So, I was having a moment of writer’s block and unsure what topic I wanted to cover next, it is still a good month before Pride season starts and didn’t want to burn that out before then. A new friend of mine suggested I write about her and her lifestyle, never wanting to turn down a chance to write about someone from the Cleveland area, I was a bit intrigued. When she shared with me her story, I admit I was a little hesitant. After all, this is something I only have passing knowledge of and isn’t specific to the LGBT people. Since I am more about capturing stories of the counter and subcultures of the area, I call home, I said why not. Let’s try it and see what we can do with it.
So, we are talking about furries and if you are like me, most of us only have a cursory knowledge of this subculture. We have seen them at Comic-cons, on TV shows, and have heard or even watched furry porn on PornHub. *No judgments here* But do any of us truly understand who they are and what they are about? It’s much easier to just go with what little information that we have about them. Thanks to the above-mentioned friend, I started doing some research into them and will share her story later. Let’s get a little groundwork out of the way first, shall we? The furry subculture is represented by anthropomorphized animal characters. That boils down to giving human qualities to animals. They are people who dress up in some form of a fur suit and become animals with human intelligence and facial expressions. From just wearing a tail and maybe ears to a fully formed animal suit that looks like the fursona. What is a fursona, you ask? Essentially, it is the personality of the animal that you are portraying, name, emotions, appearance, and behaviors of that animal.
Fred Patten, furry fandom historian, says that furries were born at a science fiction convention in 1980. A drawing from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphicsstarted a conversation about anthropomorphic characters in science fiction. This evolved to groups meeting at sci-fi and comic- cons and progressed into fury suits paying homage to those characters. Though there are many who feel that this started much earlier thanks to works like (1973) Disney’s Robin Hood, Kimba, (1965) The White Lion, and (1972) Watership Down, this would date its origins to much earlier. The 1980s gave rise to the first furry fanzines and by 1989 there had been enough interest generated that allowed for the first furry convention to be held. This convention was called Confurence 0 and was held in Costa Mesa, California. The 1990s brought with it access to the internet and suddenly furry fans from all over were able to meet and discuss their love for all things furry. The first newsgroup for furries was created in 1990 called alt.fan.furry and later lead to the virtual environments called MUCKs.
When I first started to write about furries, I went under the impression that it wasn’t specifically tied to LGBT people. It is interesting to note that 1.8% of the US population self-identify as bisexual and 1.7% self-identify as homosexual, according to a 2011 study from UCLA. In furry fandom, by contrast, four surveys show that 14-25% identify as homosexual, 37-52% identify as bisexual, 28-51% as heterosexual, and 3-8% identify as alternative sexual relationships. It is reports that it is predominately male-oriented, with reports being roughly 80%. With these same surveys, approximately half identify as being in relationships with 76% of those being other furries. Sexual aspect of the fandom revolves around furry erotic art and cybersex. The term YIFF is often times referred to sexual activity or material, in the fandom. These same surveys are shown to report that roughly 94% of the male respondents have watched furry porn, while roughly 79% of the female respondents watch it .The media does tend to focus on the sexual aspects of being a furry more than those who do not engage in it.
Many furries agree that the community has been misunderstood and it is not about sex. According to an article on CNN.com posted on November 14, 2018, the furry community is largely annoyed about how they are portrayed in mainstream media. Most feel that the depictions of sex fueled parties of people in furry costumes is an unfair depiction. Most feel that it is about letting out a side of them that is often times held down by their day today. These same people want you to know that it is not all about wearing the fur costume. Rod Stansfield says that “If you honestly believe that furry fandom is about costuming, then you’ve missed the point, saying furry fandom is about wearing fur suits is like saying ‘Star Trek’ fandom is about wearing pointy ears.” Stansfield is the co-founder of Confurence and, himself, doesn’t own a fursuit. The median often depicts the bright colorful costumes as the standard for the furry fandom. Pocari Roo , Barton Fox, and Stormi Folf are some of the best known furries who host YouTube channels devoted to discussing furonas, affordable suits, and general knowledge of what it means to be a furry.
Furries are more than just dressing up in fursuits, though that is a big part of it and those are called fursuiters. There are conventions, dance events, and more. The growth of the community has even gotten to the world of academia. There are continuing research projects at furscience.com that tracks attitudes and backgrounds of the furry community. They have even developed their own terminology:
Greymuzzle – older member of the furry community
Bronies – a subset of the furry community that are fans of the My Little Pony franchise.
Therian – someone who feels an intense spiritual identification with a nonhuman animal.
Babyfur – someone interested in age play, young, or childlike characters
Milfurs – furries who are or were members of the military.
A large percent of the furry community are gamers (video, board, and computer), into anime, science fiction, and fantasy. There are bars that host furry parties and yes there is even talk of the new LGBT inclusive bar, All Ax’s in Willoughby, have a furry/cosplay night.
As within the LGBT community, many of the members of the furry community come from a bullied background. In essence, their fursona allows them to detach from their reality to one which they control how they feel and interact with others. It mirrors a lot of the kink subcultures, as well. It is a means of healing the psyche, a way to compartmentalize their pain. It becomes a means to heal the trauma they have in their lives. It allows them to retake control from a life where they may feel they do not have the needed control. It is also a means to step away from who you are and express a side of you that may not be as easy to show. The furry world is without boundaries, in it any creature can exist as long as the mind can create it. What that character is like strongly depends on the person that is part of it. It can personify the best qualities of who we are or the more repressed. As there are few boundaries, furries, in part, are more accepting that their human counterparts. As such, it becomes a place that many feel they truly belong and have no fears of judgement.
Many times, our perceptions are clouded by the notions of others. Media can shape our views before we have a chance to learn about it. It is a safe bet, that for many, furries fit into that prejudged mold. Since many hide who they are from those they do not trust, you may never know that someone is a furry. We are all people and have the same driving need to belong and feel safe. This transcends sexuality, gender identity, and subculture. It is a basic human need and if not given can create negative behaviors in a person. It is as essential as the need for touch and love. Point is, don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their fursuit. Inside each of us beats a heart that is wild and wishes to roam with those just like us.