This Doc Answers All Your Questions About Furries

At its core, there isn’t much differentiating the furry community from other fandoms, especially when you consider the fact that furries-at-large are merely a group of self-proclaimed “nerds” probably best known for dressing up in “fursuits” and attending large conventions.

That said, thanks to sensationalized media characterizations painting them as sexual fetishists and/or “socially anxious” loners, few subcultures have been as maligned and misunderstood by the mainstream as furries — something that has led to things like employment discrimination and outright attacks. However, a new documentary created by members of the community is hoping to shed light on what furry actually is, and hopefully create a sense of understanding in the process.

Culled from dozens of interviews with community leaders and hundreds of hours of archival footage, The Fandom gives viewers a glimpse at everything from the history of furry to their longtime ties to the LGBTQIA+ community from an insider’s perspective. After all, as Director Ash Kreis and Executive Producer Phil Kreis explained, while they had talked about making this film for a long time, they really shifted into gear after Robert Hill — one of the earlier fursuiters — passed away.

“He passed away and it was like, ‘Our founders are getting up there in age and we have to talk to them,'” Phil said, before Ash added that the history of the fandom is something that most furries themselves aren’t aware of.

Related | Furries Talk About How the Coronavirus Has Affected Their Community

“We spent so much time trying to figure out the history, because this isn’t written anywhere,” Ash said. “You actually have to dig, and dig deep, to figure out what happened and when. It’s a subculture that’s been around for a lot longer than people know.”

So, with the help of Co-Director/Editor Eric Risher, Ash and Phil decided to start from the beginning: With furry’s formation in the ’70s by a group of animation fans in Southern California, spearheaded by couple Rod O’Riley and Mark Merlino. The film then goes on to provide an overview of the subculture’s evolution — from online zines to art-sharing forums to the emergence of large-scale conventions — as well as the way its accepting nature has made it a haven for queer people across the country. In fact, as the documentary states, about 80% of the furry community identifies as LGBTQIA+ — though many people may not know that, “because they haven’t really interacted with it outside of the internet,” per Ash.

After all, as she explained, as something that allows you to “try on your identity first,” furry has helped her — and many other trans people — come into their own.

“I used it to kind of figure out who I was. It was the first time I could really just pass as myself. It was really eye-opening,” she said, before Phil added that “people will just automatically accept you’re female without any barriers.”

But then why is there still such a taboo surrounding the fandom? For that, you can thank the media who, according to Ash, has almost exclusively “focused in on these really singular aspects of the community” — namely, the idea that some furries like to have orgies in their fursuits.

“There are a lot of different types of experiences that exist in fandoms, including ours.”

As an offshoot of the LGBTQIA+ community, the fandom has always had a very healthy, sex-positive attitude, with all of the conventions having provided testing, safe sex classes, and consent seminars for years. And though society has started to move away from the prudishness and moral policing of yore, the lingering, kink-shaming stigma surrounding the small percentage of furries who do partake in this fetish is something that’s remained a problem since the early aughts. Additionally, much of this has also been wrapped up in blatant queerphobia since the beginning, as exhibited by historic pushback from sci-fi/anime convention culture and the “burned furs” phenomenon — a furry off-shoot of “predominantly straight people upset that there were so many LGBT people in the community,” per Ash.

That said, as Phil and Ash explained, while all the one-note, sensationalized stories have made it “really hard for an outsider to come into the community,” a recent uptick in more balanced coverage over the past few years has led to a slight reopening of the community. But at the same time, as this documentary proves, sometimes it’s best to go straight to the source.

“I wanted to tell both the history of fandom and explain what it actually is to the outside world, as told by us,” Ash said. “Furry as a community is incredibly diverse. There are a lot of different types of experiences that exist in fandoms, including ours.”

The Fandom premieres July 3.

Welcome to “Internet Explorer,” a column by Sandra Song about everything Internet. From meme histories to joke format explainers to collections of some of Twitter’s finest roasts, “Internet Explorer” is here to keep you up-to-date with the web’s current obsessions — no matter how nonsensical or nihilistic.

Photos courtesy of The Fandom

Japanese Sensation Kemio Is Taking America

Though American readers may not be familiar with Kemio just yet, the 24-year-old YouTuber is a bonafide superstar in his native Japan.

