An Open Letter To My Furry Friend Who Very Obviously Has Species Dysphoria
Listen. You can just be nonhuman. It’s okay. You don’t have to construct these elaborate excuses to be seen and recognized as the creature you feel inside. There’s no need to ‘trick’ me into referring to you as such. You don’t have look to roleplay for an excuse to refer to your tail or claws or horns.
You can, as a being who can self-reflect on its identity, find that ‘human’ is not part of it. You can, as a being who shapes and produces language, make choices about what words are used in reference to yourself. If it feels right to call yourself a monster, that’s all the justification you need. You don’t even need permission – but if you feel like it would help, you can have mine. I give you permission to refer to yourself as a nonhuman creature with no caveats or justifications.
Because I get it. It can be hard to allow yourself to see your feelings as sincere, and even harder to think they deserve to be recognized as such. The implicit stigma against nonhumanity becomes patently explicit on the internet; it’s 2018 and we’re still making furry jokes. Hell, even among furries there can be this attitude. The people who insist it’s just a hobby and they don’t let it rule their lives like some people – I’m sure you’ve seen them too. Remember when ‘furry lifestyler’ was a prominent term? Remember when we made that distinction?
Because, yeah, it’s not typical to feel nonhuman. We can admit that much. In fact, so many people identify with humanity to such an extent that there’s almost no room for an alternative. That humanity is a uniquely actualized thinking being elevated above other forms of life is considered beyond a given. So not only is there no space for discussions on how to deal with being nonhuman, there’s no space to consider that people could feel that way at all.
But you do. And it hurts. Maybe you don’t hate your body all the time, or even most of the time. But when you think about yourself, that’s not what you see. When you look in the mirror, you don’t grok the thing looking back at you. You’ve spent so much of your life wishing for something else, and in a lot of ways this fandom gives you that but it also serves to highlight the juxtaposition of body and soul. You’re furry Icarus and your melting wings have dropped you right into the uncanny valley.
I feel this way too. I clipped a fox tail to my belt the other day – the weight of it on my back felt very right, and the fact that I couldn’t just move it felt very wrong. In the end, I felt kinda shitty. Then I felt stupid for getting upset about something as silly as a tail.
But it’s not stupid. I promise.
And I’m not saying that like I expect it to magically poof all your doubt away. Self acceptance doesn’t happen overnight. You might even deny that there’s anything about yourself that needs accepting right now. That’s okay. I’m not gonna force the issue. I’m not here to convince you that you are nonhuman. The only thing I want you to take away from this is that, if you are, it’s okay.
You can even be nonhuman privately. You can hold this imperceptible truth in your heart, and carry it with you through your life, without anyone knowing. Nobody has to know for it to be true. You can decide this thing to yourself and you don’t even have to do anything about it, if you don’t want to.
But, should you want to do something about it, that’s okay too. Maybe you do want to call yourself nonhuman and that’s your big hurdle to overcome. If you say it, that makes it real, and if it’s real, then it can affect you. That’s why it’s not affecting you at all right now, right?
Yeah. Self-acceptance is important, dude. If you are dysphoric about your species identity, and it is bothering you, then I think you owe it to yourself to acknowledge that. Oh, I’m still speaking purely hypothetically, of course! Your hurt by any other name, or no name at all, would still hurt just as bad. You would still complain to me time and again how desparately you wanted a tail, or claws, or horns. You would still resent being called human – you just wouldn’t have anything to call yourself instead.
Not that calling yourself nonhuman necessarily fixes that. It might! For some people it really is as simple as putting a name to their feelings and understanding why they feel that way. But in case it isn’t for you, it still serves as a good first step to Doing Something About It.
I will reiterate: not only is it perfectly okay to be nonhuman, and feel things because of your nonhumanity, but it’s also absolutely fine to do things because of your nonhumanity. You don’t have to justify why you wanted to see How To Train Your Dragon to me. You don’t have to come up with a plausible, respectable reason to wear prosthetic horns. When you refer to yourself as a monster, you don’t have to couch it in a certain level of metaphor before it becomes okay to say. Expressing yourself, your real self, is legitimate by its own merit.
I get that this might feel like a difficult idea to apply to yourself.
Like, maybe you can readily accept the notion of someone being nonhuman as long as that someone isn’t you. Because you don’t actually feel nonhuman. Your nonhumanity is just a metaphor, a persona, you don’t feel it hard enough, you don’t want it bad enough. You’re hardly intending to become the next Stalking Cat. Listen. There’s no minimum requirement. You can just be nonhuman.
That is, of course, if you want to. It sounds quite a bit like you want to, from my perspective, but I’m not here to tell you what’s what. All I want to tell you is that if you were nonhuman, and if you decided to call yourself that, the sky wouldn’t fall down. If you wanted to be acknowledged as such, the planet wouldn’t explode. If you decided to wear a tail because it made you feel more like yourself, there wouldn’t be riots in the street.
Alright, okay. You might get laughed at. Insulted, even. Harassed. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t drawbacks. But there are ways to live your truth that don’t expose you to any more judgement than you can take. You can just be nonhuman to yourself, and wear those prosthetic ears around the house when nobody else is in. You can just be nonhuman to your close friends, and have them call you a monster in private conversations. You can just be nonhuman to the rest of us, who are nonhuman too. We get it.
Justification beyond that is outwith the scope of this diatribe, I think. We’re kind of taking it as a given that, more often than not, authentic self expression is good. You can agree with that, right? What I’m trying to explicate here is that your feelings of nonhumanity are authentic. If they are, then logically, it would follow that expressing those is good, too.
Well, they are. You feel them, don’t you? You feel them whether you ignore them or indulge them. You feel them enough that you’ve tried to indulge them, by entering furry spaces, by envisaging and drawing what you really ought to look like, by getting into situations where people talk about you that way. That’s okay. It’s okay to do those things. I do them too, and I’ve found it incredibly gratifying, healing, even. I see what hurts when you do let it slip and I recognize it as the same stuff in myself. And if I can do it, you can do it too.
Go on. It’s okay. I promise.
You can just be nonhuman.