A deeper look into the world of furries

Three Individuals Share Their Stories of Finding Freedom in This Misunderstood Fandom

Existing for more than 30 years, the fandom known as furries has become a worldwide phenomenon. While used interchangeably and embracing different connotations, furries, in short, are animal characters with human-like characteristics (anthropomorphic). The term is used to define both the characters themselves as well as their fans.

Furries can be both real and imagined animals and are often derived from cartoon characters, such as Scooby-Doo and My Little Pony.

Psychology Today says people manifest their fanship in many ways. A few examples include creating and commissioning artwork, writing fanfiction, participating in games, costuming and attending conventions.

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Jayden, a member of the Carolina Furs Facebook group, at Megaplex 2019 in Orlanda, Fla. (Photo Credit: Facebook)

Furry conventions appear to be a major part of celebrating the fanship, as there are more than 40 annual furry conventions worldwide. The majority take place in North America and Europe, with the largest convention being held in Chicago, Ill.

Often times, individuals create their own furry characters known as fursonas, which can also be used to identify an individual’s alter-ego aligned with a particular furry. A fursona is typically accompanied by a type of moniker and is used in a variety of ways.

Some even bring their fursonas to life by wearing custom-made costumes called fursuits, which range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Although, only about 20 percent of furries manifest their fanship through costuming, according to Psychology Today.

Much of society has the misconception that furries are people who dress up in giant animal costumes having elaborate sex parties. And while this may be true for a small percentage of individuals, it doesn’t seem to be the case for the vast majority of the fandom.

According to CNN, experts who have done case studies on the subculture, say that people in the furry community are bothered by how they’re portrayed in the media and that depictions that paint them as fetishists who parade around in costumes at wild parties are inaccurate and unfair.

The furry subculture is known for being inclusive and has a reputation as being welcoming and non-judgmental, with a significant number of furries being transgender and non-heterosexual.

“Furries are seven times more likely than the general population to identify as transgender and about five times more likely to identify as non-heterosexual,” says Psychology Today.

qnotes had the opportunity to interview three individuals who consider themselves to be furries. For the purpose of this story and to preserve the authenticity of the furry subculture, qnotes will only provide the names associated with these individuals’ fursonas.

qnotes’ first interview was with a 29-year-old Caucasian, transgender male who is pansexual, whose fursona, Raz, was inspired by a domestic cat.

When were you first introduced to the furry fandom?

My first introduction to the furry community came when I was about 15 years old. I saw some artwork online and became very interested. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that there was a whole community dedicated to this type of artwork and subculture. From there I created my first fursona.

How long have been a furry?    

I’ve been a furry since the age of 15. So, 13 years now.

What does it mean to be a furry to you?

To me, being a furry just means participating in the lifestyle. My personal experience is very important to me because it was really my first taste of being able to express myself. My fursona really resembled who I wanted to be as a person, both in physical appearance and personality aspects.

What motivated you to become a furry?

At first, I thought the characters looked cool. As I got more into the lifestyle, it became more about being myself and meeting other people who considered themselves to be a little different.

In what ways do you portray your fursona?

I like to think that a lot of my personality traits resemble that of cat. I like to take naps and lay in the sun. Really, though. I used to role-play my character a lot online. Other than that, it’s more like a personal feeling.

Has being a furry influenced the dynamics of any relationships you’ve had? If so, in what way?

Being a furry hasn’t really impacted my relationships much. I’ve dated furries and non-furries before, and the only real difference was that I was able to talk about the lifestyle more with my furry ex-girlfriend and commission artwork of our fursonas together.

What furry events have you attended or participated in, and what were your experiences like?

I’ve never attended an exclusively furry event in person, but I’ve participated in a few art exchanges online within the furry community. I’ve also been to general comic and anime conventions where other furries attended, who were always super sweet.

Has being a furry had any impact on your gender identity and/or sexual orientation? If so, how?

My first fursona was male. I felt very connected to him and at the time I didn’t know why. It took me a number of years to realize it was because I’m trans. I think being a part of the furry community played a big part in helping me realize that sooner rather than later.

What sort of backlash or criticism have you encountered for being a furry?

So, I’ve never experienced anything like this in person, but I’ve gotten some not-so-nice things dropped into my inbox online. Slurs at my gender and sexual orientation and claims that I’m horrible and morally off-kilter, mostly. I personally haven’t experienced too much, thankfully, but I’ve seen it happen a lot to my friends.

In your opinion, how does the public perceive the furry fandom?

As I said before, the furry community has a bad rep for being exclusively heavy fetish community. Lots of people look down on that. The Internet is a weird place. You can find everything there. I think most of our negative reputation comes from the dark corners of the Internet. We get a lot of people who think that we think that we’re the animal that we’re portraying. While that’s true for a small percentage of us, it isn’t for most. We’re just having fun.

qnotes’ second interview was with a 28-year-old Caucasian, gender-queer person who is pansexual, whose fursona, Bobbie, was inspired by a tiger.

When were you first introduced to the furry fandom?

Embarrassingly enough, through discovering drawn-porn artwork of fictional furry characters online at age 13.

How long have been a furry?

I became a furry shortly after being introduced to the fandom and have been so ever since.

What does it mean to be a furry to you?

Having a penchant for animals and animal characters both fictional and in real life, and an appreciation for self-exploration through the use of a constructed fursona.

What motivated you to become a furry?

I found comfort knowing there were people online that also enjoyed things that I had been made fun of for liking before. Seeing the level of creativity inspired me to get back into artwork too.

In what ways do you portray your fursona?

