Werecommunity …

Werecommunity ...

I feel lost in the flow of time.

I feel old whereas I’m not, I feel surrounded by confusion and noises, it’s like things are getting too much for me.
I feel I have to make a choice.

I remember when I learned about therianthropy as if it were yesterday. My first steps in the community, how ignorant I was, and how everything impressed me. I found forums, websites, essays. I started learning about the community, its words, its people, its variety. I went deeper into myself through questionning, introspections, soulsearchs. I learnt more about who I was; about others’ experiences, views, opinions.

I understood it, I realized how naive and ignorant I was about myself when I arrived. I discovered more and more about my animal sides, getting closer to my inner self little by little, not just thanks to what I learnt in the community, but also because I had always evolved and became more critical in a general manner, as a result of growing and being interested in many things. I learnt who and what I was (although I’m still learning more).

At some point I started answering people’s questions when I could, those questions I had pondered about when I arrived. I made researches when needed, and helped in the way I could. I became more and more critical towards the werecommunity, its bunch of posers, of so-called greymuzzles, of pretentious people. Its politics, contradictions, bullshit. Eventually I got fed up with it and started wondering what the fuck I was doing here. Instead of quitting, I went on.

I believe that we won’t fix many problems in the community. I also believe there are a few things we can fix, or at least work out. Doing something in that “community” is something I can, as a simple individual. I don’t claim people need me as an individual at all. That’d be damn arrogant. What I think is that it costs me nothing to answer questions when we can, writing things that may interest people, and in a more general way, help promoting communication, knowledge and wisdom, not from therianthrope to therianthrope, but from individual to individual. I’m not saying that everybody can and should do so, but I wish people become autonomous beings who think by themselves. Therianthropy is a pretext to soulsearch and introspect oneself. What matters is that people learn more about themselves and become more critical about everything.

The community is not a group of close and overfriendly animal-people who love each other, where you will only get wise answers, or where we can all grow together. The werecommunity is a bunch of various people, and while you will find some helpful and smart ones, you have much more chances to stumble across people who don’t know what they’re talking about, who are confused about what therianthropy is, or who are posers. You will also find therianthropes who will try to make you fit with what they want therianthropy to be, and who will expect you to be naive follower while scolding you for not thinking by yourself.

Right now I feel alone. I don’t have the mass of newbies to cling onto, I’m not a newbie anymore. However, I have never been part of AHWw, I never saw the whole thing start, grow and fall into what is it nowadays. I have my own experience of being an animal-person, but I know nothing about being among the first therianthropes in the community. I feel the same as a speck of dust with no roots and no future, because the community has lost its roots and has a fragile future.

It’s like nobody new knows about AHWw. It’s like nobody new realize all the greymuzzles from the community have left or are disappearing. People arrive in the community and they have everything here-right-now. The FAQs, the essays, and a few experienced people to answer their questions. They read websites, post on some forums, and then consider they know everything about therianthropy. Damn, therianthropy is not about knowing all the labels and their definitions, it’s not knowing a bunch of therian websites and their content. It’s about being animal inside and experiencing it on a daily basis. Many newbies arrive in the community, stop there, and don’t realize it’s not that way they will “walk their path” (or whatever you wanna call it).

What will happen when the last really experienced people will leave the community? Nothing is eternal. One day the last AHWWers will be gone, the few smart ones will follow them, and all the knowledge of what the community was will disappear. I don’t believe it is essential, but I do am afraid of what it could be like if all the informations and wisdom of the past slowly go away. I see too much therianthropes who, once they find the community, make some “werebuddies” and then disappear. I don’t see that much serious people who tale the time to soulsearch, and I see very, very few people who share their experience and give something back and new to the community as a whole, wether it is on boards or on a website (or whichever way suits you).

I fear for the few serious therian newcomers, finding only newbies, a self-proclamed greymuzzle or two, and arrogant forums dictators who will do nothing but put them into molds. And this it not just a nightmare, it’s already there in some places. I don’t think those who have never been part of the community can fully notice it, nor the newbies can. But I do believe that the community is changing, has constantly been evolving. That means some things can denegerate in a very negative way. Most of people aren’t aware of that; the community was there when they arrived, so it will always be there, right? I am not sure, and what will it be like? How much will remain? How many serious therians?

