Furry fandom, an obscure subculture united by a passion for all things anthropomorphic, can be a lucrative business because artisanal fursuits are haute-couture. Despite getting a bad rap as perverse fetishists, the subculture is actually about playful escapism and a fascination with what links humans to animals. An individual design may need up to 200 hours of labor and fetch several thousand dollars. The company also tends to ride the crest of seasonal fads, such as the year of bright colors or the year of grumpy cartoon characters.
At one point, everyone was fantasizing about life as a sled dog. Of course, fur is the main attraction; even sharks, reptiles, and birds can be cute with a little fuzz, and the fashion area of Los Angeles has businesses selling hundreds of different types of fur. The hypothesis’s inspiration, gender identity disorder, has remarkable similarities with the experiences of certain furries costumes, who may feel alienated from their bodies because they believe they were born into the incorrect species.
The fursona, which functions as a kind of spirit animal, may be any animal, real or fictional, to whom the person feels an emotional connection. Popular hybrids include “wolves” (fox + wolf) and “drink” (dragon + lynx), although dogs and large cats will always be in demand. Every week, a new costume company debuts, and these days, you can have a fursuit with a wagging tail, blinking LED lights in the eyes, and even a moving jaw all for an extra fee. All handmade items are unique, however, most can be cleaned in the washing machine and maintained looking new with a little brushing with a pet brush.
According to Samuel Conway, a professional researcher and the chairman of Anthrocon, the furry community’s distorted reputation may be traced back to its members’ resolutely individualistic and introspective tendencies. Those who follow Star Trek are after someone else’s ideal. We furs make up our subculture. The comic book historian Mark Evanier is quoted: “Furries are fans of each other.”
Gerbasi, who led the interdisciplinary Anthropomorphic Research Project that surveyed over 7,000 furry enthusiasts from every continent (except Antarctica), claims that “people don’t know it, but the entire anthropomorphism is popular” (which had a small furry gathering, too). While there are some obvious demographic patterns among furries (almost 80% are male, much work in science or technology, and a disproportionate fraction do not identify as heterosexual), there is no evidence that furries are mentally unwell.
Conway, a fursuiter known as “Uncle Kage,” a samurai cockroach, adds, “Cartoon creatures have a worldwide appeal.” “A love of animals and a fascination with the concept of them behaving as humans do transcends most national, regional, and religious borders,” says Conway. “While the fursuiters certainly grab attention, they only make up approximately 20% of the conference attendees,” says one observer. For a substantial minority, though, it’s far more than that: Nearly half (46%) of the furry enthusiasts surveyed by Gerbasi felt they were not fully human, and nearly as many (41%) stated they would want to be anything other than human. Twenty-nine percent of them claimed to have felt like “non-human creatures imprisoned in a human body.”
Many patients with what has been termed “species identity disorder,” a term used by researchers Gerbasi et al., also reported physical symptoms, including the sensation that they were missing limbs or extremities. Though she hasn’t figured out why these people have this perception, Gerbasi emphasizes the need for health care practitioners to take them seriously, without the derision that has plagued even her studies.
An Overview of Disabilities, Autism, and the Furry Subculture
People with disabilities and those on the autistic spectrum are a significant portion of Furry Fandom’s audience. Researchers from the interdisciplinary team known as Fur Science have attended Furry Conventions (huge in-person gatherings dedicated to all things furry) to learn more about the Furry Community and its members. They found that anywhere between 10% and 15% of the Furry community either has an autistic diagnosis or considers themselves to be on the spectrum. Still another 15% say they have a disability.
Adopting a fursona, according to Fur Science, may be a freeing experience for people dealing with an illness since it allows them to hide their ailment in social situations. By bolstering confidence, reducing fear, and inspiring innovation, it also helps people break through conventional social barriers. Members who are prone to sensory overload may find that wearing a fursuit provides some relief. This might provide them the freedom to roam around and engage in a space they have some say over. Similarly, if a person’s motor abilities are limited, adopting a fursona that can still express themselves is a great way to feel included in social situations.