“Monsters, Vampires, and Personal Animality” (March 2012)
To set up some initial context of what I mean by “monster” in this writing, I’ll quote the beginning of the Wikipedia article on “Monster” because I feel it sums it up well enough.
From Wikipedia “Monster” article:
A monster is any fictional creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is somewhat hideous and may produce fear or physical harm by either its appearance or its actions. The word "monster" derives from Latin monstrum, an aberrant occurrence, usually biological, that was taken as a sign that something was wrong within the natural order.
The word connotes something wrong or evil; a monster is generally morally objectionable, physically or psychologically hideous, and/or a freak of nature. It can also be applied figuratively to a person with similar characteristics like a greedy person or a person who does horrible things.
Vampires are one of the “monsters”, per se, that have haunted us, or our predecessors—their psyches and their myths, legends, or folklore—for centuries. Though more so in the past hundred or so years, vampires have been able to captivate a much larger audience in a way that seems, on a general, wide scale, to be a mix of fear/repulsion/hate and intrigue/envy/fondness. However, some versions of vampires, especially in the recent decade or so, have been particularly diluted, even sugar-coated, into creatures that are barely a sliver of the many things they once were and represented. Even still, although I have a notable interest and ‘connection’ of sorts in vampire fiction (more so than in most of the folklore and legends of them) and I’m apt to watch or read about vampires in a variety of fictional forms, I have my own view of them that doesn’t comfortably fit in the “sugar-coated or delightfully dreamy” category, nor in the “vicious, terrible monsters that should ultimately be feared, if not outright decimated” category. My view also doesn’t tend to fall in line with those who view them in an almost envious light or seek to roleplay or lifestyle as “vampires”. Vampires to me aren’t undead creatures (let alone “monsters”), nor demons, and I don’t see them as being particularly “gothic”, nor some kind of social trend. Granted, a lot of my view on vampires stems heavily from my perspective as an “animal-person” (in so many senses of the phrase), especially in regards to my therianthropy and even more specifically in my identification as a sort of “vampire” that I opt for just calling a ‘blutpir’.
I see vampires through a perspective of them being a kind of ‘amplified’ animal-human—or human-like beings with characteristics, mentally, behaviorally, and physically, that correlate strongly to non-human animals (or, at the least, a much baser, primal part of our human selves), and not just primates, either (more cat-like, actually, if anything). They are not inherently evil, nor inherently good, nor benign. They are a prominent mix of human and non-human animal, leading a life in a careful balancing act that requires them to embrace (or at least well utilize) their human-like aspects, especially human-like cognizance, while having notable levels of ‘animal’ instinct, desires, and drives that seem amplified beyond what most humans experience (or that the instincts, drives, etc. are things that humans typically wouldn’t experience, in their specifics). These such vampires may struggle to achieve and sustain a proper balance between what is “human-like” in them and what is “non-human-like”, while simultaneously going to significant lengths to sustain a guise of them being completely human as they live, function, and feed (by whatever means) in a culture and society dominated by humans—creatures similar to them (the vampires) but still notably different. So much of their survival appears to be dependent on their ability to successfully hide what they really are.
This doesn’t, however, mean that they are necessarily “pretending to be human”—for some, it may be closer to pretending or ‘acting’ out a role as a human, while for others it may be a matter of them embracing and accepting what is already human within them while having to subdue or otherwise obscure what is ‘non-human’ within them. My experiences in identifying as a blutpir (of course, non-physically that is) are much more like the latter kind than the former, in that I don’t feel like I am pretending to be a human, mimicking humans in order to function and survive well enough—instead I accept and readily embrace my humanity, and have throughout my life. However, it’s also tended to mean that certain aspects of my non-human animality (including parts of my blutpir-aspect) I have felt the need, even if subconsciously, to hide from most people. At this point anymore, I’m fairly balanced in terms of my therianthropy—all of my theriotypes along with my humanity—and I don’t feel a need or worthwhile point in sharing that part of my animality beyond a small amount of people I have met in person/offline and the therian/otherkin communities in general online. I’m not so much ‘hiding’ my therianthropic animality anymore to most people because of my own fears or to ‘protect’ myself, but instead there’s just not really much point in drawing particular attention to it, along with the fact that it’s well enough integrated and balanced in my life that it wouldn’t tend to manifest in a way that people would even notice as “non-human” anyway.