Known for his energetic, rapid-fire vlogs, use of quirky catchphrases and retellings of his daily experiences with American culture, Kemio is pretty much the king of cultural cache in Japan. But don’t just take our word for it. Last year, one of his made-up words — “Agemizawa,” which means “when you’re so excited and so hyped on it, you scream it” — apparently became “the number one slang word in Japan.” And if that isn’t impact, then we don’t know what is.

Kemio’s story starts back in 2013 with the creation of his Vine account. Inspired by American content creators, Kemio finally decided to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an idol and entertainer — to viral success in Japan. And though the app’s closure in early 2017 spurred him to explore other corners of the internet, he now boasts close to two million subscribers on his YouTube, where posts videos doing everything from making curry to giving himself makeovers.

Related | Dua Saleh Is Your Angel and Your Devil

Since moving to the US in 2016, Kemio has continued to vlog about his life in America, even amid the pandemic. However, his content and feelings of culture shock weren’t the only things that changed from living abroad. In fact, he said that being in a place where the LGBTQIA+ community is more visible and accepted has altered his own perception of self, which also made him feel like he could finally live his life honestly and authentically.

After all, as Kemio explained, despite Japan being “progressive in some aspects,” it is “also still very traditional in the sense that being gay in Japan isn’t as accepted” — something which caused Kemio to feel like he had to hide being gay for a long time. And though he came out in his book right before he moved to America, he said he still struggled a bit from the many years spent grappling with his identity in private.

“When I was in Japan, I felt like I definitely suppressed being gay for a long time. I was not comfortable with who I am for a long time as well,” he said. “So I don’t think I grew up in Japan as a gay man. But now I am definitely more comfortable speaking about who I am and my identity, publicly.”

That said, in the wake of all the support he’s gotten, Kemio said he now hopes that telling his story will help others feel supported, as well. And while he has yet to begin vlogging in English, he’s excited to give it a shot once his “English improves.” In the meantime, he’s been busy focusing on his fashion and modeling career — something he said is an attempt to get a little “more serious.” Though, thankfully, he doesn’t plan on quitting vlogging anytime soon.

So until we start getting our own Kemio catchphrases in English, get to know the star a little better, below.

What did your parents think about you pursuing a career in entertainment?

When I started, they didn’t really like it. They were like kind of concerned about me doing such a stupid thing on the internet. Also, they didn’t know what social media is. But once I started going on the TV or even on the newspaper, they saw exactly what I’m doing and they started to understand what I wanted to do for my job.

Since moving to the US, has anything surprised you about the culture and the nature of internet celebrity here versus Japan?

Everything is so different. Like, I was so surprised when I moved to LA. First things first, l was surprised that people wear their shoes at home, because in Japan no one ever [does that], and if I do that in Japan my grandma would literally kick my ass. So that’s I think the most surprising thing — the culture.

For the internet celebrities and everything, I think they’re so cool. They say whatever the fuck they want to say. They do whatever fuck they want to do, like I see freedom of speaking all the time. And also, I was so surprised at how internet celebrities — especially of my generation — speak up about politics, or their opinions about what is going on in the world, and then they will actually influence people to vote for the election or something. In Japan, a lot of celebrities don’t really share their opinions about politics.

How does creating content here differ from your experience creating content in Japan?

Since moving to the US, I started my YouTube channel. Just because a lot of Japanese people are really curious about the lifestyle in the US. Like, they love American culture — music, fashion, food, everything. So my content is focused on lifestyle in the US. Every little thing, like going to the grocery store. They’re so curious about that. Those things definitely help me to grow my audience.

Since this is for Pride, can you talk a little bit about your experience growing up gay in Japan?

When I was in Japan, I felt like I definitely suppressed being gay for a long time. I was not comfortable with who I am for a long time as well, and I actually didn’t come out until right before I moved to the US. And then after I moved to the US, I came out to only my close friend and my family… So I don’t think I [technically felt like I] grew up in Japan as a gay man. But now I am definitely more comfortable speaking about who I am and my identity, publicly.

I released my book a year ago, and I came out in the book, actually. I was super nervous, but a lot of people were so supportive about it. I was getting so many DMs from people who also struggle with their identity. So I was so grateful for those sweet and supportive messages. And then it also makes me think that I want to encourage more people, and I want to help this community more.

