Where else but the Guardian would you expect to find a sympathetic article about "furries" - people who really like to dress as animals - either realistic version animals, or cartoon version, apparently.
The article does say that it's not a sexual fetish for most (as was portrayed on a CSI episode which I happened to see), but it's still weird:
“People don’t realize it, but the whole anthropomorphism is very mainstream,” says Gerbasi, who spearheaded the multidisciplinary Anthropomorphic Research Project, which has studied about 7,000 furry fans from all continents, except Antarctica (which actually had a small furry gathering, too). While there are certain demographic trends – almost 80% are male, many work in science or tech, with a disproportionate share not identifying as heterosexual – the data, by and large, shows no indication that furries would be psychologically unhealthy.What a world. Sometimes it seems to me that no one is told these days that their self understanding is nutty and/or quite possibly transient and/or best not indulged. Or at least not indulged in the way they want it indulged.
“Cartoon animals have a universal appeal,” says Conway, who fursuits as ‘Uncle Kage’: a samurai cockroach. “A love of animals and a fascination with the idea of them acting as we do transcends most national, geographic and religious boundaries.”
While the fursuits are the most visible, they only make up only about 20% convention-goers, Conway adds: the rest are performers, writers, puppeteers, dancers, artists and “just plain old fans”.
For a minority, however, it is more than that: 46% of furry fans surveyed by Gerbasi reported identifying as less than 100% human – with 41% admitting that if they could be not human at all, they would. Twenty-nine percent of them reported experiencing being a “non-human species trapped in a human body”.
The parallels with gender identity disorder, upon which the hypothesis was modeled, were striking: much like some transgender individuals report being born the wrong sex, some furries feel a disconnect with their bodies, as if they were stuck in the wrong species. The condition, which Gerbasi et al labeled “species identity disorder”, had a physiological component too, with many reportingexperiencing phantom body parts, like tails or wings.
Gerbasi still has no answers to why these individuals feel they’re not human, but stresses the importance for health providers to take them seriously, and without the ridicule that sometimes afflicts even her own research.