This past weekend I landed, quite by accident, in the middle of Anthrocon 2010 -- the annual conference at which the whole Furry Fandom convenes.

It was a happy accident: I happened to be at a wedding in Pittsburgh, and our flagging after-party sure roared to life when a half-dozen costume-clad furries lumbered in. I took a Little Red Riding Hood–esque picture with a big, bad wolf -- who, underneath all that plush, is a vet. My friends mugged with a ... black sheep.

And, on the drive home, I couldn't help telling my sister all about the rather surreal scene -- half the lobby was wearing black tie, the other half tails -- as in, fuzzy ones that trailed out of the back of their pants.

"That," she said, "is the weirdest thing I've ever heard."

It's the reaction a lot of people have when confronted with furries, who, by the way, have their own Wikipedia page, online dating site (Pounced.org, where you post a photo and an avatar), and who, in recent years, have received a lion's share -- pun intended -- of media coverage. So far Tyra Banks, Vanity Fair and MTV have all covered the fandom.

In case, like most of us, you're still fuzzy on what furries are: They're big fans of anthropomorphizing animals, whether wearing "just tails" or masquerading in entire mascot-like suits. Some are big geeks who like the anonymity, some think they're part cat or bat, and some take a cotton to certain animals' traits (the pack behaviors of dogs; the cunning of cats). A large sample of those I talked to seemed to work with animals in real life -- or confessed to consuming a lot of animé. Some believe they were actually animals in past lives.

The Furdom itself has many subsets: Perhaps the best-known are those who like to have furry love-ins, though no attendee would verify whether this actually took place. Many say it's a myth that has been peddled by the media. But we all know what happens at most out-of-town conferences involving a lot of single people.

And many do adopt animal-like traits: For example, at Anthrocon, it was rumored that dinner was served on the floor. anthrocon 2010 - furry convention

In the lobby one night, I met Hatchet Wolf, 21 -- an arctic wolf in the furdom -- who was letting a little girl pet his tail as her grandmother looked on. He, he explained to me, had always had canine tendencies -- he liked to peddle his leg furiously like a dog, and, as a gay guy, he found he really enjoyed sinking his teeth into the scruff of his mate's neck during sex. In fact, his eyes did seem to glow a little when he gushed, "It was the best experience of my life so far."

He was also into the S&M scene, as a dom, and yes, by the way, his mom was very supportive of all of this.

One night we came across a pride (?) of furries drawing pictures at a table in the lobby. They were coloring in fantastical creatures -- one with bird wings and more arms than the Hindu goddess Kali. Many attendees, they told me, will describe the made-up hybrid animal they want as their "fursona," then the conference's artists-in-residence will render it for them. They also generously lent me their markers -- a special kind usually used in manga -- to inspect.

Paws down, I have to say, furries were the friendliest creatures Lemondrop has ever interviewed. In fact, when we told them we wanted to write an article presenting them as they really were, Hatchet Wolf kindly opened his Roar-a-dex. And as a result, we heard from a truly rare beast: a girl furry entrenched in the fandom. (Which, ladies, tends to have superb guy-to-girl ratios, as long as you don't mind a man with more than a hairy back.)

Laura, 29 -- posing above with a plush friend -- lives in Pittsburgh, is a biologist by day and a hybrid cat-fox by night. After the jump, she shares her wild and woolly truth about what being a furry means to her.

Lemondrop: What's the name you go by in the furdom, and why?
Laura: Lillica, which is my main/favorite "fursona," although I do have several others. Lillica is a corruption of the Greek name "Lilika", which means "Lily". More than anything, I simply like the way it sounds, but since my fursona is mostly white, it fits in that aspect as well.
Share

My other fursonas are Kira, a black panther; as well as a dragon and a mixed-equine fursona that I am still developing, and for which I have not yet chosen names. Each one represents a different aspect of who I am, whether it be the dark and primal Kira, or the soft and gentle Sophie.

What animal do you most identify with?
Cats and foxes.

what being a furry means to me - anthrocon 2010How did you choose your particular animal?

Like some, my fursona is what's called a "hybrid" or mix of species, many of whom could not possibly exist in nature. Because of my general interest in animals, I am a biologist, and because I am a biologist, I have a great deal of knowledge about animals. I have owned cats my whole life, so of course I love them. I'm intimately familiar with their personalities and habits, and I identify with them completely. Foxes have such a wild and free spirit, are extremely intelligent, but are still mysterious because they are also mostly nocturnal. The combination of them, I feel, expresses who I am inside, both as a human and as how I see myself as an animal.

