In my long-standing immersion with online queer animal people I’ve seen many articles that start like this:
The Furry fandom is a place where anybody can belong and be themselves. We’re just a bunch of nerds who like anthropomorphic animal people.
We’ve all seen news articles and short documentaries like this, ranging from ones on Cracked to CNN. Capital F Furry’s obsession with optics can be understood from a perspective of con survival via conservative relationships, even at its most off-putting and cynical. But if we stipulate the statement in italics to be true, then we have to have an understanding of what the implications mean.
I’m going to ignore “anybody can belong and be themselves” because we already know that to be untrue and simply does not occur in any space online and offline whatsoever, but I want to take a close look at what fandom means.
Merriam Webster defines a fan as:
2: the state or attitude of being a fan
Fan is defined as:
A subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs, often maintaining some of its founding principles. Subcultures develop their own norms and values regarding cultural, political and sexual matters. Subcultures are part of society while keeping their specific characteristics intact. Examples of subcultures include hippies, goths and bikers
A subculture, on the other hand, is more of a grassroots endeavor. It doesn’t necessarily rely on physical spaces or optics or successful sales to exists as it does, although penalization of its expression by large companies or the state can hinder its happiness, interests, or ability to connect with people who wish to live their lives in a similar way. A subculture is a movement of shared ideas and people that persists despite unpopularity or oppression, often exists adjacent and overlapping with counterculture contingencies (see: the punk scene within alternative music) and has some sort of unification of rules.
My loose idea of what the furry subculture’s rules are is:
1. People can identify with one or many types of animal hybrid representations of themselves and those are a core facet of their identity and how others recognize them.
The distinction of furry hobbyists and a queered subculture is important and real, despite there being a lot of overlap (I think more in the subculture will be hobbyists than hobbyists will be a part of the subculture).
I believe the the mechanisms and draw to furry’s subcultural component are more complicated than “nerds have fun in animal costumes.” Rather, that queer belonging is its most powerful magnetism and should not be replaced, less it become a shell of a long-gone people who are celebrated without said people being present– like what many commercialized pride parades have become today– a fleeting rainbow glimpsed briefly in evaporating mist.