Hate crimes are as varied as the people they’re committed against…and probably no group of people on Earth are more varied than the attendees of your typical “Furry” convention. Furry conventions like Chicago’s Mid-West FurFest are places where free expression meets anonymity, where people are free to be whoever — and indeed whatever — they choose. And not even a hate-fueled chemical gas attack can foul that atmosphere.
If you’ve seen The Drew Carey Show, Tosh.0, Entourage or read the notorious Vanity Fair column “Savage Love,” you probably know furries as — more or less — a bunch of people who dress up in animal costumes, and have a yiffing good time banging each other in what can only be described as the Saturday Morning spin-off of Eyes Wide Shut. And, to be fair…yeah, totally. That does happen. But furries are more than punchlines, and the one thing they are above all else is irrepressibly optimistic. Even in the midst of a hate crime.
This year’s convention took place at the Hyatt Regency hotel at the O’Hare airport, world renowned for its close proximity to airplanes. The event attracted a massive crowd of several thousand, most dressed in either full animal costumes, or in varying degrees of mask and body paint.
About 12:40 a.m. on the morning of December 7th, the entire hotel had to be evacuated as a powerful odor of chlorine gas filled the rooms and hallways of the building, concentrated on the ninth floor. Many of the convention goers sought refuge in nearby buildings in an attempt to escape the cold Chicago night. Others did the logical thing, donning their fur costumes to keep warm and making a night out of it.
After searching the building, authorities found a large pile of concentrated chlorine powder left in the ninth-floor stairwell. They say the act was intentional, in no small part because stairwells are one of the few open-air places that run to every floor of the building. The powder appears to have been placed to maximum effect to affect the entire building.
Approximately 19 people were taken to the hospital complaining of dizziness, nausea and headaches. All were treated and released that night. They rejoined the rest of the pack at the hotel, which had been declared safe and repopulated by about 3 a.m.
So, could this be classified as a hate crime?
There is a pretty strong crossover between the furry community and the LBGT community. According to various surveys, Furries as a whole report being about 50 percent bisexual, 14 to 25 percent gay and 28 to 51 percent heterosexual. In other words: About what the rest of the world would probably openly be if it didn’t live in a state of perpetual sexual repression. About a third of all furries are in it exclusively for the sexual kink…but for most, it’s simply another kind of identity. Indeed, for many, it’s the only real identity they claim. So, maybe this could be called a hate crime.
Or, maybe it could have been someone looking to get to some sleep amid thousands of raucous party-goers. We may never know.
But there’s no keeping a furry down among his/her friends. In this atmosphere of acceptance and anonymity, there’s a silver lining around every litter box. And what was the silver lining with this probable hate attack?
During the two hours of evacuation, many of the attendees were herded next door to the Donald E. Stephens center. Which was, coincidentally, hosting a dog show. The groomers delighted in the sudden parade of thousands of anthropomorphic animals; brushes turned from real canine pelts to (faux) oscelot, wolf and rabbit coats. And the Furries: Well, they were home at last.
But the Furries, like everyone else, were still left with one question above all others…
WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?!