1) I joined the community in earnest (as opposed to just observing or consuming its content from the sidelines) when I happened across a fursuit dance video one day while watching cartoons on Youtube. I loved that one video SO much that I went and watched more like it, and then I registered for the local furry convention. I had an amazing time, met some lovely locals who became good friends, and the rest is history.
2) Just wanted to chat with and get to know other furries, and initially joined what appeared to be the most active and popular sites for interacting.
3) I was originally an aardvark, based on a suggestion from an acquaintance. Years later, long story short, I bought a dinosaur fursuit off of a friend who couldn't fit into it, and ultimately adopted the dino as my fursona. My in-suit persona is kind and friendly, but also witty and mischievous. The art I've received or have commissioned runs the gamut from cute to fierce to sexy to cool.
4) I was fairly discreet in graduate school, because I knew the fandom had a negative reputation, and also worried that I'd be sanctioned for doing anything that was seen as "unprofessional," weird, crazy, or unseemly. As I gained trust and confidence in the fandom as a whole and cleared the academic and career-related hurdles in my path, I became more unapologetic, proud, and open about being a furry. At this point, most of the people who know me at some level know that I participate in the fandom in some capacity, at least, even if they're only aware of the broad strokes. There are settings and situations where I of course do not or would not be inclined to bring up being a furry, but I don't hide it or deny it, because there's nothing shameful or bad about it in the first place.
5) The fandom has offered me some wonderful memories and experiences I'll cherish forever, friends I wouldn't have met otherwise, and opportunities for growth and self-expression.
6) I use my fursona as an online avatar in several places, I enjoy collecting art of my fursona, and I fursuit.
7) Love fursuiting--in fact, I had years of mascotting under my belt before I joined the fandom! It allows me to interact with people in ways one usually can't in regular life. I've had some wonderful, fun, authentic conversations and interactions with people over the years that I wouldn't have had otherwise, and it always makes me feel great to hear that I've made someone's day.
8) I've been to numerous conventions. They are exhausting for sure, but an absolute blast. The type of experience one has will of course depend on the size of the con and its internal culture. I tend to prefer more easygoing conventions where I can wander the con space and chat with people casually, and cons that interact or interface with the public, because my favorite thing is seeing people's reactions to furries.
9) Wherever you find humans, you'll find hierarchies--though, sometimes they'll be invisible, or unacknowledged. It stands to reason that a community like the fandom will tend to celebrate people who are seen as desirable qualities, talents, and/or social connections, or who have achieved great things according to the community's rubric. The genuinely nice thing about the fandom is that people can become popular just by being seen as kind, helpful and good. But, like a lot of communities and tribes, the fandom has a tendency to put people on a pedestal just
for having a particular talent or skill, or for just
being ultra-visible, even if they're not particularly good, nice, or ethical people otherwise, and this obviously creates problems. There are also people who are highly motivated to become celebrated or popular, and who'll do some pretty obnoxious things to try to gain that attention or fame--but, that's not a problem limited to furries!
10) I've always been fascinated and charmed by animals. Anthropomorphic animal characters combine the most unique, enviable, and interesting aspects of animals with relatable human qualities and abilities. You can imagine being something better or greater than your boring human self, or imagine yourself relating to a being who is greater, better, or meaningfully different from a regular person, but who still possesses relatable feelings and motives. I'd also say that for many of us, real and/or fictional animals have always felt safe and comforting, compared to humans, who have the capacity to sometimes be fickle, cruel, and/or confusing and unpredictable.
11) I currently have a three-day ban from Facebook for testing their "no sex or nudity unless it' possesses artistic merit" policy with pin-up art of my fursona, so you tell me.
I'd say the fandom has allowed me to feel more comfortable with myself in this regard, and definitely played a critical role (even years before I knew the community itself actually existed!) in shaping or sharpening some of my particular tastes and preferences. Broadly, I'd suggest that furry porn and furry erotica often both allow for a suspension of disbelief and separation from reality and the familiar that allows one to entertain fantasies (both sexual and non-sexual) that would otherwise be or feel impossible, overwhelming/overly intense, or unpleasant. Furry characters aren't quite people, and they aren't quite animals---they occupy a liminal space in between; so my brain doesn't sort and define them the way it does various real-world phenomena.
12) I fursuit, I attend cons, I attend local meets, I socialize with furries online, and I commission and share art.
13) Oh, you know the usual misconceptions---that being a furry is all about sex, that murrsuiting is at all common or accepted, that furries all believe they are animals, that furries are all necessarily zoophiles or pedophiles, and that all furries adhere to a specific, narrow stereotype of being infantile, pushy, annoying, and "cringe."