I have a partial fursuit comprised of a head, paw gloves and tail, along with plenty of clothing and accessories with tigers on them. I also subconsciously tend to cuddle with my head (the way a feline would) and embody other similar cat-like traits.

Has being a furry influenced the dynamics of any relationships you’ve had? If so, in what way?

The two main relationships I’ve ever had in my life (including my current one) happened to be with other furries. Being a furry isn’t a deal-breaker in a relationship, but it’s nice having a partner who understands this side of me and is a part of it too.

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What furry events have you attended or participated in and what were your experiences like?

Furry Weekend Atlanta in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2018, and 2019. I’ve been to a smattering of local meetups and even a wedding where 90 percent of the guests were furries. My experiences were always positive and allowed me to connect with friends all over the country.

Has being a furry had any impact on your gender identity and/or sexual orientation? If so, how?

Realizing I was a therian/otherkin tiger (effectively a much more intense subset of furry), happened around the same time I began to feel comfortable identifying as gender-queer and pansexual.

What sort of backlash or criticism have you encountered for being a furry?

I consider myself pretty fortunate; I’ve occasionally been the target of Internet trolls claiming I’m some sort of sexual degenerate or that I abuse animals, but other than that, I can’t recall any ill experiences simply for being a furry. Like I said, so much of it is usually thinly veiled homophobia. You cannot, regardless of what anyone says, come out as a furry, but you can certainly come out as queer and suffer for it. That, sadly, is a universal problem and not one exclusive to being furry.

In your opinion, how does the public perceive the furry fandom and what are some common inaccuracies or misrepresentations?

For better or worse, we’ve moved away from the “all furries are sexual deviants” paradigm of the early 2000s and into a much more corporate one; we’re much more accepted, but only because we’ve become a new target demographic to market to.

Atwork commissions that are representative of each individual’s fursona are part of the culture in the furry community.

qnotes’ third interview was with a 23-year-old Caucasian, cisgender male who is gay, whose fursona, Fauxil, was inspired by a fox.

When were you first introduced to the furry fandom?

At some point in high school, rutting through the darker corners of the internet, I saw a meme hating on furries for seemingly no reason other than their existence. I decided to look into what me and many others had been hating out of nothing but Internet culture. I figured if this was such a large community who clearly spent lots of time and effort within their fandom, there was clearly something to it.

How long have been a furry?

About two-and-a-half years.

What does it mean to be a furry to you?

To me, it’s a lot more than a hobby. It’s a giant community and a family. As a furry, I already have something in common with hundreds of thousands of others. And through this network, I can make new friends, explore creative avenues, and tons more, all without being shackled by my real-life limitations

What motivated you to become a furry?

When I first discovered what the fandom truly was. The ability to try a whole new persona with zero judgment and only acceptance, I decided to give it a try. Additionally, the fact that there was a huge community where I could find accepting and friendly people meant the world to a lonely and depressed high schooler.

In what ways do you portray your fursona?

I colored the first art of my fursona myself and later began to commission artwork featuring him in different lights.

Has being a furry influenced the dynamics of any relationships you’ve had? If so, in what ways?

Thus far, being a furry hasn’t impacted any of the relationships I’ve been in.

What furry events have you attended or participated in and what were your experiences like?

I’ve attended several furmeets, as well as an ALS charity walk in Birmingham, Ala., the convention Anthro Southeast in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Palmetto State Furs Happy Howlidays Christmas meet in Columbia, S.C. The meets and walk have been lots of fun. Since we all share a common weirdness, we can be ourselves and have fun, an opportunity not normally presented in life.

Has being a furry had any impact on your gender identity and/or sexual orientation? If so, how?

Through the barrier and freedom my character provided, I could experiment with new things without having to commit with my real-life identity. With Fauxil, I was willing to experiment more and consider things I otherwise would not have. Things that eventually gave way to my true sexuality.

What sort of backlash or criticism have you encountered for being a furry?

I’ve run into a fair amount of intolerance and criticism online, particularly from Internet trolls, but nothing deeper than “lol furry” from people with no real knowledge of the fandom.

In your opinion, how does the public perceive the furry fandom and what are some common inaccuracies or misrepresentations?

The general opinion of the furry fandom is, as incorrect as it may be, “those freaks who pretend to be animals to have sex.” Which understandably brings a host of poor connotations and assumptions. The first misrepresentation of furries to the public was through the “CSI” episode, “Fur and Loathing” in 2003. This depicted a furry convention to be a massive orgy, something which is simply not representative.

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3 Replies to “A deeper look into the world of furries”

  1. Hiya! Bobbie here. I don’t know how likely it is that someone will read this, but I wanted to offer a few things after reading this amazing article. Firstly, an enormous thank-you to Mykah, the author of this piece. Mykah — you are such a talented soul and it was wonderful being interviewed by you! In my answers, I sincerely hope that I could offer any sort of insight into this weird little hobby of mine. Being a furry is more than conventions and online chat-rooms; we’re largely a sex-positive community that’s really come into its own, filled with antifascists, philanthropists, and truly breathtaking artists, all representing a broad gamut of sexualities and identities. It’s been such a positive decade and a half, and I hope that I could capture some of that positivity in my responses! Thank you again for this opportunity.

    Reply

  2. Georgeann Kolibash January 24, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Gentle and sensitive article dispelling myths about this unique community. Sentient beings, intertwined human and animal – what a wonderful way of self expression, celebration and communication with other beings.

    Reply

  3. Hi! Really nice article. Very interesting and true. Is nice to see that fur community is being more accepted each year

    Reply

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