The article interviews locals Joseph Jackson, Gaysian of Clarksville, and James Tipton (whose definition of a furry - "someone who identifies with having an animal soul in a human body" - is more like therianism).
What is a furry? Being a furry is embracing an animal side, living with one or more alternate animal personas but despite embracing animal nature, it’s also about being human.
Even within furry communities there are variations to what being a furry means exactly. ”Being a furry means to have a love of anthropomorphic creatures no matter what degree of animal characteristics,” said Knoxville resident Joseph Jackson.
Gaysian of Clarksville, who has asked to use his fetish community name as opposed to his real name, identifies a furry as "embracing animal-like characteristics with behavior or physical appearance."
Nashville resident James Tipton echoed both of these explanations. “A furry is someone who identifies with having an animal soul in a human body. [They] may have a certain affinity for an animal or may be someone who wished they could be an anthropomorphic version of an animal.”
Still confused? Think of the Patronus Charm from the Harry Potter series- an animal is created from a person's individual personality to protect them.
A furry's animal identity is referred to as a fursona. While the three furries varied slightly on their definitions of a fursona, they agree it is essentially the part of themselves they relate to an animal.
Tipton uses his black wolf fursona to envision himself as a natural leader. He faces his challenges head-on. "I defend those people that are close to me -like a pack)- and help others when I can," he said.
Gaysian identifies spiritually with three animals: a black panther, a white stallion and a black dragon. He calls on each of his fursonas for different situations.
His black panther defines his every day personality. “Panthers are independent, strong-willed and at times affectionate, but should still be feared and respected,” Gaysian shared. He finds himself purring, pawing at objects like a cat, rubbing against objects to leave his scent and other cat-like behaviors.
His white stallion represents his Korean heritage. It’s a symbol of mobility, wealth and power. He said he calls on this when he needs to hold his head high; this fursona empowers him with nobility. In order to be unbiased during the interview, he said he was trying to suppress his fursonas but felt his white stallion fursona present.
In regards to his black dragon, Gaysian is still working on figuring exactly what that fursona means to him. "You have to find our own path, find your own meaning. You have to find out what comes with the spirits," he said. “Finding out a fursona can be done through many means, such as meditation, tarot, spiritual reading and physic means.”
Jackson talked more about the emotional impact of his fursona, a cat-person with milky, pearl white ears. "It's not me, by definition my fursona, my alter-ego, is everything I wish I could be."
In actuality, Jackson sees his fursona as the characteristics he has muted in order to fit in. "Other people may laugh at the fact that you talk to yourself. Others give them a name and hold onto them because sometimes they may be everything you've ever wanted to be and wanted screaming at you from the back of your head."
Gaysian said most people imagine furries to be in the big suits going to conventions to get together to have sexual relationships. Jackson attributed this perception of furries to media portrayals. None of the three furries interviewed have ever had sex in a fur suit.
"Not all furries have sex in fur suits," Tipton said. "Not all racecar fans drive Lamborghinis."
Gaysian said the conventions are for people to let themselves be as they see themselves to be, and to be around people who feel the same way. "[There is] no perverted purpose behind it. It is a chance for people to be free," he said. Tipton mentioned many furries form deep friendships with each other.
Another common misconception with being a furry is it's a way for people to legally practice bestiality. "It is more about the emotional connection as opposed to the sexual and physical one," Gaysian said.
Jackson said it’s a completely ludicrous thought that furries want to have sex with animals. He explained “Just because people want to have sex with the Playboy Bunnies doesn't mean that people want to have sex with actual rabbits,” Jackson joked. "People relate with the animal, not have sex with the actual animal." Jackson thinks it will take a long time to undo the black stain the media has painted on the furry community.
Like the others, Tipton says he enjoys women wearing furry ears and tails but he has no interest in real animals.
Ultimately for Gaysian, being a furry is just a part of who he is. "I present myself as I am and people either like it or don't like it." Now that’s one animal instinct we can all relate to.