The word furry often invokes images of something soft and fluffy, but this adjective can also function as a noun in the sexuality community. A furry is someone with an interest in anthropomorphic animals, often expressed through dressing up or roleplay. Common anthropomorphic traits for animal characters are the ability to speak, express human intelligence and facial expressions, walk upright, and dress in human clothing.
The plural of furry is furs or furries; the term furry represents both a participant in the furry fandom as well as any of the anthropomorphic animals the participant is drawn to. A fursona is the animal avatar chosen by those who participate in the community. Furries often channel their own traits into their fursona, taking time to decide whether they identify more as, say, a canine or feline.
Fursonas are capable of evolving over time and are commonly depicted through illustrations or fursuits. Fursuits are full-body costumes that furries will at times don as a physical manifestation of their fursona. While the furry fandom is not nearly as sexually-focused as it has been depicted, that is an aspect of the community as well; yiff is a term that signifies sexual activity or material within the fandom, whether online or in person.
The term furry supposedly originated in 1980 at a science fiction convention, when a discussion began about anthropomorphic characters in science fiction work. A discussion group formed and continued to meet at science fiction and comic conventions, eventually morphing into the community it is today.
As with most identities, there are degrees of being a furry, and belonging in the fandom is more nuanced than a mere sexual attraction to anthropomorphic animals. Here are some insights into the furry community:
- Only about 20% of furries consider themselves fursuiters
- About 14% of furries identify as gay and 37% identify as bisexual
- Physical and sexual assault backgrounds are sadly common, and there is also a high rate of suicide among furries
- Art is highly valued in the furry community as a way of depicting one’s fursona
- The fandom functions as a family, or pack, with many meet-ups involving ‘normal’ activities such as board games, cards, and good food
At its core, the furry fandom may be most about expression, as the creation of a fursona and/or fursuit takes a high level of commitment and creative insight. The ability to roleplay in a fursona often provides relief from the burdens of everyday life, and can make it easier to open up to others about past painful experiences. In that sense, the furry fandom is no different than any other organization or identity where people strive to both define themselves as well as connect with like-minded, supportive people.