Liminal Animal

Liminal Animal

I don’t believe in a vacuum regarding identity. We construct ourselves alongside or in opposition with other people and things, though we’re not immediately aware of it. Sometimes it’s opposing the animal and human, nature vs culture, sometimes it’s opposing some animals to other ones – feline is not canine. Serpent is not mammal. Sometimes it’s even more specific. But at some point there is the Other, it’s not just about ego. Denying this is denying that the world shapes you more than you control who you are. And you shouldn’t feel helpless nor be afraid; rather, you should face it and study it to understand it. It’s only once things make sense that you can reappropriate them and have more control over your path.

I am a clouded leopard. I act like one, feel a tail, paws, teeth like one. I am not a clouded leopard because I sound like one, vaguely, when looking into animal symbolism. First I am a transboy and clouded leopard, and then I find meaning and correlations; I didn’t pick either, it’s not about attraction to a pre-existing concept or getting the closest thing to fit a personal theory. It’s what I am in the first place, period; I didn’t sit to ponder “how does my life translate into this?”, at some point the pattern jumped to my face. Then comes research and thinking and I find words and sense – or more questions. First the concrete experience, raw, intense; last the essay-writing on ponderings about archetypes. When I’m writing about this, what I’m saying isn’t “this is why I am X” or “this is what being X is all about”. I am saying “this is how it (experience) make sense to me (with my personal representations and history)” and this only is a tiny bit of my thoughts and life as a clouded leopard. To me being an animal is more than metaphorical.

There is Clouded Leopard with a capital C, and Raven from myths and tales. Sometimes we overlap, sometimes we don’t; sometimes I’m nothing like in the animal folklore. Sometimes my personal folklore is nothing like the actual animal – because there is no clouded leopard in Paris, for example. But other times like now I can talk about what clouded leopard and raven are and it is both experience and archetype. This is how identity works after all, with mental representations, personal history, imagery and symbols and other sorts of imprints in your psyche – something that grows with you, not some finished product you’re born with. So there is my idea of Raven and it is influenced by my own experience of raven, my totem, mythology I’ve known, people I’ve met and the actual animal. It’s not a sum of the existing folklore relating to Raven.

Even Jaguar, “my” Jaguar, may not be the same as yours or some culture’s Jaguar. I am not a jaguar but I’ve met Jaguar, experienced it since childhood and have researched; unconsciously I constructed my own perception of what “jaguar” is, and this is what I talk about when I use the word “representation”. It’s also a totem, but maybe as a kid Jaguar worked instead of the lack of clouded leopard folklore and feline model around. Perhaps if I had been told cloudypard tales instead, Jaguar’s role in my life would have been lesser. But I was a jungle kitty, felt Jaguar-Warrior/Hunter by my side, read on mythology and metaphors, and everything made sense. Still does nowadays, as a clouded leopard and transboy (see my Jaguar essay). This is not a thing I can erase to replace with something else, be it Clouded Leopard.

Clouded Leopard is not a Warrior. Clouded Leopard is both Traveller and Hunter, in this order. Which is why it is not interchangeable with Jaguar and both complete each other well. Clouded leopard is fierce but it is not a true fighter, most of time – achieving goals is more a matter of patience. Clouded Leopard doesn’t share Jaguar’s rage; both are differently intense, and they also work differently. Control: Clouded Leopard is about control directed towards the Self, Jaguar’s directed outside – not so disciplined about feelings. When it comes to anger and frustration, Jaguar is more harmful to others, obsessive and therefore self-destructive, while Clouded Leopard is more balanced – self-control, which sometimes can also be self-destructive when it’s solely about repressing. I felt Jaguar’s overwhelming rage and had to learn how to channel and use it by myself; but His discipline in other domains may inspire me.

Clouded Leopard is about balance because it is in-between – modern and ancient, small and big. Tense but not frighten. Fortitude rather than fearlessness. Sometimes elusive but not magnificient. Showing trickster traits, yet not being a feline Coyote. Half-saber-toothed, yet alive. Perhaps it’s easy to be a Mediterranean clouded leopard then; Horace said in medio stat virtus. Being a clouded leopard is being a liminal cat. Being both cat and corvid is being an liminal animal. Being both human and animal is being a liminal being – and so is being a traveller, oneironaut or trans person.

