In one of my past lives, I was a partner in a company that manufactured costumed characters — you know, those furry mascots you usually encounter at theme parks and sporting events. We designed and built a good number of the characters that populated parks in the 1970s and ’80s, including Cyrus Cosmo at Six Flags and the Looney Tunes characters at Great America Parks.
Those costumes were colorful, furry and, although they gave a happy experience to park-goers, they were miserable to wear. Knowing that, it puzzled me that some folks would voluntarily wear these furry creations for fun, and it was even stranger to me that some found them to be not just furry and cuddly, but sexy and erotic.
And so, I was, frankly, surprised when my life journey led me to Texas Furry Fiesta — not just as a visitor, but a presenter.
For those who are unaware, Furry Fiesta is a convention of thousands (that’s right, thousands) of “furries,” their admirers and allies. There were, in fact, so many furries at the Furry Fiesta that they took over the entirety of the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Dallas.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that all those fuzzy folk were there for kinky sexual highjinks, let me assure you: They were not. Many just love dressing up as cartoon characters and furring around. Many are children or teenagers who have fun expressing themselves through the persona (or “fursona”) of the characters they wear, many of which they design themselves.
There are dances, parties and workshops for furries of all ages.
And yes, there are also specifically adult sessions that are segregated by age requirements, because a good number of them do enjoy some furry sexual highjinks.
There was also a huge vendor market, with everything from fur suit makers to artists and designers. Additionally, there was an age-restricted art show and auction that put the whole “cute furry characters” in a far different light. Imagine Tom of Finland meets Walt Disney, and you get the idea.
Not surprising to me were the large number of LGBTQ-identified characters I met. There were also a significant presence of gender non-binary flags and pins. I say “not surprising” because I have seen these same large numbers at sci-fi conventions and comic cons. We geeks and nerds have a large LGBTQ contingent. And yes, I am not just a leatherman, I am also a bit of a Trekkie.
So why was a queer leatherman attending this Furry Fiesta event? Well, because I was invited to do a workshop to educate furries on the intricacies of kink — part sex education, part kink education and all specifically tailored for the furry community.
I am grateful I had help from a well-known furry, a coyote who goes by Henri and is also part of the leather community. Henri acted as my co-presenter.
Most surprising of all to me was the attendance. We had approximately 80-plus enthusiastic folks jammed into a conference room as we started the workshop, and more kept arriving right up until we closed the doors.
They were a young, energetic and engaged group of people, and only a couple were in their fur suits. Also surprising was to me was how many of them took notes! I do a lot of presentations and workshops, but rarely have I seen anyone take notes.
Sex among furries is often called “muring,” and those costumes with strategic access zippers designed to allow access to the sexy bits are referred to as “mursuits.” I won’t go into detail about our workshop, but I will say that the mursuits seem well adapted to kinky fun.
The most important lesson I learned from Furry Fiesta is that just because a group of people are marginalized because of their kink, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a culture and vibrancy of their own.
Coming from the LGBTQ community I understand prejudice. Coming from the leather community, I understand the judgement and discrimination folks heap on those who find their pleasures outside the mainstream.
But being allowed to get a glimpse from the inside of people whose personality expression is as radically different as that of the furries was a wonderful opportunity. I have a new appreciation for them and their particular kinks. I would not be surprised if a few furries started showing up at leather/kink events, and, frankly, I would welcome them. Their playful energy is something I miss in the leather world.
The leathermen and leatherwomen I first encountered over 35 years ago were hot and sexy, but they were also playful and rowdy. I see a lot of that in the furries I had the pleasure of meeting.
Maybe we could all use a few hours in a fursuit to let our hair down and find joy in not just our sex and kink, but our lives.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com