BY: KATY WILLIS
The world of furry fandom is shrouded in mystery. It’s dismissed, ridiculed, and, when it does get attention, portrayed as a community of dysfunctional sex addicts: people dressed as animals having weird sex in odd places.
But sex has little to do with the furry lifestyle. The thriving subculture is instead a community of men and women who have a fascination, obsession, or affinity with anthropomorphic animals—that is, animals that can walk, talk, and possess other human traits.
For many furries, the obsession begins and ends with furry-centric cartoons, literature, and art. They indulge their furdom online, creating avatars in MMORPGs or Second Life. Others, known as “fursuiters,” who account for no more than half of the furry population, wear costumes and congregate for meetings and conventions. The most devoted, though, develop “fursonas” and take on the mannerisms of their chosen animal, undergoing surgery to more accurately resemble their furry identity.
What exactly does that look like? According to Portland-based professor Dr. Martin Donohoe, “A person with a tiger for an alter ego may have stripes tattooed on their body, sharpened canines, and implanted whiskers.”
For some, it’s a way to truly express themselves. “You get to choose who and what you are,” says Mark Merlino, whose furry alter ego goes by Sylys Sable. “Imagination is okay, no matter what your age.”
Marshall Woods, who describes his alter ego Lenya as a “sort of space weasel,” says, “It’s simultaneously disorienting and exhilarating.”
Furries flock to the lifestyle for the freedom of expression, lessened inhibitions, and a sense of exhilaration—the same things that drive the everyday person. They just happen to manifest in a different way.