Florida furries convention forced to add age restriction by DeSantis’ drag law | Orlando Area News | Orlando

image via Megaplex: Furry Fun, Florida Sun/Facebook

A photo from 2019’s Megaplex: Furry Fun, Florida Sun

Orlando-based organizers of an annual con for furries have decided to restrict attendees to those 18 and older this year, in response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pet legislation regulating drag performances.

Megaplex: Furry Sun, Florida Fun posted a statement last week announcing that this year’s convention will not be open to kids: “It has been decided that for legal reasons and protection of our attendees, our venue, and the overall convention, Megaplex 2023 attendees must be 18 years of age.”

Organizers continued, “This decision has been a difficult one, but Megaplex has not forgotten about or abandoned our younger fandom members and is looking into options for events and activities to include all age ranges and their family members.”

Furries are fans of anthropomorphized animals, with icons ranging from Tony the Tiger to Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team mascot. Is it really any stranger than the now-mainstream MegaCon, Comic-Con or Spooky Empire, with their legions of cosplayers dressed as superheroes, elves and zombies? A common misconception is that furries are a sexualized subculture — that it’s not a fandom, but a kink or fetish — but this is no more true than it is, again, of cosplayers in general.

The Florida governor, who’s currently courting the ultra-conservative base in his presidential campaign, signed SB 1438 into law this month. The vague and poorly written statute dubbed “Protection of Children” by its sponsors is intended to harass venues that host drag events by pulling their liquor licenses if it’s found that minors under 18 are present at any “adult live entertainment.” (This phrase, which smacks of a Tijuana live sex show, is the euphemism the Florida Legislature settled on to describe what’s basically a form of commedia dell’arte.)

The law is part of a creeping attempt in Florida to control any forms of expression not approved by Christian conservatives, like drag, LGBTQ+-supportive books, and forms of trans affirmation including health care and inclusivity.

And the pragmatic, cautious response by Megaplex is part of an inevitable and growing wave of self-censorship, exactly as DeSantis desired when he predicted that removing systemic supports for marginalized groups would cause “ideology” to “wither on the vine.”

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