Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

July 8-14, 2004

city beat

Animal Magnetism

Illustration By: Mike Nawyn

The furries come to Philly for an annual convention.

Two years ago, David Setzman walked into his kitchen, got a drink from the fridge and started talking to his dad. A few minutes into the conversation, his father stopped and asked him about his clothing.

Setzman was wearing a fur suit.

He is one of thousands of furries, a group of people who respect and admire (and sometimes dress like) animals from mythical times to modern day. Some of these furries descend upon the Adam's Mark Hotel on July 8 for Anthrocon, one of several annual conventions in the nation for furs.

Furs are interested in anthropomorphic, or humanlike, animals. Anthropomorphs are most common in animation, where characters like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Roger Rabbit straddle the line between animal behavior and human agility. Anthropomorphics also are common as mascots for sports teams.

Furries can be found in all walks of life, with many holding advanced degrees or working in technical fields or as artists. They live all over the world, but Setzman says there is always a common bond.

"You can meet a total stranger and they will talk to you like they've known you for years," Setzman said.

Although Setzman has only been in the community for a few years, he has made hundreds of furry contacts. He keeps his instant messaging program and chatrooms open all day to catch messages from 30 to 40 of his closest furry friends.

This particular community depends on its close-knit groups for support against widespread prejudice. Negative media coverage has portrayed furs as "furverts" and child molesters because of the sexual aspect of the community. One of the most famous portrayals comes from MTV's Sex2K documentary series, which debuted a show three years ago that concentrated on "yiffing" (a multipurpose furry term for sexual feelings and acts) and a furry's disapproving mother who wondered what she had done wrong. Furry appearances on CSI and in Vanity Fair have also boiled down the reputation of furs to a single, skewed image: furries as freaks who rip holes in their fur suits to have lots of sex.

Some of the stereotyped images are true, but the majority of the community does not fit into that highly sexualized mold. Because the media has covered the stereotype of furries without describing the rest of the community, the furries have suffered. The stigma led Setzman, he says, to lose a job at an arcade two years ago.

Setzman had worn his fur badge, an identification button worn at furry conventions, to work one day. A woman walked into his workplace, saw the fur badge and told him he "shouldn't be around little kids," he says. Later, Setzman says, he was fired by his manager because he was considered "a "hazard' to children."

The public's misconceptions of furries have forced the community to burrow deeper into the depths of the Internet, where it resides in chatrooms and message boards. Once there, furs discuss everyday issues and upcoming fur events like Anthrocon.

Anthrocon was founded in 1997 as Albany Anthrocon by respected fur Dr. Samuel Conway. The conventions provide a safe haven for furs to get to know each other within the walls of the hotel. The convention has endless entertainment, from Dance Dance Revolution tournaments to comedy performances. Art fanatics can go into the Dealer's Room to purchase items, or to the Artist's Alley to commission a piece. Dances are also big with furries, where many bop the night away with glowsticks.

Conventions like Anthrocon bring thousands of furries and furry friends together each year. There is no official dress code for the events, but many choose to wear full fur suits. Others paint themselves like animals, wear ears and tails or hang out in normal garb. Furry character names range from the exotic (like Sakisan) to the predictable (Blue Wolf). Setzman goes by Yips For Fun, an old name he used for role-playing games.

Outside of the conventions, furs gather in local restaurants to fill up on good food and make new friends. As the sun sets on a full day, furs retire into the hotel to visit their friends at room parties. The rooms, some of which have signs with the occupant's names, are places where furs can bond over video games, movies, good conversation and the occasional libation for the legal crowd.

Setzman commutes to and from Anthrocon, but does attend the nightly room parties. He explains that time flies at the conventions, so most furs will take advantage of every moment.

"You'll stay up until 4 or 5 a.m., sleep for four hours, take a shower and go downstairs like the day never ended," he says.

For the attendees of the convention, Anthrocon is one of the only safe, public places where they can be themselves. Luckily for Setzman, his friends and family are accepting of his fur-suited life.

"My family just thinks it's a me thing."

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