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Gene Armstrong photographed with RainFurrest’s mascot on July 19, 2016.

Image: Lou Daprile

Furries—people dismiss them as fetishists who dress up like giant stuffed animals. But in fact, the furry fandom is a globe-spanning community, diverse in age, economic background, and approach. Some drop thousands on elaborate fursuits that showcase their anthropomorphized identities, others just really dig My Little Pony. The creation of Gene Armstrong and a team of local organizers, the decade-old Pacific Northwest RainFurrest convention drew 2,700 furries to a local hotel in 2015, most thrilled to cavort in the courtyard pool alongside like-minded creatures. But a dark faction lurks at the fest’s fringes, and its increasingly damaging antics forced the hotel’s hand last year. Understaffed and lacking a venue, organizers opted to cancel this year’s convention. Its future remains uncertain.

What is a furry?

For me, a furry is someone who associates with an animal either in art, building a fursuit, or writing; spiritually identifies as one; or just generally likes animals.

You identify as a dragon. How did you come to that? 

When I was a kid—you know you have that dream that you are flying? I was always a gold dragon. Furry fandom isn’t just animals. I have a friend who is a chimera. My husband, he’s a blue tiger. 

A lot of people think—

That we’re sex-crazed maniacs? Yes. And we’re not. The sexual part has been built up. It isn’t what it’s all about, or it’s just in private rooms and we don’t care.

What’s distinct about the furry fandom here in Seattle?

It used to be, there were the fursuiters: You had to wear a fursuit. And the furry artists, if they would see fursuits, they would leave the building. It took two years, but by the second year of RainFurrest we got rid of that. The fandom here, they’re more supportive of each other; they hang out.

So who is causing problems? 

It’s like 1 percent of the population. These people fly here to do damage. In 2014 somebody flushed adult diapers in the public toilets [at the hotel]. And two or three days after we left, the sewer main blew in the women’s locker rooms. Every year, it’s gotten worse. 

And so you canceled 2016’s con. Will RainFurrest return?

Some of the board members are still undecided. They want to have it, they just don’t know how to do it. My plan is to start picking some of the people who were on staff for 2016 to help rebuild.

What are you going to do instead?

Since we don’t have RainFurrest in September, my husband decided we’re going to Disneyland.

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