Here is an article on the website of WTAE-TV (an ABC-affiliated television station located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania):
The article is a teaser for the Daisy Ruth's “Inside the Furries” coverage of this year’s Anthrocon.
PITTSBURGH —Stay tuned to WTAE.com for Daisy Ruth’s “Inside the Furries” coverage at this year’s Anthrocon to understand the fandom and learn more through her experiences.
One of the most wonderful things about Pittsburgh is that many people here understand that if everyone was the same, the world would be a very boring place. Many conventions of varied interests come through the city and no one bats at eyelash at how off the beaten path they may seem to be.
One of the biggest conventions to hit Pittsburgh is Anthrocon. This year’s will be held at the Westin hotel from July 9-12.
Dr. Courtney “Nuka” Plante is a doctor of psychology from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. He is a social psychologist and specializes in studying fan groups and those with shared fantasies. This doctor of sociology is also involved in one of the most criticized fandoms of all time – the furries, whose biggest convention is known as Anthrocon.
You’ve probably seen them around downtown, life-sized wolves and dragons and anything you could imagine.
This group of fur-suited fans has been the victim of negative media attacks for the past 10 years. Dr. Plante credits this to things such as an episode of "CSI" that depicted the fandom in an incorrect light and gave the general public misconceptions of furries as freaks with a serious fetish.
Plante is involved with the International Anthropomorphic Research Project, which conducts research of the furries and the fandom in general during conventions such as Anthrocon. These people work to research just how different these people are from fans of anything, particularly anime and fantasy sports fans.
“When we compare furries to sport fans, we’re a in sense asking the question: what’s the difference between a sort of accepted, mainstream fan group, and a more fringe or eccentric fan group?” said Plante.
In the research text "'By the Numbers': Comparing Furries and Related Fandoms," provided to Pittsburgh's Action News 4 by Plante, various statistics are provided to prove this fandom is as sane as the average Pittsburgher. The research was mostly conducted at various furry conventions, including Anthrocon. Online surveys were distributed to the fandom via email with a passcode as well.
According to the team's research, only about 6 percent of furries reported having some form of anxiety disorder. That includes social anxiety. In the general population (those who do not identify themselves as furry), that number sits at 30 percent.
Also, participants in a survey at the Anthrocon convention in 2013 who more strongly identified themselves as furries scored higher on a self-esteem scale. They are described as having "stronger feelings of significance in the world and events around them, an increased understanding (or impending understanding), and sharper/heightened cognitive abilities."
According to this research, furries as a whole are well-educated, with approximately 70 percent of furries reporting some form of completed or in-progress post-secondary education.
A large percentage of furries have a fursona, a definition Plante was happy to explain.
“An anthropomorphic animal representation of the self,” said Plante. “It’s sort of the character or the avatar you use to interact with the other members of the furry fandom.”
An avatar seems to be an accurate description, as only 15 percent of furries actually own a full fur suit, and most communicate with each other in the online universe. These younger furries often have trouble with finances when it comes to creating or purchasing a fur suit or traveling to conventions.
“More often than not, the vast majority of furries will create versions of themselves, fursonas that are like them but better versions of themselves,” said Plante. “So, when we ask people, ‘Describe your fursona,’ they say ‘Oh, my fursona’s a lot like me, but it’s a more outgoing, better, attractive, funnier, more playful version of me.'”
“Very few people say ,‘Oh, my fursona’s a jerk!’”
Developing a fursona and using it either online or at conventions like Anthrocon seem to be beneficial to those participating in the fandom personally. The team Plante is involved with has researched that as well.
“What we’re thinking is that if I’m a very shy person, but my fursona is much more outgoing, much more confident, well, if I spend two or three or four years interacting with other people as a more outgoing, extroverted, confident, funny version of myself, over time, I will start changing as well,” Plante explained.
Evidence suggests furries may have a better-developed, more stable sense of identity than non-furries. So if attending a convention with others like you is going to change you for the better, why not give it a shot, if that’s what you enjoy doing?
Pittsburgh has always been a welcoming, accepting city for this fandom, and here’s to hoping it continues for this year’s Anthrocon. If you happen to see one of these NORMAL people in incredible costumes walking the streets of Pittsburgh, don’t be afraid to say hello. It’s beneficial to all of us to learn from those with different interests than us.