Blutpir, however, is still a rather obscured part of me that I’ve always sought to hide it from all but maybe one or very few people. Sure, some aspects of it come through in ways that I’ve shared with other people, including things I’ve talked about online in my writings (especially considering how much of blutpir overlaps with my cat theriotype), but some things that seem to capture even more of a deep essence of what blutpir is, I learned (or probably more so perceived it the better option) in my childhood and early adolescence to keep hidden from nearly everyone. Honestly, my logical mindedness clues me in that it wouldn’t really be that big of a deal, per se, to most people I could tell about it (regardless of if they are therian/otherkin or even very close to me personally or not), or even if I could somehow “show” it (behaviorally, I suppose).
It would, most likely, be a trivial thing to most people, but my subconscious mind doesn’t trivialize it and nevertheless holds strong importance in certain parts of my animality (including blutpir) and certain ‘connections’ I have to some fantastical creatures. Heck, maybe my mind doesn’t *want* to see people trivialize these parts of me that have held such personal importance (including symbolically) since I was a child—some of these parts that may actually even pre-date my therianthropy—any more than my mind would seem to be okay with me being viewed in a shameful or shunning way due to these particular aspects of me. Some of those people could also potentially be those who wouldn’t bother to try to understand how or why my sexuality (and asexuality, or demi-sexuality, depending on how one sees it) ties into these certain aspects, and those people may instead opt for shunning me in some significant way or alternatively trivializing that part of me.
This isn’t a fad or trend for me. This isn’t some superficial attempt to ‘escape reality’, or a delusion, or just some simple coping mechanism (if it’s even driven out of a means to ‘cope’ at all) that I could just “get over” or dispose of easily—nor do I feel there would be need for that anyway. This also isn’t about some kind of fandom (for animals or animal-humans, or vampires, shapeshifters, etc.) or a desire to lifestyle or to roleplay. It comes down to this being me accepting another part of who I am as an individual, despite what others may or may not think of that part of me, even if I do, for whatever reasons, continue to ‘hide’ or obscure it from most people who enter my life as a friend, acquaintance, or otherwise.
I personally know there are people who can and have seen these more hidden aspects of me and my animality, and accept them, even find them fascinating or beautiful (sometimes to extents that I had not previously accepted my own self regarding their beauty), and maybe it’s in ways better to reserve the sharing and showing of those to such a limited number of people, especially to people more trusted by me. Everyone has their own secrets and mysteries, and maybe one of the many wonders of forming a close relationship with someone is the opportunity to unveil, bit by bit, some of these hidden parts that we (hopefully) prove ourselves worthy and trusted enough to be allowed to know or see them. Being comfortable, accepting, and secure in your own self and your identity doesn’t mean you have to flaunt or even wear on your sleeves, per se, most of what makes you who you are, especially things that are, for whatever reasons, better kept as obscurities and mysteries for only a select, trusted few to unlock.
I am, ultimately, an animal-person on so many levels, and I have been to some extent since my early childhood, but the fuller extent to which my identity as an animal-person goes is often left to be unveiled, level by level, depending on various social factors (anonymity, common ground/experience, closeness or depth of relationship, among others). Those who are allowed to know of (especially in more detail or length) my deeper, even more personal/more private animal connections and aspects that make me an animal-person, I will say that I sincerely hope they have and will maintain the decency to accept and respect these beliefs and parts of myself, even if s/he may not personally agree that they are “real” or “correct” in the way I do. I know I deserve to be shown a decent level, at the least, of respect about these animal aspects and connections of mine when I cease to hide behind my instincts of fear and worry in revealing them, and choose to have enough confidence in myself to expose such parts of who I am. For that, I believe I deserve adequate freedom from worry about the potential of being shunned or trivialized by those whom I allow to know of or see these parts of me. I am an animal, in numerous ways, but what I am not is a monster (in the derogatory sense). Thus I claim the label of “animal” for parts of myself, yet I don’t claim the label of “monster” for any part of who I am.
