In the past, I broke down the way in which I am an animal-human person into three components: form, function, symbolism. A superficial separation, but useful. Lately, I’ve been digging through the past decade of writing, from 2005 to now, to bring it together in one place. This is my experience of therianthropy, and naturally not the all encompassing authority on how others experience their own.
It is easy to get caught up in the simplicity of a summary of the word ‘therianthropy’ and to put aside the flesh in favour of the skeleton. When saying I am an animal, context is everything.
I am a human animal, homo sapiens, as we all are. And I am a nonhuman animal, the sick imitation of a flying, furred pest which is part of the chiroptera order, as less of us are.
Sometimes this feels like a somewhat ridiculous joke. This massively time consuming thing that defines (a part of) my life. Being a bat and a human person is intensely physical for me, despite the fact that my physical body is fully human, no magic involved, no shape shifting, no fantasy.
The feeling of loss and disorientation that comes out of this body, obligated to travel along the ground, to have massive legs, to be missing body structure, fingers long by human standards and stubby by a bat’s, can be awful. Cannot climb, cannot cling to stone or bark, cannot dive. Other times the awfulness ceases to exist and it’s just the feeling of strangeness. I’ll find myself trying to move in ways I can’t, or, when planning out a course of action, relying on resources I don’t have. I’ll embarrass myself without realizing I’m doing it. I’ll trip and fall on my face. I’ll open my arms and forget they aren’t wings, even after years and years of self-correction. Sometimes we just need to let ourselves do that all, though. To find a place where we can be ourselves, and take a break from suppressing all the fucked up.
When I was a child, I recognized immediately that bats looked remarkably like humans, their skeletons at the very least. In my mind, if humans could fly we would likely look just like smooth-faced bats, only with weird ears, and no fur. I told myself, bats are incredibly human, or humans are incredibly bat-like. It is my normal. Livejournal 2008
Describing my relationship to bats is difficult. For almost any therian this seems the same. It is an integrated thing, a hundred pieces of details with weak descriptions that must be put into one whole and never viewed as separate. It’s why we have so often told people, “Growling by itself doesn’t make a person a therianthrope.”
Human and bat, both are reflected in my mindset, my behaviour, the way I use my body, my self-concept. I have, whether aware of it or not, grown alongside my own concepts of bat. Does it change my aspirations, my future plans? It shapes them.
Some people love the forest because it comforts them, or is beautiful, or peaceful, or home. I love the forest because it is home. I grew up in a forest, in a rural area. My history and being a bat person draws me in and leaves me deeply unhappy when in the culture shock of the city. The need to find dark spaces, to find caverns or hollows safe to rest in, to wait for twilight, to escape the sun, to search for water all comes from two places. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
This is my normal. Have I felt different all my life? I can’t remember. To know I felt different, I would have needed to have a good understanding of other people, to compare myself to them, but for most of my childhood I was so wrapped up in my own little world that people and my similarities to them were irrelevant. It was only as a young adult and onward that I realized I didn’t feel different, I simply was different. Not unique, not special, not drastically odd, just a bit alone in my experience and more than a bit lonely, certainly isolated, maybe frustrated, and shamefully idiotic sounding if I spoke about it.
It’s an important distinction that we are all 'different’. No person is a clone of another. Everything we do is human, because we are human and we contribute to the collective pool of human traits.
A lot of me fits together likely because of coincidence. That’s fine. We grow as we age. We change. At the same time, in the turbulence of that change, and the unsettling reality of me, exists a part that is not human and it has always stayed.
How can I know exactly [how a bat sees things] without speaking to a bat? It’s not how [our theriotype] sees the world; it’s how [we] see the world and [we] interpret that sight to be animal. 2008
Experiencing the world like a bat would? I experience the world as a perversion of bat.
And I just feel like myself.
words, words, words. 2016.