Dated February 14, here is an article in the Lafayette Journal & Courier:
The article is an interview with Carly "Luna" Conley and Sean McLane, of Purdue University's Anthropomorphic Animal Club.
Carly Conley is even-tempered and sports a sweet, inviting smile. She doesn't get in people's faces, she doesn't raise her voice.
But when Conley places a bright orange, fuzzy fox head over her own, a sassier side of the Purdue University student emerges. The fox head, named Luna, is part of Conley's "fursona."
"It makes you feel more comfortable sometimes," the forestry and natural resources junior said. "It’s not necessarily escapism. I’m not losing who I am ... She (Luna) is an extension of me.”
Conley is part of a growing, but long-existing, subculture that likes to dress up, or "suit up" as she refers to it, as cartoon-like animals. The members refer to themselves as furries. They have a deep love for animals and some even feel more comfortable in their fursuits than in their own skin.
The furry group largely has a reputation of being fetishists and sexual deviants, but those part of the fandom and those who research it say that's not what furries are about.
Conley's hoping her new student group, the Purdue Anthropomorphic Animal Club, will help break down those stereotypes on campus and give fellow anthropomorphism enthusiasts a place to meet like-minded people. The group isn't specifically for furries, she said, but some members are part of the fur fandom.
Though it just recently became an official student group, the club has been active "underground" for about two years, Conley said. The last time students tried to establish a similar type of club in 2009, she said, they were bullied into extinction.
She's optimistic this time will be different, though the group has already run into opposition. After putting up posters around campus promoting its callout meeting, people quickly began bashing the anthropomorphic club on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak.
The posts included threats to light the group members on fire and crucify them. Some called them autistic, Conley said.
"I think, overall, society is more accepting than it used to be. There is still some intolerance there," said Sean McLane, a Purdue IT staff member and the club's supervisor.
McLane has identified as a furry for 25 years, but doesn't have a fursuit. He is also the supervisor for the campus' brony group, a subculture that revolves around the fandom of the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" television series.
The general misconception and curiosity about furries has brought some scholars to study them. Kathy Gerbasi, a psychology professor at Niagara County Community College in New York, stumbled upon the fandom years ago and has since written a number of peer-reviewed articles on it.
She went into her first furry convention in 2005 to survey attendees not knowing what to expect, having heard the typical stereotypes that furries are crazy and into strange sex. But she didn't find any of that to be true for the mass majority.
"The fursuit is a way to try on a different personality," Gerbasi said. "Like if you're shy, you can be more outgoing as a dancing wolf in a fursuit."
And though furries love to hug, she said, the widespread rumor that they have sex in their costumes isn't true and would be impossible.
There are some fur-fans that are in it for the sex, McLane said, but they're what Samuel Conway, the president of the largest anthropomorphic convention, refers to as the "Uncle Harry" of the subculture.
"Every family has a weird Uncle Harry. He always comes to holidays and does something bad ... We don’t really care much for him, but he’s family ... That part of the community is our Uncle Harry," McLane said. "Uncle Harry is not the true representation of the fandom.”
The increase of younger people coming into the group has also steered it into a more innocent community, McLane said.
The furries make up a silly, fun-loving society, he said, but they're also extremely giving and charitable.
Last year's Illinois-based convention, Midwest FurFest, raised more than $62,000 for Save-A-Vet, a charity that pairs retired military and law enforcement dogs and other service animals with disabled veterans.
Conley said she plans to have the Purdue campus group attend conventions together next semester. But the typical meetup will involve members getting together to watch anthropomorphic movies, study, go hiking and occasionally go out "suiting," for those who are furries and own a suit.
“I’m trying to just bring (the group) back into light and say, 'We are not Uncle Harry. We’re better than Uncle Harry. We are college kids and this is what we like to do,'” she said.