Waters of Obscurity: My Therianthropic Self-Concept (August 2007)
When it comes to an image or concept of mine in which to represent myself, or for what I “look like” in my mind’s eye, there is no defining answer to that. Although I’m a visual artist and love to do depictions of various things I imagine or see in my mind, including character concepts, I don’t recall ever ‘seeing’ a clear, or even remotely clear, visual image of myself in my mind. Honestly, how I ‘view’ myself is actually more understanding and “feeling” than it is visualization, though there is some visualization to it. There’s also not one sole way I view myself, it’s a somewhat fluid concept that extends to certain boundaries—within my theriotypes and certain human or humanoid concepts I have of myself, but within those boundaries it’s not a concrete, solid concept. There is some idealism to it, though not much I’ve consciously chosen, and specifics are few.
The first type for me to note is my therianthropic self-concept which is rather fluid in ‘form’ or ‘appearance’ (giving that it’s rather vague as far as appearances go) and especially since I have a third theriotype of which I am unsure of the animal type, that creates another aspect or factor of obscurity in my therianthropic self-concept. My cat and horse ‘sides’ don’t have a definite appearance to them that I’ve ever known or seen—I don’t do visual meditations, and thus I’ve never seen me as my theriosides in those, and I don’t dream shift into my theriotypes so I have not seen the appearance of them in my dreams either. There is definite form and structure to my theriosides, be it through feeling my phantom parts or through body-oriented thought, though I can’t always be sure of some of the structural/form aspects of my theriosides and quite a bit is, for lack of a better word, “understanding”. Fur or other hair color, patterns, and small or very specific details of my theriotypes’ appearances don’t exist in my mind, and I’ve never known them to. Though, as I said there is some level of visualization, so what do I actually visualize in regards to my theriosides? The visualizations aren’t easy to explain in words because of the fact that they are so strongly linked to non-verbal thoughts and understanding, but in essence the visuals are very vague and, in a sense, ‘shadowy’. I suppose it can be related somewhat to being in a dark room in which color can’t be seen and some shapes/forms can be barely made out but the edges of the forms are seen and may be understood as to what that form is of—except for me I feel and understand the form from an internal, personal perspective, not from a perspective of objectively viewing something outside of me. This is basically how my body-oriented thought works for my theriosides, that I ‘see’ very vaguely my animal body of the particular theriotype and the movements it makes, although I often can’t or choose not to make those poses or movements outwardly with my physical body, and there is a large amount of understanding involved in this that I fail to find words to appropriately describe it in a way that does it justice and validity.
Therefore, one might wonder after reading some of my other therianthropy writings what this means pertaining to Horse being buckskin or Cat having reddish fur? Those are things that resonated with me—I’m not sure right now if the buckskin coloration resonates with me anymore, I’ve just come to realize it’s not a literal detail anyway, so it doesn’t matter unless I otherwise want it to—and I have been in a sense depicting ‘myself’ online visually by a red-furred feline (be it caracal, or some other vague type of feline) for over a couple of years now, by now it’s kind of set into my head I suppose and I can see a bit of reddish-orange coloration to the edges of my obscure, shadowy self-concept of Cat. Does it matter what my coloration *actually* is? Again, not unless I want it to, and if I so please to continue to do so, for aesthetic or other reasons, I’ll mention in writings, poetry, or depict in possible future drawings myself as a buckskin horse (or even if I choose so, a different or even unique coloration) and as a red-furred feline; there’s not harm in it, and it’s neither correct nor incorrect because I don’t have a coloration regarding my theriosides (not to be confused with “my theriotypes’ colorations are black”). I have never used possible coloration as a defining factor or even as a factor at all in really determining my theriotypes thus far—maybe coloration or fur patterns may eventually play a more important part in figuring out my third theriotype or in at some point figuring out Cat’s more particular type (beyond “small feline”), but thus far it hasn’t been important even though I did at least consider it for Horse and Cat (and what I thought to be Canine) during my introspection some time before, but for now it lacks any real significance regarding the types of animals of my theriosides.
