Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'A very accepting space.' Furries return to Anthrocon in Pittsburgh

Pointy ears, furry paws and fluffy tails can be seen throughout Downtown this weekend, as Anthrocon returns to Pittsburgh. After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, the annual event includes singalongs, an escape room and meet-and-greets with characters.

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

Festivities Friday began with an opening ceremony in a ballroom at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Speakers included Anthrocon Chairman Samuel Conway, Wildlife Works (the chosen charity of this year’s convention) Director Beth Shoaf and a red “wiggly noodle dragon” named Ronnie Noodles. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also welcomed the crowd.

“Every summer, we really enjoy having you come and visit and learn about some of the great things that this city and this region have to offer,” Fitzgerald said. “We missed you for a couple years.”

First-time attendee Splitbatt drove 10 hours from Massachusetts to take part in the gathering. They said they’ve “fallen in love with the city” and enjoy the furry fandom because of the friends they’ve made through it.

“I’m really excited for a bunch of meetups because I’m meeting a bunch of people from the fandom that I normally wouldn’t see because they’re from all around,” Splitbatt said.

Researcher Kathy Gerbasi studies furries with the group Furscience and says becoming another character can be a safe place for members of the Anthrocon community.

“If you’re kind of a shy person, but your fursona is a happy, outgoing, bubbly [personality.] When you’re in that, it allows you to try on that behavior. And then some people find, you know, I can do this,” Gerbasi said.

Gerbasi, along with colleagues Courtney Plante and Elizabeth Fein, has been studying the furry fandom for several years (WESA’s Sarah Boden reported a story about this work in 2019). They’ve looked into members who are also on the autism spectrum (Fine estimates about 5-15%), and they find the community can help those who have a hard time finding social connections.

“It’s a place where people on the spectrum come and find a lot of social community and make strong connections,” Fein said. “The fandom is a very accepting space for a lot of different kinds of people.”

Gerbasi said the gathering is a place where people find community.

“A lot of furries have a history of being bullied, being picked on, not quite feeling like they fit in,” Gerbasi said. “For many of them, the fandom is the first place where they found belongingness…Here’s a place where you can sort of be yourself.”

Throughout the weekend, there will be a number of furry-related panels, costume-building workshops, games and other activities. The annual fursuit parade will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 2.

Corrected: July 3, 2022 at 2:24 PM EDT
This story has been revised to correct the spelling of Dr. Elizabeth Fein's name.
Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.