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What you don't get about furry 'fursonas'

The truth about one of the world's most misunderstood subcultures

By Thom Patterson

Published November 9, 2018

Photo: Heather Nimmo

With roots dating back to the first furry convention in the late 1980s, the furry community -- aka the furry fandom -- has been largely misunderstood in popular culture.

Photo: @DeliriousCorgi

The furry fandom is a community of enthusiasts who celebrate characters and stories involving anthropormorphic animals -- in other words -- fictitious animal characters that have human traits.

Image: SouthParkTaoist

Many furries complain that the media too often misrepresents them, resulting in hurtful mischaracterizations and misperceptions.

Image: SouthParkTaoist

So, here's the lowdown on the furry fandom and their furry personas -- aka "fursonas."

Image: SouthParkTaoist

1. Furries are not about sex or fetishes.

Image: INKtiger/inktigerart.com

However, the furry fandom -- estimated at between 100,000 and 1 million fans worldwide -- does include a small percentage who celebrate their ideas of sexually attractive animal fantasy characters with human traits.

Image: INKtiger/inktigerart.com

2. Furries are not ALL about costumes.

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In fact, it's estimated that most people in the furry fandom do not own costumes. One reason: They typically cost upwards of $2,000, or more.

Photo: Oliver Coombes

Nonetheless, costumes do allow fans to immerse themselves in their fursonas. Some "fursuiters" use their costumes to shed awkward feelings and enjoy more confidence and social interaction.

Photo: Xerxes Wolf

3. Many furries are into fur art.

Many fans show off their various fursonas by creating imaginative digital illustrations.

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3. Furries are becoming more accepted.

Image: INKtiger/inktigerart.com

You may be surprised by who furries are in their daily lives. Furries say their ranks include corporate executives, younger people, older people, singles, couples, mothers, fathers, students and community leaders.

Photo: Stormi Folf

Furry conventions are a focal point of the fandom. Anthrocon in Pittsburgh drew 8,407 people this summer, and raised more than $42,000 for an animal-related charity, according to its website.

Photo credit: Andy Oxenreider/Dragonscales Photography

MacEwan University researcher Courtney Plante says the number of furries is growing. “I don’t think it will ever become mainstream. … But I think as time goes on, it will be normalized in the way 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' fans became normalized."

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For more, watch the season finale of "This Is Life with Lisa Ling," Sunday, November 18, at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.