Aside from coloration and patterns, my self-concept of my theriosides is fluid in that the concepts aren’t solidly one animal or a hybridized form—which I suppose this is probably a common occurrence among therians with multiple theriotypes anyway. I can’t think of a suitable way in which to depict “myself” as my theriosides in one coherent form—even with excluding my third, unknown theriotype and just focusing on my cat and horse sides—they blend in and out of each other in an almost fluid way, sometimes fully cat, sometimes fully horse (and of course taking into account my unknown theriotype applies the same with these), and then there are a wide variety of ways in which I experience them “blended” because of aspects of them manifested at the same time, throughout each day. I have constant phantom cat ears, so regardless of how horse-like I am feeling I’m still a horse with cat ears but I may just notice them less as feline ears since they work well anyway because of horses also having pivotal ears. I have body-oriented thought that most often manifests as fully cat or fully horse, and then there are various phantom sensations I get from my three theriotypes that aren’t exclusive of each other, in the sense that I experience a mixture of phantom sensations that can be from more than one theriotype at a time (aside from my constant cat ears).
As for my more human mental concept of myself, there still remains some level or ‘essence’ of my animality within that concept, even though it’s focused more on a human form and appearance. Numerous specifics about my human-concept are unclear, but overall the mental image and understanding is clearer than that of my theriotypes, in part probably because I can relate the image I see of myself in photos and mirrors to the mental human image I have of “me”. For years I believe it’s been the same, or basically same, image but I have noticed over time that my physical self as well as how I ‘see’ myself (beyond just physical image by incorporating understanding and feeling into it) have come to fit more accurately that mental image I’ve had for awhile. However, it doesn’t seem to be something I’ve been able to successfully capture much in photographs of myself, but I can see it in the mirror sometimes, in ways I wish I could capture in photos but I seem to always come up short with that. Thus, even though I feel that my physical appearance is closer now than it was years ago to that of my mental human image of myself, there’s still a strong distinction, that of which I can’t fully explain but it’s essentially in the way I feel myself being even more similar to the animalistic human of me I see in my mind—the way I’d prefer to appear to others, in person particularly but also in photos for those who know me online. I see and feel my blended human-animal expressions (facial and body), movements, and appearance, but I wonder how much of that is ever displayed outwardly, let alone actually picked up by anyone and noted for its animality; it comes sometimes as a disappointment to me, to some extent. I experience, feel, and know myself in such subjective ways as this interesting blend of human and a few types of animals, and yet it’s like a large part of my expression of myself is shut off from the world and none shall ever know of it except through my writings, even though it’s something that should be seen, understood, and felt, even from the perspective of an onlooker to me. Though I’m not at all talking about wanting to physically shift, or have strange animal-based body modifications—I’m simply talking about those I am close to, as friends, family, and my mate, to be able to pick up on and sense parts of my animality in my appearance, my behaviors, in my face and eyes, and for them to feel that essence of animal within me that isn’t literally portrayed in my physical body’s appearance and genetics.
Honestly speaking, sometimes I wish I could just “show” to others how I feel and how I feel I look, in person or especially to the therian friends and acquaintances I have online. Sure, it’s never going to happen, but I have times of just longing for it—for people to actually see and understand my self-concept from my own perspective and not just through descriptive, but still greatly limited, text, or by my physical body. I can find people who can relate with me about being a therianthrope and we may or may not have similar types of self-concepts, but ultimately there will remain a large chunk missing of true understanding in that regard—just as I’m not going to truly understand any other therian’s self-concept. Maybe I could strive to find the most “suitable” or best rendition of a representation of me for visual artwork, and I assume I probably could succeed at that with enough effort and trial-and-error of metaphorically beating my head against a wall, that at some point down the line I could figure out and decide on such a concept—which it would also have to be taken into account that I’d have to already have my third theriotype, for the most part, confirmed, a better confirmation on what my cat ‘type is more specifically, and whether I have an avian therioside (and if so, what it is), which all of that is likely to take me a few more years (and I may not even be associating in the “therian community” by then anyway). However, I’m not yet interested in seeking to force myself into such a limiting box, especially one that I don’t have reason to do so, nor enough knowledge of myself and my theriotypes to do it anyway. And then visual art would come at another limiting cost because it would just be still images that wouldn’t really encompass movement enough, and if really need be, fluidity of my self-concept—it would be more like snapshots of myself, instead of a fitting representation of me; taking still photos of my physical body and face can only portray a notably limited part of myself, and doing a similar thing with a visual representation of me in artwork would be nearly the same, if not more limiting.
