Furries have gotten an unjustified bad rap, according to a new article in The Guardian. In popular culture, from CSI to Entourage, furries are almost always shown as weird sexual fetishists who get their thrills skritching and yiffing in the fur pile. It turns out, most furries aren’t in it for the sex at all. As the Guardian piece explains,
“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.
According to master fursuit maker Sarah Dee, it’s about getting an opportunity to escape from the responsibilities of everyday life.
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.”
Dee’s costumes though, are no joke. They can take up to 200 hours of work, and cost thousands of dollars. If you want a costume from her, you can expect delivery at some point in early 2017; she’s already booked up for this year. She adds that, like everything else, the furry community has its own trends.
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.
With furries being as widely misunderstood as they are, it’s unfortunate, but not entirely surprising that they face attacks and discrimination, which they refer to as “fursecution.”
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.
The whole article is over at The Guardian, and is full of fun, furry tidbits like those above.