Tag Archive for identity

Trans is not a gender

Alright, I think some people may disagree with what I’m going to write here, but I came across a few characters that brought it to mind, and I feel the need to write/talk it out.  Since that’s what this blog is intended for, away I go!

There was a statement I recall hearing from some real transsexual folks a while back, about how a MtF who completed her transition was not a trans man, but a woman, and the same applies for the other direction.  From a Transformers board I follow which seems to ironically have a decent proportion of transsexual folk, they want to be seen as the gender they should be, not what they are, and that’s how they present themselves.  If they could snap their fingers and be 100% the gender they should be, they would be in a heartbeat, much like many otherkin would do if they could become their species. (Also ironically, otherkin still tend to be looked down on by transexual folk, despite the fact that unlike their situation, it’s more spiritual than physical.)

Then recently, I came across someone who was getting rid of some characters, and I took a peek cause the thumbnails looked interesting.  A couple of the characters in question were female in shape and body, but with male genitals, and their gender was labeled as trans.

Trans is not a gender.  The people I mentioned above, who have to deal with the situation in real life, would consider this sort of character an insult, and in fact I’ve seen similar reactions to some mainstream depictions of such people that take the same approach.

Now, they could be in the middle of transitioning, but the art and descriptions gave the impression that this was their natural selves, and they were satisfied with being where they were on the physical gender spectrum.  Basically, it’s being used as a more palatably-named version of the old concept of the “dickgirl”/”cuntboy” concept. (Which some trans folk also find offensive, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Nowadays, there is a wider spectrum recognized in the matter of gender, which reflects itself in furry fandom.  You’ve got genderfluid folk, who go back and forth, or folk who identify as neither.  It makes perfect sense to have people who may identify as somewhere in-between, whether a full herm(with breasts or without), a “dickgirl,” or a “cuntboy.”

Now fair enough, people may be confused on these, and said confusion may make them angry that someone is challenging them, or it may make them think the person is simply doing it as a cry for attention, instead of who they are.  There may even be a few for whom that is true. Also fair enough that the two latter terms have been used as insults in the trans community for long enough that it feels wrong to use the terms, but frankly I just don’t have anything better at the moment.  And that, my friends, is part of the problem.

How do you describe the gender of such folk? Stick to the well-used terms despite their negative connotation? Make up something else and piss off the “anti-snowflake” crowd further? Or just go the smartass route(my favorite) and say “Gender: Yes”?

Now some may point out that fursonas have an element of fantasy to them. Some may choose to have their fursona mirror their real-life progress, and that’s fine. And they may decide to stop halfway between like the examples above.  But at that point, if you do stop partway on purpose, you’ve finished your transition, even if the endpoint is not a “normal” endpoint.  You’re not trans, you’re something else.

And honestly, I guess this has turned into more of a rant than a discussion or whatever, and people can claim whatever labels they like, but someone calling themselves trans as a gender does a disservice to the actual transexuals who are in mid-transition, and intend to go all the way because that’s what they truly see themselves as.

Trans is not a gender.

That said, I’ll go back to my hidey-hole now until the next time I get a bug up my tail to write about something, or when I finally get around to another art post, as I have gotten a couple pieces, and have at least one more in the works.  But that’s for another day.

Chakat Thoughts

Chakat Swiftwind

‘Kats gonna ‘kat.

So I’d like to discuss this sexy piece of pinup art I got from @Inkrend recently.  (Side note:  This is the SFW version – my furry art galleries have the NSFW version.)

First a little bit of history.  Back when I was foxing around on Second Life, I got introduced to ‘taurs and found them somewhat fascinating.  Researching them led to the chakat universe, which took some of the basic concepts of Star Trek and re-spun them with a furry bent.

The chakat race is a race of feline hermaphrodite taurs, with a primarily female appearance, created by Bernard Doove a.k.a. Goldfur.  I believe this was among the first of the “original” furry species to really take off in popularity- which eventually led to others such as Sergals and Dutch Angel Dragons.

Anyways, I thought a bit about what I would be like if I was a chakat, and decided to actually create hir to “reserve” the character and name.  I ended up fully embracing hir for probably close to a year as my fursona, before awakening to dragonhood.

A bit over a year ago I revived hir to be a character in a story I had written, and establish a  place for hir in the chakat universe.  This led to a few more art pieces, which I’ve previously shared and a renewed personal interest in hir as a character.