How I view myself also relates to the animalistic characters I am drawn to and prefer to have myself represented as. I like the concepts and aesthetically like to look at ‘typical’ anthropomorphosized animals, such as the bipedal human-animals that appear more animal than human; they are intriguing and I’ve had times before when I’ve wanted to draw some myself, though I never did. For whatever reason, I have just automatically never wanted to or felt comfortable ‘representing’ myself or the characters I make in forms like that, though I did attempt it somewhat with one of my high school character concepts (named Neko Keaira) with a depiction I did of her that had her as nearly an ‘anthro-cat’ but she was still mostly humanoid and I’ve since grown to dislike that concept of her and prefer a more humanoid version of her with only a few physical cat traits. Honestly, what I prefer in my character concepts, and what I prefer to ‘represent’ myself (if I choose a creature’s image to represent me) are either real animals or my fantasy animal hybrids (lesser so for them) and humans that have subtle or some, but few, physical animal traits. The character concepts I have and am most prominently drawn to are humanoid with some distinctive animalistic features, expressions, or abilities—that they aren’t fully human, or even if they are, that they carry an ‘essence’ in their behavior, movements, and expressions that distinctively resonates with a sense of some type of non-human animal, especially canine, feline, or avian. For example with my favorite character concept of mine, Angellore, she is notably mostly human in form but has non-human traits to her—a cat tail, pointed ears, solid black eyes, patterns of feathers on her face, and she has a personality, behavior, and expressions that portray her as more animalistic than human—to me, she is an interesting blend of human, animal, and something else fantastical, and she also has a bit of me that is reflected in her. Another character concept of mine, Din Soren, also is mostly human in appearance (more so than Angellore) and the only non-human appearing part of his body is his pointed ears (and the fact that he has permanently unnatural-red hair), even though he’s a human-animal hybrid, but he also holds an animalistic essence to him, similar to the non-physical animal aspects of Angellore. I suppose such aspects in them can be related to be somewhat similar to therianthropic animal traits—they aren’t physical, although that animalism can be portrayed outwardly in some ways by the individual so that the person seems distinctly animalistic.
Similarly, this relates to my past and even sometimes present attraction to certain fiction characters and creatures, most notably vampires. I’ve been fascinated with some concepts of vampires since I was a child and I have felt a relation to them for a lot of that time, though it wasn’t until I came across the concept of therianthropy and better understood my own therianthropy that I realized what that relation was. I don’t like just any concept of vampires, and really most concepts of vampires I dislike and feel no relation to, however there are some that are depicted as ‘animal-like’, more specifically, feline-like. Sure, they aren’t vastly feline-like, they aren’t “werecats” and aren’t cat therians either afterall, but some of them retain aspects and traits of them that I feel reminiscent of my own self as a cat therian (though of course they don’t come close to encompassing anywhere near it all) and of the type of “animalistic” humanoids I have an attraction to. Werecats were a rarity for me to see in fantasy/sci-fi media, and when I did come across them I found that the cat-like vampires tended to seem more feline than the werecats. There was a point in high school when I got tired of seeing so many other renditions of vampires and not the specific ways I wanted to see them, I always had to suffice with vampires being nothing like I preferred or only being the way I like in few ways, so I ended up forming my own concept of “vampires” and what they were like—which of course included them being of the feline type. I never wrote anything descriptive or informative about them, and I think I’ve forgotten numerous things about them from eventually losing interest in them, but they were interesting for me back then, especially when I didn’t have a grasp of understanding on what it was about myself that resonated feline and why I was so drawn to such feline-like humans.
