Gabriel Sickel, an actor and musician from Rio Vista, California, can frequently be found hanging out in a white cat suit with blue eyes and a mile-wide grin.
<p>Sickel is a furry — and like many furries, frequently role-plays as an anthropomorphic animal, often in an intricate full-body cat costume, called a fursuit. While shows like "<a href="http://www.hulu.com/watch/748943" target="_blank">CSI</a>" have cast furry-dom — reductively and unfairly, according to many furries — as a hobby that's exclusively sexual in nature, for furries like Sickel, getting into costume is primarily about performance, identity, and a sense of community.</p><p>Sickel spent last week performing as his alter ego <strong>Khord Kitty</strong> at VancouFUR, an <a href="http://www.vancoufur.ca/" target="_blank">annual gathering of furries in Vancouver, Canada</a>.</p><h2>On the last day of VancouFUR, the refugees arrived.</h2><p>As the conference was drawing to a close, word began circulating among the over 800 attendees that a group of Syrian families had recently arrived in Vancouver.</p><p><strong>The refugees' first stop would be t</strong><strong>he Executive Airport Plaza Hotel, where the furry conventioneers were staying.</strong></p><h2>A note distributed to VancouFUR participants warned that, for the refugees, arriving in the middle of a furry convention would likely be a "major culture shock" and urged the furries to steer clear if possible. </h2><p>"Keep in mind that they likely will not want to interact with you, and that consent is important for everyone," the message read.</p><p><img class="tweet-placeholder" data-content="Culture shock much? Some Syrian newcomers are staying at a hotel where the #VancouFur furry convention is going on. pic.twitter.com/rPi6HN72Lz— Ziya Tong (@ziyatong) March 8, 2016" data-tweet="https://twitter.com/ziyatong/status/707264910997233665" src="/assets/tweet-placeholder.png"><br></p><h2>As two large groups staying in same hotel, however, the furries and the refugees couldn't avoid each other for long. </h2><p>According to Sickel, many of the refugee children were a little scared at first, but the conventioneers — a few of whom had mascot experience — were excited to entertain them.</p><p>"After about five minutes, they all warmed up and then they started jumping around with me on my tail," Sickel told Upworthy. "It was really cute."</p><p><img canada="" class="tweet-placeholder" data-content="@ziyatong I was there! The refugees loved us, children especially. I" data-tweet="https://twitter.com/LiveitRivet/status/707294993434615808" dray="" fun.="" glad="" m="" made="" march="" pic.twitter.com="" src="/assets/tweet-placeholder.png" their="" to="" transition="" we="" yjnrmrlzvz=""><br></p><h2>Sickel was proud to help provide the refugee children with an unforgettable first few days in their new country. </h2><p>"It made me feel great." Sickel explained. "I mean, I was aware of the Syrian situation, so knowing that I could help their introduction to Canada be a lot warmer, <strong>I felt very privileged to get to do that.</strong>"</p><p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUyMTI5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDYyOTE2OH0.QjRGoBeg4BrxYvQNh538MMf0ZmkLJUyopjbNJ19JS1I/img.jpg?width=980" id="af0ee" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4b7cb4f12ce533e1ece5273b2a101c9b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption">Fursuitters, including Khord Kitty (far right), greet Syrian children. Photo by <a href="https://twitter.com/JayTweet?cn=cmVwbHk%3D&refsrc=email" target="_blank">@JayCat/Twitter, used with permission</a>. </p><h2>Other VancouFUR attendees said that making newcomers feel welcome is exactly what the furry community is all about.</h2><p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUyMTMwMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjk2NzIzMX0.SMAs0cgNT_EJKC03DHIgqYG9c1Sg4MAPBBDkDXTCTt4/img.jpg?width=980" id="f2ede" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="57a7f126eee8dd3d0d6392f03bfcf5cc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption">A conference-goer entertains refugee children. Photo by <a href="https://twitter.com/JayTweet?cn=cmVwbHk%3D&refsrc=email" target="_blank">JayCat/Twitter, used with permission</a>.</p><p>"It's sort of a makeshift safe heaven for people who feel bullied, discriminated, or alone," Chris Jantz, another convention participant, told Upworthy. Entertaining the refugees, he explained, was an extension of that ethic.</p><p>"Our fandom is all about the acceptance of those oppressed in one way or another."</p><h2>Ultimately, there was plenty of love to go around. </h2><p>"Khord Kitty ... got a big hug from one of the parents," Jantz said. "It showed us that not only can we, from different cultures, get along just fine, but I think it's heartwarming how much they appreciated what we did for their kids."</p><p>It was a scene few of the furries would soon forget.</p><p>"Thousands of miles and two different cultures ... but a warm greeting does wonders," another conventioneer, who goes by JayCat, told Upworthy via Twitter.</p><p><strong>"We're all human after all!"</strong></p>
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