In an effort to combat the stigma surrounding the “furry fandom” and provide a safe space for conversation on the topic, a group of three freshmen at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln decided to start a club for fur enthusiasts.
Freshmen Benjamin Lohrman, a computer science and math double major and software engineering majors Daniel Noon and Liam Seper founded the group in mid-October.
“[Being a furry] isn’t something people really talk about,” he said. “There’s a lot of stigma and negative press around it, so it’s nice to have other like-minded people to actually talk to.”
“Furry fandom” is an umbrella term, containing many subsects of different interests. Overall, being a furry means having an interest in anthropomorphic animals, or animals with distinctly human traits, according to an article by Courtney Plante for Psychology Today. It is not, as many people misconceive, a group of people who feel as though they are animals rather than humans, and instead a community with an appreciation for media that depicts animals walking, talking or expressing themselves in a human-like manner, Plante said in the article.
Lohrman, Noon and Seper realized they all shared a mutual interest in the furry community, and decided to form a club last semester, according to Lohrman. The process of becoming a recognized student organization requires a constitution, a faculty or staff sponsor and at least five members before being approved by the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska.
“Once we become an RSO, we’ll be able to advertise a lot better,” Lohrman said. “It’s really hard if you’re not an RSO because you can’t use the bulletin boards or advertise in the dorms. Right now it’s kind of just like putting something up and seeing how fast it gets taken down.”
Both Noon and Lohrman expressed their desire to create a space for furries to feel welcomed and included, and Noon specifically addressed how hard it can be for furries to find people with like-minded interests.
“I had not told anyone [about being a furry] until this year, literally no one, because I wasn’t comfortable,” Noon said. “I was afraid I was going to be ostracized, but now that I have a community of people I can talk about this stuff with, I feel much more comfortable with myself.”
Noon and Lohrman said their plans for the club are vague at the moment, as they are more focused on getting it up and running. They have unofficially met a few times to hang out, watch anime, play games and socialize in a group environment, and Noon said those sort of activities would continue to be the basis for meetings once they are established.
Noon said part of the inspiration for the club came from the operations of Spectrum UNL, a student organization focused on supporting LGBTQA+ students and allies, according to its website.
“We were inspired a lot by how Spectrum UNL works,” Noon said. “They have a place where everyone can come and talk and hang out in a safe way, and everyone is free to express themselves in ways they maybe wouldn’t be comfortable doing around others.”
While furry culture has often been reduced to the punchline of a joke on the internet, Noon said that he, Lohrman and the rest of the group are dedicated to building a community of acceptance and positive discussion.
Any students interested in joining or learning more about the furry community can contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our vision when we created this club was just to have a space where people could be their complete selves,” Lohrman said. “We want to demonstrate that while furries get a bad rap, the majority are really sweet.”