This all further extends to some other mostly human-like characters that seem or ‘feel’ animalistic to me. I see within one of my favorite characters, Vash from Trigun, that sense of animal of some type, maybe feline, canine, or something else, but it’s in some of his expressions, behaviors, and overall self, even though he is a 2D animated character I still see that portrayed within him. The way some actors play the part of a certain character sometimes, such as on the series Heroes, a few of the characters appear animalistic in their facial expressions (sometimes subtly) and something else about how they carry themselves or portray themselves, at least in how the actors chose to breathe life into their characters. I won’t jump and say that this all is influenced strongly by my therianthropy, however I do feel the relation and connection to these types of human-animal characters through my own experience in being a therianthrope—it’s not as though therianthropes are displayed much in movies and TV series, instead I have to make do with the closest representations I can find or feel are appropriate, and werecreatures don’t often tend to be such for me, somewhat ironically (although I’m drawn to the concept of physical shifting being described or shown, yet not to typical werecreatures in a human-animal form). My animalness isn’t portrayed in any physical traits, I don’t literally have a cat or horse body of course, I don’t really have cat ears even though I feel them constantly swiveling everyday as if they are really there, I don’t have cat teeth, paws and claws, hooves and horse legs, and so forth even though I feel these things, but in some ways my animalness is released through me, though not as much as is depicted in some of those humanoid animalistic characters, but to me I feel like my animalness is released in higher more prominent levels than it actually is—in essence, I feel more animal in body, behavior, and expressions than I probably ever appear to anyone (minus the few strong mental shifts I’ve had around one person). My animalness isn’t well represented by a bipedal, digitigrade cat or horse as something often seen made by furry artists or other anthro artists, it’s better represented by the full animals themselves—cat and horse—and even better, by a mostly human form with few or subtle animal traits, because the reality is, that’s what I am, a human in form and in mind but with notable integral parts of my personality, mind, and self that are of non-human animals.
My self-concept embraces fluidity, ambiguity, and vagueness, and strays away from uncomfortable restraints of a refined, stagnant human-animal form. I am variance within the boundaries of my humanness and my theriotypes, and I am an individual in my therianthropy, not an archetype or generalization of cat, horse, and whatever other animal type(s) I am. Patterns, colors, identifying markings and so forth are for personal aesthetic pleasure for me, not likely literal beyond the vagueness of “I feel I am a reddish-furred cat” or such general things—which that’s not necessarily literal since there is not real, physical representation of my animalness, thus my theriosides need not be bound entirely in superficial appearance by the laws of what exists in this physical world; mental aspects, instincts, and behaviors can seem more species specific and species bound to me since they aren’t physical (or in the case of behaviors, not physical in the sense of superficial things like color and markings). It’s not stagnation that I use to represent myself, it’s through a vast, diverse amount of aspects, characters, concepts, feelings, images, and so forth that I relate to, that I identify with, that I experience or feel in which I find my self-concept—unique, vibrant yet fluid and ambiguous, and in so many ways hidden from the eyes of others in the world because it’s so bound to my subjectivity. Writing may serve the deepest or most extensive means by which to show my self-concept, my representation of Self, but text will never ultimately run deeply enough to show to others how I experience and view myself, and though visual artwork—be it drawing, collage, painting (digital or traditional), photomanipulation, or whatever—can capture part of my self-concept, it will also come up too short in portraying it to others. Yet, maybe for a few people I can offer the best means by which to grasp, see, and understand my self-concept—through a combination of writing, visual art, and seeing me in person with my behaviors and mannerisms, my expressions, and the opportunity to look into my own eyes where one is most likely to catch sight of the therianthrope, the animalperson creature that I am within.