By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Tourette's, the doctor said. It was the first diagnosis in a succession of psychoses that included ADD, OCD, agoraphobia and bipolar disorder. No instinct whatsoever. He needed his animals now more than ever.
Reed began finding them in human form after a girlfriend introduced him to her world of furries. As a high school sophomore, he had his final showdown with the bullies about his new interest. A big junior, who had overheard him talking about furries with a teacher, confronted him at a bathroom urinal between classes:
"You like to have sex with stuffed animals!"
His back to the junior, Reed recalls thinking of only one thing to say.
"I'll pee on your leg if you don't leave me alone."
With those fightin' words, the two were at each other, arms locked, spinning around until an instructor arrived to pry them apart.
That was the last time Reed took any flak for being a furry.
His longtime friend Candace Melonson has worn a headband with leopard ears every day for the last three years. Her fursona is a white wolf named Kyandichan, but she's thinking of becoming an ocelot. Reed wore Melonson's wolf suit to an anime convention in The Woodlands last year, and he relished the attention.
For his fursona, Reed developed Furboy Zero, a cat-dog-rodent hybrid created by a mad scientist bent on world domination. The good-hearted Zero escaped from the lab and tries to spend his life spreading love and joy.
With such open parents, Reed hasn't had to hide his fursona, although revealing it to them was difficult. He timed his announcement to coincide with last year's MTV special on furries, telling his parents to watch a show that turned out to be exploitative.
He recalls their reaction: "They're like, 'Do you want to dress up in a fursuit and have sex with men?' "
Reed explained it wasn't an accurate representation, and they've never questioned him again.
He knows his habits are peculiar, but he feels comfortable in his skin. Or fur.
"Being weird is normal," he says. "If you're normal and if there's nothing, you know, interesting about you, I find that weird."
Reed wants to go to college and hopes to start a video game company, where he can make games like his favorites, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 7.
But his more immediate goal is to make his fursuit, an inverted Siberian tiger -- black fur with white stripes. He wants to put it on and drive to Tokyohana, his favorite sushi bar. He once saw a magician perform there, making people's eyes light up as he strolled from table to table wowing them with sleight of hand. Reed relishes the chance to walk through the restaurant's doors and introduce the patrons to Furboy Zero.
Does he think he'd be welcome?
"I'm not sure," he says, mulling it over. "I'm hoping so."
Ever since the infamous Katy Mills Fursuit Fiasco of 2001, local fursuiters say Houston just isn't fursuit-friendly.
On that day a year and a half ago, according to a 30-year-old red unicorn named Bayne, about five furries flocked to Katy Mills to see The Lord of the Rings. Afterward, Bayne and a fellow fursuiter, a red-tailed hawk, decided to throw on their suits and take a trip through the mall. They changed in the hawk's van and emerged in full fursuit force.
"Once back inside the mall, we got the usual reactions kids laughing and following us around, people wanting to stop us for photos, mothers bringing the smaller kids up for a closer look," Bayne wrote in his online journal.
But it wasn't long before Katy Mills security descended upon the hawk and Bayne with SWAT-like ferocity. Not knowing what kind of dangerous lunatics they had on their hands, about seven guards surrounded the stunned unicorn and hawk and asked them to remove their masks.
Unbeknownst to them, the fursuiters were violating the mall's no-masks policy.
"Anytime that anybody would be masking themselves somehow, you never know if somebody's trying to hide an identity or possibly lure children or whatever," says mall marketing director Pamela Miller. "They were asked to remove their masks and they refused."
That's because, Bayne wrote, "One of the first rules of fursuiting is you don't remove your mask in public. It tends to scare the kids, reveals your identity generally just destroys the magic."
According to Bayne, his feathered compatriot asked the guards if they could step outside before removing their masks.
"Do it now!" the guards ordered.
The hawk complied, but Bayne held his ground.
That's when, according to Miller, "the unicorn actually went running off he then ran over by [the mall nightclub] Midnight Rodeo, which is when Katy police took over and kicked them out."
Bayne also became "verbally abusive" with the security guards, Miller says.
They retreated to the hawk's van and were leaving when a Katy squad car flashed its lights. The hawk pulled over but refused to show them his ID.
The cops bent his feathered frame over the hood of the van, frisked and handcuffed him. They told him to sit on the curb while they ran background checks.