While the previous art pieces I’ve gotten have been great, a minor pet peeve has been that they’ve never gotten hir bust size quite right.  Shi is supposed to have fairly large breasts, but none of hir depictions have really shown it well.  This one, on the other hand, does.

Another thing I like about this is that I get an impression of maleness as well, which is very fitting for a hermaphrodite in general, and hir in specific, as shi tends to lean more towards hir male side.  It may just be me, or it may not have been intentional, but combined with the fact it actually got hir bustline right this is the best depiction of hir yet!

This actually also inspired a re-evaluation as well of how I’ve been representing myself.  I know there are some that have multiple characters, while others have an identity tied to a single representation of themselves.  I myself fall into the latter category, with my dragon self being in all ways a reflection of my inner being.

Basically, I considered that if I had gotten this picture earlier, would it have made a difference?  At heart, I still believe that I am dragon, and after consideration, I don’t believe I have the right mindset to truly be a chakat, unlike some others I know out there.  Chakats are naturally polyamorous – they have multiple mates at any given time, and jealousy is something that is not natural to them.  As hermaphrodites, they are also naturally bi, though they may have individual preferences towards one side or the other, much as single-gendered folk have preferences for certain parts of the body.

As much as I could see the above art representing me, and with how aware I am of my feminine side, I unfortunately fit neither of those qualifications.  To start with, I had the opportunity to explore how I felt about both genders online by playing a herm, and male anatomy just doesn’t excite me.  Herms that I have found attractive have been mostly due to their female attributes.

Secondly, I am also definitely not polyamorous.  If I consider someone my mate, they are mine and I would not feel comfortable about them screwing other people – though to be fair this goes both ways.  I also would not feel comfortable screwing someone else while being in a relationship.  I don’t have any problem with open mateships in and of themselves; they’re just not for me.

Chakats are also fairly even-tempered.  While I can be in general, I’ve gotten rather angry at times.  My temper is overall far more draconic than it is chakat.

All that aside, I could see myself playing hir online again at some point, but ultimately shi is a much smaller aspect of my being than my dragon self, and barring being more active on Second Life again, there’s not much of an opportunity for me to do much besides write about hir or get art.  If the opportunity presents itself though, shi’s definitely on my short list, and I would love to be able to play hir in a Traveller campaign or something similar.

And I finally have a picture I can point to without qualifications and say “That’s hir!”

Creative Gender-Bending: Flutterself

Well my birthday is well-past, but when you hit your 30s it doesn’t mean much until you’re 39 or so.  I used to always go see a movie with my mom, but she passed last year, and there was no movies in the theater I wanted to see, so I ended up spending it playing Star Trek Online.  It was fairly productive though, especially since I got a double XP weekend happening then!

Anyways, before I get distracted, to the meat of the post!  I was just reading some posts on Allsparkle about how people saw themselves in the various ponies. Yes, I watch the new MLP, but Allsparkle is really the only place I ever go for anything to do with it, since I was already there for Transformers anyways.  To get back on track though, Twilight is the one I see as closest to how I am.  That said, there’s a few elements of Fluttershy mixed in, and that got me thinking.

Fluttershy is my favorite of the Mane 6, as there’s something about her personality I really like.  However, from the discussion int hat top[ic, it made me think about how much of that might be from it being traits I’m attaracted to and how much are traits I might visualize in myself?  And then it got mixed up in the memories of the usual fan conceptions of how Fluttershy might look as a furry-type, and the mental blender went to frappe.

To finish setting the stage, let me describe how furry Fluttershy tends to end up.  Take her existing personality, and then combine that with a shapely, large-breasted(but conservatively dressed) anthro equine.  Best example I could find that wasn’t overly risque:

Fluttershys

So, while I do undoubtedly consider myself dragon, it set me to thinking how I would symbolize my feminine side if that were fully dominant?  Which then reminded me I did experiment with that a bit many years ago, before I awoke as(or became, depending on your aerspective) dragon.

Swiftwind used to be a fursona I used, rather than a seperate character.  Looking back, symbolically, it could be considered a way to let more of my feminine side out why still retaininging my maleness, as chakats are herms.  And RP-wise, that’s exactly what I did with that fursona, pretty much.

