Furry fandom is a subculture whose followers — often self-described loners and outcasts — say they find camaraderie and friendship through an interest in anthropomorphic creatures and animal role-playing at conventions, on the streets and in the bedroom.
“Power to the fur,” joked Lee Miller, a 29-year-old Fort Collins, Colo. man who is widely-known throughout the furry community by his Foxler Nightfire fursona. “It’s all about having fun.”
The enthusiasm for all things furry took a contentious turn, though, when Rocky Mountain Fur Con 2017 was cancelled amid group fighting on social media. The Tweets and Facebook posts have stemmed from claims of bad furry behavior, including accusations of an in-group neo-Nazi movement headed by Miller himself. The arguing ultimately led to threats of violence and a police order for a larger security presence at the convention, which organizers said they couldn’t afford.
— Foxler Nightfire (@starfoxACEFOX) January 27, 2017
Miller, the founder of the subgroup Furry Raiders, who became interested in the lifestyle at age 12 after his father died, told Amplify neither he nor anyone in his circle are Nazis. Miller said he simply dons an armband, which features a paw print where a swastika would be, as part of his Foxler fursona and costume.
He believes the outcry in part had to do with grumblings over his move to reserve 35 hotel rooms so Raiders members, who worried they couldn’t afford to attend Rocky Mountain Fur Con, would at least have a free place to stay. He said he planned to pay $10,000 or so for the rooms, then knocked it down to 20 rooms after convention organizers became upset. Miller said he had spent about $7,100 for the rooms, and only got $2,500 back after the convention was cancelled.
“People said, ‘You’re a Nazi.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not,’” Miller told Amplify. “Why should I change it? I like it. It’s just a paw print on a band. The attitude I put down caused a lot of issues. The convention people were complaining I needed to be removed and that the group that surrounds me needed to be removed.”
The anger escalated, and led to Tweets threatening to punch and shoot Miller’s group that were investigated by Denver police detectives. There were no reports of charges being filed.
Rocky Mountain Fur Con, which had been scheduled for Aug. 11-13 and was expected to draw as many as 1,700 furries to the Denver Marriott Tech Center, will not be rescheduled and has likely become a thing of the past.
“The furry community and Rocky Mountain Fur Con have always strived to be a place of inclusion; a place where furs from all walks of life, differing religious, political, social and personal views can come together to celebrate the thing that we have in common, the love of our fandom,” organizers wrote on the convention’s Facebook page April 10, when they announced they were nixing the event. “Recently, members of our community have taken it upon themselves to bring in external influences of hate, intolerance and stubborn refusal to compromise. This movement has grown into a community that promotes violence.”
The announcement was met with plenty of additional backlash by way of Facebook comments.
“I got engaged at this con and this was also the con I went to on my honeymoon,” Sammy Rowse, a furry from Omaha, posted. “That just ruined everything for me. Thanks.”
Katherine Burbules, a furry from Arlington, Texas, wrote that the decision to cancel, “will bring our community together in ways you cannot comprehend. This buckle under pressure was spineless.”
There are dozens of furry conventions held across the country every year, including Califur, coming to the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Convention Center in Pomona, Calif, in May; Motor City Furry Con, which was April 7-9 at the Sheraton Detroit Novi Hotel in Novi, Mich.; and the largest, Anthrocon, scheduled for June 29-July 2 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.
The hullabaloo in Denver has seemingly made other furry convention organizers far from the Mile High City a little edgy. Those contacted by Amplify appeared hesitant to discuss their own furry gatherings — and most didn’t respond to interview requests.
But Samuel Conway, the chairman of Anthrocon, which attracts more than 7,000 furries annually, told Amplify that plans for this year’s event are on schedule despite worries over what happened in Colorado. For a lot of conventions there are always concerns over problems with the general public, who might see adults running around town in animal getups as silly or creepy.
“As the safety and comfort of our attendees is of primary importance to us, we have always had a sizeable security presence, including both uniformed and plainclothes police officers and onsite EMS units,” said Conway, whose furry fursona is named Uncle Kage. “When any threats are voiced that may include Anthrocon, we work in conjunction with the city of Pittsburgh Police Department to determine the appropriate level of additional security, if any, that might be needed.”
Conway told Amplify that Anthrocon has heard of very few reports of non-furries stirring up problems with attendees.
“The people of Pittsburgh are extremely fond of Anthrocon,” he said.
Furry fandom has its roots in primitive culture, Miller said, with stories of ancient Egyptians worshiping anthropomorphic animals. Aesop’s Fables, written sometime between 620 to 560 B.C., is also cited by furries as being early anthropomorphic literature.
In modern times, furry fandom was first seen in early-80s zines, and surfaced more as sci-fi, Trekkie and Star Wars conventions grew in popularity. The furry movement gained steam of its own a decade later, as the rise of the internet offered would-be furries a place people could look at fanart and find others like them.
Furries see themselves as having half-human, half-animal characteristics. They often spend as much as $10,000 on elaborate costumes used for their role playing. Miller told Amplify he knows furries who wear the fur nearly 24 hours a day, even when they sleep, because they feel most like themselves when they are their fursona.
Furries go bowling, hit up nightclubs or play golf wearing their fur suits.
“For me, I’m kind of in the middle,” Miller said. “I go to cons, I go to meets, sometimes I wear it on random occasions.”
Miller said that despite the drama of the Rocky Mountain Fur Con, he has no plans to stop wearing the paw print armband, disband the Furry Raiders or avoid other furry conventions.
“People said they are going to stab me when they see me,” Miller said. “I haven’t had any issues of violence. I’m not guaranteed that’s going to be the case now. But we won’t know unless that happens.”