Furries are awesome

Furries are awesome DEFAULT

“Feeling as though your whole body is fur is so awesome”: Furries explain their animal alter-egos

Furries—people who enjoy dressing up in elaborate, plushy animal costumes—were once mocked and derided even by other groups of nerds. Over the years, though, the subculture has started to find mainstream acceptance—a shift exemplified by Furnal Equinox, Toronto’s largest annual furry convention. In the past, the event has taken place at far-flung airport hotels. This year, though, it took over the Westin Harbour Castle, right at the foot of the CN Tower, where fursuit-clad attendees were free to mingle with tourists who just came to check out the aquarium.

For many devotees, furry fandom is more than a recreational activity. Some furries take pride in constructing intricate backstories for their animal alter-egos, and conventions are opportunities to let those animal personalities run wild. We asked a few people to tell us about their characters.


“Chibity” (Christine Clifford)

27, illustrator from Pickering

“Chibity is a character I developed when I was 11 years old. It literally came down to, ‘I like dragons, and there’s a name I already had, so let’s design a character that would be Chibity.’ So I made a furry red dragon.”


“Alassea” (Julia Schlaupitz)

27, floor-covering sales representative from Imlay City, Michigan

“I’m a kitsune. Usually I have wings. I don’t have a backstory for her. I’m still kind of developing that.”


“Please” (Taliyah Denton)

13, student from Brampton

“My fursuit is a pre-made one. It’s three years old. I started getting into drawing anthropomorphic animals when I was in grade five, and I decided to make my very own character. I named her ‘Please.’ This was before I knew what a fursona is, or what furries were.”


“Ian-exe” (Ian Wallace)

19, visual artist from Ottawa

“Basically it’s just me as a raccoon, but a bit more energized, a bit more fun. Feeling as though your whole body is fur is so awesome.”


“Strypes” (Fernando Po)

From Edmonton

“He’s a zebra who happens to be a referee.”


“Zafie” (Kaiden Brant)

27, sandwich shop worker from Quinte West

“I got inspiration for him when I was younger. We had a camping trailer and the colours of it were grey and blue, so I used that colour scheme for Zafie. Like me, Zafie is transgender.”


“Ballantine” (Nick Horvath)

21, car parts salesperson from Sudbury

“I’m a black-and-red fox. It’s a persona I use to get out there socially and get over some social anxiety issues. I don’t have a backstory or anything. It’s just something I created to help me get out there.”


“Shadow” (Alex Drolet)

28, pharmaceutical technician from Quebec City

“Shadow doesn’t have an epic background or anything. He’s plainly my alter-ego. He’s a fox, he’s cunning and he gets along with everyone, and he has this very charming smile, so everyone’s focused on him. That’s basically me in real life. Being in the costume allows me to go to raves that are specifically designed for us furries, which are a total blast.”


“Ash” (Michael Biron)

22, forklift operator from Les Coteaux, Quebec

“Ash is a Norwegian cat. One of my friends made up the character and I got it from them and made it mine. I’ve only had the suit for a few months. I’m not really into the storytelling for my character. I know others are, and that’s totally fine, but I’m not about that.”


“Vargar” (Tim P.)

37, government employee from Los Angeles

“He’s a demonwolf from another dimension. I just made him up, thought the name sounded cool. I’m a big fan of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, so he’s kinda from that universe.”


“Summer” (Sam Nelson)

14, student from Boston, MA

“I bought Summer off a site that sells fursuits. She wasn’t my character originally, but now she is. I haven’t made a backstory for her yet. It’s something I’m hoping to create. It’s been about a month since I was at a furry convention, which feels like a while. Wearing fur suits is fun, but when you’re not wearing them at a convention it kinda feels weird.”


“Maisie” (Kai Carew)

14, student from Toronto

“Maisie is a bengal cat. To me, she’s just a wild street cat. I haven’t figured out a backstory for her yet.”

