A Lone Wolf No Longer

by | Jul 1, 2023 | 0 comments

I never would have guessed that watching a cartoon fox named Robinhood as a kid would lead me to coming to terms with my sexuality and finding one of the most wonderful and unique subcultures in the world.

At an early age I always knew that I was different, or so I thought. My fascinations and interests always felt so oddly unique compared to my peers. Besides having strange hobbies, I was also a 15-year-old closeted gay boy. Born and raised as an only child in a small town in Wisconsin, my youth was quite sheltered. The town I lived in was so small that the sign leading into it read “unincorporated,” and the only claim-to-fame was that you could go into the one tavern in town and simultaneously purchase beer and a handgun on the same receipt. Luckily, I had an internet connection. However, for an introverted gay boy in 2005, it felt like living on a deserted island with a smartphone and no signal. At school, I was constantly bullied about my sexuality, fashion, interests, and who I was as a person. Academically I was a straight-A student, but socially I had only two friends. The loneliness was painful because at the time I felt so much shame around my sexuality, and my self-esteem was at an all-time low. After experiencing a few severe bouts of depression, I often contemplated taking my own life.

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That isolation led me to watching a lot of television, and I always had an affinity for animated shows. One day I popped in a new DVD of the 1973 Disney classic Robinhood to pass the time. Little did I know that film would change my life. Robinhood was portrayed as an anthropomorphic fox. In the film he embodied everything that I wanted to be and was attracted to in a man: strength, charisma, and confidence. I felt he was admirable, and I even recall having the same feeling I had for him in my stomach that I had when the local cute neighbor boy would walk past our house. I was hooked and, in that moment, I knew I wasn’t the only one out there that saw the appeal or felt this way. In retrospect, this moment helped me realize my same-sex attraction was real as I began to come to terms with my sexuality.

One day, when I was home alone, I booted up our old Gateway computer and began reading through Robinhood and Disney appreciation forums. The websites were filled with discussion, art, and theory all around my new fascination. However, many of the people stated that they identified with a new term I’d never heard of, that term was “furry.”

For those unfamiliar, a “furry” is generally considered someone who has an interest and appreciation in anthropomorphized animals—or animals who have been given human characteristics like the ability to talk. Think characters from The Lion King, Zootopia, or even Pokémon. In my case, it was Robinhood that drew me in, but typically everyone in the subculture has a different path of entry.

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My interest later led me to finding furry LGBTQ+ chat rooms where I could interact with fellow furries, which made up a part of the larger furry fandom. One day I noticed a message in my inbox, his name online was Arc, and his avatar was, you guessed it: a fox. His first message to me was, “Woof, you’re cute.” I suppose at the time I thought he was a real charmer. After talking for a few months, he became one of my close friends and, eventually, my first boyfriend. By 18 years old, I was finally out of the closet, no longer alone, and I was deeply in love. He educated me all about how big the furry fandom and community really was, how there were large-scale events called furry conventions where fans could get together to socialize, buy and sell artwork, participate in workshops, dance, and wear fursuits.

After becoming more ingrained in the furry community, a few friends convinced me to join them at a local furry meet-up. In 2008, I found myself at my first furry convention in Chicago. Entering the con, I saw a man wearing a Spyro the Dragon costume with a gay pride flag as a cape. At that moment, I paused and laughed to myself. In just two years the furry fandom had helped me come to terms with my sexuality, cured my loneliness, and aided in finding a huge network of inclusive people within the LGBTQ+ community. My eyes had been opened. I knew I was no longer the lone wolf I used to be. I had finally found my pack.

The furry community is often misunderstood. People see us in public or online and can’t help but associate us with stereotypes they’ve seen in media or news outlets. While sexuality and sex-positivity is a large aspect of fandom, it does not define us. We are much more than just some kind of kink. We are a strong and diverse community. Because of these misconceptions, I want to address some common questions for those interested in understanding and learning more about us!

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What’s the community like? 

The furry community is massive. Much like a secret society we operate in all parts of the world. We work in IT, fashion, animation, business, and just about every sector you can think of. My favorite part of the community and fandom is that it is predominantly an LGBTQ+ space. A large majority of furries are either gay, bisexual, asexual, or trans. For this reason, many furries are human rights advocates and very open about their sexuality. We take pride in who we are. The community is a space of inclusion that thrives on being your authentic self.

What is a fursona? 

I’ve always thought that having a fursona is like having a secret superhero identity, one where you choose your own powers and make your own story. Almost every person who calls themselves a furry has a fursona. Simply put, a fursona is an animal-themed persona. People typically pick an animal or species and give it human-like traits. This becomes their fursona that they use to engage with other furries, both online and in-person. For some, it’s just a name and character, or just one facet of their identity, for others, it’s much more meaningful. For example, my fursona is a dark blue wolf that goes by the name Astro. I designed him to have lots of the qualities that I aspire to have, like charisma, strength, silliness, and playfulness. Many of my friends in the fandom call me Astro. Ironically, only my closest friends know my real name.

What’s the deal with the fursuits? 

One misconception that a lot of people have is that “you need to have a fursuit to be a furry.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, only around a quarter of all furries have a fursuit. I’ve been lucky enough to get one, but I’ve been in the community for more than 15 years and didn’t have a fursuit until two months ago. It’s just one of the many hobbies that exist within our community.

For example, my fursuit is my fursona, Astro, in his real physical form. In 2008 Astro started as just a drawing, but now, 15 years later, he’s been brought into reality. Fursuiting can be a ton of fun, and if you love mascots then you may be a great fit for giving it a try. When I put on my fursuit, I try to embody the fun and playfulness of the character Astro. The benefits of fursuiting are that I get to put a smile on people’s faces and spread love in one of the few ways I know how, through performance art. It’s even more fun to do it with friends and loved ones. It’s become a fun activity that my partner Cyn the dragon and I do together regularly and has made our 11-year relationship even stronger.

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How can people learn more about furries and the furry fandom? 

If anyone wants to learn more about the furry fandom, the best way is to come to one of the many events we host across the globe. We have a large social network that uses Twitter, Telegram, and Discord. Many furries have friends that live across either state or country lines, and because of this furries are remarkably organized when it comes to digitally connecting with one another. Locally, there are multiple furry conventions within Wisconsin like Aquatifur in the Dells and FurSquared in Milwaukee. Smaller meetups exist and typically happen at bowling alleys, campsites, and clubs. In Madison, where I live, there’s a bimonthly furry meetup known as Fang that’s hosted at bars and nightclubs.

What are fang events? 

Fang is a space where furries, pups, and LGBTQ+ individuals can come together. We have furry DJs playing dance music late into the night. It’s a space where all outfits, like fursuits and any type of costume or gear are encouraged. It’s currently being hosted at FIVE Nightclub in Madison. We have plans to expand to other venues in the future like Crucible. Many attendees tell us that it’s their first time going to a furry event in public and, for some, their first time going to a gay bar.

As an organizer for Fang, I work with a team of admins and volunteers to host these meetups for local furs to connect, dance, and party. One of the main motivators I’ve had to work and develop Fang is that I never want anyone to feel the isolation I felt as a child just because they have different interests or a different sexual orientation.

Final Thoughts 

I hope you’ve found my story interesting or, at the least, informative! I invite you to challenge your notions about what you think a furry is. At the end of the day, we are all people behind the costume. We all live authentically as ourselves. We deserve love and to be loved. Furry spaces are inherently queer, inclusive, and artistic areas where diversity is celebrated, and all are welcome. Why worry about your 401K when you can get together with some friends and howl at the moon? Life’s a lot more fun when you embrace your inner animal. 

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