Given that furries are often the subject of ridicule and harmful stereotypes,1 we investigated whether furries, compared to a sample of the general American population, were more likely to have experienced bullying. In focus group and interviews, many furries suggested that their interest in furry and strong connection to the furry community manifested as a result of feeling like an outsider and being picked on, which led to a sense of affiliation with a community of other self-identified outsiders. We wanted to test whether there was truth to these claims, some of which have found support in other areas (e.g., interests pre-dating finding the fandom and feelings of isolation;2 belongingness;3 the fandom as social support.4)
Participants were asked about the extent to which they experienced different types of bullying at different points in their lives.5 Even after statistically controlling for the fact that furries are more likely to be non-heterosexual or transgender,6 both of which, themselves, are associated with a history of bullying, furries still experienced significantly more bullying than the average person, whether measured as being physically beaten up or as teasing or ostracism. 48.3% of furries reported being bullied from the age of 4-10 (as compared to 37.1% of non-furries), 61.7% of furries reported being bullied from the ages 11-18 (as compared to 39.2% of non-furries), and 15.1% of furries report being bullied from the age of 19-24 (as compared to 10.2% of non-furries). This suggests not only that furries are more likely than the average person to be bullied (almost twice as likely in some age groups), but that the majority of furries are bullied at some point in their lives. The differences in bullying were also most prominent during the ages of 11-18, an age critical to the formation of a person’s identity. This suggests that there may be some truth to the lay hypothesis of many furries that they were, indeed, picked on more as children and that this may have had an impact on their identity and on the groups (in particular, furries) that they chose to associate with later in life.
Future research will further investigate the role of bullying in the development of identity in furries, and to determine what effect engaging in the furry fandom has on counteracting the negative effects of bullying.