Gender VS Animality

Gender VS Animality

A while ago, on the Animal Lounge, Liesk asked to the tranimal folk out there if being trans was related in any way to their therianthropy, or something along the lines of how does one element mesh with the other. I’ve been Internetless for a few months so as I couldn’t reply at the moment, I thought I’d write an essay on this offline and post it later.

Let’s put this straight: no, for the most part I don’t think there is some kind of meaningful connection between the two things for me, but that’s the reason I want to develop and write this. Maybe this is a try to sort things out in details, dig a little deeper and put onto paper thoughts I’ve mulled over for a while. Another thing that got me thinking is, sure there are a bunch of gender-variant people around, as in people who say they don’t identify much with the gender people slap onto them, and a couple of people who clearly identify as Female to Male or such, but most of them haven’t started transitioning (which is totally fine). So I’m writing this as some kind of entertainment and for the records.

This is where I stand: I am a transguy. Female to Other if you want the specifics, but suffice to say that I was raised as a woman and I prefer male pronouns. I’m not really female anymore and I don’t want to be exactly like a biological man. I identify with the masculine end of androgyny, or the androgynous end of masculinity, whichever. I’ve been taking testosterone since the beginning of 2007, and now it shows enough that I’m perceived as male most of time; generally as long as I want to, but I’m fine discussing gender topics with most people so I easily talk about my transidentity. Things are different than from the time I was out or stealth without passing as a man, and I’ve learned and grown a lot as a person since then.

I’m an animal-person. I shy away from the term “therianthrope” because therians are people who read about the concept of therianthropy and feel it sounds like what they are, whereas I just am a raven and clouded leopard. Felinity is easier to word because it’s unambiguous; ravenness is harder to describe but as much present. Animality’s another identity-thing along with gender, and both are constant enough that I don’t vary in masculinity, felinity or ravenness over time. I guess that’s the only common pattern, unless you take transpecism, trans-identity and synaesthesia together as a pattern for “brain-fucked”. I’m not interested in discussing animal identity with non-therians, so I only tell good friends and mention it once in a while.

I don’t feel my animal aspects have a gender. I don’t have animals in my head that have their own identities, nor do I identify as an animal of a specific sex – I don’t believe I’m a male raven, as an example. Gender identity is one thing, species identity is another. I’m both clouded leopard and masculine, so I may be similar to a male clouded leopard, but outside of mating and raising cubs most cats tend to do the same job in the wild, so I won’t speculate about what feline gender roles are supposed to be like. Maybe I would think otherwise if I identified as an animal that has marked sexual dimorphism, but even if I see ravens and clouded leopards in general as gender-neutral, I don’t think of them as such because I am androgynous, nor do I identify as androgynous because my animals sound gender-neutral.

Besides, androgyny is about being ambiguous, both feminine and masculine, while neutrality tends more towards being non- or agendered; a lack of gender or, arguably, another gender entierely that does not appear on the masculine-feminine spectrum. Everybody exhibit gendered-connoted traits, so like with perfection you can only get close to neutrality, not reach it. We’re not machines.

When I experience the social world, people put gender on the foreground. I would get on the underground train, a clouded ravenpard trans person in a human environment. On the way back the train is crowded and I get pressed against two pretty russian women, kissing and holding hands, who notice me with interest, exchange a few words, probably pondering whether I’m a boy or a butch dyke, smiling and making eyes at me for a long moment. I successively:

1) get annoyed at the crowd in my personal space
2) am reminded I’m French and I don’t get a word of what they say
3) am reminded my gender is less than clear for some people
4) suppose I’m attractive?…
5) “… shit” *Turns head and blushes furiously.*

Ego-boost = +1; social skills = 0.

I deal better with criticism.

Animality exists independently from other’s actions, in what gets my attention, my specific sense of territoriality, my thoughts. People can only act and react to it in a primal and generic way, primate at most but non-feline and non-corvine; and it can be confusing to me. Whereas gender is much more interactive and folk more consciously and aggressively seek for it, for clues to adapt and communicate accordingly (that can confuse me as well). What I’m getting at is that the expression and existence itself of gender is much more tied to the people thereabouts, like invisible ink only showing under a warm lamp; otherwise the script is non-existent. Animality is more like some discreet, obscure form of Braille – ever-existing script perceptible under light as in darkness, but unless people know how to make sense of it, it will only be like any texture and won’t exist as a meaningful message.