How did you discover the whole furdom -- and, um, is that the correct way to refer to the community?
I met a person on 4chan.org who is a furry (which is ironic because 95 percent of them hate furries), and he got me into it.

I had known about furries before meeting Sirus, but I didn't know what exactly it had entailed. It wasn't until we had gotten to know each other better that he revealed himself as a furry. At that point, I asked him to describe it, and a lot of it was similar to what I have told you here. Since I had role-played as animals before, and have cosplayed -- dressed up in costumes -- as a nekomimi (catgirl) at anime conventions, it felt very natural to extend it further into furry.

But I have never even heard it called "furdom" before. Most people call it "the furry fandom," "the fandom," or in my case -- "the whole furry thing."

How did you make your costume?

So far, all my accessories (ears, tails, collars) are all pre-made. The ears were from Wal-Mart or Claire's at Halloween, the collars are all from Petsmart (Tigi PetHead brand), and the tails are real fur, made from furrier scraps that would otherwise be thrown out, from a costumer named Lady Heather, purchased at a gaming convention in Cleveland called Con on the Cob. I am considering getting a partial fursuit made for my fursona Sophie, which is a white French angora rabbit, and if I do, I'd make it myself.

If explaining this to a non-furry, who's never dressed up, how do you describe how it feels to be your animal self as opposed to your normal self?
It gives a sense of freedom, especially when you feel that you really are an animal inside. It gets you back with your instinctual self. You can take on the traits that you feel inside that you would normally have to hide from the general public.

As Lillica, I feel more outgoing and more sensual, as well as more in tune with my instincts. I walk different, carry myself differently, notice things differently, I even talk differently, i.e., I talk more slowly and deliberately. That allows me to reach out to other people, both furries and non-furries, and connect with them on many levels that I may not reach as my human self.

What excites you most about being a furry?
Besides the freedom it gives, from my experience, people who consider themselves to be furries, no matter how intensely they are involved in the fandom, are some of the sweetest, kindest, most loving, most affectionate, most open, and most pleasant people I have ever met, with only a very few exceptions. I have made more friends within the fandom than outside it.

What traits of your animal do you identify most?
Being skilled and intelligent (I hope that didn't sound too arrogant!), agile, mysterious, disobedient, and in the case of cats, lazy.

Does being a furry for you extend to your sexuality?

Unlike some, I don't actually engage in sexual activities as a furry very often. I admit, it can be fun to put on the ears, tail and collar on occasion, it adds a primal aspect to it, especially when you're getting into it and you start growling, But I have found that even when not doing the deed while in fursona, I display some animalistic tendencies, such as performing the "mating bite," or just biting in general.

How often do you go to furry conferences?

Anthrocon 2010 was actually both my first Anthrocon and my first furry con, but I had so much fun that I will do everything in my power to go again next year.

How else do you connect with other furries? (I.e., have you met anyone on
pounced.org?)
The first place I connected with others was via the furry art site furaffinity.net and its forums. This is where I have met most of my furfriends. I also am on furrytofurry.com, and the forums of bad-dragon.com. Now that I am back from Anthrocon and have the time, I will soon be joining portal.furnation.com, furocity.com, sofurry.com, myfursona.com, hifur.net, furspace.com ... I think that's every furry site out there! I love meeting new furries, can you tell?

Just a little. Can you describe what goes on at a conference to someone who hasn't experienced it?
For me, the main focus of a con is to meet new friends and get together with furfriends, both those you know in real life and those who you are friends with online. You get plenty of time to hang out and have fun together. The organized events range far and wide in terms of content, from comedians to art tutorial sessions, music and concerts to dances. They attract every genre of furry that exists, most notably the fursuiters, and they all can comingle there.

At the cons, people do spend a good bit of time discussing a lot of what this interview is about, most notably about our fursonas and how we arrived at them. Fursuit construction is also a big item, since a good many furries are artistically inclined and are interested in not only making a suit for themselves, but possibly going fursuit design and construction as a profession, like me. Communally, you will find quite a few species, specific panels, where they gather and meet each other, also location-specific ones where you can hopefully meet local furries to meet up with. I went to one for Northeast furs and I am still convinced there are NO other furries in my area!

The most surprising activity, I think, is that there is a great emphasis on gaming, both tabletop and video games. Yes, in a way they do branch over into the fandom, what with games like White Wolf and the many anthropomorphic characters of video games, such as Sonic the Hedgehog, but there are always rooms devoted to tabletop and video games running, much like you would find at a gaming convention. Also, I have seen several cosplayers who are NOT furry, such as Captain Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka (Tim Burton version) and several anime characters.