Sours: https://torontolife.com/life/feeling-though-whole-body-fur-awesome-furries-explain-animal-alter-egos/

Inside the misunderstood culture of furries

In fact, people in the furry community are largely annoyed about how their community has generally been portrayed by mainstream media outlets.
Most feel like depictions of sexual fetishists wearing furry costumes and cavorting at wild parties are inaccurate and downright unfair, say experts.
For the unaware, we're talking about a worldwide community estimated at hundreds of thousands strong who call themselves the furry fandom.
They're made up of old and young, all genders, CEOs, blue-collar workers, singles, couples, parents, students, LGBTQ and straight — all who celebrate fantasy animal characters with human traits.
How do they celebrate? To each, their own. The different ways run the gamut.
For example, do you have an unusually powerful fascination with Bugs Bunny?
Well then, you might be a furry.
Maybe you like to doodle original animal characters that reflect your alter-ego or persona, aka your "fursona."
Again, you could be a furry.
What if you love your animal character so much you want to wear a costume of it?
You very well may be a furry.
For many furries, putting on their costume sparks a fascinating metamorphosis.
Take longtime furry Joe Strike. When he puts on his reptilian costume, Strike transforms from self-described "pretty mellow guy" to a character he calls Komos.
"I become very sinister — very forceful and intimidating," says Strike, author of a book on the fandom called "Furry Nation." "It's so much fun to become that other person — this kind of mysterious, alluring character. Some women really take a shine to him and it's really a blast."
Because the colorful furry costumes get the most attention in the media, it supports the perception that furries are all about costumes. But they're not.
In fact, the co-founder of the first furry convention doesn't own a costume at all.
YouTube furry video host Stormi Folf.
"If you honestly believe that furry fandom is about costuming, then you've missed the point," says Rod Stansfield, perhaps better known in the community by his pen name, Rod O'Riley. "Saying furry fandom is about wearing fur suits is like saying 'Star Trek' fandom is about wearing pointy ears."
In the 1980s, Stansfield and his partner Mark Merlino — during visits to science fiction conventions — realized the furry fandom was becoming a bigger thing of its own. By 1989 they organized an "experiment" they called ConFurence Zero at a Holiday Inn in Garden Grove, California: the first known "furry convention and seminar."
Although only 65 people showed up, including only two or three in costume, ConFurence Zero started a movement of sorts.
It gave momentum to the fandom, later resulting in similar conventions such as Califur, Canada's VancouFur, Australia's ConFurgence, Eurofurence and Anthrocon, which is now held yearly in Pittsburgh. Last summer's Anthrocon, one of the biggest, drew about 8,400 people, including nearly 2,000 in costumes, according to the event website.
"We don't feel like furry fandom is something we created, it's something that was there," Stansfield says. "We were just the guys who introduced it to itself. We just came up with a goofy new way for fans to talk to each other — actually meeting, face to face. People took that and ran with it."
Three decades later the fury fandom is much bigger, using the power of the internet to reach out, organize, engage with each other and share — via videos, podcasts and art.
Pocari Roo, Barton Fox and Stormi Folf are just a few of many furries who host video channels on YouTube discussing fursonas, affordable fursuits and other topics. "I simply want to help the world understand our fandom a little better," says Stormi Folf, who prefers to use his fursona "for reasons of privacy and safety."
"I'm known as a furry but only family and close friends know my real name," he said.
Many furry fans create and share art depicting animal characters with human traits.
It's a subculture just like any other — including unique terminology.
  • For example, a "greymuzzle" is an older member of the furry fandom.
  • "Bronies" are fans of the "My Little Pony" toy, TV and movie franchise.
  • A "therian" is someone who feels an intense spiritual identification with a nonhuman animal.
  • A "babyfur" is interested in age play and young or childlike characters.
  • Milfurs are furries who are current or past members of the military.
  • Here's one more: Furries who are into costumes are called fursuiters. And yes, #FursuitFriday is a real hashtag on social media.
The fandom has grown big enough to get the attention of academia. A group of scholars has established a continuing research project at furscience.com tracking furry attitudes and backgrounds by asking them to answer questions on surveys.
"Demographically, it's mostly white. They tend to be sort of middle class and they tend to be what you think of as nerds," says MacEwan University instructor Dr. Courtney Plante, who runs the study along with researchers at Niagara County Community College, Texas A&M University and other universities.
The project's website says more than 75% of furries are under age 25 and about a third identify as "exclusively heterosexual."
Sixty percent of furries who answered surveys reported part-time or full-time enrollment in postsecondary education.
"They often like video games, computer games, board games, anime, science fiction, fantasy," Plante says.
Dancing is also big among fursuiters. In addition to costume dance events at conventions, nightspots have been getting involved. For more than a year now the Eagle Bolt Bar in Minneapolis has been hosting "Suit Up Saturday," where 20-30 fursuiters, show up every week, the bar says.
An overwhelming percentage, 84%, identify as male.
A female artist in the community who calls herself InkTiger says the mostly male fandom hasn't been a big problem for her. "There's some sexism in the fandom, as there is in any other part of society. I don't think it's any more pronounced in furry than anywhere else."
But what does research say about fursuiters and sexual fetishes?
"We find that, with most furries and their fur suits, there's no sexual element to it for the vast majority of fursuiters," says Plante. "It's because they want to be a cartoon character in the real world."
But just like any other group, furries acknowledge a small element of sexual activity during gatherings. In the community it's known as "yiffing."
"Yiffing can refer to anything from affectionate hugging or nuzzling to totally going at it," says Strike. "It's definitely part of the fandom but it's not what the fandom is all about. If I had to throw a percentage on it I would say maybe 15%, give or take."
Stansfield, co-founder of the first convention, says it's sad the furry fandom is mischaracterized as a "sex style."
"Everything created by human beings has some degree of what people think is attractive — and attractive is a big, broad unquantifiable word — however you define that."