Whatever, fuck the 3am comparisons. Anyway, Liesk raised another interesting point asking why he kept stumbling upon female-bodied gender-variant animal-folk, specifically, and where the male-bodied people were. Maybe the answer lies in how most folk’s identity contructs itself – if you know how identity, gender and other mental representations work in society. Biological men tend to construct their conception of gender opposing the feminine and masculine aspect, pretty much. The binarism is more likely inherently stronger.

This feminine/masculine opposition is not so much the identity core of most women-raised people; maybe this allow female-bodied individuals to construct their identity more easily outside of binary norms, and help allowing more fluidity and (self)acceptance of those “different” identities. I know of many more FtMs who are “gender-fluid”, or non-binary in some ways, than MtFs; just like I know more biological women who do not identify with what women are supposed to be like, than biological men not playing the traditional masculine roles, even though they have more freedom and privileges, being the dominant figures of our hetero-patriarchal society. Of course that’s just a general tendency and individuals still vary a lot from each others.

My identity is outside of binary norms, and it translates into my body as well. I do not fit the scientific definitions of male and female. This is a trans body, with its own specificities – and it is my body, no “error” there, no need to victimize myself. I just want to make it better, and better is not akin to a standard male body. If I could have fangs and fur that’d be great, but it’s not possible and I can live without writing angsty poems about it. Transition actually brought some “plus” regarding animality. My voice now sounds more like a croaking purr, and while I kept my light bones, I took some pounds of muscles. My body frame is more feline and bird-like than ever. My short mohawk is both fur and feather-crest. Even though I cannot say animality and gender really mesh together, physical transition affects both.

The Werewolf figure is not the “Other” anymore – this creature of folklore that belongs to canine-people. Without trying, with no warning, I reappopriated it through transition. It meant nothing to me, other than being of some interest in fiction. Now my body’s transforming, covering in hair. It starts on the legs and climbs up my thighs, on the front and inside; the down on my tummy lengthens and darkens imperceptibly more with time. Then the hair spreads from arms to hands, and my jawline and cheeks grow something more of a beard. My muscles increase tenfold, some clothes significantly tighten. Voice gets low and husky, body scents change. Transmen probably are the closest relatives to werewolves together with Canis lupus.

I guess I could relate to were-leopards or bird shapeshifters, since I’m a ravenpard, but really, gender and animality are pretty unrelated to me. The first furry animal-human creature in my at-least-partially-French imagery is the werewolf, the loup-garou, so that’s what comes to my mind and that’s apparently how I articulate the freak part of my identity as a transguy. I could as well have identified as a cyborg of some sort; some trans people have done that. I actually think of it about surgery, but that’s not as strong. Maybe once I get cut on the slab and stitched back, I’ll be a cyborg, or a Frankeinstein monster. For now, without it being therianthropic in the least way, I feel like some kind of werewolf.

Unrelated to the fact I’m a raven and clouded leopard. Unexpected. Likewise I got a bridge piercing as I’ve wanted one for a long time, and wearing it reminds me of what snarling can feel like – I can’t put that into words. This isn’t a gender thing, but another kind of body mod that holds a special meaning to me. I find no real connection between animality and gender, but it seems to intertwine with many other facets of my life.

The Thirst

The Thirst

We’re just ghosts, most of time. We see clues or presences around us and we figure people exist and are as real as we are. Maybe I know you and you check this place once in a while, or perhaps we’ve never met and you still watch from afar. I am not pure intellect hanting the web, ever musing, ever writing animal blurbs. I speak a different language, am from a different culture. I have a specific voice and smell and I live in the concrete world struggling with my own issues, overcoming my own fears. I have friends, real life friends, who can touch me and love me and we laugh together. I am real.

Sometimes I write to other animal-people or read a webpage, but when I shut off the computer I’m still the same, still a clouded ravenpard and transboy, and surely more than ever as I’m confronting concrete things, perceiving and experiencing them fully. I am tense; all tail-twitch and wings-flap, and snarling and watching cat-like. The animal doesn’t disappear until next time I connect and chat, the animal is me and crawling in my skin anytime. Many people get the feline thing, sometimes they see me as bird too. I am not much interested in discussing animal identity with non-therians but I am not especially stealth. Most of my friends know, and once in a while I make a related comment and they nod. Not all of them are trans, none of them seem animal, but there is no questionning because identity is louder than norms.

