Old essay, old thoughts. I’d take it down seeing its low-quality, but I find it interesting to look back at this with more perspective.
I know some people still argue about whether or not the term “community” can be applied. I personally think it might fit in a certain way, as we, therianthropes of the Net, are a set of people – a group – who interact with each other and we share common points (share elements with).
Last September, after one reading, I started thinking about norms within the online therian community – and with “community”, I don’t only mean the therian boards, I also mean animal-people at large who know about the concept of therianthropy and know about the community, but aren’t involved in any public space (forums, chats, …). Obviously, the norms may differ a little outside boards and chats, whether it is because some people don’t fit in and stay apart, because they don’t like norms or the “boards mentality”, or other reasons. I am not a sociologist, I simply make statements made of common sense, from my experiences and observations. This is an attempt at listing traits that are considered as the “norm” and what is “out of the norm” in the werecommunity. By doing so, I am not listing what you must be to be a therianthrope, if such a list could exist; I am only specifying what is common, accepted, or rejected from the community as I am writing this.
As the concept of therianthropy was born in an English-speaking community, and spread first among the English-speaking side of the Internet, most of therianthropes are English-speaker and most of websites about therianthropy are in English. That means animal-people who aren’t at ease with English and don’t read English-speaking websites have less chances to find any information on therianthropy, join the community and know they are not alone. It would have been the case for me, and I know a few French-speaking animal-people who wouldn’t have found the term “therianthropy” to put on their experiences if they hadn’t been able to read English well enough, or hadn’t found someone who could tell them about the community. I can’t say if the fact the community is mostly English-speaking has any influence, but that may be the case regarding cultural references.
Obviously, being animal inside and showing an animal-like behavior (howling, mewing, …) is considered as normal. Outside the community (ie. offline) it is not. Within the community we expect others to understand and accept us as they experience something similar, whereas we expect most of non-therians, especially those who tend to be more conservatives, to reject us, deny the concept of therianthropy, and possibly think of us as freaks. Also, accepting otherkins and vampires as having legitimate, valid identities is close to a norm – or at least it is a more widespread attitude than outside the community, where they would be considered deviant or eccentric people.
The community seems to be more accepting towards unusual beliefs, ways of life, and such as. We could say that therianthropes seem to be more liberal than conservative, although this might be because conservative people don’t express themselves much in the community because of the liberal ones. Faiths like shamanic beliefs and paganism are much more common among therians than in their real life environment; people claiming to follow a pagan/shamanic path won’t be pointed out, whereas outside the community, they may. Same goes for other types of sexuality or gender identities (homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, transgendered people and such as): they appear to be numerous within the community, but those outside the community may simply be less willing to disclose anything about their sexuality/lifestyle for fear of rejection. As a side note, it seems that zoophilia is real taboo inside the community too and isn’t discussed; few are the therian essays dealing with zoophilia.
Shifting is considered as a norm within the community. Indeed, at the first glance it seems that most of people do experience shifts, and many therianthropes still consider shifting as the second “feature” of therianthropy after being an animal inside – whereas shifting isn’t necessary to be a therianthrope. Contherians are often misunderstood and forgotten in the various existing definitions of therianthropy. As a result it regulary happens that newcomers doubt their therianthropy if they don’t experience shifts, as they don’t know they don’t have to experience shifts to be animal-people. Last but not least, non-shifting therians may be questionned about the legitimacy of their animality.
Having one animal side ( one theriotype) is still considered the norm. The more theriotypes someone has, the more out of the norm the person is, and the less this person is seriously considered. Therianthropes with two animal sides are much more accepted than they were years ago, but because of confused people and “pokemorphs” posers (people who “collect” or switch animals every other week), who tend to claim a greater number of theriotypes, polyweres and hybrids are in turn considered as more suspect. As a side note, it has appeared a few times that people tended to unconsciously consider a tiger/wolf therianthrope as less “wolf” or “tiger” than a wolf therianthrope and a tiger therianthrope. The experience of those who have a single theriotype seems considered as “more valid” than the experience of people who have several theriotypes, as if identifying as more than one animal would make each of their animal side less “authentic” or less… “pure” (sounds like racism doesn’t it?). Polyweres’s experiences of their animals are often overlooked because of this, and needless to say the issue isn’t discussed much.
Theriotype-wise, as I am writing this article, mammal predators (especially canines and felines) are the norm. Mustelids and bears aren’t too uncommon; avians, cetaceans, reptiles and herbiweres (such as ungulates) are uncommon. Rodent, fish and especially insect therians would be considered as really unusual. Topics about “why are wolves more common” are often discussed in the community, with many valid or less valid hypothesis (from scientific to spiritual). Part of wolves could be posers influenced by tales and hollywoodesque movies about werewolves, they could as well be confused weres who identify better with wolves because of their importance in (Western) folklore and it would be harder to them to identify with something else. It is possible that some therianthropes unconsciously feel some sort of “pressure” that forces them to fit in to the “wolf” or “tiger” popular molds rather than other lesser known species. They may also deny their true animal identity if their actual theriotype isn’t considered “big” and “magnificent” (which is sad since no specie is actually better than another). The explanation may be a mixture of various hypothesis.
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. I can’t explore every possibility since each of us has a limited point of view. I hope this can still help people to start pondering about norms and their attitude towards them, and perhaps it can make them think some more about the animal(s) they are.