Can the furry fandom heal?

A lot of furries have some kind of bullying history. Researchers found they reported "significantly more bullying than the average person." According to furscience.com, 61.7% of furries reported being bullied from the ages 11-18.
Compare that with bullying rates among US students grades 6-12. About 28% have reported being bullied, according to stopbullying.gov. Internationally, a World Health Organization survey of 35 countries found 34% of all young people reported being bullied at least once in the past couple of months.
There are 'furries' of all ages
There are 'furries' of all ages01:35
"Research shows that furries benefit from ... interaction with like-minded others in a recreational environment, which is associated with greater self-esteem and greater life satisfaction," the website says. Experts don't know if this benefit within furry culture attracts victims of bullying but it could contribute to helping bullying victims heal.
Strike explains it this way: "When they put on the fur suit and they become somebody else, it is very liberating. You've sort of left behind that human person with all those inhibitions and problems. You become this kind of free spirit. You become somebody else who you're not the rest of the time."
The fandom tends to be shy, Plante says. Costumes make it easier to socialize "without fear of being judged."
Bottom line: Research shows that for the most part, they may be more "normal" than you think. "The interesting part of the story is just how surprisingly normal furries can be despite having a strange hobby," says Plante.
The future looks bright for the furry fandom. Plante estimates the fandom is between 100,000 and 1 million people — and growing. "I don't think it will ever become mainstream, because it's an unusual hobby to have. But I think as time goes on, it will be normalized in the way 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' fans became normalized, in the way 'Lord of the Rings' fans became normalized."
If normalization does come via movies, Stansfield hopes technology will pave the way for it by making it cheaper and easier for furries to make Hollywood-quality films.
"The turning point will be when we get to the level where a fan can make a Pixar movie in their garage," he says. "When that happens, more and more of the entertainment community is going to notice."
Sours: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/14/us/furries-culture/index.html
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How the world of furries gives people the confidence to become their true selves

Ella Collins was 16 when she first encountered the world of furries after a friend invited her to a BBQ.

"I got there and I was like, 'What is this?'," she said.

"It was a few people in costume, a lot of people out of costume — it was just this really interesting mix of communities coming together under one banner and I was hooked."

Furries are people who create anthropomorphic identities, often called fursonas, and it is estimated there are several thousand in Australia.

As a subculture, however, the world of furries is something of a mystery to many, as it's rarely encountered in everyday life.

