This past Saturday afternoon, about two dozen fully suited furries — wolves and other canines, a few rabbits, some cats, something that might be a skunk — left the confines of Rocky Mountain Fur Con, Denver's first furry convention, and paraded down the 16th Street Mall to the befuddlement of scores of suburbanites. The rest of the time, though, the conventioneers stayed within the confines of the Adam's Mark Hotel, where about 200 people had registered for the three-day convention, with some coming from as far away as Sweden.
Uncle Kage, a research chemist, "hack writer and poor stage comedian" who organizes Anthrocon, one of the largest furry conventions nationwide, serves as an unofficial spokesman for the community — even though he's costumed as a mad scientist (according to the back of his lab coat) rather than a giant bunny. And he quickly explodes the big myth about furries: They're not all about sex, a misconception that started with a 2001 Vanity Fair article and continued through an infamous CSI episode. "It all boils down to the consistent and universal and sad human tendency to stereotype," he says. "They get a few little pieces of information and suddenly they know the whole story."
In true research chemist fashion, he estimates that only 10 percent of the people in the furry community consider the sexual aspects of their furriness to be highly significant. "Is there sex in fandom? Yes. Is there sex in America?" he asks. "If the Fraternal Order of Police have a convention, do you think some of those people are going to go up to a room to get friendly? This is a gathering of young people, so some of them are going to make friendships."
But Uncle Kage and other organizers are there to keep the friendships clean. "If there's something I see in the lobby that would offend my grandma, I tell them to get out," he says. Not that most people would want to engage in risky business in those outfits. "The cheap suits cost $2,000, the really in-depth ones can be $10,000 or more. These people won't let you get near them with a cup of soda, much less..." he trails off meaningfully.
In general, though, the crowd has more in common with Trekkies or anime cosplayers than with swingers (for evidence, see the slideshow at www.westword.com). "We are freaks and we're proud of it," he says.
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And they're family. For every participant like Darkwolf, a fully-suited 21-year-old who confesses to owning a substantial collection of furry erotica, there's another like PupE Okami. "When I recognized myself as a furry," he remembers, "everyone got the wrong impression, that I'm the bestial type." But for him, being furry is all about the community — and he doesn't need to wear an outfit to belong.
Besides, he confesses, his dog ate his tail.
Scene and herd: Running the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day is a dangerous business, as the release-of-liability agreement on the back of this year's race numbers made clear. First, it noted that the ten-kilometer run involved physical exertion, and since you'd be running with nearly 50,000 others, you might be knocked over or stepped on. You were also at risk of sustaining damage from the Memorial Day festivities, such as "sky divers and aircraft." This warning brought back memories of the 2004 Bolder Boulder, when an errant skydiver crash-landed in the stands and sent a spectator to the hospital. Considering that this year's glitchy new tracking systems delayed the posting of runners' finish times by several days, next year's liability release will no doubt note the threat of crappy technology.