Perhaps one day I will withdraw from it too. Perhaps this day is closer than I think. For the moment I try actively to bring what I can to those who need it, before everything crashes, if it does. I care for the few serious people who might want help, I care about these animal-people. I had the chance to find good resources, and it helped me in some ways. I would like others to be as lucky, or even luckier. I want them to have the possibility to know what it was like before they arrived, and to find people who know what they’re talking about.

Before it’s too late.

[November 2004]

 … cages and illusions.

But it already is too late. I told you this day would come, and yes it came: I am withdrawing from this “were-scene”. I have grown up and realized I am not gaining anything anymore from being involved there. As for what I can bring, experience and thoughts, Thébaïde is where I share them. My opinion of the community has evolved with years, and if you don’t understand my views now, then perhaps someday.

I don’t know how to sum up my experience of this “scene” – as it is nothing more than a space for showing off. The problem is not just about the posers or fluffies. It is not about the confused people; they will eventually come to an understanding of themselves. The problem is that what you will find on forums is: on one side a few experienced people who claim to be here to help you, half of them actually wanting nothing more than control the place and possibly the minds – through their labels, rules and molds – and on the other side, a horde of people who convinced themselves they are animals, as well as real therians who are unable to distance themselves from the community, its terms and theories and politics. They want to sound more real and animal, “serious weres”, and I guess it wouldn’t be such an issue if they didn’t stomp on everybody around them in the processs of earning respect.

You will find cliques outside the community too. I just stick to the people who accept me, not those who would accept me if I buy their stuff. And this is what a lot of boards are about, they educate people in their own way. Learning some good things you also get formatted in the process. I believe one can find a balance between being in and out of the community, but I also believe that, from a certain moment, you just can’t stay in it unless ambition, fame or dependance keeps you in. Or just because you still hope that you can help people there, which I don’t believe in anymore. If you think I am insightful, okay whatever; e-mail me, but don’t expect me to get involved in pointless debates over werenames, past lives and packs. And stop with those topics about how does the moon affect therians and why are there more wolf people. Holliwood bollocks, that is all. And what about shifting anyway? You enter the community and “shifting” seems such a natural thing for everybody! But why? Wouldn’t it be because, again, therians must be similar to the werewolves of legends? Or because of the similarities with shamans and their science of shapeshifting? I believe that shifting is a valid experience, a natural way for our human brain to rationalize the animal side in us and deal with it, but it is surprising that nobody ever ask questions about it and that people assume most of therians must shift. This is a good exemple of how the community formats you, you just don’t question what you find there.

This has to be clear: therianthropy is not fast-food. Learning about your animalness is not about getting involved in a community as you enter in a restaurant to look at the menu and ask for what you want. The other day I was lurking on the ‘list, gave a link to the Con-word FAQ in case it could help, and this was soon followed by a comment from a newcomer asking “am I a contherian?” after a short, vague experiences summary. I’m not the one who will tell you, read and think for yourself, dammit. Reading is one thing, but pondering and questionning yourself is what matters. People don’t dig up old sites or research for the best stuff anymore. If you are interested in reading from others’ experience, don’t just join a board and sit on your ass until someone miraculously start an interesting topic. Go to people’s personal pages, search for the good places and read the content, check the links section to go to more sites, and so on. E-mail the people you think are interesting, with whom you could have constructive discussions. Let me tell you, interesting writing about therianthropy, I never found it on boards.

And this is why: informations on community sites are about the experience of the “werecommunity”, not of therianthropy. Most of the “2004” essays from the Nest deals with how to find oneself among all this shit; I’m almost done with it, and will now focus on personal experience. What do I mean with “articles dealing with the community”? Those articles aren’t about being animal-folk. C’mon, look at the forums. Newbies Guides. Terminology. Encyclopedias, wikis. Types of weres and shifts! *Snarls.* And yet “this is not for you to pick and choose!”. And while they say so, telling you that you don’t need labels, they create new ones so everybody can fit. You get it? Informations displayed on boards are about fitting in the community, in the terminology, and if you’re lucky you may find tips for introspecting and not-to-do’s, instead of just being told “go soulsearching!”by people who don’t even have a clue about how to do it. The knowledge over there is the experience you are capable of having on your own if you pay attention and if you question yourself as well as what you read. But this isn’t about being an animal inside and what it feels like.