But, as hundreds of furries prepare for the 2021 national furry convention on the Gold Coast in just over six weeks' time, devotees explain that it's not just about dressing up as animals.

The psychological benefits of creating a fursona can be life-changing, they say — a statement recently supported by international research into the phenomenon.

Felix, a furry who lives in Terang in south-west Victoria, put it simply.

"You don't need a suit, you just need the love," Felix said.

Four people dressed in furry animal costumes with their arms around each other's shoulders

Fursona reflects ideal persona

Sharon Roberts, an associate professor of social development studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, says the furry world is growing in popularity because it is a safe, welcoming and non-judgemental community.

Dr Roberts is a founding member of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP), "a multidisciplinary team of scientists studying the furry fandom".

The IARP was partly formed to investigate some of the claims and perceptions around the furry community after a Vanity Fair article called Pleasure of the Fur and an episode of TV series CSI called Fur and Loathing painted a largely depraved and highly sexualised picture of furries.

But Dr Roberts says the project researchers have discovered a very different side of furry culture, one that creates a positive environment that can greatly benefit its members — about 70 per cent of whom identify as LGBTQI+.

"The fursona is this avatar-like representation of self that furries create," she said.

A woman in a black shirt with the word 'furrywoke' on it smiles and stands in front of a lion costume

"They're usually imbued with positive attributes and they're often idealised versions of the self.

"What the research has shown is that these self-created identities have incredible benefits to the person in all kinds of ways."

She said only "about 20 to 25 per cent of furries have fur suits", some of which cost thousands of dollars and are custom-made.

"They might have ears or tails or wear a dog collar, but a lot of furries don't wear anything like that at all," she said.

"Most of the time they're going through life like everyone else."

Members dress in characters they believe represents their personality.

'She's an integral part of my life'

Ms Collins, who lives in Melbourne, says her character Pocket, who she describes as being "a deer crossed with a bird", has changed her life.

"I used to take Pocket on and off, but now she's become such an integral part of my life that she's become my confidence, so to speak," Ms Collins said.

A cartoonish drawing of a winking deer with wings.

"I get a lot of my confidence from the fact that I've done all these things with Pocket and now I can do them with Ella.

"Some people are very, very shy outside of their fur suit and their fur suit gives them that confidence to interact with other people because it's like putting on a mask."

For Felix, the experience of going out in public while in costume can be quite stressful.

"When I was first doing it, I went into a Maccas and there were people everywhere and I was like, 'Oh no, they're all looking at me'," they said.

"Someone asked me, 'Is it hot in there?', and I just squeaked in response because I was so anxious and I didn't want them to hear what my voice sounded like."

Now, however, Felix finds the experience of "suiting up" an empowering one.

"You put on the head and it's like becoming a whole different character," they said.

"No-one can see my face and I can go and do whatever I want because no-one can see me and no-one can judge me."

Characters have lasting impact

Felix discovered furry culture by accident in year 7.

"I was really into [Japanese] anime, and was looking up nekos [people with cat ears]," they explained.

"I didn't know what they were so I just looked up animal people and found furries.

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"I was like, oh my God, this is amazing!"

Felix taught themselves to make costumes, and now has several characters, all with their own personalities and characteristics, right down to the way they stand and move.

Dr Roberts says fursonas can have lasting impacts.

"There's so much thought that goes into the detail of these characters," Dr Roberts said.

Furry online streamer Pocari Roo and Beagle in Red

"Often they are more positive, they're more confident — [the fursona] in younger generations is more social, funnier and light.

"Often in longitudinal studies we see that people take on those attributes because they get an opportunity in a very safe environment to begin practising with those sets of skills.

"So, it's a fantastic way for people to connect and communicate, particularly if they're a little bit shy."

Furry Down Under (FurDU) chairperson and convention organiser Christine Bradshaw agrees, and says her fursona — a snow leopard called Foxy Malone — initially gave her the social confidence she lacked.

"I never thought I would get up and talk in front of a crowd of 500 people, but that's something I've done and will be doing again soon at the next convention," she said.