I take the train regulary to go south and today we had a survey. There was the usual “are you a: [ ] woman, [ ] man” section, and I wrote [ ] other and checked all boxes. I don’t know exactly what people see when they see me but they seem intrigued. Is it the androgyny, that they can’t tell my age, the mohawk or piercings? A mix of everything? I sat on a bench that day and watched them like I often do, and they seemed as alien to me, but that’s okay. I enjoyed the sun through the leaves on my skin and wondered who they were (who are you?). Probably it’s why I feel the most inspired when I’m out; this world is full of possibilities. I’m intense and receptive, and I want to feel, taste, smell, explore and write about everything.

I like the city. I love Paris. It’s grey and polluted like most of metropolises and the weather almost reminds me of UK, but there are a lot of things to see and do, a lot of people to meet. Density of more than 24,000 people per km², subway with the most dense provision of stations in the world, and 250km of catacombes underneath. I went down by night through a secret entrance and explored for a few hours with friends. Walked in mud and knee-high water, climbed on huge telecom wires and rusted ladders, crawled in passages full of human bones. Did not walk on the dead, did not steal bits of skulls. When you stay very still and shut off your cap lamp, there only is perfect darkness and the faint echoes of tiny drops of water in tunnels. Did not talk much that night, stayed quiet and wide-eyed, sniffing the air, moving agilely through narrow corridors and “cat flaps”, and musing. Cave ravenpard on a journey to the antechamber of chtonian gods’ underworld.

Then the police or some cataphile trickster removes the ladder to the way out and you’re back being a simple person with no wings to escape. No bird-panic though, only the travelling-exploring bliss-contentment with head-on-shoulders. Walk some more, take other tunnels to a closed down railway. Surface again. The lamps are off to not attract attention but I can discern on either side abandonned junk and plants cascading down huge dark walls, contrasting with the lighter and starless urban red night-sky. Feeling so alive. There is beauty and magic in the city. Our amateur-guide said I was doing great for a first time and I’d be a good guide. I blushed and thought of clouded leopard folklore.

People I connect with are rare because I am rare – not better no, just different. They often are trans and animal, though not always. I do not seek animal-people specifically. I have a thirst for experiencing and learning, and that sometimes includes exchanging with interesting people, and people I’m interested in can happen to be trans or animal. They also are those who understand me the best. The rest of time I’m more of a loner. I have met animal folk in the concrete world on rare occasions but we hadn’t more in common. I also have met several furries who would say “I’m a wolf”, and that was it, like a blank statement. They did not get it. I wonder how many animal people there are around if there is any, but I do not really want them so much as the animal friends I relate to and know. Heart-family, though this isn’t a closed circle. Sometimes I can be happy just writing to them or talking to them over the phone. Right now though, I’d rather hang out with and touch them, and do things together.

However I am not fooling myself. I’ve just settled here with my friends around, and I’m already planning travels, exchange trips and such to visit the rest of my heart-family. I know someday I’ll cross the ocean, and when I get there, I’ll want to explore more and go further. You know, that Traveller thing I regulary mention. Wanderlust. Friends are welcome to join in – but I just can’t help thinking and evolving and walking that sort-of-path. I don’t think I was made a certain way with a Purpose, some sort of destiny I cannot escape. I am the result of a person that’s been through specific events, with a specific history; some things I can change, others I have no control over. So I happen to be this way, and I chose a name for it and chose to live it to the fullest. There is this fire-thirst burning inside that makes me move forward, and without this and the strength to fight, I’d be dead. It’s something precious that I want to cherish. I don’t want to make compromises, at most I only want to take my time.

That’s my Thirst, and it’s both thirst/hunger and drive, drive to explore, learn, go further, walk underground and dream and ink. Not a mere need or wish – a fucking burst that makes you ear-forward with fur standing on end. Electric tail, intense raven-cat watching, pounding-heart all fuzzy inside that feels like gravity excepts it lifts you up above-ahead and not down against rocks. You can’t always notice because you’re not paying attention to my breathe, you can’t hear my heartbeat; but it’s there. It’s here and running through my spirit through my body through blood in the pard in the bird in the guy. From bones and guts to fingertips, exstatic.