BY Matteo Miceli & Joelle Jalbert
“When I first learned about the community of furries, I was a little hesitant,” says Claudine Lachapelle, a proud member of the furries community since 2013.
Claudine discovered the existence of the community through the popular video game, Sonic.
Several years ago, she was obsessed with Sonic, so much so that she wanted to become a Sonic 2.0. She surfed the internet to find any type of website or article that talked about the video game in question. At one point she came across a page with drawings of half-human animals. She stumbled upon a photo of a “Fursuit”, a costume in which one becomes their own character.
“I started to learn more about it, I became fascinated by the creativity and individuality of the furries,” says Lachapelle. “A few years ago, I started saving to buy my first Fursuit and two years ago, I was able to buy my first Fursuit.”
Shortly thereafter, Claudine Lachapelle told a good friend. She really liked the idea and both of them felt confident and appreciated in this community in which they felt integrated.
According to Dr. Courtney Plante, a social psychologist at Bishop’s University and FurScience, the furry community’s values include, tolerance, acceptance, charity and open-mindedness.
“This helps validate people’s sense of identity and provides a place where they can feel seen, understood, and appreciated, especially those who might otherwise feel ostracized or like they don’t fit anywhere,” says Dr. Plante. “This is especially likely to be the case for LGBTQ+ furries, who often find validation in the furry fandom where they might otherwise not be able to find it,” said Dr Courtney “Nuka” Plante.
According to Furscience, 28.8 per cent of the furry community identifies as lesbian, gay, or homosexual. The furry community has been known to provide a safe space for individuals to express themselves and explore their identity without fear of judgment or discrimination.
“Public perception of furries is fairly mixed. Oftentimes, people have never heard of furries. If they have, opinions typically range from acceptance of furries as a weird, but generally harmless interest, up to and including outright hostility toward furries and decrying the community as degenerate,” says Dr.Plante.
The public may perceive the community in a different way.
Three or four years ago, Lea Kelly stumbled upon a blog with a comic featuring animals that were indistinguishable from reality. She became very interested in this community and a year ago, she decided to create her own character using artificial intelligence. She spent over eight months creating this fictional character that responds to expressions.
In Kelly’s experience, some people with bad intentions try to break into the community. In Montreal this is very uncommon, but Kelly says that with the internet, she knows people from the United States where this type of incident has occurred.
“The community remains very tightly knit on this subject, that’s part of what makes us strong… We’re here, on the internet or in real life, to glorify the community a little bit and eject the people who want to hurt us… We have the same goal,” says Kelly.
According to Furscience, the USA and Canada together account for 57.6 per cent of the global furry community.
Etienne Charbonneau, the administrator of the Facebook group Furries de Montréal.
“I’m happy with the evolution and that each member is invested in both the group and the community,” he says.
Another way to promote the community is by video and on live shows. In her Twitch streams, Kelly mainly uses her character as a replacement for her face. She removes the effect using a tool and the job is done.
“It’s much more fun to do a live stream with an artificial character,” Kelly says.