Now though, as shi doesn’t represent me, but a seperate character, shi’s developed a bit of her own personality – mostly cocky pilot, rather than the techhead I had originally envisioned hir as.  It’s still kind of a stereotype, as I haven’t gotten to play hir in a real RPG or really write hir into a story(beyond a prologue that may or may not get used as I switched gears to writing about M’Rel) but it’s something.

There are elements of hir though that I would definitely put in that fem!me.  Snow Leopard for one – that is 100% unquestionable.  There’s something about them that just seems fitting as a softer me.  I blame Sonique’s art though there for putting them into my head. And vixen just seems too slutty to me, to be frank.  I know it’s a bad stereotype, but mentally I could not see myself as one at all.

Physically, she’d have large floofy tail and somewhat large floofy breasts.  Yes, I am male and attracted to them, which may be biasing me somewhat, but they are an archetypal symbol of femininity.  Also, we’re talking idealized here, so you can toss this in the same category of girls(and guys!) giving their male selves large wangs.

Again, going with the Flutter-parallels that started the whole shebang, she’d be wearing comfortable but conservative clothes too, but when she dresses up it’d probably be a corset(but not too tight) in a fancy medieval dress, instead of some slinky thing.

Also, long purple hair.  I don’t know why purple for sure, when whenever I picture a snepfem, I see purple hair.  Yes, it’s not natural, but in a furry world, you don’t think they wouldn’t have invented dye early on?

Also also, glasses.  Picture the being I’ve drawn here and you know it fits!

Personality-wise, she’d be a bit of a tech-head, and a bit studious, and shy as well.  A bit oblivious to when she’s getting hit on unless they get more obvious, or until well after the fact.  A bit of a joker too, but throttled by the earlier shyness.

Secretly though, she’d also be a bit of a nympho, but keeps herself sated at home with various toys she’s collected, and other media; using them to control her urges lest they control her.

As to what name to give this bundle of fluff I’m not sure.  In the past I’ve used Jasmine as a default name for female felines, much as Llewelyn is a default name for my male characters and fursonas.  It really fits better though with the tigress I originally chose it for than this gal, so I might have to think on it.  I admit though, I’m sorely tempted to see about getting art of her now.

But another thing to think on again.. did I just describe a female me, or did I describe what I’d dream of in a mate?  Is there much of a difference between the two? Should there be?

Heck, maybe that’s something to look at within yourself, if you’re not already in a committed relationship.  Is your ideal mate a reflection of you, whether idealized or not?  Are you looking for a compliment, a reflection, or a supplement, to borrow a bit from geometry here?  For that matter, those of you already bonded, which of those categories do your mate or mates fit into?  Did you find a female version of yourself, the exact opposite, or somewhere in-between, where most of their attributes mesh with yours or not?

Still I think I may do something with Something Snowblossom at some point, if I can figure out a first name, and what exactly.  After all, I have been confused for female online multiple times in the past, in some cases despite using a male name!

Assuming the above is not just my own libido talking…

Digital Doppelgangers

I’m actually in a rather bemused state of mind as I write this.  You see, I recently got some arts(which I’ll post at the end of this) and I usually make a habit of backtracking on people who fav or watch me on FA to see if they have anything favorited or submitted that I might want to fav and save.  Especially recently, when I was looking for chakat artists, and found not very many that had an artstyle I liked.

To digress, a good way I’ve found to find artists of a particular subject matter is find notable furries(or popufurs I guess is the slang) of that type and see who they commissioned.  That’s one of the reasons I don’t think it’s a bad thing that some artists give “popufurs” free art – it acts as free advertising!

Anyways, as I was about to close out, I saw a porn piece with a very familiar-looking chakat in it, so I followed it up.  On closer examination, it looked almost exactly like my chakat character, but the name was different!  There was no link to any account however, but now I was wondering if someone had taken my arts and rebranded them as theirs; especially since that chakat’s name was fairly close in nomenclature to mine.

This actually happens more of then than you might think in the furry world, though more often it’s someone claiming to be an artist that drew such rather than stealing the character, but character theft has been known to happen before.  Let me finish the story though before I get into what I want to say on that.

I tried a search on FA and found a couple other pics, but again no account, so as a last resort I tried google.  That led me to another DA pic that had been removed at some point.   Now the pic I had stumbled on was a very recent upload, so the chakat in question had to still be active somewhere, but I was running out of links.  Finally, I found a reddit post from a few months ago that explained it all.

