Hi, my name is Bill, and I’m a recovering normie.
Those of you who frequent Boozy Barrister’s blog may have stumbled upon a reference or two to Furries, or as they are generally referred to amongst themselves “the fandom.” Boozy has become somewhat of a furry phenomenon, and as an internet friend of his (that is to say, someone that is more likely to refer to him by pseudonym than by his legal name) I took an interest in seeing what this group of animal enthusiasts was all about.
Sidenote: I tried to think of a cute pet name for Boozy’s followers, but realized I couldn’t do better than “alcoholics”
Now I’m no stranger to fandoms as a general concept. If you’ve ever seen a checklist of things that were popular for 90s kids, you know my life’s story. I’ve collected everything from plastic dinosaurs to Pogs. I still have a binder full of Pokemon cards that doubles as the bulk of my retirement asset portfolio, and I’ve engaged in lightsaber manufacturing at an advanced enough age that I could have legally spent the time and money drinking alcohol.
The one thing that I know about being a fan of something today is that, in order to do it right in this part of the 21st century, you have to do it ironically. Meaning, you have to actually hate the thing.
Take Star Wars for instance. I was a young lad when the prequels came out, and boy was I hyped. I had seen the original movies because my dad had shown them to me, so I was already a fan. Seeing a Star Wars movie in theaters though? I couldn’t wait for it. I sat there in the theater with my hand-made brown Jedi robe that was stitched together by my mom’s friend, with my plastic toy lightsaber and participated in the quasi-religious experience that is the opening night of a SW movie. And, I’ll tell you what, I loved it. I’m pretty sure my first attempt at engineering was figuring out how to fabricate a double-bladed lightsaber out of two regular ones. I loved Darth Maul, seeing Obi-Wan as a buttoned-up padawan was great, and yes, I even liked him (you know who I’m talking about). Now, if you asked me today, I would probably deny that the 95% of Episode 1 that isn’t the duel of the fates scene even exists. “No one hates Star Wars like Star Wars fans do” goes a popular saying that I think more and more is an understatement that applies to the majority of nerd culture today.
Star Wars is just one example now, but in the modern era of sports and entertainment culture, no fandom is safe from vitriol and hate for the very thing it allegedly celebrates, well, almost no fandom…
I attended a furry convention for the first time several months ago. I had lived in the city that it takes place in for my whole life, and had seen and heard about the Furries each year when they came around. The Furries I had met all seemed nice enough, but it wasn’t until I had an opportunity to electronically “meet” Boozy that I had any real interest in attending. Seeing Boozy was cause enough to attend my first furry convention, but from the first moment I stepped in the registration line, I felt more like I was stepping into a family home at Thanksgiving than an international convention. People were waiving to each other, asking each other how their flights and drives were, talking about when they got into town, and updating each other on the major events in their lives, between video game breaks on one type of handheld console or another.
In the concrete jungle of my city, Furries are often out of place, walking around in a full “fursuit” or even in mere tails and ears, they garner glares and chuckles from much the surrounding populace. In the convention, I was the one who looked out of place coming fresh from the office in my suit. Even so, I never felt like I was being stared at or laughed about, even though I definitely looked ridiculous dressed as a lawyer while dodging tails and quietly stepping out of the way of large and acrobatic hugs from convention attendees who were particularly happy to see each other.
First I met Boozy Barrister himself, a gruff yet kind soul who looked ready to introduce himself to a judge with “your Hon-ah I am just a simple country lawyer.” He in person was exactly the man you might expect to meet from being a long-time follower of his: jovial, expressive, and possessed with a certain hard to define characteristic that I can only describe as “drunk uncle.”
Then, I met the badger, and he’s a different story. While possessing the same body, as soon as a young fan approached him, Boozy’s presence shifted as if stuck by lighting. Whereas before he was a Hulk of justice, regaling me with stories in hilarious fashion about ridiculous clients, judges, and situations that he found himself dealing with (while abiding by the ethical rules, of course); now he was the calm, thoughtful, Bruce Banner who had been adopted as Godfather of the fandom. I saw this shift occur enough times to give me whiplash, but rather than being an act that was being put on for the benefit of rubes, I realized that something else was happening. Boozy was becoming the badger, able to put all of the aches and pains that make up life as a lawyer aside to simply enjoy existence with another pers-, er, animal.
During my time as Boozy’s shadow I got to meet some of the great celebrities of furry fandom, individuals who were genuinely happy to be there meeting me and made me genuinely happy by association. In fact, if there was something that wasn’t on display during my time at the convention it was inauthenticity. Fursuiters, other Furries, and whole families walked around the hall and associated spaces, everyone seeming to enjoy themselves, everyone there to take part in an almost ecstatic joy that emanated from the space. I used to think, like many still do, that being a furry was a sex thing. However, like life in general, while sexuality is a part, if that’s the only thing you focus on, you’re missing the point.
On top of the happy, nearly care-free atmosphere of the convention, Furries raise a crazy amount of money for charities each year, often choosing to donate the proceeds from their fundraising to animal shelters and other related charities that often are overlooked for other pressing causes. I was present for no less than three separate events to raise money for the charitable cause of this year’s convention, and was blown away each time with the generosity on display.
Probably the best expression of furry fandom that I came across while at the convention was that fursonas (the in-fandom identity of Furries) are the expression of the “best self” of the person who adopts them, certainly that was my experience. The Furries that I met and talked with at the convention all were being their best, true selves, all while made up with ears, tails, and other related accoutrements. So what if someone wants to dress up like a fox and prance around, sometimes literally? If that makes someone happy, I wish them the best, and boy-howdy do Furries want you to be happy.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t some controversy in the fandom. As you’ve seen on Boozy’s own blog, there are such a thing as “nazi furs” and while controversy is not courted by conventions, even the best of atmospheres has its fair share of drama. After all, I said it was like a family at thanksgiving, not Disneyworld. But these things are truly fringe elements of what is already a rather small group.
So, as I explained to my parents, family, and friends who found out that I went to a furry convention, I’m not a furry, nor would I say that I’m particularly fur-curious. For one, I wouldn’t know what animal to be. I like eagles, but “legal eagle” is such a cliché…maybe I’d be a lion? I don’t know. Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve put much thought into what my hypothetical fursona would be. Who knows, maybe by the time the convention comes back to town I’ll be prancing around with the best of the horses or giggling with a pack of hyenas.
In reality though, I know that I’m not nearly good enough of a person to be promoted to animal.