A woman with white hair smiles at the camera while standing in front of a stall with furry animal faces and ears

These days, she said, it's hard to know where Christine ends and Foxy begins.

"Foxy Malone is basically me. I've had her for so long it's basically me," she said.

Ms Bradshaw said when she joined the furry world in Brisbane 20 years ago, there were only about a dozen in the group. Now, there are more than 200 in Brisbane alone.

Most furries are LGBTQI+

The supportive nature of the furry community as a place for people who might struggle to fit in is backed up by Ms Collins.

"It definitely draws an alternative type of person but, having said that, when you put a group of people together who have the same interest, no-one's strange or different," she said.

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According to IARP data, about 70 per cent of furries identify as being from the LGBTQI+ community, but Ms Bradshaw said the figure was probably slightly lower in Australia.

Dr Roberts said the project's research found between 12 and 17 per cent of furries identified as trans, and between 5 and 15 per cent were autistic.

"What's fascinating to me is you have all those collections of marginalised identities — and people are thriving," she said.

"When we compare the wellbeing of the furry fandom to our population level controls, there are no differences in those things, and to me that's amazing."

Ms Bradshaw said it was important for the wider community not to judge furries.

"We're just there to have fun, and dressing up as giant, colourful animals is fun," she said.

"It's not hurting anybody. People can dress up as superheroes and that's OK, but for some reason, dressing up as a giant animal is seen as weird, and I'll be honest, it kind of is, but it's fun."

Sours: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-19/furry-world-helps-people-to-be-themselves-new-research/13250090

If you geek out over movie characters or famous bands, or if you’ve ever done something as simple as invite your friends over to watch The Bachelor, you have more in common with furries than you think. “Furries are fans, just like anyone else,” says Courtney Plante, PhD, professor of psychology at Bishop's University and co-founder and lead data analyst for FurScience. They’re fans of “films, stories, and artwork that feature animals [that] walk, talk, and do human things.”

If this sounds simple, it’s because it is.

Participating in the furry community is really no different from supporting your favorite sports team by painting your face and wearing its jersey, engaging in cosplay, or wearing a Slytherin scarf because you love the Harry Potter films, says Plante, who’s studied more than 30,000 furries over the past decade.

Still, the furry fandom is constantly poked fun at in movies, TV shows, the works. Since there are a lot of misconceptions out there about furries, allow an expert and an actual furry to debunk them once and for all with nine must-know facts.

1. Furries are not dysfunctional or socially awkward

      “Whenever we see someone acting in an unusual way, we have an innate need to try and understand why they’re doing that,” explains Plante.

      This is where the stigma surrounding the furry fandom comes in. People often can’t figure out why someone would invent an animal persona, or as it’s called in the fandom, a “fursona” (think: a fox for whom you’ve developed a personality, name, voice, and mannerisms), or dress up as their favorite animal cartoon character, Plante says, so they invent explanations. The usual conclusion is “either this person has some serious mental health problems, or this person is doing it for some kind of sexual gratification,” he says.

      Neither of these are true. While stereotypical images of furries in media depict them as socially awkward people, research suggests furries are simply expressing passion for a hobby and interacting with others who share that interest. For others, their reason for joining the fandom is to fulfill a sense of belonging. Most engage in the fandom by anthropomorphizing their favorite characters or imagining adventures for their fursonas through drawings and art. Some just watch their favorite cartoons regularly, and for others, their identity as a furry comes down to online messaging other fans about, say, Rocket, a cartoon raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

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      In fact, when Plante's studies allowed him to analyze furries based on various wellness measures, he found furries are just as satisfied with their lives as non-furries, they have healthy relationships, and they're no more likely to be on psychiatric medication or diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders.

      2. They're not sexual deviants, either

      Think furries get turned on by wearing fursuits? Again, not the case.

      Truth is, only 15 to 25 percent of furries actually own a fursuit, and among them even fewer find it kinky. (As you can probably imagine, it’s very warm in there.) The goal for most is to escape reality for a bit.

