Anthrocon in Pittsburgh: 6 etiquette tips for when you encounter furries this weekend

Yes, it’s OK to ask furries and fursuiters questions.

MJ Slaby

It’s that time of year — Anthrocon is back in town.

To help you prepare for increased furry interaction, The Incline talked with John Cole, Anthrocon’s public outreach director, for a list of etiquette tips.

But first, the basics: The annual gathering will attract thousands to Pittsburgh for the Thursday to Sunday conference, which the world’s largest gathering of people into anthropomorphics. Here’s more of the history between Anthrocon and Pittsburgh from PennLive, but it basically comes down to one visit that sold the chairman on a move from Philly to Pittsburgh.

While most of the events are are only for attendees, the 2 p.m. Saturday Fursuit Parade is open to the public. And this year, there’s a new public event: A meet-and-greet with marchers will follow the parade, Cole said. It’s in Hall D on the ground level of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Before you head Downtown this week, brush up on your fursuiter knowledge and etiquette.

Furry or fursuiter? Know your terms.

Fursuiter is sort of an insider term, but it refers to those who wear fur suits or if not a full suit, at least a head and other pieces like paws and a tail, Cole said. It’s also acceptable to use as a verb. For example: He will be fursuiting at Anthrocon.

Fursuiters are furries, but furries aren’t always fursuiters, Cole said. A furry is anyone who is involved in the fandom. They might wear ears and/or a tail or just regular clothes.

How does Cole describe being a furry? Well, he said “to know a furry is to know who a furry was.” He said furries were “the fat kid who wasn’t picked in gym class, the skinny kid that people made fun of and the brainy kid that others wanted to cheat off of but not invite to parties. … They were kids who craved social interaction.”

And they found friends “in the warm, happy smiling faces” of cartoon characters on TV, he said, adding that furries now are “simply people who never forgot their childhood friend.”

Don’t interrupt a fursuiter on the move.

If you come to Saturday’s family friendly parade, don’t expect a fursuitter to stop during the route.

First, there will be barricades preventing members of the crowd — especially children — from getting onto the street and accidentally tripping a furry. (Their vision is super limited in those suits.) But second, it’s also to keep the parade moving for health reasons. The inside of a fursuit head can reach more than 100 degrees, Cole said.

So if you see a fursuiter during the parade — or just out walking — and they seem to be on a mission, don’t stop them. It may be for health reasons, he said.

Get a good spot for the 10th Street parade.

The furries start lining up for the fursuit parade inside the convention center around 1 p.m. Saturday, but Cole said the crowd gathers along the route even earlier.

Two-by-two, furries will parade from the west lobby and walk up 10th Street to Penn Avenue where they’ll hook around (never leaving 10th Street) and return inside the east lobby. Star 100.7 will be playing tunes at the turn around point.

The parade will be long — more than 2,000 fursuiters are expected to participate, Cole said.

Expect creativity and hybrid animals.

One of the things that makes furries stand out from other fandoms is that it’s not based on the imagination of someone else like Star Wars, Cole said. Furries create their own characters and about 95 percent are original ideas, he said, adding that some are playful and cartoon-like, while others can be scarier and more realistic. Cole said most furries have a backstory for their character, and only some are willing to share that story.

In addition to out-of-the ordinary colors and actual animals like foxes, horses and dogs, there are some creative hybrids like a folf (fox and wolf) or wagon (wolf and dragon.)

It’s OK to ask questions.

Cole said the No. 1 question to ask a furry: “Is it OK if I take your picture?”

Most fursuiters are hams and will likely pose your photo if you approach them around the city or at the meet-and-greet, Cole said.

If you see a fursuiter out during the week, approach them and say “Hey, I like your costume. Can I take your picture?” just like you’d ask if you wanted to take a picture of the back of someone’s jacket, Cole advised. As long as non-furries aren’t rude or aggressive, it should be OK.

Another question to ask is “Can you talk?” Some fursuitters talk and others don’t, Cole said, adding that the latter might pantomime a response. To which you can say, “Can you help me figure out more?”

After that, it’s best to just ask if you can ask more questions, Cole said.

Want to learn more? Go.

One-day Anthrocon passes can only be bought on site, Cole said, adding those can be upgraded to a full membership, too. In addition to panels and talks, there will be dances, music, venders and art. Take a look at the schedule for Thursday to Sunday to find the events.

And, no, costumes are not required to attend.