In the deep, broad platforms of the internet, the term “furry” may be one that internet purveyors have come across, either appearing in the form of people wearing the iconic fursuits—costumes created to explicitly showcase animal-like characteristics—or in artworks of human-like animals.
However, beyond the furry surface, there exists some confusion regarding the true nature of the community. Internet culture suggests that furries are proud allies of the LGBTQ+ movement—with people in this community often seen rallying support for equal sexual and gender representation online through Twitter or offline through rallies. Sometimes they are made to be the butt of the joke, ridiculed in memes or in social media platforms such as TikTok.
The layer of the furry fandom that is most vibrant and apparent to outsiders looking in only scratches the surface of who these people truly are. Beneath the memes and jokes made at their expense, they are no different from most online fandoms or interest groups in that they are a community of passionate and creative individuals.
Welcome to the zoo
“Basically, [the term] just refers to anything or anyone related to remove anthropomorphic animals,” shares Brian Nicole Uy (CPE, ‘14) when describing furries. Uy serves as the executive director of FurryPinas, the Philippines’ local furry convention, and clarifies that the term “furry” simply refers to a specific interest in “cartoon animal characters”. He categorizes furry culture as “[an] interest, hobby, parang anime [and] cosplay.” Much like other fandoms, they can be very easily found in various sections of the internet.
Uy’s interest began after watching How to Train Your Dragon. Like many who saw the film, he admired its story and visuals. However, he also developed a particular fondness for the design of the title character, Toothless, and soon found an online community with whom he could share his excitement.
“I started interacting with a fan-made Toothless Facebook page, then people there starting adding me…some of them [were] actually furry fans,” he recounts.
Meanwhile, Mark* (I, MEEMTE), a furry artist, first discovered furries through a Google search as a particular type of artwork caught his eye. “A lot of this art [that I saw had] a very similar tag: [the] word ‘furry’,” he recalls. At first thinking that the tag was describing the animal-like artstyle, Mark realized afterwards that it meant something else entirely, unveiling an entirely new culture to him.
The initial concept of furries was inspired by the depictions of anthropomorphized animals in Disney movies such as Lion King, and Japanese works like Kimba the White Lion—attracting young artists and early anime enthusiasts to the fandom. As interest in the concept gained traction, these people began to create original characters or representations of themselves in the fandom’s animalistic style, coming up with their own “fursonas”.
Similar to an internet avatar, the fursona is an original character created with the purpose of comprehensively reflecting one’s persona in the form of an anthropomorphized animal. Some furries even go as far as to create a costume for their fursona—fursuits—to represent themselves in conventions or online. “It’s a very personalized hobby,” Uy says.
A tight-knit menagerie
Uy credits the internet as an important platform for the growth of the furry community, with online channels such as forums, DeviantArt, and Twitter all contributing greatly to their expansion. As far as Uy can recall, the earliest mentions of the local Filipino furry community date back to sometime in 2008, when it was still on Yahoo! Groups.
Then in 2011, the community made a home for themselves on Facebook, with only 50 initial members. Nowadays, there are over a thousand members. “And that’s only the hardcore furries,” Uy adds, stating that the rest of the community can be found on Twitter, composed of artists and fans of furry art.
Though the community’s presence and content are mostly found online, physical gatherings happen frequently, too. “There’s a lot of meeting up and joining things called ‘furmeets’, where basically furries go to a park or a restaurant [to] just chat and hang out and talk about the hobby,” Mark says.
The real-life interactions may seem daunting, but Mark’s experiences have been positive, as his online and offline personas were similarly welcomed with open arms by members of the community. “The people are what make [interacting] easy. Most of the people I have interacted with are kind, really welcoming, and really open-minded,” he shares.
The gnawing stigma
Many onlookers view the furry culture as one mainly centered around sexual fetishes and acts, pointing to the throngs of sexual furry artwork online as proof to back their beliefs.
Mark recalls how his high school classmates were disgusted when he told them that he was a furry, as they believed that furries had beastiality fetishes due to the animal-like subject matter that their culture is so closely tied to. But for Mark, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
He describes the alleged sexual aspect as “just a side thing”, as opposed to being the sweeping generalization that outsiders have often extrapolated to represent the entire community. Though he does not deny it as one of the unaddressed facets of the furry subculture, Mark argues that what the community truly stands for is providing a safe space for many—welcoming people from all walks of life, “regardless of gender, sexuality, or age” with open arms.
Mark attests that he used his fursona to explore the different conventions of gender: “I was able to explore gender fearlessly. I could talk about pronouns and experiences, and nobody would go into my [direct messages] telling me, ‘Hey, stop that.’”
Creating a fursona helps furries be more comfortable in their own skin, as an online avatar or as a mascot using a fursuit. “You can just change the appearance, change the body type, change the gender, [and] things like that until you find something that you relate to the most out of all your characters,” Mark explains.
In the midst of the misconceptions and prejudice the culture faces, Uy highlights the opportunity “to pioneer the reputation” of the local furry community, referencing social engagement initiatives like charity events. He adds that the recent furry convention, FurryPinas, features spaces for furry-related events and lounges for doodling and gaming. “We take proactive actions to make sure that [the furry community’s local debut is] to be seen as a positive thing by the public,” Uy affirms.
Beyond the misconceptions and the stigma, Uy believes in the capacity of furry culture to serve as a safe space for self-expression, creative activity, and meaningful interactions—offline or online. “[Being a furry adds] something to do in life, something to look forward [to] if there’s someone who’s depressed, or someone who feeling out of place,” Uy says. “[Anyone] can join the community if they [want to] feel like they belong.”
*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms