Austen Crowder

The Austen that furry built

Filed By Austen Crowder | March 13, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: alternative lifestyle, furries, furry, fursuit, straight furries

Okay. So before we go any further with this topic, let's get the furries_rabbit_Slyford.jpgBig 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.

Furry Chemistry

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?)


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It's gotta take a lot of courage to come out as a furry, Amber. So, Props to you!

As a self-identified geek, my relationship with furries is a live and let live philosophy. Although i always think about this flow chart of Geek Hierarchy: http://www.brunching.com/images/geekchart.pdf

:P

As I tell people, once you've taught high school in a rabbit suit, everything else is easy. :) (Seriously, I did that!)

I've seen that chart more times than I care to count. At least I'm better than one facet of geekdom! *cheers*

Thanks Amber. I had no idea there was a community of we furries. Furry animals and teddy bears are solacing anthropomorphic objects that take the place of a father or diety. They are real and in the case of dogs and cats return unconditional love.
When I was 10 years old and the Nazi's were flying overhead bombing cities, I had my furry stuffed animals in bed to protect me. Then in the bible belt of North Carolina, I had a bunch of loving dogs and cats to protect me throughout the ages. Now I am really old and facing death I have a furry teddy bear that I hug at night and I fall asleep within minutes. I spray Teddy with rose perfume. My husband thinks I have gone crazy, but he goes to church, has panic attacks and takes valium. I think he is crazy. My furry stuffed animal I bought at Wal Mart is more comforting to me as his sky god that isn't there.

I'm glad I could bring that back to the surface. We all have our comforts, after all.

This was extremely interesting. I've long known of some T people who were also furries, but, for the most part, they didn't speak of their hobby, even in T circles, unless alcohol was being consumed. I certainly don't see it as being any more wrong, as a hobby, than ham radio or playing piano or building hot rods, and I think it's certainly healthier than playing World of Warcraft.

Even though I have the perfect nickname to be a furry (and it would be an ideal fursuit for me), I cannot imagine doing it myself, mainly because I cannot imagine roasting in a fursuit - I'm a big fan of air conditioning. How do you handle ventilation in those suits? It would sure seem to be a pretty "warm" thing to do.

Is there any such thing as a "furry" rights movement? Just wondering.

Yeah. Furry is, for whatever reason, a subject that people don't like to broach. I'm not sure why this happens, honestly, save that people simply do not have a high opinion of furs.

Fursuit construction is a science all to itself. I use an open-faced model -- makeup and prosthetic -- and it allows me to get a lot of ventillation. Other than that, most people just just sweat it out.

As for rights... I've heard of things, but there's nothing really serious. We just hang around mostly.

I am an animal activist and would be discusted if real fur hide was used to make suits. I am all for furry synthetics and cuddly rabbits. Can this "furry movement" go too far and use real animal hides? I find leather queers discusting. I have seen a stock yard with cattle getting slaughtered. Good for Peta throwing red paint on Russian Sable and Mink coats.

Then be at ease; my suits are all synthetic. Real fur is too warm, too expensive, and too illogical for suit-making. Better to get the synthetic stuff.

And no, I don't believe I'm an animal trapped in a human body.

I presume you didn't mean that literally. Humans are primates, and primates are mammals, and mammals are vertebrates, and vertebrates are a type of animal. So, yes, you're an animal in human form, and so am I, and so is everyone reading this. (Unless there is a houseplant out there somewhere that knows how to read.)

It's an unanswered question about why humans lost their coat of fur somewhere back in the eons. Some paleontologists theorize that humans could swim better without hair, but more likely the loss of hair probably allowed us to survive the hot African sun by making perspiration more efficient.

(And once we didn't have fur, our African ancestors needed dark skin to block out the sun --- then later when they migrated to northern Europe they needed unpigmented skin so that they could take in enough sunlight to manufacture Vitamin D --- and those are about the only scientifically valid statements we can make about the superiority/inferiority of being Negro or Caucasian, and if only we could keep that in mind today! But I digress ...)

Being naturally furry is somewhere in our evolutionary past, and this post causes me to wonder a bit whether there might be something to the "species memory" notion that some New Agers speak of.

And of course, some humans don't need a suit to be furry --- usually they are male, and often, they make me want to howl like a wolf.

*chuckles*

Nice side-jaunt there. There is a somewhat odd connection between the hobby furry and the otherkin subculture -- people who believe that they are not human in spirit. It seems that this minority is often used in a part-representing-the-whole argument to paint furries as crazy people.

But nonetheless, I second the thing about men. However I prefer mine with less hair, ironically. :)

I, for one, describe myself as a "house-cat cleverly disguised as a human".

I don't understand the hate that furries attract. Is doing furry any different from doing cosplay or SCA? On a conservative Catholic site I frequent (its a horrid addiction, let me tell you) when the topic was raised, most people were fixated on furry sex. But then sexual obsession is pretty normal for the site. What reasons are behind the furry hate?

Folks, How wonderful to see an article such as this. I have been in contact with but never acted on it in the furry community for about 18 years I'd say. Trading emails with the California purveyors of the Wolf suits in fur. Here is a link to their site complete with photos of how they make their suits. Bye the bye this is not an advertisment for selling anything http://www.runningwolfpack.com/ I am just thrilled to be counted among one of many who believes in the human animal inside. I've friends in the SCA but prefer a home life in private. Presently my furries are the simple but oh so talented Purr-Balls most of which are rescues. Each with his or her talent for getting undivided attention. Dan

I knew a few furries in college. They were pretty cool people.

Tell me if there are ANY furry cons here in Maine! Ive never been to one because they are all so far away! I need to get a fur suit done too! So please email me about that!

your best bet is probably anthrocon in july.

Austen!
It's awesome stumbling across you on the web, great articles.

Great article. If the furry community taught you to write like that, they done good!

Dapper Ninja | December 11, 2009 9:51 PM

Thank you for writing this. I'm not a furry myself, but I've noticed that every single (out) furry I've met has been unusually kind and non-judgmental --- come to think of it, furries are the only demographic where I don't run into problems for being trans. So I get pissed off when people start slagging furries. But I find it very difficult to shut down the slagging. Does anyone know of a page that lists myths and facts that I can use when next I need to argue against this geekphobic nonsense?

The amount of acceptance in the furry community is probably the reason I'm so comfortable with myself; I have never, ever felt legitimately threatened by any anti-gay efforts. Homophobic sentiments make me roll my eyes rather than quake in fear, and assertions that I'm a "faggot" give me more of a Captain Obvious-feeling than one of shame. It's rather liberating.

On a similar note, anti-furries are generally basement dwellers with self-esteem issues and jealous of the fact that we're nerds who can actually get laid, so I don't know why anyone worries about them.

It's always nice to hear furry perspectives— there are a lot of misconceptions about furries out there, thanks to 4chan and their ilk.

You've hit the nail on the head. I've been in the fandom for several years now and have always been amazed with the level of kindness and acceptance it fosters. It's great to be able to talk openly about being a transgendered lesbian atheist furry and not cause an eye to bat.

It's a real shame that mainstream media has fixed itself against furries. CSI, MTV, Vanity Fair... But I've no doubt that this is just a matter-of-time thing. It already seems to be improving.

<3 Katie ("fennecfanatic")

Katherine Lewis | February 6, 2010 4:52 AM

Another fantastic article! It is wonderful to see this level of unabashed honesty, the best discussion of furries I have seen. I am another than has been in the fandom before it really had a name (going on 26 years). Quite refreshing after the treatment shown by mainstream media.

Katherine (Silverthorne)