Basically, the guy got in on a free art thread but didn’t have a ref sheet, so he pointed the artist at an old pic of mine and listed a few changes that were different about his.  It was just a case of the artist not catching everything(which is understandable on freebie art) and that just getting propogated.

That old pic he referred to was a bit off(though close enough and good enough at the time!) and since then I’ve made another small change myself; more an emphasizing of a trait on that character that I hadn’t before(and I don’t mean breast size!).

End result is there are two snow leopard ‘kats out there with purple hair and wind-based names – just one(mine) ties hirs up sometimes and has blue eyes and a stripe along hir back, while the other has a darker purple, purple eyes, and no stripe.  It just that at least one or two of the artists shi’s commissioned have missed that(mostly the eyes) and at first blush the ‘kat int eh picture could be mistaken for my character.

To be fair though, I haven’t been active much in the chakat online community for years; not since I woke to my inner dragon.  I only recently decided to revive and revamp my chakat character as an actual separate character, rather than as a ‘sona/identity at my internal muse’s prodding, hence the couple recent pieces of art.  That was aprt fo teh reason I thought shi might have been appropriated.

Anyways, like I said it left me slightly bemused. It could have been coincidence, but in this case it was more inspiration I think, and not that far off from what a lot of fan characters do: take some traits and file off the serial numbers.  And I’m fairly sure this chakat isn’t a helmsman on a Stellar Federation cruiser, and shi definitely doesn’t have a Starwalker stellar foxtaur mate, both of which apply to mine – once I can get the story written!

It’s just a bit of a strange feeling to be looking through pictures and find porn that looks 95% like you(or my character in this point), with a different name.  Not quite Rule 34 territory, but edging there.

It also brings to mind other issues, such as the fact some doppelgangers could end up out there by chance!  With how many red foxes are out there for example, it’d be fairly easy to describe one decently and end up matching at least a half-dozen.  If it wasn’t for the purple hair(which isn’t too common in and of itself) and the chakat community being so small, I probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it, or at least enough to track down why shi looked like my chakat.

Sadly though, I’ve heard stories of more popular folks having their characters or ‘sonas copied wholesale.  Usually this results in the actual owner posting something which gets the word out, and approaching the admin on the site of the copy.

I’ve also heard at least one story of someone trying to “buy” someone else’s ‘sona.  That didn’t even used to be a thing way back when, but then the idea of “adoptables” went big i.e. buying pre-made characters.  I never got that anyways, but there are some folks I guess who see a character design and jsut fall in love with it.

But as someone else pointed out, in regular society you get told who you are, while in furry you tell everyone else.  In a world where identity is that fluid, where does identity theft, as such, fall?  Just something to think about.

And now, I leave you with chakat arts!

Swiftwind dancing on the Rec Deck of the FSS Excalibur

Swiftwind dancing on the Rec Deck of the FSS Excalibur

Swiftwind in a fancy flight suit

Swiftwind in a fancy flight suit

In this Serenity… and Pride

1395159812.adalfyre_dekafoxSo since I don’t know how long it’ll be until I have another picture to post, I figured I might as well post this one now… but I also had another reason to bring it up.

Adalfyre had some bills come up earlier than expected, and had to open emergency commissions, so I hopped on that to help and snag another picture in the process.  At the time, I didn’t have anything in specific in mind apart from the general pose, and she produced the above very nice pic.

Since then however, the more I’ve looked at it, the more I’ve got feelings of serenity and passing on from it.  The best way I can describe the imagery it’s evoking now is it’s like a spirit form of myself is  pausing in the fields of green to take one last look back at life/mortality, before moving onto whatever awaits me next.  There’s no one thing I can point to, but it’s some combination of all the individual elements that combine to give this impression of an aged (fox)dragon passing into the Light.

It’s all completely unintentional, but it works so perfectly that it may as well have been planned that way.

When my life does eventually end, this is how I hope it goes.  A peaceful passing, pausing one last time to look back at all I have done and seen; one last view of the mortal world as my spirit and soul takes its true shape and reunites in Heaven with my friends and loved ones that had gone before me.

Yes, I said Heaven.  What’s wrong with believing in the trinity and believing in my own draconity at the same time?  There’s nothing that contradicts the two, as far as I’m concerned.  If God wished to put the soul of a dragon in the body of a human, I’m sure He has his reasons, even if we are unable to comprehend them ourselves at this time.