Monster: c.1300, "malformed animal, creature afflicted with a birth defect,"from O.Fr. monstre, from L. monstrum "monster, monstrosity,omen, portent, sign," from root of monere "warn" (see monitor).Abnormal or prodigious animals were regarded as signs or omens of impending evil. (From Dictionary.com)
This hearkens back to the initial use of the term “monster” from the words and language it was derived back in c.1250-1300. It appears that what was initially meant was that some animals or ‘creatures’ (whether they existed or were just believed to exist) either looked deformed, ugly, or otherwise outside of what given people considered should be the “norm” (for the ‘natural way of things’ or for a particular animal/creature), and that these creatures were (probably due to superstition or religious beliefs) perceived as *signs* or *omens* of evil, harmful, or bad things to come. To which it seems the usage altered some so that the creature (the “monster”) became perceived not as a sign or omen of something bad or evil, but instead as the bad or evil thing itself. Thus I assume that’s how the term “monster” has ended up with its various, still all common, definitions—ranging from it being essentially a creature with the appearance of being multiple animals combined, to being a creature so hideous that it frightens people or even just someone or something that significantly deviates from the norm, as also something being of huge size or proportion, and someone/something that is cruel, wicked, or evil (Dictionary.com).
“Monsters” in horror fiction/media and many of them within myth and folklore carry the connation of being non-human creatures (whether humanoid or not) that incite fear in people who see those creatures as they physically really are and the creatures themselves are seen as “evil” because of their behaviors, mindset, etc. based in cruel or wicked actions. This is what continues to come to mind for me when I think of the term “monster” possibly being applied to me—regardless of the benign and even positive definitions and connotations of the term. And that may in large part be due to long interest (since childhood) in various kinds of ‘monsters’ (usually animalistic ones) in primarily horror, sci-fi, and fantasy media, though my interest and relation to them was not in them being monsters in that sense of “evil beings that are cruel, wicked, even needless killers—especially those that revel in their cruelty and killing”, but rather in them as creatures, as animals, as humanoids. But my exposure to these monsters in stories was mainly colored by those that were represented either by creatures/beings that entirely were those “evil” kind of monsters, or those that were in part “still human” and their human part had to endure a conflicting struggle against the evilness, cruelty, and killing behavior of their “monster” part, in which they usually wanted to rid themselves of their monster-part (and those who didn’t, were presented as evil and antagonists).
I don’t know at this point, but maybe my perception of ‘monsters’ was more neutral at first and over time became progressively colored to a much more negative, derogatory connotation of the term in regards to certain contexts and creatures. Maybe sort of like how ‘monster’ changed over time from its initial meaning to later meanings that indicated the ‘abnormal being’ was one to be feared and was cruel and evil itself. But still, early on I connected with these “monstrous creatures” and I had little exposure to them—to see, empathize with, and connect with them notably—outside of fiction media that painted them in the negative light of evil and cruelty. I connected with the animality of these creatures, and to the blend of human and animal (not just the internal conflict between human and animal) they portrayed, even to aspects of their instincts and behaviors, including predatory urges and actions. Yet I did not connect with the concept and portrayal of them as evil, as wickedly cruel beings that reveled in inciting fear upon their victims and bathing in pleasure, even euphoria, from harming or killing others (especially when it wasn’t truly needed).
These creatures I connected with thus did not register as “monsters” to me—not by that term specifically—instead they were, if anything, “creatures”, “animals”, “non-human”, words such as that, but not *monsters*. So when they became more of my own—mostly symbolic—identity and self, and tied in further with my own therianthropy (and particularly with me seeming to develop a vampire-‘kintype), the term “monster” became and has remained ill-fitting in application to myself, even when just applied by my own self, because I have in essence been conditioned, I suppose, from early on into perceiving these certain types of creatures, and in certain contexts, as commonly being thought of as monsters in a negative, evil sense, but without them being monsters to me when I saw them without the cruelty and “evilness”.
This does not mean that this interpretation of what ‘monster’ is to me is wrong, nor that it is ultimately the right one, and it doesn’t mean that other people’s interpretations of the word are right or wrong. So although I don’t directly relate to seeing myself as a “monster” in a symbolic sense, nor in regards to my vampire-aspect (‘kintype), I do not disagree with other people applying the term to themselves—be it for whatever symbolic reason, or a personal connection, or in regards to being a kind of “monster otherkin”. I just don’t want people to assume that I should be part of some group that is, in essence, ‘reclaiming’ the monster term as a personal label/descriptor even though I have deep personal connections, symbolism, and a vampire-aspect that would seem to place me in a category of ‘monster-identifying/connected’ people (and to clarify, I’m not saying that anyone has tried to place me in that group nor insist that the label should be applied to me--at least not directly--and I’d hope that no one would ever be rude enough to try). And afterall, I can still relate to people who identify with or as monsters without me actually relating to, nor wanting to use, the specific term of monster, and maybe I will end up sharing some experiences of my animality that are however notably similar to those of some ‘monster people’ or those who, like me, find the monster term ill-fitting for themselves.