Hi there! I’m Inkblitz; writer, spottycat extraordinaire and all around goofball. And I’m proud to be a furry!
But I wasn’t always.
I entered the furry fandom for the first time somewhere along its awkward phase, a couple years before the dreaded CSI episode came out. Which worked out, because I was also in my awkward phase at the time. For a few years we were awkward together; I was trying to figure out who I was while dodging bullies and hormones, and the furry fandom was still trying to figure out what it actually wanted to be.
It was a pretty different fandom back then; no one was really sure how seriously they wanted to take the entire thing. It was far smaller and much less connected. Going to conventions was for people who were well off, really good at art or lived nearby. Yet for some furry was becoming a way of life, and others were actually beginning to use it as a means to make a living. For me, it was a place where I could make some real friends away from my home town. It just also happened to have cute and curvy werewolf ladies.
For my teenage self who couldn’t quite get the hang of high school, it was like a second home.
Sadly, my first dip into the furry fandom didn’t last long past graduation. The CSI episode came out a year before I graduated and painted the furry fandom in an ugly and uncomfortable light. The articles from popular magazines that followed didn’t help either. It quickly lead to a lot of awkward questions that I didn’t want to answer. The fandom had been made a public laughing stock and things became turbulent and uncertain. Before, it had been sort of a private club for the awkward and creative people, but now the cool kids found the clubhouse and were TPing it every Friday night for fun.
Being the naive teenager I was, I believed the stories. I became ashamed to be a part of the fandom. But before I could fully decide where I stood, life hit me upside the head with a frying pan and made the choice for me. I became pretty lost for a while, and left the fandom and most of my internet friends.
Cut to ten years later. I somehow got myself involved in the My Little Pony fandom and was running a Rainbow Dash roleplay twitter account with upwards of 30,000 followers. I was a bit more mature and secure in who I was— which was someone who didn’t want to fully grow up. As my attention began to wander from the MLP fandom, The Gneech suggested that I should check out the furry fandom again. It took some wheedling, but between him and the encouragement of long time furry friends, I drove down to Anthrocon in Pittsburgh to check out the fandom first hand.
What I found surprised me in a very good way. In the time that I had been away, the Furry Fandom had discovered itself way better than I could have ever imagined. Thanks in part to the likes of people like Uncle Kage, the fandom had gone from wandering from place to place, struggling to keep itself together, to settling down as the connected, supportive, friendly and very open-minded fandom that it is today. The fandom had picked itself up and dusted off the grime that had been slung at it. It got a haircut, put on a decent (fuzzy and colorful) suit and brought itself up as something presentable and altogether awesome.
But underneath all the media coverage, that’s what it had always been.
The media likes to paint a dark, grim and deviant picture on just about anything if you let them. After all, who wants to watch optimistic news stories about a growing, yet slightly unusual, supportive community that helps each other out? In the early years of the furry fandom, the media only wanted to focus on what would create the most drama and bring them the most profit. Instead of looking at the positive influence that the fandom could be, they focused squarely on the smallest and dirtiest part of it and spread it all over furry’s image.
It has taken a long time, but furry has been cleaning that sludge off, and underneath was something bold, friendly and familiar. Going to Anthrocon that year almost felt like coming home again.
To me, the furry fandom was and is a safe haven for the people who just didn’t quite fit in. We’re the misfits, the emotional, the colorful, the ones bored of the doldrums of everyday humanity. A lot of us are the ones who tended to be the outcasts in school; the nerds, the geeks, the people who just didn’t match up to what the other kids thought was ‘cool.’ The furry fandom welcomed us with open arms, and let us have a place where we could be ourselves among other creative people. It showed us that normal was just an idea, and it was okay that we didn’t fit into anyone else’s vision of it.
We weren’t the first people to question the idea of ‘normal,’ and we certainly aren’t going to be the last. As a teenager, I didn’t understand how important that was. Instead, it felt like the fandom had been forced out of the shadows before it was ready. It stumbled and hesitated in front of the microphone, but instead of diving right back behind the curtains, the furry fandom composed itself and stepped out into the spotlight with a flourish.
It stepped up to look the camera right in the lens and say, “We know you think we’re weird, and we don’t care. Want to join us?”
And that’s why I am now proud to be a furry once again.