Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Intro (Part 4): The big one

I know I'm way behind on this (almost a full month, actually), and I'm trying to get myself caught up.  But to be perfectly frank, I've been avoiding this entry.  It needs to be said, but I wish I didn't have to be the one exposing myself to some potentially very unpleasant comments and opinions.  Might as well come right out with it.

I am a furry.

That's right, one of those people with a thing for anthropomorphized animals.  Before anyone says it, or even thinks it, I neither practice nor endorse bestiality in any form.  However, I do like artwork of humanoid versions of various animals, as seen in (for instance) Broken Plot Device or Housepets!.  I like cats, in general, and my own fursona (portmanteau of "furry persona," otherwise known as my alter-ego in the furry fandom) is a white housecat named Cog -- and yes, that was the impetus behind naming my blog "cogthecat."

Probably the best rendition I have of my fursona at present is the (admittedly somewhat pitiful) BuddyPoke interpretation I've made.  It's not very detailed, or completely accurate (it's missing one of the black patches on his fur and he has no wings in that version... it's a long story as to why he is supposed to have them), but you get the idea.

Before I go on, I need to address some of the common myths and misconceptions about furries that are mostly propagated by mainstream media to people who just don't care to do the research (and then end up just getting spread everywhere).

First.  Probably the most obvious one is that furries practice bestiality.  There are people that practice bestiality, and there are people that are furries, and sometimes those two groups overlap.  However, they are by no means equivalent, and people that practice bestiality are looked down on by the other furries just as much as by the rest of the world; either you do practice that or you don't, and being furry has nothing to do with it.

Second.  Furries are all gay men between ages 16 and 25.  Again, not true.  There are furries in this specific demographic, true, and there is indeed a vast majority (80%, last I checked) of the furry fandom that is male.  A majority of furries are also youthful.  I have no answer to the absurd male-to-female ratio in the fandom, but I do know that the furry lifestyle and ideology is very appealing to youth who want to find themselves and find a connection to the fandom for one or another reason.  The nature of the fandom, specifically that it is much more easily practiced via the Internet than out in the judgmental public, makes it very accessible to young people with an understanding of technology.  As for sexual preference, I myself am very much straight (as is my girlfriend, who is also a furry) -- thus proving that at least two furries are not of the stereotypical gay male group.  The reason that so many furries identify as homosexual or bisexual is, plain and simple, acceptance.  There is a very -- VERY -- tolerant atmosphere inside the furry fandom at large, simply because if you can accept being furry most people generally believe you can accept anything.  People that would otherwise never have "come out" find it very easy to do so in the furry fandom because furries as a whole will accept frankly just about anything.

As a result of this last point, furries do have a decidedly unpleasant habit of being very open about things that are sometimes better hidden.  It's such a strongly tolerant atmosphere that sometimes furry fans lose sight of what should and should not be shared in a public setting.  It is an impulsive and indulgent subculture, often with its members just doing whatever comes to mind whenever they feel like it.  Now, I've probably made the drawbacks of this outlook fairly clear by now.  But on the other hand, it is extremely liberating at times to not have to worry about being looked at weird for favoring a certain fashion style, or for standing just that half-an-inch closer to someone than is socially appropriate in other situations.  Sometimes you just plain want to be weird, and furries will gladly let you.

Now before I go on, I should probably mention my personal definition of being furry.  Perhaps I should have done this first.  But regardless:
To be a furry, also known as a furry fan, one must like something to do with anthropomorphized animals.  This ranges from running about in a full-body fur suit just for kicks and giggles all the way to just liking the Bugs Bunny cartoons, or Disney's The Lion King (for which, by the way, there is an entire sub-fandom within furry culture).

Moving on.  The third big myth is that all furries are just in it for the porn, or that furry fandom is a strictly sexual matter.  To be honest, there is a huge, HUGE amount of furry porn out there, and often it is not filtered nearly as well as it should be (for example on FurAffinity, which is sporadically very, very NSFW but generally just fine for the kiddies; sometimes the NSFW artwork will just decide to be on the front page as it is updated).  However, I must stress once again that this is a preferential thing.  If any one furry likes drawing or looking at pornographic photographs, that's their choice.  Same goes for "normals" looking at furry porn.  Same goes for furries looking at furry porn, and "normals" looking at other naked "normals."  I hope my point is being made here.  If you look at it, that's your business.  If not, then fine.  But just as not all non-furries look at porn, not all furries look at yiff (the accepted term for the furry equivalent... it is known as "the noise two foxes make when you rub them together," though this is often referred to in a tongue-in-cheek manner).