      But while there’s nothing inherently sexual about the fandom, Plante likens erotic furry content that is out there to the way Star Trek fans have sexualized Captain Kirk and Dr. Spock or car enthusiasts hang up posters of women sitting on the hoods of their favorite models. And when it comes to furries having sex with each other, he points out that most people date and have sex with people with whom they share a common interest. Furries are no different.

      3. Anyone can get involved in the community in a number of ways...

      For Jordan Dreyer, her interest began while on active duty in the Navy. When she learned how expensive fursuits were, she tried her hand at making one for herself by watching online tutorials. It wasn’t until “after I finished my fursuit [that] I found the amazing online social communities, the art, the conventions, and the awesome people."

      Since, Dreyer’s met up with other members of the fandom at small gatherings to bowl or grab food and at weekend-long conventions including Midwest FurFest where she becomes either Aurora Bloom, a charming husky, or Cynder, a lioness and Aurora’s ferocious alter ego. She’s joined by more than 11,000 furries (83.2 percent of whom are white and 66.6 percent who identify as cis-gendered males under 25 years old, per FurScience) who’ll attend screenings and dance competitions, and shop accessories and art at the vendor’s hall, and attend informational sessions about costumes, drawing, and writing.

      4. ...Many times, though, it starts online

      Conventions are places for furries (along with the non-furry friends and family the fandom’s dubbed “normies”) to connect with fellow fans, explains Dreyer. It's an exciting time because, for some, it's the first or only face time they get with each other. Interaction across the fandom happens mostly online: in chatrooms, discussion forums, and social media platforms including YouTube—a hub for furry TikTok compilations, channels for the parents of furries, and giving back. In January, a furry-run stream raised more than $17,000 for Australian bushfire relief, she shares.

      If the fandom is something you were interested in being a part of, the internet provides an easy and low-stakes way to join. Furries find their tribes within the fandom by gaming with or messaging fans who are into the same characters they are, or they find ones who share a similar passion for fan art or films. From there, numbers are exchanged, the regular meet-ups start happening, and most make plans to attend conventions. Whether platonic or romantic, relationships within the fandom are why people love it.

      5. Furries don't think they're actually animals

      Fursonas are not ways for furries to identify as animals, nor do most furries think they're spiritually connected to the animal world. Plante's studies show that while one in three furries don't feel like they're completely human, the majority of the fandom does.

      6. You've probably already interacted with a furry

      They’ve been seated next to you at dinner, you’ve gone to school with them, and you’ve worked alongside them, too, says Plante.

      While numerous television shows, films, and certain corners of social media portray furries as fetishists with an unnatural interest in playing dress up, after hearing them out about the fandom, you’ll most likely find the myths about them are misguided. Is there kink in the community? Absolutely. But, sexual preferences are up to the individual, not the fandom. This is a misconception Dreyer especially wishes people outside the subculture would abandon.

      7. These stigmas really affect furries

      Outside judgment is seeping into the fandom itself. In fact, the shame that often comes with being a furry stems from fear of how they'll be received. "Approximately 60 percent of furries agreed that they felt prejudice against furries from society, while approximately 40 percent of furries felt that being a furry was not socially accepted," according to recent research.

      8. Many have even been bullied

      But don't get it twisted, they're not "asking" for it in any way. "Furries were more likely to be bullied throughout their entire lives," says Plante. Sixty-two percent of furries report being bullied from age 11 to 18, while 48.3 percent say they were bullied between the ages of 4 and 10. In no way have furries brought bullying onto themselves because they've joined the fandom, it's just the excuse bullies are giving.

      9. Furries are no different from you

      The furry fandom is a community where the people in it can feel like they belong when they're feeling misunderstood. Think about it this way, Plante says: "What your family, church group, or work friends are for you, fandoms are for fans."

      Aryelle SiclaitAssociate EditorAryelle Siclait is the associate editor at Women's Health where she writes and edits articles about relationships, sexual health, pop culture, and fashion for verticals across WomensHealthMag.com and the print magazine.

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      Sours: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-love/a30611961/what-is-a-furry/

      Are awesome furries

      It's not about sex, it's about identity: why furries are unique among fan cultures

      Furry fandom, an obscure subculture united in their passion for all things anthropomorphic, can be lucrative business – because artisanal fursuits are haute-couture.

      A single design can require up to 200 hours of work and sell for thousands of dollars. The business follows seasonal trends as well: one year it’s neon colours, the next grumpy-looking characters. One season, everyone wanted to be a sled dog. It’s all, of course, about the fur – even sharks, reptiles and birds are adorably fuzzy – and Los Angeles’s fashion district has stores devoted exclusively to hundreds of varieties.

      Sarah Dee, a master fursuit maker, flies out twice a year for sourcing, carefully handpicking $5,000 worth of furs (a single suit requires about 5.5 yards), dragging it across town in giant bin bags to the FedEx office and then stuffing 30-inch cardboard boxes addressed to Colorado, where she tailors suits to fulfill the fantasies of fur aficionados worldwide.

      Menagerie Workshop, Dee’s one-woman fursuit empire, caters to the full furry spectra, from hobbyists content with a pair of ears or a tail to lifestylers who go all out with role play like “scritching” (scratching and grooming).

      Ranging from SpaceX employees to artists, her average customer is in their late 20s – in the “sweet spot” where they have enough money to spend but are not too tied down by family and work – though she’s made costumes for people as young as 12 (with parents’ consent).

      To this day, Dee has brought more than 300 “fursonas” (furry personas) to life – including Baltoro the Fox, realistic with taxidermy eyes, hand-molded silicon paws and muzzle and digitigrade hind legs; Zeke the Hyena, cartoonish with hand-stitched stripes and airbrushed abs; and Blaze, a vixen with flirty eyelashes and curvaceously padded chest.

      “What draws people in is that they can create this character which is a better version of themselves,” she explains. “It’s fun to just be silly, to use your imagination. To not have to conform to what people think being an adult is like.”

      A spirit animal of sorts, the fursona can be just about any real or mythological creature the individual feels connected to. Dogs and big cats never go out of style, though hybrids like “folves” (fox + wolf) and “drynx” (dragon + lynx) are catching on.

      New costume makers enter the market every week and fursuits gets ever more advanced: at an additional cost, jaws can move, tails wag and eyes light up with LED-lights. No two creations are alike, though most can be machine-washed and kept shiny with a few strokes with a pet brush.

      With more than 40 creations lined up, 2016 is already fully booked.

      Stereotyped as less innocent than they look by mainstream media, furries tend to get a bad rap. A 2001 Vanity Fair article brought up both bestiality and plushophilia (sexual attraction to stuffed animals), and defined furry fandom as “sex, religion and a whole new way of life”. The show Entourage presented a pink bunny fursuit as a sexual prop, and in CSI-episode Fur and Loathing in Las Vegas, furries are portrayed as fetishists mainly in it for the “yiff” – furry porn or sex.

      “We researchers are horrified by that stuff,” says Kathleen Gerbasi, a social psychologist who has researched the furry community extensively. “Because it really doesn’t represent the reality we see in the fandom.”

      In her experience, people have either never heard of furries or they have a wildly distorted idea of it. As a result, fur fandom have become far more stigmatized than other similar nerd niches, such as anime and cosplay.

      When Dee made her first costume – a bear, out of couch cushions – eight years ago, she was reluctant to be associated with the community, even as an artist. “Even I had some preconceived notions of like, ‘Gosh, furries are a bunch of deviants; kind of weird,’” Dee remembers, laughing. “And I still have questions.”

      Even today, Dee, who quit her advertising job in Denver in 2012 for full-time fursuit making, doesn’t use her real name for business.

      “I do think ‘fursectution’ is real,” says Gerbasi (who does not identify as a furry), using a portmanteau term referring to perceived persecution of the fandom from outside elements. “And I think it’s because people are afraid of things they don’t understand.”

      She recalls last year’s suspected hate crime at Midwest Furfest in Chicago, which was evacuated after chlorine gas was leaked into the conference venue. Last year, she came across Facebook posts of people claiming they would bring guns to Anthrocon, the world’s largest furry convention, and personally alerted FBI.