Before anyone start throwing Bible quotes around, let me remind them that the current English versions of the Bible are a translation of a translation, with potentially even more changes on top of that.  Take an English text, translate it through German and Japanese and then back to English, and see how accurate it is.  In fact, there’s even one obvious example:  “Thou shalt not kill.”  The word that “kill” was translated from apparently, if properly translated according to our current understanding, is actually “murder.”

There’s also all the people who mouth Jesus’s commandment to “love one another as yourselves” and all the times he preached similar messages, then turn around and use his name to preach hate against others.

Should I add that a lot of the current imagery of Heaven actually comes from Dante’s Inferno and similar works, and never actually from any version of the Bible?

But that’s all a topic for another time.  The other thing I was wanting to cover is something completely different, and it’s not a man with three buttocks.

Last night, my raid group and I finally got our next Heroic boss down in SOO in WoW!  We’d finally gotten to work on it in earnest this week and last, and we ended up switching to a single-heals strategy which was what netted us the kill.  Tuesday, we were getting him to 10% before the wipe.  Last night, we got him to 1% and 3%, then finally got the kill.

I have to tell you, after working on that boss a while, there was definitely an adrenaline rush when we got him close, hoping and praying internally for the kill.  That’s part of what raiding is all about –  those edge kills in progression, busting your butt to clean up the strategy and play and push those last few centimeters for that first kill.

When we were getting close, I starting to feel a bit worn, so I decided to throw on a little music to help, and funnily enough, the two songs worked out almost perfectly in theme and fight length.  Just Live More, the op to Kamen Rider Gaim, and Eternal Saint from Saint Seiya Omega.

If I start the first song during the pull countdown, the main music kicks in a few seconds into the pull.  The time when stuff just starts getting busy coincides with the lyric “It’s survival, you got to move” which describes that fight to a T.  Then that wraps up and segues into Eternal Saint when things are starting to get heavy.  That one is all instrumental, so there’s no lyrics to potentially distract you, while it swells up all orchestral and inspirational, and it was fairly close to wrapping up at the moment of the kill.  It just felt like a perfect match.

As for the loot?  Nothing dropped for priests and my coin roll was gold.  But like another raid member said, “I ain’t even mad.”  If we did it once, we’ll do it again, and there’s plenty more bosses waiting to have their faces melted.

 

Draconic Perceptions

Llewelyn by Asyd Rayn

More arts!  Asyd knocked this one out surprisingly fast.  *preens*  No CITMON slots yet though, and Aaros had his screen break on his new tablet, so no arts from him still too.  So far though, each of the artists I’ve gotten art from has had a different strong point.  Rhoa does awesome (and fitting)scenery, Leilryu/Isvoc is super-detailed, and Asyd is great at capturing emotion.  That’s not the only thing great about each of their arts, but when I compare them it’s why I like each one, and it makes a great determination if I want any future arts of who to have draw them, depending on what’s most important.

The other part of this post was some reflections that I originally had/wanted to write about a few days ago, but was too tired to.  That night I was feeling very… dragon-y is the only way I can put it.  But what does that mean?

Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder to describe now, long after it subsided.  The first component though is a feeling of restlessness, like I want to stalk around somewhere, and not just that but in a draconic shape as well.  It feels like a power inside the chest, that you want to lift your head and rawr to the skies above.  My hands felt like claws that I wanted to dig into something, and feel my claws digging into the ground beneath them.  There was even a bit of a ghost sensation, though very faint, of wings, and if I’d had a tail it would have been lashing.  Layered on top of all that though is the need to DO something, to BE dragon, when it strikes.

I’ve dealt with it in the past by writing a few times, but mostly I’ve used Second Life as a catharsis for these sorts of feelings when they get strong enough to notice, and go poke around there in a virtual representation of my dragon self.  Since I started logging in again though, as I’ve lamented in the past, most of my old hangouts are gone or don’t usually have very many around, and I haven’t really found any new ones yet.  With that and how tired I was that day as I mentioned, I just slept it off.

It’s a great feeling, but it’s also aggravating when you can’t do anything about it!  Like when your back is itching in that one spot you can almost reach – annoying when you can’t, but when you can scratch that itch, it’s oh-so-wonderful.

Rawr!

