Paws for Reflection: On The Furry Fandom

photo by marchnwe

In my replies to comments about my “Nothin’ in My Closet” article, I outed myself…bum bum BUM! Well, you all already knew I was gay, and a geek, so I outed myself as a Furry!

*gasp!*

That didn’t seem to make you all stop reading my pieces, so maybe some of the stigma has died down. In fact, the redoubtable E asked if I’d be willing to write a piece on being a Furry. Since I’m always glad to advocate for a fandom I’m part of, I said yes.

How I Became a Bear…Literally

First, a wee bit of background. Been a Furry is a little like being gay: you probably are one before you know there’s a word for it, or that there’s a community surrounding it. I’m using the word Furry in this case to mean “Someone who has an interest in anthropomorphic animal characters.” The word is often used interchangeably with said anthropomorphic animals.

Long before I knew there was a Furry Fandom, I liked these sorts of characters. I liked Bugs Bunny, Roger Rabbit, Disney’s Robin Hood, the mice from Disney’s Cinderella…heck, my stepdad still calls me Gus from when I was small, saw the movie, put on a knit cap, and insisted on being called Gusgus. Fritz the Cat was the first X-rated movie I saw, even if I didn’t get excited by it (too many lady-bits and not enough fella-bits for my tastes). Even in RPGs, I would gravitate towards animal characters, often preferring them if available, such as the Bronth, Krugar, and Wuffen in Skyrealms of Jorune, Mutated Animals in Gamma World, or home brewed mouse, rat, bear, wolf, raccoon, or whatever else morphs in D&D. It’s telling that my favorite two of White Wolf’s old World of Darkness games were Changeling (where I played a mouse pooka named Skittle) and Werewolf.

Which brings me to my introduction to Furry Fandom. In 1993, I was playing an online game of Werewolf through AOL. If you know of the First Pack of RhyDIn, you get one howl. If you remember when Victor All-Tribes-Howl-As-One was alpha, then you were part of my pack.

Anyway, I didn’t want to “gay it up” as the very straight-laced and serious Victor, so I played a second character at times, a gay, Irish werefox whose name now eludes me. I started a relationship with one of the other characters, and he eventually asked me if I knew about FurryMUCK. I had heard of it, but, in those days, AOL was not useful for connecting to such games, so I wasn’t able to join at that time. Eventually, however, we got real internet, I created a character named Aethan (originally a fox, later a bear, to reflect my own aging and maturing), and I was off on my wonderful journey.

Stereotypes True and False

The first question I always get is:  “Do you wear a costume?” No, I don’t. I know a lot of people who do, and I think those costumes are neat, but I don’t have much of a desire to wear one. I’ve seen people taking them off. They’re hot and sweaty, and heat is no friend to this fat man. I don’t even wear a tail around furry conventions, though many furries do.

The fursuiters, as we call them, are probably the most visually obvious aspect of furry fandom, as well as the aspect that got lauded in a certain CSI episode a ways back. Allow me to answer the questions those who have seen the episode probably have: No, I’ve never worn a suit and had sex, though I know plenty of furries who have, and no, I have no interest in civet musk. I don’t know where they got that from, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen just about every kink in the fandom.

When people think of the Furry Fandom, I think the first thing everyone assumes is that it’s first and foremost a sexual fetish thing. Now, I know there are a lot of members in the fandom who will disagree with that statement, but I’m only partly one of them. What I will say is that it’s not first and foremost a sexual fetish for everyone in the fandom, but it is for a lot of people in the fandom. If I may be allowed to fly my freak flag, I think a lot of anthropomorphic animal characters are sexy. That said, I think a lot of those characters are also extremely appealing without being sexy. So there you go.

The next step in the stereotyping process is the idea that Furry Fandom is a hotbed of really unconventional sexual fetishes. Assuming that you rule out the people for whom it’s not a sexual thing at all, I’m going to have to partly agree with that, too. I know, and am friends with, people who have all kinds of crazy kinks in the fandom. Heck, one of my dearest friends in the fandom has something of a kink of the week nature: he’s constantly finding different things sexually interesting at various times. If you think there are furries who’re interested in bondage, fursuit sex, sex with stuffed animals, hermaphrodites, macro/micro sex, devouring, infantilism, and more, then you’re right. It’s just not every furry.

I’m going to have to strongly split with my next stereotype. A lot of people believe that the Furry Fandom is about bestiality. Insert your favored Family-Feud X-type buzzer sound effect here. The fandom is not strongly colored in that direction. I won’t say that no one in the fandom is into that aspect of it, but they’ve been a tiny minority of the people I’m aware of. The fandom is a hotbed of fantasies, for sure, but I think people who’re practicing what they’re fantasizing about are a fairly small minority.

Unexpected Truths

Having put the best known stereotypes out of the way, I now turn to some things about furries that maybe you haven’t known or thought about.

Furries are some of the least judgmental and open-minded people I know. Maybe there’s a wall in our brains that automatically triggers when we reach the strange and unfamiliar. But apparently, once you break down and admit that Dean Wilson from Animalympics was kind of sexy, the hole that creates in your mind-wall never quite repairs. Most furries I know will accept a lot without laughing and pointing, possibly because we don’t need anyone else laughing and pointing at our own foibles and interests.

There’s also a vast amount of alternate lifestyling going on in the Furry Fandom. I know some straight furries, but I know far more gay, bisexual, lesbian, transsexual, and transgendered furries. I know some furry couples in solid, monogamous relationships, but I also know a ton of furries in polyamorous  and open relationships. Heck, the only people I know who’ve made polyamory work are furries.

It’s telling that I invoke a phrase about all fandoms, but I first said it about Furry: “Furries are the best and worst people I know.” I’ve known some furries that have absolutely turned my stomach. I’ve known them to be selfish, petty, overly-dramatic, childish, and just plain rude. But I’ve also known them to be generous, caring, sweet, thoughtful, and accepting. For every socially-inept furry I’ve met who probably needs to be defenestrated, I’ve known twenty furries who will literally give you the shirt off their backs. For every rude furry who’s caused drama at a con, I’ve known twenty more that have rallied around members of the community who’ve been sick, lost jobs, lost homes, or needed a shoulder to cry on. And those twenty furries have visited, raised money, found crash-space, or just offered a kind word to those in need.

And if you needed any further proof of my love for this insane, goofball fandom, I met my husband through an online Furry community, and we’ve been together for 14 years.

If I didn’t love this strange family I’ve become a part of, I wouldn’t call myself one. There was a movement a ways back called Burned Fur, that wanted to distance themselves from Furry at large. The rest of us chuckled and quietly muttered under our breaths, “Gibble, gobble, one of us.”

Are You a Furry?

In my first article for this site, I issued a call to action to come out as a gamer, a homosexual, or anything else you wanted to get off your chest. Now, I encourage those of you who are furry, who know furries, or who might even be furry-curious to come out, tell your stories, ask your questions. Everyone’s afraid of something they don’t understand, so take a moment to understand us and maybe you’ll come to appreciate us. Tails and all.

About GGG

Andy/GGG is a gay geek guy for sure. He's been playing D&D since he was 10, and he equates reading Tolkien with religion to some degree. He's a writer/developer for a Live Action RPG called The Isles, and he writes a comic called Circles, a gay, furry slice-of-life piece that comes out way too infrequently.

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