On that note, why is it important to you to talk about your identity as an openly gay Japanese man? What is the importance of this visibility to you?

I definitely think talking about my identity helps open a lot of conversations that don’t happen today in Japan. In Japan it’s not as open as here. Like, Japan’s society is very progressive in some aspects, but also still very traditional in the sense that being gay in Japan isn’t as accepted as it is in the US. But I think, for me, being open about who I am definitely helps other people who also struggle with their identity.

I want to say it’s getting better [for the LGBTQIA+ community in Japan], but there still definitely needs to be more. Since I never truly came out when I was in Japan, I actually have never been able to see the LGBTQ+ community there.

They also don’t really educate us. Like, in the media, they don’t really pick up topics about the transgender or LGBTQ+ community, so people actually don’t know what is going on in the community. So yeah, it’s getting better, but I feel like people still need to learn, including me. But for the younger generation, I think they’re more accepting and open about it, which gives me hope.

In your opinion, what can Japan’s LGBTQIA+ community people and their allies do to push for change and keep it going?

In my opinion, we need to use our voice more. People in Japan don’t really speak their mind in the public sometimes. I was like that too when I was living in Japan. I was almost always scared to talk about my opinion about politics or my identity. So I feel like for the younger generation, we need to do more to stand up and then try to change our future.

I feel like that’s such an Asian culture thing — you don’t rock the boat, you don’t speak up, you let things be — which is why I think it’s so cool you’re talking about this. Was it scary starting out though? Because there is this social expectation that you have to say the right thing or not say too much.

When I started this, I was so young, so I think I just didn’t think about a conclusion. Like I didn’t think about how people see me. Now, sometimes, when I make a video, I care about how I say things. Or, I think about how, back in the day, I didn’t [speak up].

Who’s your celebrity or influencer inspiration in the LGBTQ community?

There are so many people that have a big influence on me. I would just say Lady Gaga. And I love Kim Petras, I think she’s so cool. She’s the next level. I’m so obsessed with her music, her style and everything.

Hard agree. So, if you could also tell a younger you something, what would it be?

I would just say, “Don’t make a Grindr.” Or, if I could say something to me before I created Grindr, I would say, “Don’t Grindr too much.”

What’s Grindr like in Japan?

The one time I’ve gone on Grindr [there], I did it without putting my picture on the profile. I think there were other Japanese gay dating apps in Japan, so I don’t think Grindr is as poppin’ as here. I want to try one [going on a Grindr date in Japan], but I don’t know.

It’d be a good video, honestly.

Yeah, like in the US, the YouTubers who make videos going on Tinder dates. Maybe!

Kemio was photographed by New York-based Oscar Ouk using Zoom.

The GLAAD 2020 Media Award Nominees Are Here

2019 was a damn good year for broadened queer visibility. Lil Nas X turned out the most viral track of 2019 (and the best red carpet looks), Are You the One? –– the gay reality dating program we’ve all been waiting for –– returned for its eighth on-air season and shows like Slave Play and The Inheritance heralded wider representation on the Broadway stage. And for the 31st year, GLAAD is here to celebrate this year’s great strides with its annual Media Awards.


Related | Taylor Swift to Receive GLAAD Vanguard Award


Music nominations include veterans of the scene like Tegan and Sara and Adam Lambert as well as slightly newer artists such as Young M.A. and Kevin Abstract. In the TV show category, Queer Eye and RuPaul’s Drag Race make their return as mainstay nominees alongside the cast of Ryan Murphy’s Pose. The 2019 breakouts like HBO’s Euphoria and playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ critically acclaimed Broadway hit, Slave Play are also up for GLAAD awards.

GLAAD on Instagram: “The #GLAADawards nominees are OUT. Click the link in our bio for the full list and comment with who you want to see take home a trophy this…”


GLAAD will also honor writer and director Janet Mock, who also serves as a producer on Pose, with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which is given to “a LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting LGBTQ acceptance.”


Related | Lil Nas X on a Unicorn Floatie


“Janet Mock is a trailblazing force for diverse and inclusive storytelling who has raised the bar for LGBTQ representation in Hollywood,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said. Taylor Swift will also receive this year’s Vanguard award. Awarded to individuals that GLAAD believes has used their platform to champion LGBTQIA+ issues, past recipients have included Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears.


Check out the full list of nominees here.


Photography: Ethan Gully