Labels Are For Boxes

I’ve put this off twice now, so I suppose it’s time to actually discuss it.  As I stated in my very first post here, labels are a shorthand, to allow us to quickly get across concepts and ideas that may otherwise take a lot longer to make clear.  They are at their heart a distillation of the idea behind a concept into a single word or set of words.  As they are shorthand,  however they are also imprecise and their meaning depends on the experiences and opinions of the ones using it and the ones hearing it, which is why using them improperly can lead to issues.

Let’s start off with a simple example: secretary vs administrative assistant.  On the surface, they’re both job titles with basically the same duties. The latter however sounds a lot more important, while the former carries connotations for most of society that suggest it’s an easy and not-very-important job.

For another example, take the term fag.  Used in normal company it’s considered very offensive, and demeaning of gay people.  For someone who hangs out on the chans however, it’s basically lost all meaning in that regard, and people tend to just throw it around carelessly.  For example, calling someone a newfag on /m/ just means they’re a newbie, but if you said that among a random group of people, they’d be offended and misinterpret your meaning completely.

The most dangerous aspect of labels is that you can use them to organize and compartmentalize things and people.  This can easily lead to dismissal of ideas, or attacking people because of it

One hot-button example of this in the US is the Islam religion.  A small sect of extremists causes issues, but they claim the muslim label with the same right that Joe down the street claims it as a worshipper of Islam.  Then you take your average person that doesn’t care to educate themselves on issues – all they care to know is “Muslims are ‘tacking mah ‘MURRICA”  They automatically put anyone who has taken that label in the same box – that of extremist religious zeaolot.  If they happen to know anyone that doesn’t fit their mental image, they just write it off as an exception and continue dumping everyone in the Box of Evil.

To put it more plainly, labels encourage you to stop thinking.  For a lot of people, the shorthand that they represent becomes the entirety of their meaning.  To be honest, it’s the “stop thinking” part that makes the whole aspect dangerous.

For example, take the possibility of a particle physicist who also believes in Intelligent Design.  He may be extremely smart.  He may have discovered what appears to be evidence of some major discovery, such as a stable wormhole.  However, because he believes in ID, people put him in their mental “religious kook” box and ignore whatever he may have come up with.

It happens all the time if you look for it.  Conservative.  Liberal. Muslim. Creationist. Libertarian. GEEWUNNER. Furry. Feminist.  All labels that people may take up for perfectly valid reasons, but also labels that can carry misunderstanding and drama, when used among some crowds, due to each side thinking it means something different.

I guess what it comes down to is be careful how you use them.  Educate yourself on what they actually mean, not what a “news” program after ratings declares them to be.  Think, and learn.

I Am Dragon

I’m just as human as everyone else here, unless someone invented AI and didn’t tell the rest of the world.  And yet, I still call myself dragon as well. Why?  It all comes back to identity.

As I said in my previous entry, quite a few people’s self-images are simply idealized images of their physical bodies.  They tie themselves very tightly to the here-and-now.  Separate themselves from their body, and they would still take that general form.  Just so I don’t have to keep typing “idealized self-image” over and over, I’m going to borrow a term I came across elsewhere and call it their soulshape.

Then you have furries.  Excluding those who simply enjoy the art, a lot of them take on a furry persona aka fursona.  For some, this is simply the above example, but with an animal head, tail, fur, and sometimes wings.  Sometimes the animal(s) chosen is because of some attribute assigned to that type, such as foxes being sly, or wolves being loners or pack animals.  Other times, it’s just because they like some aspect about that kind of critter, such as a snow leopard’s overly fluffy tail.  Still, for a lot of them, if you ask them to picture themselves in their mind’s eye without any further detail, you can bet their mental image is their fursona.  It may have been a conscious decision or unconscious reactions due to using it all the time, but gradually a lot of them make it part of themselves, of their identity, over time.

You can probably thank the internet in part for that.  As it grew, people were able to meet and talk, in real-time, without any physical representation of themselves other than what they may choose.  Before that, you could only interact with others in meatspace, and there you were stuck with what you were given at birth. Now however, thanks to cyberspace, you can represent yourself however you wish, allowing formerly hidden facets to be displayed and come to light.

