“Sasha, get away from the cars!”
A role-player in full canine regalia, Sasha steps sharply back from a passing vehicle and its waving occupants.
The anthropomorphic dog returns to the fold as scores of other suited members of the Perth Furry community stroll the paths of Northbridge.
Welcome to FurWAG 3000 – Perth’s only convention for people with a passion for human-like animals.
A SHARED INTEREST
The Furry fandom is a subculture populated by enthused participants, and received at times by a largely confounded general public.
In its most basic form, the subculture is devoted to fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics.
And the subculture is well and truly alive in Perth.
The weekend of October 3 saw more than 50 Furries convene in the heart of Northbridge for PerthFur’s second annual FurWAG convention.
Chair of FurWAG 3000, Louise Cocks, also known as Flye, has been part of the Perth Furry community for eight years.
Ms Cocks says the fascination with all things Furry usually begins at a young age through popular culture.
“I’m sure we’ve all grown up with cartoons that had talking animals and that seems to resonate with a lot of people,” she says.
“We’re just a group of people who have fun in a particular way – we make friends and build communities in that way.
“You find that a lot of people who haven’t found a place for themselves somewhere else will find friends in the fandom.”
Curtin University Communication and Cultural Studies lecturer Christina Lee agreed fandoms such as the Furry community were avenues for people to celebrate common interests.
“Dressing as a Furry because you idolise anthropomorphic animals isn’t all that different from dressing in purple, and painting your face the same, because you’re a Dockers supporter,” Dr Lee says.
Dr Lee says the internet and social media have helped bring fringe groups into the cultural mainstream.
“‘Fringe’ communities are no longer as ‘outside’ as they used to be,” she says.
A broken elevator is not ideal, particularly on a day like today.
The venue malfunction forces the assorted human-sized dogs, cats, dragons, foxes and dolphins to take the stairs into the hotel foyer.
Half-blind and weighed down by exuberant costumes, the Furries grasp at railings to make it safely down the stairs of the convention venue.
The atmosphere of excitement once at the bottom is palpable.
Hugs and high-fives abound as the fully suited Furries prepare for the convention’s main event – a stroll through the streets of Northbridge on the annual FurWalk.
This is literally a moment in the sun for the Perth Furry community as they get to show the general public their method of expression.
And it can be an expensive way to express yourself – full suits retail for about $1800.
The Furries exit the building, then shuffle along small one-way streets until turning right onto bustling Beaufort Street.
Passers-by and drivers cannot control themselves – friendly waves, honks and cheers are seen and heard at nearly every point of the street.
There is a level of bemusement behind these reactions, but the intrigue seems to be welcomed by the Furries.
“I think there’s a general feeling among Furries that the population are more negative than they actually are,” Ms Cocks says.
“I think the reaction is moving to a more positive light.”
NO NAMES, PLEASE
Although the convention is a safe place for the Furry community to connect, an underlying feeling in the fandom seems to be one of misunderstanding once back among the general public.
Media reports highlighting a supposed sexual element to the fandom has aliented much of the community and harboured a feeling of misrepresentation.
FurWAG 3000 attendee Sean Costello – also known as RuthOfPern – speaks unmasked about the issues identification can have.
“Google is the enemy,” Mr Costello says.
“If an employer searches my real name and the Furry stuff comes up, some employers may not employ me as I’m a ‘weirdo’ in some people’s eyes.
“I would say 80 to 90 percent of Furries do not want their real name out there because of the repercussions it could have.”
Mr Costello says some Furries even have photo bans when out of costume due to the fear of identification.
“These get-togethers are rewarding,” he says. i
“It’s a place to socialise and it is a shared love amongst everyone there.
“I see it the same as being the member of something like a car club – it is a group with a common passion.”