Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How I Learned to Love the Furries

You know how it’s not only okay and kinda encouraged to make fun of Furries and the whole culture around it? How even among geeks that's the one group everyone is more than fine marginalizing?

Yeah, I'm not down with that anymore.

Back in March, I was pulled to one of my wife’s work events. This particular meet-and-greet was being held in downtown Atlanta at the Hard Rock Cafe, and the only reason I was excited to be there was because there was an open (and unlimited) bar. I got more than a little hammered. Scratch that, I got college-drunk. You know what I mean by that. Don’t pretend that you don’t.

By the time the event wound down, I was pretty lit. Double fisting free whiskey does that to you. Maybe that was why I said "sure" when my wife made the following suggestion:

“Let’s go to the Furry convention,” she said.

Right across the street from Hard Rock Cafe Atlanta that very night at The Westin was a fairly large gathering of Furries, all of them in town for Furry Weekend Atlanta 2013. Had I not been drunk, my reaction to someone suggesting we go to Furry Weekend Atlanta, even as tourists would have been a resounding “Hell no!” but like I said, I was college-drunk. And when you’re college-drunk, you’re open to anything. Besides, I figured wandering through the hotel would give me ample ammo for making fun of these people in the future. So across the street we went to the Furry convention!

And holy shit, were there furries everywhere. I mean, sure it was a furry convention, but I don’t think the uninitiated human brain is every prepared for seeing that many people in finely crafted animal costumes in one place. We wandered through the mass of anthropomorphic animal people, marveling and even giggling a little. They were silly, right? I mean, who in their right mind dresses or behaves the way these people do? They’re not normal. They can’t be! No way!

And that’s when we met Shaw.

You expected the head piece to come off while drinking? For shame...

Shaw was drinking alone at the hotel bar. No idea how long he'd been there, no idea how many other tourists had bothered him, but I do know if the Furry community ever needed an official ambassador, then it has to be this man. Shaw almost singlehandedly changed the way I looked at Furries from the moment I first asked if I could take a picture.

See, Shaw was just… cool. He was so fucking comfortable with who he was you really couldn’t help but be more than a little envious. I don't dress in a blue wolf costume and go walking through major metropolitan areas and I'm pretty certain I'm not half as comfortable with myself as Shaw is with himself. On top of that, he welcomed any and all questions a tourist could have. Shaw was cognizant of the fact that his lifestyle ain’t exactly the norm, and people tend to make fun of what they don’t see as normal. Shaw was in fact so cool and comfortable that, no bullshit, after a few minutes, we actually forgot we were talking to a guy in a blue wolf costume. We were talking to (and drinking with) a guy named Shaw and Shaw was likeable as hell. 

We interacted with lots of Furries after Shaw as we wandered The Westin that night, and we didn’t have a single negative interaction. Not a one. No one refused a photo. No one made us feel unwelcome. No one made us feel uncomfortable.

This fella's wearing his actual Boy Scout uniform. And yes, he's an Eagle Scout.

Oh, and did I mention every year, Atlanta Furry Weekend goes out of its way to raise money for charity?

If that doesn't certify me and almost everyone else in the country a dick I don't know what does.

“We expect people are going to stare at us and think we’re weird,” Shaw said, setting his drink back down at the bar. “But I think we do a good job of showing them we’re pretty good people who just like to have fun in a different way than they do.”

So that’s it. No more mocking. This is my formal and public apology for every disparaging word I’ve ever said about Furries. I’m done. I spent a night partying with these people and even though it was painfully obvious I was a tourist, they still welcomed me, my wife and everyone else who had wandered into the hotel to have a laugh at their expense. 

They won us all over with acceptance.

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