This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
I'm standing next to a man in a fox costume in a hotel room at Edmonton's Ramada Inn. The room is cramped because of a beer pong table. We need to make three cups in a row, or else we lose the game to the wolf and saber-tooth tiger across from us. I sink the first cup, my partner sinks the second. It's now or never. I take a breath, line up the cup, and shoot. I miss. The chupacabra across from me grabs a bottle of rum and pours me a strong drink. I cheers my foxy friend and slam it.
I don't know what I expected to find when I decided to attend Fur-Eh, Edmonton's premiere Furry convention, last weekend.
It certainly wasn't this.
Fur-Eh is a convention that caters to the furry subculture/fandom. The fandom is made up of people who enjoy anthropomorphic animals—animals with human characteristics. This usually takes the form of a character that the furry creates. It doesn't matter what creature it is as long as it is unique to the creator. Over the duration of the weekend I saw dogs, dragons, cats, and some creatures that the creators must have made up themselves. Visually, it was stunning.
Not all members of this fandom dress up. Only 20 percent actually own a suit, most likely due to the fact that a full suit is damn expensive, running up to and sometimes over a few thousand dollars. To mediate this, some furries just wear tails, some just ears, but they almost all had something on that signified them as a furry. It's not too far separated from what you would see at a typical comic con, just instead of dressing up as a character someone else created you are dressing up as your own.
Their characters, known as "fursonas," vary in extremes much like their creators. Throughout a con, you won't see one suit identical to another. There exists stereotypes within the factions of the fandom in something known as "speciesism."
"Because foxes are more popular I guess they get a lot of the hate, but they are known for being really into sexual stuff. So are otters, who are known for being really submissive," one attendee, a cat, told me. "People that dress up as dragons are known to be really ego-minded because they're dragons right? Like, what's crazier than a dragon? It's the most intense creature. The stereotype probably draws you to your fursona."
I asked him what it meant to dress as a cat.
"Cats are just jerks," he said with a laugh. "We think everyone is here for us."
People outside the subculture often assume that there is a sexually deviant aspect to the fandom. This perception can be traced back to popular media which in the past has portrayed the subculture as being solely populated with sexually deviant members. I asked two dogs, a fox, and a deer, why they thought the subculture got such a bum rap and almost all of them got a scornful look on their face and said something along the lines of "Fucking CSI, man… fucking CSI."
There have been numerous offenders who have sensationalized and painted this subculture as deviant, but none cut as deep as CSI. The crime show ran an episode in 2003 entitled "Fur and Loathing" that focused on the fandom. It's an episode that still haunts the group over a decade later. In it, the heroes investigate the murder of a man in a raccoon suit. Not only is the plot ridiculously dumb, the final twist is that a man mistook the guy in a fur suit for a coyote and shot him. But it completely gets the fandom wrong. The episode portrays furries as a group that will essentially get together and just fuck each other in their fursuits, in a full-out, weird-ass orgy.
I asked several furries about this practice—which I now know is called "yiffing."
"Sure, that happens. In every group you'll find weird sex things," one attendee who went by the name Rave Fox told me. "But that's like one percent of the people and honestly it would wreck the suit.
For more on fetishes, watch our doc on people obsessed with quicksand:
"Do you know how much these things cost?"
I heard rumblings that some people actually had specially made suits with holes in them, but I was unable to find a single person at the convention who had one.
Rave Fox and I had to cut our conversation short because DJ Recca was playing, and Rave Fox had to be there.
DJ Recca is a well-known furry DJ, who has played a lot of large cons and has a rather large following. It was a big deal that he played a small gathering like Fur-Eh. The Seattle-based wolf made his way up to Edmonton for the festivities and was doing a surprise set. Rave Fox said that this wasn't an event to miss. He was right.
Across the floor were probably 100 furries—some in suits and some not—while Recca stood behind the board with his fur suit half on. There were wolves dancing with dragons, huskies dancing with sabretooth cats, and everything in between. One furry, a dragon-eagle hybrid I think, had lights sewn into the wings of the costume so he or she lit up the dance floor. I took a drink of Rave Fox's Everclear and orange juice mix and joined in.
It was surreal. It was weird. It was a ton of fun.