The werecommunity is about anything but therianthropy. It is about the community itself, its rules and gurus. It is about young people who need to be accepted by their “peers”. People posturing. Arguing over labels and sementics. Pointless theories. People telling who and what they are with “I am similar to this or that label, and I experience this and that type of shifts, but…”. This space is not about being an animal, sharing one’s deep experience as being said animal, sharing what makes them different, how they view the world as being animal inside, how they integrate therianthropy in their life, and accepting the fact they also are human.

Being an animal-person actually isn’t about “growing and learning in the community”. It is about being yourself in your daily life. Those who understand it leave the place, because it’s a closed circuit. You don’t really grow in the community – you grow outside of it, when you question yourself laid down on your bed, sitting in a park or walking in the woods with others. Many of those who get stuck on the boards become passive, swallowing down what they read; people outside get active, stimulating each others while growing in their very own ways. And it’s not because there is a few exceptions that this is untrue.

And one last thing: this essay is not about telling you how foolish you are for staying in. I once was there and had some epiphanies, and I am writing this to let you know: if you are animal inside and if what you want is growing and learning as an animal-person, you don’t have to stay in the community. The people who know what they’re talking about may just no be there, and the right place to truely live who and what you are is offline, ultimately.

[June 2005]

Seniority

Seniority

Lately I’ve been pissed off by certain attitudes within the community. No, I’m not talking about the noobs who consider the community as a big resource of werebuddies, and don’t soulsearch at all once they found it. No, I’m not going to rant about the posers invasion either.

What gets on my nerves is some “ancient” members of the community, and their bunch of followers. A few therians who generally have been around in the community for a long time, sometimes since the beginning, and who brandish their “seniority” like a power over other therians. I am not talking about all the ancient people in the community, nor all the oldest. There are many experienced therianthropes I respect a lot, no matter their age, and no matter if they are inside or outside the werecommunity.

The people I’m talking about wouldn’t officially claim they know everything about therianthropy and the community, but it doesn’t keep them from acting as if it was the case in a very pretentious manner. They would bash newbies or use their seniority as a proof to valid their own assumptions, often trying to spread them as the Truth with a T, and use the influence they got within the community for their own comfort. Don’t think they are very marginal; they can be the people who own the boards you visit. Some of them are people you really respect.
They know it. They use it.

At first I didn’t notice either. What I saw was people who seemed to be critical towards flawed claims, who were experienced, who seemed to be open-minded. They would help people to question their therianthropy, sometimes bluntly, but honestly. After some times I noticed some of them (not all) weren’t that honest. I realized they could be harsh, sometimes really offensive. I began noticing when newbies were bashed before they could justify themselves and explain their thoughts, and I started to raise an eyebrow. When I saw these people claiming you couldn’t be what you are, I understood: yes, they can be open-minded… as long as you agree with their views. [See Shen Tirag’s essay The Therian is You for more about how to deal with people telling you the way you’re supposed to be and think.]

Another example. I was reading a famous therian board when I came across an introduction topic in which someone claimed to be a greymuzzle. I commented on that post saying it’s not humble to call oneself a greymuzzle; I find that saying so in one’s intro really sounds like a strategy to win the admiration of the masses, and it does work to some extent. The author replied that he uses the term for himself because other people would call him that way in the past. Ok, but does that mean there is no consequences when one uses the term? I disagree, no matter if people in the past called him so or not. Beside, I spend a lot of time looking up what’s left of the community’s archives and communities, and I never heard about that person as an active or helpful member. That’s the moment you wonder what the “critical moderators” are doing and why they allow some behaviours. But it doesn’t matter! People who had been around some times in the past don’t need to justify themselves as long as they get along with the moderators. Seems unfair, isn’t it? Well, it wouldn’t be a problem if other people on the boards would speak their mind. Unfortunately they rarely do. They prefer avoiding the risk of becoming a troublemaker and outcast.

