around with cat ears or a fox's tail. Others, finally, practice "fursuit" - complete disguise - and attempt excursions to the public space to the delight of children who, seeing those big tumble doggies and other vixens of space, take them for mascots Disney.
These are the "furries" (or "furs" or "fur" in French): an underground community born in the 1980s that grew wider with the emergence of the Internet. Present in the United States, Canada and Europe (1), furries have opted for an alternative existence by identifying with a totem animal. At major international gatherings, waddle away from humming "I want to be cat" Pow Wow group, they organize parties frenzied backdrop of electro music.
- Documentary Juggalos, clowns cursed America
Alain Della Negra Artists and Kaori Kinoshita followed these strange creatures where they are most numerous and most active: the United States. From this meeting was born a disturbing documentary, The Lair (2009). The latter is currently presented to the Modern Art Museum of Paris under Asides the exhibition, which offers young artists to exhibit one of their works, along with some selected pieces from the museum collection. Alain Della Negra and Kaori Kinoshita, who organize Sunday, June 21 a meeting with the public, in the presence of some representatives of the furry community, returning to the phenomenon.
How to become a furry?
There motivations and lifestyles very different. What unites them is the attraction to anthropomorphic animals or simply to their representations. Some strongly identify with their totem animal, others are more attracted to the "furry art". Thus, the first action of a furry is the "commission" passed with a furry artist, responsible for shaping the "fursona," or character, described by Sponsor. On this basis, furries create themselves or make their costumes make them, again, by a specialized artist. However, only 20% wear a "fursuit" or full suit, which also is quite expensive (starting at several hundred dollars). Most so wear some accessories like earrings or a necklace ... In the US, they are "thoroughly" and also more freedom: some will even work with their tails!
Are the Furies artists?
They are all amateurs, drawings, especially manga and comics. Among the artists, there are stars, odds ... and even auctions that are organized in the "conventions", the name given to international gatherings of furries. There is a crude art side and outsider who were very interested us. Maybe we discovered Henry Darger, like the man who draws only mermaids with incredible mythology around it.
How is this community appeared?
With the development of internet, as early as 1980. The first role models were cartoons like King Leo, from the manga of Osamu Tezuka (aired in the 1960s, Ed) or Robin Hood (which dates from 1973 and where malicious fox portrays the hero, Ed). We have discovered by chance via the virtual world Second Life, we had invested in the framework of our previous documentary (The cat, the reverend and the slave, 2010, Ed). There was a lot of avatars with animal heads: it was furries! Second Life is out of fashion, but they are very active on social networks, forums and discuss their even have a specialized Wikipedia (WikiFur).
Are left this approach?
It was long. Furries are very suspicious of the media. They regret that the whole community will be presented as obsessed and plusophile (sexually attracted lint, Ed). The issue of sexuality is very sensitive. When we wanted to go to the largest gathering of the furry world, Anthrocon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they were stung by an episode of the TV series Crime Scene Investigation. We decided to go incognito, with furries we knew, the idea of ??filming did they. But it was quickly grilled, because they had bought rabbit ears in the corner of the costume shop, because we did not have the attitude. The way to play a character, the itches that last 10 minutes ... We looked lost. Fortunately, when they knew, they accepted us and we were able to do a lot of interviews.
These are plants in your documentary. The voice of the furries is the only one that can hear and immersion is quite disturbing. Was that the objective?
We see people who seem perfectly normal to talk about them so incredible, as animals. But when they describe their pet, fursona, they still talk about them. This can evoke a psychoanalysis, this way of recognizing its weaknesses, to question the construction of identity. What interests us is the disorder that exists between reality and fiction. And how the viewer will be located relative to it.
Hospitalities. Meet the authors of the documentary The Lair, Sunday, June 21 at Museum of Modern Art, in the presence of some members of the furry community, from 10 am. More information .
As part of a coach tour organized on 21 June by the TRAM - contemporary art network of Île-de-France, which places different cultural rally on the occasion of the 5th edition of hospitalities.
First, in the Police Briefs section of June 4:
Two adults dressed in “furry” fox costumes were approaching young children at Stan Clarke Park on Friday, May 29, police report. When one of the characters offered a young girl a piggyback ride, the mother of the girl became uncomfortable and took her daughter away, according to police. She reported the incident to police the next day.
Police say suspicious activities such as this should be reported to police as soon as possible.
And a follow-up reply letter in the June 17 edition:
LETTER: "Furries" nothing to fear
To the concerned parent(s): Regarding the “suspicious activity by two adults dressed in furry fox costumes” approaching young children at Stan Clarke Park on Friday, May 29, my friend and I were the furry mascots in the park.
We were enjoying a fun day walking amongst the public, up and down Cleveland Avenue, in our costumes. We had our pictures taken with numerous people on Cleveland Avenue and at Stan Clarke Park. Two police officers approached us to have their photos taken with us at Stan Clarke Park.
I grew up in Squamish and am now a university student. There are many others like me who enjoy wearing our custom-made furry costumes in public and attending conventions and parades and other activities.
We mean no harm to the public and certainly not to children. In fact, small children get a kick out of us and were doing so on Friday.
We were at all times in full view of the childrens’ parents.
I can understand any parent’s concern for the safety of his or her child; had one of those parents approached us directly to say they were uncomfortable with what we were doing, we would have moved on immediately. No one did. In fact, the kids were all having a great time. As far as we could tell, so were their parents.
I’m sorry if our actions that day made anyone feel uncomfortable. That was not our intention.
Felix (Alex) McEachran
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.
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The furries are mentioned, albeit very briefly.