How long have you known that you were a furry?
Despite showing "furry tendencies" for the last 10 years (such as online role-playing as animals), I only "officially" became a furry in September of 2009. The friend that got me interested in it suggested I join FurAffinity, and within a day, I had made new friends, and the more involved with it I got, the more I liked it.

Do you tend to hang with an all-furry crowd or also have friends who aren't into the scene? Are you "out" with everyone in your life?
I still have more non-furry friends than furfriends, but that ratio has been creeping upward every since I became a furry. I am not "out" to everyone, and will probably never be. I am out with those close to me, but I don't go around telling everyone I meet that I'm a furry. There is still a lot of stigma attached to it, and not everyone is understanding as my friends.

How have friends and family reacted when they found out?
They have been surprisingly cool about it, even the ones to whom I have had to explain "the whole furry thing." But again, my friends and family are very open-minded people, and not everyone is.

What, to you, is the single biggest misconception about what it means to be a furry?

Not all of us have sex in fursuits! Seriously, thanks to the media, that is THE BIGGEST misconception. A lot of us don't even OWN fursuits, because they're so expensive. Also, that we are all total sexual deviants and are all into bestiality/zoophilia.

What was the animal you were most surprised to meet/find in the furdom?
There really aren't any that have truly surprised me, to be honest, but some of the less common ones I have seen are squirrels, deer, and cows.

Do you think that humans have lost their connection to animals -- or, philosophically to you, what is being a furry about? (Even if it's as simple as: I get to go to great parties, with a fun open-minded crowd!)
In our industrial age, we have lost touch with animals. Yes, we have pets, but it's not the same as wild animals. All we see is Animal Planet and go to the zoo, we don't interact with them on a more personal level, and furry changes that. You get in touch with your inner animal, and through socialization, with other animals. Plus, for me, you get to dress up and play pretend, which is also a lot of fun.

Are there different cliques within the furry community, and is there any sort of distinction (or tension) between those who just wear tails versus full costumes?
There are indeed different sub-genres within the fandom, but I don't think there is any tension between them. One of the things about being a furry is you identify with other furries, regardless of how involved you are in the fandom. The only possible issue is that the one who want fursuits but can't have them for whatever reason, feel a tinge of jealousy for those who do have them, especially the very ornate (and therefore expensive) ones.

Really? How expensive are we talking?
Having never owned one, I can't be totally sure, but from what I have heard, a partial fursuit (head, arms/paws, legs/feet and tail that are worn with regular clothes covering the torso) runs from $800 to $2,000, and a full suit costs anywhere from $2,000 to as much as $14,000, depending on complexity and the costumer who made it.

Wow, that's a lot of Gs. What age of people do you usually find at the conferences?
From what i have seen, most of them are between 16 and 24, but I did see several middle-aged furries at the convention, some as old as their 50s. I also know a few that are as young as 14.

What cultural influences do you think contribute to the furry-dom, from Hello Kitty, to talking mascots like, say, Tony the Tiger, or manga or vampire books/movies starring werewolves ...
There have been a great number of influences. Therianthropy, which is the belief that inside, you really are an animal, and have lived as an animal in past lives, has a definite effect on it. On a smaller scale, some Therians believe that they can actually shapeshift into full or anthropomorphic animals. Lycanthropy is the part of Therianthropy that deals specifically with wolves and werewolves, which is the most commonly known form of Therianthropy.

But the modern American cartoons which are rife with anthropomorphic characters, such as Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera and Japanese anime, have had the biggest impact, in my opinion. They portray anthropomorphs as larger-the-life, with intense personalities and grand adventures, and it ends up boiling over into a subculture, which is the furry fandom.

But I have some other thoughts on being a furry...

-- Furry attracts people from all walks of life. For instance, my boyfriend, who is also a furry, is [in the] military. In fact there's a surprising amount of military furs! There are also a lot of artists, craftspersons, scientists, and technology experts.

-- Furries still deal with a great deal of public stigma, thanks mostly to the one episode of "CSI," and a Vanity Fair article, as well as an episode of Tyra Banks. We're still dealing with media sensationalism, and the prejudice that the general public has us of because of the bad stereotypes

-- A goodly number of furries also are into other alt subcultures, like anime, steampunk, and ren faires.

-- While some Christian furries exist, there aren't many. Most I have met are Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist or Pagan.

-- Despite our love of animals, I have yet to meet a furry who is a vegetarian!


Carrie Sloan is the editor of Lemondrop. She loves markers, and, once in the fourth grade, she made up a creature called a Refimbas, that was part reptile, fish, mammal, bird and amphibian, so she kind of gets it, but she has never wanted to be her dog.