I am really disapointed by some people I respected. It doesn’t matter if they are ancient or simple members of the community: I just can’t stand the former for being so arbitrary and power thirsty, and the latter aren’t any better when they act like brainless followers. I can’t tolerate that some of my friends leave the community because of people preaching their bullshit on therianthropy and ass-kicking when someone disagree. I’m sick and tired of it, I don’t think I’m going to stay involved in any place like that… in a place that doesn’t enable real discussions anymore, because your opinion get bashed when it doesn’t fit with the moderator’s Bible of Therianthropy. Slowly but surely, the list of boards where people can be themselves decreases. Some communities took advantage of the “good resource” label they got with time, and allow themselves to spread bullshit and act unfairly, because anyway newbies need acceptance too much to leave them and nobody would dare doing something against the most ancient and respected members of this community, no matter if the way they act now isn’t right anymore.

Don’t help any so-called experienced therian being an asshole. Stop sticking your tongue up these people’s ass. Don’t let them stand on your toes, speak your mind, and please don’t bangwagon and act the same as they do; you earn no respect in that. You don’t need a community made of people like that. Actually, you don’t need the werecommunity at all. If you are searching for advices, you can find plenty of wiser people who will be helpful and open-minded elsewhere. It’s not because some therians and communities are the most known or the oldest that they give the best help.

That’s my piece of advices.

Therianthropy

Therianthropy

What is therianthropy? This label covers a broad range of experiences, definitions vary from individual to individual; this one isn’t the end of all. Most explanations of therianthropy are very caught in jargon or justifications of a spiritual nature. I don’t find they work well at explaining what this is all about for people who aren’t familiar with such concepts already, or for those of us who are skeptical individuals, so I’ve written my own introduction to the subject to accommodate most audiences.

Therianthropy is a constant state of being, a way of experiencing and perceiving the world that leads a person to identify as an animal; thus a therianthrope (or therian for short) is a person who, while acknowledging their human body, feels and thinks they are a non-human animal in a non-physical way.

The term comes from the Greek therion, meaning beast, and anthropos standing for human being, man. While the word is similar to “lycanthropy“, therianthropy is not a mental illness and does not refer to any sort of mythological creature either. Therianthropy relates to one’s sense of self, one’s identity. Each individual entertains their own theories on why they are what they are, ranging from spiritual explanations (souls, reincarnations, past lives) to scientific takes on the subject (psychology, atypical neurobiology, and such as). Therefore, being a therianthrope can be described in different ways depending on who you ask: having the soul of an animal, or being an animal mind in a human body, or feeling body dysmorphia/dysphoria regarding their biological species, and such as. These aren’t mutually exclusive. The animal a therian identifies as is their theriotype.

Many therians experience supernumerary phantom limbs, where they feel body parts that do not exist in reality. As an example, a bird therian may feel wings in their back or as their physical arms, or a dog therian may feel canine ears and a tail, or a muzzle over their face. Some therians experience these phantom limbs constantly, while others may have more fleeting sensations depending on their mood or environmental triggers. Not all therianthropes experience phantom limbs, and some people might experience phantom sensations that are unrelated to their animal identity, therefore they are not always a reliable clue that someone is a therian or has a certain theriotype.

Therianthropy is not the same as totemism, where one has a spiritual guide or mental archetype from which they may draw on animal attributes. In totemism, the animal is a symbolical or external entity distinct from the person, while therians feel they are the animal themselves. As such we can note that therians can have totems too and those often are unrelated to what animal they identify as; it is possible for a therian to mistake a personal animal spirit with their actual theriotype. Therianthropy is not a religion or spirituality, in the sense that stopping to believe in one’s animal identity doesn’t make the experience of said animality disappear. You cannot choose to be a therian, much like with other core components of someone’s individuality (such as sexual orientation).

Therianthropes are also not to be confused with furries. As a rule, furry fans are interested in anthropomorphic animals in art, role-play, costuming and other media, and may use animal characters to represent themselves and interact in the furry fandom. Therianthropes, on the other hand, believe they are the animal literally (in a non-physical way). It should be noted though that there can be some overlap between the two: some furries may feel an emotional connection with an animal to the point of identification, and some therians may participate in the furry fandom. A therian may also first identify as furry if they are unaware of the existence of the therian community.

