Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Time Among the Suits. by Ken Smith

Hello there. Most of you don’t know me yet, so here goes. My name is Ken, and I am what I and a few others call a 'persona furry.' The difference between this and what most people see as “furry” is I don’t wear a suit. I have a fursona (think avatar or PC) named MalKontent.

People who hang out with me frequently have gotten used to my collar and my meows. I express my fur as a way to feel more comfortable in my own skin, and express my emotions in a way that feels more authentic to me. I happen to be in a wheelchair, which has kept me from wearing a Fursuit for a long time, because I need free arms and I couldn’t display a tail. I have also been a Gofer at various Conventions for over 25 years. For those unclear on the term Gofer, think stagehand. (Go for this. Go for that.) It was in that capacity that this past MLK weekend I had my eyes opened in a way I never imagined.

I have been on the fringes of furdom for years, but when two of my close friends invited me on a trip to Further Confusion, a convention in San Jose, I decided if nothing else burying myself in 50+ hours of work would make sure it wasn’t a wasted trip.

For those of you who haven’t read the article this is built upon, where Mike Fatum realized that fursuiters aren’t really as scary as clowns or spiders, please do so now. I went to Further Confusion (hereafter referred to as FC) comfortable in the knowledge that if anyone in a suit bothered me all I had to do was say so and they’d back off. I wasn’t scared but I wasn’t sure how accepted I’d be, considering I had never attended FC and I don’t wear a suit.

The first thing I learned was how similar we are in our limitations. Between my wheels and their tails, neither of us can turn worth a damn. Secondly, both of us have seriously circumscribed vision, I have a line I can’t see above just like they have one they can’t see below. The third thing is we are both communitarians with twisted senses of humour and a love of panto. Finally they are great with kids- there was a toddler with a ball who would play fetch with a group of Dogs. My education didn’t stop there.

As I was learning about this circle of fandom, they were learning about me and my limits. Once we got used to each other I noticed something odd happen. I started to be treated as one of them and they, when seeing me approach a crowd of people, would point to me then point to the crowd. If I nodded yes they would gently make a hole just wide enough for me without making everyone else stop dead. I also started a running gag with a Coyote who carried a stuffed cream pie, I would steal it and then roll away slowly while he “chased” me. When he caught up to me I’d offer him some and he’d walk away. We did this several times in front of different audiences to delighted laughter.

When I finally started hitting my stride as a GoFur I started to be stationed in a room officially called the Fursuit Lounge, but I quickly learned was called the Guillotine by those in the know. We had this room so people who weren’t comfortable with taking off their heads in public had a private room with a cooling tower they could use to dehumidify their heads while they had a smoke. And I got a chance to get to know both the players and their roles. I learned so much about pantomime there especially from the Deaf Leopard (really he had a sign saying “Deaf Furry. Please Write Sign or Hug”) and about the interspecies politics.

My adoption was complete when, upon learning my 25th anniversary as a gofer was that day, the suiters in the lounge presented me with one of the squeakers used by non-lingual characters to vocalize and a cupcake while singing “For He’s A Jolly Good Gofer”.

The feeling of community was equally strong on the Staff side. When I would be a Gofer in the past we would have to negotiate a corner of the Gofer Hole to sack out in. At FC they rented three hotel rooms for us, one for men, one for women, one for those who don’t fit either category. I was allowed to put in as many hours as I wished as long as the work got done well. And I wasn’t even chided for putting in eleven hours before asking for a lunch break.

These are my second family and I am so proud.

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