The fourth major myth, and the last one I intend to cover here, is that of identity.  Some people have heard that furries TRULY BELIEVE that they are animals in spirit, or that they can transform into their fursonas during a full moon, or that they share a connection with dragons or elves or whatever.  And that's not entirely untrue either.  Some furries do, in fact, believe that they are lycanthropic (turn into animals, i.e. werewolves) or that they are animals in spirit (therians), or that they are not entirely human (that they are more than their physical bodies; this group is called otherkin and comprises some furries as well as those who believe they are connected to elves, fey, or other mythological beings, among some others).  But the majority of furries belong to none of these groups and just like anthropomorphized animals for one or another reason.

I do feel that I need to cover the reason that these myths get started before I wrap up.  Since furry fandom really started entering the mainstream consciousness, virtually all of the media attention pointed to it has been negative.  Most furries just want to live their lives in peace and as they choose, but some few choose to behave in especially extreme ways, getting themselves noticed by tabloids and the more paranoid side of the media.  Those media outlets, of course, jump at the chance to highlight people behaving strangely -- because scandal sells magazines.  Or papers.  Or increases viewership.  Whatever these outlets focus on, they know it goes up, up, up when furries are involved because furries are Weirdos And Deviants And Perverts Oh My, and people like hearing about people that they can look down on just for being different without fear of reproach.  More recently, the 2003 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Fur and Loathing" (WikiFur has an excellent article on the whole ordeal from furry fandom perspective) actually called in several local furries as consultants and extras to make sure that they got it right.  Of course, those consultants worked hard to correct the many misconceptions and inaccuracies in the script, but in the end they were overruled by the director and producer, who preferred to make the episode as racy and as scandalous as possible, in the process badly damaging furry fandom's public image.

This kind of damage is happening all the time, and as a result the fandom is very close-knit, often having a difficult time showing itself (as it is with me).  In the hopes that someone would actually notice and bring it up, I myself have worn a collar and tag out in public nearly every day -- not only because I like the fashion statement.  I keep wondering if anyone sees it and wonders about the fandom because of my odd fashion sense.  Or even if someone might ask me straight out whether I am a furry or not.  Maybe it'll happen, maybe not.  But if it does, I will happily answer any and all questions on the topic, because furries are just not that bad.


  1. You have just gained an enormous amount of respect in my eyes for laying that all out there in the open. Serious props bro.

    Reading this post was like discovering that the object in your hand, which you had thought was just a two-sided coin, was in fact a rubic's cube yet to be figured out.

  2. I'm adding my support with Landon, above. It takes a lot of courage to reveal such personal information like this. I can see why you were hesitant to even touch on the subject, since you obviouly have such deep feelings about the topic, and a desire to fully inform people about who you are. As you mentioned, there's a lot of misconceptions about furry culture, and you've definitely openned my eyes to something that I didn't fully understand. Congratulations tackling such a sensitive topic so well.

  3. I've got to be honest here, I had never given furries a second thought beyond 'creepy'. But the only exposure I've ever had is on the CSI episode dealing with a furry convention, so I've never really HAD to give it any additional thought.

    I quite enjoyed reading your blog post. I learned a lot about something that I had no idea about. I have a lot of respect for you, and feel you handled the subject with a lot of grace.

  4. Ok so I thought I already commented on this but apparently it didn't show up.
    I like your open-minded attitude. Not everyone is open-minded as we are and that seems to be why you felt the need to post this. I have never heard of any of this before but I think it is sad that CSI would bash a group of people in order to sell television.

    Also, I actually watched the Lion King last night and enjoyed it quite thoroughly. By your definition this would make me a furry. However I will accept no title because I am not sure exactly what it means. And by taking the label, I could be judged in all sorts of different ways, despite the fact that really I just think the Lion King is sweet. This is what you are getting at. Our society of labelism. Labelism leads to closed-mindedness, and the forgetting of the fact that we are all unique persons on this world. I support your open-minded defense against the closed-mindedness, and salute the idea of individuality.

  5. Your piece is a sensitive discussion and great description of how fan communities can develop into supportive and diverse social groups and how they acquire an identity, for better or worse, in the world at large. It strikes me that a couple of decades ago, this type of group was taken somewhat less seriously by most participants and outsiders (looked at as an occasional escape or as recreation rather than a defining component of someone’s identity) than the furries and some others are now. However, I’m thinking right now of some friends who participated in the Society for Creative Anachronisms and other groups at an extremely enthusiastic level even before the internet. I wonder how much new media has changed the nature of these fan groups and the strength of the relationships and sharing of information. It would be interesting to hear more about how you and others participate in and form relationships within the fandom, and how these interactions lead both to the fandom being so important in group members’ lives and to outsiders recognizing and judging the group as an entity.