What Is a Furry? Everything You Need to Know About a Misunderstood Subculture

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Of all the ridiculous conspiracy theories to emerge from the bowels of the right-wing internet over the past few years, few can top the idea that furries are taking over schools. From Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert to a slew of state legislators, conservatives have seized upon the anti-LGBTQ+ culture war to claim that students are increasingly identifying as furries, or people who love anthropomorphic animals. These rumors have been proven false, and the fact they went viral in the first place smacks of transphobia, conflating a fairly benign subculture with trans students who are asking for their existence to be respected.

Here are the facts: While perhaps misunderstood, furries are just like anyone else — and definitely nothing like what you’ll hear about on Fox News. So, what is a furry? The simple answer is that they’re people who have a strong interest in humanoid animals. Often, furries have “fursonas,” or a humanoid animal persona; these are animals like wolves, cats, and foxes that often have human characteristics, like eyelashes and outfits. Furries often embody their fursonas by portraying them in their art, role playing, and wearing furry costumes known as fursuits.

Conservative myths surrounding furries aren’t just made up; they’re designed to perpetuate harmful stereotypes that minimize queer students, and they deeply misunderstand what furries actually are. Furries are a vibrant community of creative people — many of whom are queer — who are just trying to live their lives and make friends with common interests, like any of us. The furry subculture has a rich history and presence both online and at in-person events across the country, and furry fandoms can be incredibly affirming spaces for many queer and trans folks.

If you have a furry in your life, or just want to learn more about furry culture in general, read on for answers to the most common questions about our anthropomorphized friends: What does furry mean? What is the difference between otherkin and furries? What are some common misconceptions about furries?

What are furries?

The group has claimed responsibility for breaching government agencies in five states.

A furry is anyone who has a strong interest in humanoid animals. Since the subculture first emerged in the 1980s, furries have built a vibrant community and made a lasting impact on culture.

Furries sometimes create a “fursona,” or a non-human character they use to represent themselves to the world. They often create digital art to share these avatars with others, showing it off on platforms like DeviantArt and YouTube. Some furries purchase costume elements to help them channel their fursona. For some, buying their first set of ears can be a significant moment; for others, tails can be another source of inspiration; for those who have the funds, that can mean buying a complete fursuit, or a full suit modeled after their fursona.

While furry conventions and in-person meetups are an important aspect of the community, a lot of that community building happens online. People share pictures of their fursonas on platforms like Twitter, they come together in online chatrooms and on Reddit, and they even have furry-specific apps like Ferzu to meet other like-minded people.

What is the difference between furries, otherkin, and therian?

Furries don’t actually identify as animals, which is one of the most common misconceptions about them. While furries have an interest in anthropomorphized animal personas and sometimes create their own, they do not believe they are actual animals.

The confusion might, in part, be from conflating furries with otherkin or therians, people who identify in some way as not fully-human or as a non-human. Otherkin is considered by some to be an umbrella term that encompasses those who identify broadly as non-human. Therian is a more specific identity term within the otherkin umbrella which refers to those who identify as an animal that has existed on earth at some point (i.e. dinosaurs or wolves). There can be overlap between these identities, but it’s important to never conflate the two or assume things about someone’s personal identity.

What are some common misconceptions about furries?

Because furries have been thrust into the conservative news cycle over the last few years, myths about them have spread like wildfire. From the misconception that “furry” is a sexual orientation to the idea that they're somehow nefarious or dangerous, these assumptions just perpetuate harmful rumors about the subculture. Below are just a few of the the many false claims people make about furries:

False: Furries are people who think they are animals

People who are unfamiliar with furries often believe that they think they are actual animals. This is not the case; furries are just people who have an interest in anthropomorphized animals. While some furries have fursuits and dress up as their fursonas, they do not believe they are actually the animal they are embodying. Think of furries as just another genre of cosplayers dressing up as their favorite characters.

Additionally, most furries do not own fursuits or cosplay as their fursonas. Many are just people who have an interest in humanoid animals and express that interest through art, storytelling, and other outlets.

False: Furries are all about sex

A common misconception is that all furries are hypersexual and engage in the fandom to “yiff,” or have sex while wearing their fursuit. It’s important to keep a few things in mind: First, adults have sex sometimes, even if they belong to different subcultures; it’s normal. Second, while wearing a fursuit during sex might not be your cup of tea, we aren’t here to judge. Many wouldn’t bat an eye if someone wears lingerie to have sex; think of a fursuit as just another hot outfit to some. Third, fursuits are custom-made, expensive, and hard to clean, so a lot of furries don’t want to get them sweatier than they might already be from walking around. Fursuits are also bulky, so having sex in them is just logistically hot and dehydrating — which isn’t always the best for getting in the mood, unless you’re into that.

But minimizing the furry community to sex is another way people misunderstand who furries are. Many furries just use the subculture to make friends, express their creativity, and engage in a hobby that they love. Most furries are part of the community because they want to find others who share their interests and a sense of social belonging.

False: Furries want to use litter boxes in schools

This one is just wrong, despite what conservative political pundits may say. Over 20 conservative political candidates and politicians across the country have made the claim that children are identifying as furries and asking for litter boxes at their schools, with no evidence whatsoever. Before such rumors began to spread, furries were not known for using litter boxes at all, with no major furry conventions providing such facilities for their droves of fursuit-clad attendees. It's just not something furries are known for.

It’s important to keep in mind that this myth in particular was invented by conservative politicians in their fight against LGBTQ+ youth. The point being made is that if trans kids are validated and taken seriously, what’s to stop kids from identifying as animals? And that's quite the stretch, not to mention a sad way to think about the rights of trans youth.

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