Furry Friends

In Pittsburgh on July 4, 2009 at 4:36 am

Downtown 001

The Furries have returned to Pittsburgh. The shock has worn off. Anthrocon has become a normal yearly event, like Easter Dinner and the Super Bowl. Summer comes, and so do thousands of people dressed as woodland creatures. Some wear meager tails and bunny ears. Others don full-body animal outfits, which usually look more like cartoon characters than actual fauna (this, I’ve recently learned, is the preferred likeness). For one weekend, Downtown Pittsburgh looks like a convention for team mascots. By now, most Pittsburghers are just amused by the arrival of costumed animal-lovers. The initial fears of beastial orgies at the Convention Center have subsided. Anthrocon is no weirder than Disneyland.

Furries are a private bunch (gaggle? Pack?). The media have been harsh, and nothing Furries say can make their habit sound legitimate to public ears. So it’s unsurprising that the press is usually forbidden at the convention proper. My colleague at City Paper, Melissa Meinzer, wrote the definitive expose on Furry culture, an article both amusing and highly empathic (it may be my favorite cover story ever published in CP). But otherwise, Anthrocon is a private party. Until today, I had never seen an authentic Furry in real life.

But this afternoon, as I wandered Downtown, Furries were everywhere: Sitting outside, walking from hotel to Convention Center, gathering on street corners and taking pictures. It was surreal, seeing so many fuzzy appendages on the street, but not as surreal as I expected. Having read Susan Orlean’s brilliant profile on taxidermists, who obsessively futz around with animal corpses, I feel that people dressed as giant cats are pretty tame (domesticated? Housebroken?).

At the same time, it was hard to raise a camera to Furries on the street, because they kept glaring at me with accusative faces. Oh, go ahead, they seemed to say. Take a picture. Make us part of your freak collection. Come on, I dare you to objectify me and my friends and our harmless hobby. See if we care.

It’s fitting that this kind of tension, between Furries and ordinary folks, could be called “animosity.”

  1. No matter how you slice it, it was one hell of a fun convention, and we love Pittsburgh.

  2. I totally wouldve let you take a pic of me 😀 About 3/4ths of us are eager and willing for pics 🙂

  3. Hey Robert, Check out the photo I posted today with total permission from a trip in the Westin lobby.
    (We met at Bern and Brad’s Holiday Sweater Party.)

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