      For Samuel Conway, a professional research scientist and chairman of Anthrocon, the skewed image of the furry world is explained by its defiantly personal/introvert nature: whereas all other fandoms are consumers of properties put out by studios, authors and networks, furries invent their own idols.

      “Furry fandom is unique among fan cultures in that we are not consumers, but rather creators,” Kage explains. “Star Trek fans are chasing someone else’s dream. Furries create our own fandom.“

      Unfortunately, Conway explains, the public tend to be very suspicious of things they don’t understand, with an inclination to presume it’s in some way perverted.

      “Furry fandom is not now – nor has it ever been – born of a sexual fetish,” Conway insists. “There are no more or fewer persons of alternative sexuality in our fandom than anywhere else.”

      If anything, that cliche may be rooted in the community’s inherent tolerance and proud reputation as a safe space: furry fans may simply not feel the need to hide who they are when they’re among friends who won’t judge. He cites comic book historian Mark Evanier: “Furries are fans of each other.”

      “People don’t realize it, but the whole anthropomorphism is very mainstream,” says Gerbasi, who spearheaded the multidisciplinary Anthropomorphic Research Project, which has studied about 7,000 furry fans from all continents, except Antarctica (which actually had a small furry gathering, too). While there are certain demographic trends – almost 80% are male, many work in science or tech, with a disproportionate share not identifying as heterosexual – the data, by and large, shows no indication that furries would be psychologically unhealthy.

      “Cartoon animals have a universal appeal,” says Conway, who fursuits as ‘Uncle Kage’: a samurai cockroach. “A love of animals and a fascination with the idea of them acting as we do transcends most national, geographic and religious boundaries.”

      While the fursuits are the most visible, they only make up only about 20% convention-goers, Conway adds: the rest are performers, writers, puppeteers, dancers, artists and “just plain old fans”.

      For a minority, however, it is more than that: 46% of furry fans surveyed by Gerbasi reported identifying as less than 100% human – with 41% admitting that if they could be not human at all, they would. Twenty-nine percent of them reported experiencing being a “non-human species trapped in a human body”.

      The parallels with gender identity disorder, upon which the hypothesis was modeled, were striking: much like some transgender individuals report being born the wrong sex, some furries feel a disconnect with their bodies, as if they were stuck in the wrong species. The condition, which Gerbasi et al labeled “species identity disorder”, had a physiological component too, with many reporting experiencing phantom body parts, like tails or wings.

      Gerbasi still has no answers to why these individuals feel they’re not human, but stresses the importance for health providers to take them seriously, and without the ridicule that sometimes afflicts even her own research.

      As the furry scene continues to grow – last year’s Anthrocon attracted 6,348 visitors – the fans hope for greater acceptance.

      “I want folks to realize that we are not any special breed apart, if you’ll pardon the pun,” says Conway. “We have scientists, lawyers, physicians, firefighters, soldiers, police officers, schoolteachers, construction workers, custodians, musicians, journalists – just about anyone that is likely to pass you on a city street may well be a furry fan.”

      Dee too, who remains at sidelines of the subculture but frequents conventions to advertise her business, agrees that the tendency to make furry fandom shorthand for sexual paraphilia is utterly misguided.

      Throughout Menagerie’s history, only one client ever asked for a suspicious alternation – a zipper between the legs – which Dee agreed to at $1,000 extra, adding that if he ever down the road needed repairs (otherwise offered at $40/hour), she wouldn’t work on it, “because that’s gross”.

      For most, Dee believes, furry fandom is more about escapism than anything else.

      Slipping into a fursuit can be catharsis – allowing an otherwise shy and reserved person to transform into someone, or something, else – if only momentarily.

      “People seem to find a family and a friend group there – people who like them for who they are, and for who they wanna be,” she explains. “Maybe the character is this really buff tiger guy but it doesn’t seem to matter the person is a shorter, overweight, typical nerdy-looking guy.

      “They put on that costume and they just become someone completely outside themselves. It gives them anonymity to just, you know, be who they are and act how they want.”

      Sours: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/feb/04/furry-fandom-subculture-animal-costumes
      Weebs Hate Furries on VRChat?

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