Although the concept of being animal inside is not new regarding the history of humanity, the therian subculture is rather recent. In the early 90’s was created a Usenet newsgroup for discussing werewolves in myth, fiction and movies: alt.horror.werewolves, also known as AHWw. At some point someone there asked if anyone had ever identified as a werewolf, and soon emerged the concept of therianthropy, detracting the community from its original purpose. After a few years though the place got abusively trolled and its carcass abandoned. Nowadays a myriad of different websites and forums for therianthropes can be found through the web, each with their own beliefs and definitions.

Because the therian subculture grew from a werewolves fans group and later became populated by folk with animistic beliefs, a lot of therian sites have stayed both very spiritual and wolf-centric. A lot of definitions of therianthropy start as “therianthropy is the belief that…” even though many therians are not spiritual or have other explanations for their animal identity. We can also remember that in their early days therians called themselves “weres”, which was the short for werewolf or any sort of werecreature. Theriotypes were called “weresides” or “phenotypes”. For some times, were, therian, animal-person and similar terms were used interchangeably to mean the same thing. “Were” eventually fell out of use, helped by the fact the furry fandom used it for other purposes, which led to much confusion. The previous terminology can still be found in older essays and websites.

Another element remnant of the werewolf folklore as well as shamanistic beliefs is the concept of “shifting”. Obviously animal-people do not believe they can physically turn into an animal. However while some individuals experience their animality in an unchanging, steady way, a lot of therianthropes may feel more or less intensely animal at times, and refer as “shift” to any change in animality they experience. With time a terminology appeared to categorize people in how they experience the animal, and shifts in how they affect the individual (the usefulness of some those labels can be debatable). Because this detailed jargon is not necessary to understand the concept of therianthropy, I won’t develop the topic further.

Now that I’m over with the classical explanations, I must stress that I’m not an active part of the therian community anymore. To me the meat of being an animal-person revolves around concrete experiences and not debating over theories.

I am an animal-person. I am a clouded leopard, a common raven, and a human all at once. Identity is made up of many aspects, mental representations and other concepts, and one of them is gender identity and one of them is my animal identity instead of a purely human one. This is another of my specificities, like I am masculine and French. I can’t say I was “born” this way; you aren’t who you are now from birth, there are a lot of educational/social factors involved. Maybe I have an atypical brain and it was likely from that start that I’d grow into that sort of atypical individual, who knows. I didn’t wake up one day thinking “ah! I really am nonhuman“. There was no “Awakening” with a capital A from some traumatic event, no romanticized sort of call brought by mighty animal guides. The realization of my animal nature was pretty ordinary and drama-free. For most of us that’s just the sort of thing that becomes clear someday, because it would show in our daily life and we end up understanding in which ways we differ from other people.

Being an animal in a human world is not something that makes me better than everyone else. It does not give me excuses to act poorly, because I am a mature individual and it’s not okay to piss on wheel trims or snarl at people. Therianthropy isn’t about faith or delusion. If I stop believing I’m an animal, if I don’t want to be one, it does not go away. I cannot suppress the feeling that my body should be like this and this, that I should be able to see my spots, touch my feathers and feline ears. I am stuck with the urge to lick my shoulder or hiss or sniff people and things. I cannot help the inside of me from clenching when I see other big cats or corvids because I’m like them and yet I’m not. I can’t say “this can’t be”, because it sticks to me; something I can’t touch but that’s very much real and here.

That’s what being an animal-person is about: living as someone both human and animal – and trying to find balance and happiness in this. Sometimes it’s awkward, sometimes it’s beautiful, other times it’s pretty mundane. So is life.

Anyway I’m rambling; if you’re interested in what it’s like to be a clouded leopard/raven person and other musings, I have a lot of writings in the Croaks section. If you think you may be a therian and are looking for insights, you might want to first check my older essays under Echoes; those are records of common sense and personal experience that might be useful to you. Or maybe not. There are many other websites out there. Just keep a critical mind.