If you use the internet or any form of social media it's likely that you’ve come across something called ‘furries.’ Furries, or the furry fandom, are a subculture of individuals who relate to or are interested in animals with human personalities and characteristics. At the heart of it, the furry community are just people who have an interest in something, similar to those who have an interest in comic books or video games. Furries are fans of anthropomorphic animals, like Sonic the Hedgehog, who are intelligent bipedal beings similar to humans. Many furries identify closely with these animal characters with human emotions and personalities.
This subculture is often represented as an overtly sexual and perverted fetish, filled with people who are having sex while wearing animal suits. This is a common misconception. Only a small minority of the fandom are actually interested in fur suiting - the act of wearing a mascot-like costume. Even less are interested in having sex while wearing one of these. This makes sense when you think about it. The costumes are huge and heavy. Not to mention that they can cost upwards of $5000. That would be like risking getting lube stains over a Balenciaga gown. Not gonna happen.
Furry conventions are a safe space where those interested in anthropomorphic characters can meet, mingle, and discuss different aspects of the fandom. There is a large artistic community in the fandom who sell their artwork at these communities. There may be fursuit displays and stalls or panels where creators discuss their characters. Many may think of these conventions as some sort of wild orgy, but in reality it is much closer to something like Comic Con or Armageddon.
Only a small percentage of the furry fandom wear full fursuits. These can become extremely elaborate with blinking eyes, wagging tails, and moving jaws. What is more common (and more accessible) is simply wearing animal ears or a tail. Others may simply cosplay as their favourite anthropomorphic characters like Minnie Mouse or Daffy Duck.
Part of the reason the furry fandom is often thought of as a group of sex-crazed patriers is misrepresentation in the media. This comes from general misunderstanding of the furry fandom and their motivations. A lot of people learn about the community from the internet, and what makes a good story or grabs people’s attention? The weird and unusual. A vocal minority of the furry fandom engage and lean to the extreme aspects furrydom. As such, they have drawn a lot of attraction across the internet and subsequently blended into traditional media. Furry porn and yiffing are the most common sexual aspects of the subculture. Yiffing is a word that was originally derived from the sound foxes make when mating. The term has now come to refer to sexual activities between members of the furry fandom.
Many furries adopt something called a ‘fursona’ - this is an avatar or character (usually anthropomorphic in nature) that furries use to identify and represent themselves online or within the fandom. The are no real constraints to any one fursona. An individual will choose an animal they relate closely to, whether it be a cat, panda, or something mythical like a unicorn. These fursonas are given personalities and backstories, the likes of which can often closely relate to those of their creator. Many furries may also use their fursona when participating in role playing activities and creating their art or literature. A fursona is essentially an anthropomorphic alter-ego. Like Catwoman! Maybe she was a furry.
Another common misconception around furries is that they think they are the animals they role-play as or admire. Typically, furries just relate to personality traits and experiences of anthropomorphic characters and don’t wish to be another species. However, some people do identify as ‘otherkin.’ Otherkin are people who feel that they are not fully human, whether that be mentally, physically, or spiritually. Understandably, there is an overlap between furries and otherkin, but being otherkin is not a defining trait in the furry fandom.
In essence, furries have been greatly misrepresented in modern western media. Shows like 30 Rock and CSI portrayed the subculture as defined by the vocal minority found on social platforms like Tumblr and 4Chan. When in reality, members of the fandom are just fans! People who enjoy fictional characters and share their appreciation with like-minded people. The fandom is growing and one day may become as widely accepted as other fandoms like Whovians and Trekkies.
If you’re interested in learning more about the furry fandom and the culture surrounding the lifestyle there are many resources online. WikiFur, the furry encyclopaedia is the largest and most comprehensive database available online when it comes to the fandom. FurryCons.com is a calendar of all the well-known furry conventions happening across the world. Find one near you to learn more about the fandom and maybe find yourself joining in!