Remembering The “Why”: The Furry Fandom and Furry Studies

By Reuben Mount on February 13th, 2024

When you’re heavily into your research, it can be difficult to remember the “whys” of what you’re doing. Why have you chosen this area of study? Why is it that important to be taking such a granular view of it anyway? Why are you the person to be doing it? I know that these questions are asked at the beginning of any project – and definitely at the beginning of a PhD like myself – but it’s very easy to forget the answers in the midst of everything.

The beginning of this month, I ventured up to Glasgow to attend Scotiacon 2024, the only furry convention in Scotland and one of the biggest ones in the U.K. I went there primarily to complete part of my research, through an auto ethnographic diary about my experiences of safety in the space as an active participant of the community itself. But, I also went to give a talk directly to members of the furry fandom about the research that myself and others are doing into the community and why it’s important.

I’ve given a version of this talk before, at Confuzzled 2023 in Birmingham, but this was a different experience entirely. The room designated for the talk at Scotiacon 2024 was much larger, being on what was essentially the second stage of the venue, and I’m far more confident in my work and thinking than I was last year. This was seen immediately with how quickly I settled into the presentation, beginning the talk with an outline of a question that realistically doesn’t have a definitive answer – “What is Furry?”.

This question has practically as many answers as there are participants in the fandom itself, as highlighted by Plante (2023) with the quote on slide 5 of the embedded PDF below. However, I did argue that a definition – however superfluous to the fandom itself – is a necessary component needed to begin to push back on the negative media and public perceptions of the furry fandom, which is one of the core aims of my research. I followed on from this to discuss the field of Furry Studies as it currently stands, outlining the works of furry academics and historians, including my own core research and other academic ventures I have made (or am making) in this area, before concluding with an open Q&A session.

Mount – 2024 – Chasing Tails (Scotiacon2024)

It was here that the support of the community itself in my research and aims were made apparent with more questions than the time slot for the Q&A allowed, covering a variety of areas of the furry fandom from questions about early fursuits, to the concept of the fursona as a “queering” device, and even enquiring into why this field is comparatively sparse in terms of research. The last of which of these is easy to explain as the negative perception of the fandom also permeates academia, with the community being seen as unworthy of study and instances of furry in the classroom being met with media backlash.

These questions led to further questions in the talk, and people approached me during the remainder of the fur con to talk about my research or the contents of the talk itself. There was a passion and curiosity behind the questions from the audience and attendees of the convention that reminded me why I study this incredible community and the importance of this research. Coupled with my ability to answer these all of these varied queries confidently, and the kind words all those in attendance at the fur con have had for the talk, it will be a while before I need to question “why” I’m doing this research.