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‘I’ve always been different’

Anthro Weekend Utah, which ended on July 21, saw hundreds of people from across the U.S. and as far away as Sweden descend on a nondescript hotel in Ogden, Utah, to celebrate all things furry. Here, inside the Davis Convention Center at the Hilton Garden Inn Salt Lake City-Layton, were panels dedicated to art and immersive theater, a games room and a ‘den’ where stalls were set up to sell everything from cartoons to clothing. The 2019 event was called 'Furlock Holmes', themed on Sherlock Holmes, and featured specially-created characters such as ‘Purriarti’ and murder mystery treasure hunts where attendees could win furry-related merchandise.

Previous themes have included the 80s and Utah itself – the latter featuring animé style characters called Arc, named after Arches National Park, and Carver, a bear designed to reflect the chilling Utah winter. There were also sized-up versions of chess, Jenga and Connect4, made so the games could be played by furries in costume and a daily parade. Although not all of the attendees came dressed up, those who did portrayed everything from dragons to sloths to dogs dressed in 1930s-era clothing. Some talked, some squeaked and some stayed totally silent depending on the fursona they created for themselves. Anthro Weekend Utah founder Rick ‘Giga Fox’ Furlin told DailyMail.com: ‘It’s different, it’s weird, we kind of know that, we kind of accept that but the thing is, it’s a lot of fun. ‘We have a great community, there’s wonderful people who are here just to have a good time and be cute, fluffy, fuzzy monsters.’ Furries are one of the fastest-growing fandoms in the world, with an estimated 2.5 million adherents worldwide.

The furry fandom began in the 1980s, with the first furries seen as early as 1983, but it became firmly established by the mid-1990s. Most fans get into the furry scene via a love of anthropomorphic animals such as those seen in Disney movies and video games, creating animal avatars for themselves online. Each animal represents a different personality. Fox furries are sly or mischievous, dogs are fun types and cats are for people who want to be seen as aloof. Furlin said: ‘Some people, whenever they put on the head, they’ll be in character and they'll stay quiet - we call them a 'silent suiter'. They don’t speak, they’ll make sign language and have a lot of fun that way. ‘Other people have a squeaker they can put in their mouth and communicate that way. 'I’ve done that before, it gets obnoxious after a while but it’s really cute at first and it’s a lot of fun as well. 'I’ve done that before, it gets obnoxious after a while but it’s really cute at first and it’s a lot of fun as well.

Fans communicate online and also attend conventions, the largest of which is Anthrocon. Held each June in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Anthrocon regularly attracts in excess of 5,000 furries. Smaller conferences such as Anthro Weekend Utah welcome up to 800 guests, all of whom pay between $50 and $100 to attend. According to Furlin, the majority of the visitors to Anthro Weekend Utah come from western states such as California, although there is also a significant contingent from Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Newcomers make up 60 per cent of attendees, Furlin said. One of them was 14-year-old Keira, whose fursona was named Vincent. She told DailyMail.com: ‘I got into it through friends and video games. I love being here with other people who like the same things that I do.’ According to Fur Science, a website that collates furry data, the majority of furries are male, making up 84 per cent, and white, making up 83 per cent. The site data shows three-quarters of all furries are under the age of 25 and less than a third of all furries consider themselves heterosexual. A small group of furries, known as ‘otherkin’, consider themselves to be less than 100 per cent human. Fur Science statistics reveal many furries have a history of being bullied, with 61 per cent saying they were picked on during their high school years. Among the latter was convention attendee Sierra ‘Momo’ Smith, 19, from Utah, who told DailyMail.com she had been picked on at school. She said: ‘This is who I am now but I was bullied in the past. When I was younger, I used to act like a cat because I have high functioning autism. Being here at the convention is nice because I can just be who I am.’

Furlin said, ‘The best thing for me is that sense of community, coming together. As far as running this convention, when I go out and I see people having a good time, that’s what makes me happy, that’s what makes me think it was all worth it. ‘In general, I can’t get enough of the dance competitions. Every place you go where there’s a convention, there’s a dance competition. ‘You sweat a lot but it’s so much fun and you get to see so much personality come out and everybody goes crazy for it. ‘There’s nothing funnier than watching a full grown person in an animal costume dancing on stage. It’s so much fun, it’s so ridiculous and it’s great.’

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