Okay. So before we go any further with this topic, let's get the Big Three Questions out of the way. Yes, I own a fursuit. No, I don't have sex in it. And no, I don't believe I'm an animal trapped in a human body. It's a lot easier to just plow through those questions right from the start, considering how many times they come up.
I've been in the furry community for about ten years now. I owe a lot to it, really; it turned me on to transgender issues, taught me to accept others despite their quirks, made me a better writer, helped me get over the need to please other people, and allowed me to create friendships that will last a lifetime. Hard to believe that a bunch of rag-tag internet folk, brought together by a quirky form of art, could manage so much.
Sure, people hate furries. Where others see a terrible, terrible hobby that should be shunned, however, I see a model example of what an accepting society could be.
What Is a Furry?
To best understand the furry subculture we must first look at what furry is, who is furry, and how furries interact. Answering the first question accurately has become somewhat of a hobby for me, as there is no straightline definition that fulfills the purpose. Best I can do: "Furry is a collection of people who like anthropomorphic creatures. This can be expressed through writing, art, costuming, or simply perusing furry-related materials." We'll work with that definition throughout this post.
Identifying who furries "are" is sort of like trying to nail jelly to a tree -- it just doesn't happen. The only semi-official study I have seen on furries yields interesting results, however. From his raw survey results, 85% of respondents are male, 52% are between the ages of 18 and 28, and 25% of furries are heterosexual.
That's right: straight furries are in the minority. This makes sense when looking at the history of furry -- a topic of discussion outside the realm of Bilerico -- but suffice it to say that furry began in the LGBT community, and many people involved in furry used anthropomorphic animals as a form of escape from troubled home lives.
Ah, but it is the third issue that really interests me.
Furries Know Diversity
For my dollar, furry has been the most accepting group of people I have ever met. There's something about getting a bunch of societal rejects into one room that seems to bring out a sense of camaraderie; most everybody knows what it's like to be rejected, and as such makes a concentrated effort to make everyone welcome. This attitude permeates furry culture, conventions, and communities, which can make strange bedfellows for sure.
Looking at my personal interaction with furry, one can see some of these strange relationships emerge:
- I learned to write fiction from a Tennessee autoworker whose furry-centered writing is widely known in the community.
- I designed a rabbit costume with a licensed social worker who worked on the south side of Chicago. His costume designs are well known within the community.
- One of the first transgender people I met was a furry from Washington State. She worked as an engineer before becoming a programmer. Conversations with her helped me sort out my initial feelings about being transgender.
The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Furries know diversity. What's more important, however, is that furries know how to get over their prejudices and get on with life. I've seen hardline Christian furries sit down for chats with grown men in vixen costumes, small town white boys hugging big city transsexuals, straight-and-narrow men giving cheek kisses to a gay ex-hockey player.
What is also interesting about furry interaction is the chemistry of our interactions. Nearly every furry I have ever met has been personable and worth talking to. I've never had trouble "clicking" with furries; apparently, shared experience goes a long way when starting a conversation. The vast majority of furries are happy to talk to any other furry, regardless of their sexuality, life choices, or spiritual beliefs. This leads to the creation of a massive network: I often joke that I could travel from one coast to the other and never have to stay at a hotel for all the furries I call friends.
The furry community in the Indianapolis area is especially wonderful. When I came out as transgender I already had a strong support network in place. Area furries hardly even blinked when I broke the news; it was as if I had told them that I bought a kumquat, or that the sky was blue.
I think we can learn something from the positive aspects of furry interaction. Here we are, a loosely connected group of individuals that manages to get along, have friendly conversation, and simultaneously accept alternative lifestyles without a problem. Furries learn the #1 piece of convention wisdom early and often: "It may look crazy, but you just have to smile, nod, and let it go."
There are issues with furry, of course. Plenty of websites out there explain this. Yet I can sit down for dinner with group Tennessee autoworkers, survivalists, AI programmers, FedEx employees, and a rank-and-file minimum wage workers and manage to make conversation about anything and everything. If we can get a group this diverse to sit around a table like old friends and have a lively conversation, we can't be doing that bad.
What do we know that society at large doesn't get?
(By the by, did you know that Churchill may have been a furry?)