Rave Fox is a popufur—a popular furry—and after the dance finished he told me that the next night he would show me exactly what a conference is about for a young furry.
When I showed up the next night, Rave Fox came up to me in full regalia. "Fuck yeah buddy, let's get liquored."
Rave was pretty far gone at this point so I headed up to the lounge to catch up. While there, a group of furries invited me to sit with them.
The fandom is one with a massive online community, and that is where the majority of these people meet. This event is one of the only opportunities they have to get together in person, giving it a high school reunion feel. People were sharing drinks and catching up. That's what this table felt like—just a bunch of old friends getting together. The point of conversation was in regards to furry sexuality. As it turns out, a disproportionate amount of furries identify as gay or bi: some numbers report 25 percent and some even go as high as 50 percent. The majority of the men around the table were gay, and one told me that the furry convention is just like any other big party—some people are there to get laid.
"A lot of people just report on the innocence of fur cons. The innocence is real, we all love being part of a thing, everyone does," one told me. "Some of us here just love to get fucked. I love to fuck!
"Not everyone is here just to fuck each other, but some of us are."
Now, he was a little hyperbolic when he told me this, but he assured me that there was a lot of human, non-furry, sex occurring at this conference between the attendees.
I finished my drinks with these guys and headed back to the dance. DJ Recca wasn't playing that night, so the turnout wasn't as impressive as the night before. I spot Rave drinking his Everclear and orange juice through his furry head just outside.
"If you're in fursuit you've gotta have your liquor," he laughed.
"You gotta stay hydrated," his girlfriend, also in fursuit, chimed in
They told me that tonight the dance isn't the place to be—the place to be is the room parties—and they invited me up to play some beer pong. We headed on up to DJ Recca's room. He and his roommate love themselves some beer pong so they brought a table up from Seattle with them. Rave and I challenged Recca and his roommate Mix. Their friend in the corner, Pickles, was feeding us caesars with horse radish the whole time. Rave and I played on a team together and eventually lost, meaning we had to drink another full drink in addition to what we did during the game. Pickles then slammed the rest of the Kraken from the bottle.
These furries could drink.
With Pickles in mid chug, the door flung open, and a loud guy sporting a tail walked in. He was muscular and looked like he would fit in more at a gym then a furry convention. He was something I never thought I would encounter, a furry bro. (A Brofur?)
His name was Shady. Shady was a sabertooth tiger. Shady was awesome. Shady and I drank a lot together.
Our group grew to around 15 as we wandered the halls of the hotel. It was past 2 AM, so everything was shut down, but that didn't stop us. We shared several bottles of booze between us, swigging straight from the bottle. At one point an extremely hammered wolf, who is also a welder from Ponoka, stumbled into one of the Ramada's little indoor gardens and couldn't get up. After we all recovered from our laughter we pulled the wolf up. While we were doing this, Shady turned to me and told me about how varied the group was.
"That's the beauty of it. I'm a mechanic, she works for the government in the states, and we're rooming with an engineer," Shady told me. "That's how different it gets. He makes shit; I fix it, and she tells lies about my shit. You go on any business trip that's what you're going to see. People having fun. At a furry fandom convention, you can't get more real than this. This is people from the heart having fun. You can't fake that. You can walk into any group, and they are still going to treat me as friendly."
He pointed at the headless lounge, the room where furries go to take their heads off and relax.
"Whoever comes out of that door is honest. We're all honest."
As the night wound down we ended up sitting in the abandoned lounge together and started chatting. I found out that one of the furries in our rank, Violet Jake, a Husky, came from Fort Saskatchewan, my hometown. We were only a year apart and knew a lot of the same people. In fact, we weren't much different at all. The only major difference was that he liked to have a character and spend time, when he can, with others that do, too. In the end, that's all that it was. These people aren't weird or deviant by any means. They just have an interest and act out on that interest. Some people like sports and go to hockey games. This group likes this fandom and going to cons. That's it.
Rave, sitting next to me, stretched out on his chair, took a swig of the Sailor Jerry rum that was making the rounds, and looked at me.
"Man, why the fuck aren't you a furry?"
And by the end of discussion, we decided that if I was a furry, I would be a sabertooth, just like my boy Shady.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.