With the ability for identity to be more fluid and not forced into a single bodyplan, more outre combinations began to show up as well.  One well-known example is the race of chakats, created by Bernard Doove.  His race of tauric felinoid hermaphrodites(wow, that’s a mouthful) were created in their entirety originally by him, complete with a culture of sorts as well, and a lot of people dove into it with a will.  No doubt some were for sexual reasons, but there are a lot of “chakats” out there who recognized that it was a good representation of how they felt about themselves(setting aside the felitaur portion of things).  Human representations of hermaphrodites usually either fall into fetish material or “uncanny valley” territory, but furry provides an outlet for those who do feel themselves as both male and female, and a pre-built framework such as the chakats provides a handy tool for that sort of thing.  There’s also other bits of their culture as well, such as the multi-tiered approach to relationships that a lot have found fitting, and have adopted for themselves.

Then there are those who have gone a step beyond even that in their exploration of their identity: therians and otherkin.  Where the furries are usually human+, ‘kin tend to identify as non-human, period.  Whether that be a wolf who was reincarnated as a human, or an elf who was simply born in the wrong body, or simply a person with a dragon spirit along for the ride in your body, they all have that aspect in common:  their physical body has nothing to do with who they are, apart from acting as a filter.

To use a computer analogy, most people run Human OS on Human hardware.  Furries run a furry shell over Human OS on Human hardware.  ‘Kin run <whatever> OS on Human hardware.

Needless to say, this causes a lot of drama and confusion, as the masses who may not grasp the concept point and laugh, saying they’re stupid because if you look at them, they’re obviously human!  This then is fueled by the ‘kin in question flatly denying it(because as far as they’re concerned, they aren’t), leading to much trolling on the human side, and much wailing about “evil humans” and “fursecution” on the ‘kin side.

Not all ‘kin, however, renounce humanity and try to separate themselves completely from it. There are plenty of well-adjusted ‘kin out there who do acknowledge that they’re running on human hardware, regardless of how well it fits their soulshape, to mix terms and metaphors.  They just tend to be less noticeable than the more vocal “humans are evil!” crowd.

Then there are also those who use otherkin/therian as another mask, rather than the taking off of one that the idea suggests.  Typically these are younger folk who have had a troubled life of some kind, and are trying to find a way to run away and hide,  They come across the concept, and then you end up with the “OMG I was a dragon in a past life that was a king and a wizard, and every night I must fight secret astral wars against the hordes of Chaos to prevent them reaching the real world and I’m the only one who can do this because I’m super special awesome!”  Just, no.

In otherkin circles this is known as fluff, and the degree to which its tolerated depends on the community. Most of this type will move on after a few years, as they realize that they’re merely running away from themselves, rather than trying to truly examine and reveal who they are.  There are always those who after shaving all the fluff off still find that the shoe fits, and they tend to become the second type I mentioned as they re-integrate themselves.

It all comes back to identity.  Everything I’ve discussed so far is just labels, and as I said in the previous entry, labels are dangerous.  Again, however, that’s something better discussed as a topic all its own, so I won’t get into it here either.  The point I’m trying to get at however, is that our soulshape is a major part of our identity, like it or not.

Bringing it back full circle, where does that leave me?  Yes, I’m human, but like some of the examples above, my soulshape is not.  When I close my eyes and try to picture myself, I have to work at it to imagine my human body, and a much easier time picturing the dragon you see in various places on this site.  When I look in the mirror, I know it’s me, and my mind tells me it’s me.  Yet, it doesn’t feel like me, if that makes any sense.  It’s a part of my identity, my self, but it doesn’t feel as significant as my dragonself.

Maybe a little history will help.  Years and years ago, when I was younger, I had gotten into furry, but I had yet to come up with a fursona.  I, like a lot of others, liked wildcats and wolves, but neither really fit.  The I realized or came across the idea that foxes were halfway-between the two.  (It also helped that I considered myself somewhat smart, and foxes were known for being sly.)  When I finally started venturing out online, I combined that with a ranger character I had created for my representation out on the interwebs.

The RP portions fell away pretty quickly, but the fox part stuck, and stuck with me for several years. Still, like I mentioned above, it was generally my physical self with fox head, tail, and fur.  (I sometimes even had a tendancy to base the fur color on my hair color, since I am a redhead.) Then, I encountered Second Life.

My first fox avatar was fairly cruddy, as things go, but over several months I fine-tuned it to be closer and close to what I then considered my soulshape, even if I did not see it or consider it such back then.  Once it was all exact however, it still did not feel… complete.  Then a friend of mine introduced me to ‘taurs.

I then experimented a bit with them, to the point of creating a chakat character.  I basically asked myself if I was going to be a chakat, what would I be?  Once the newness wore off however, it was not very long before I lost interest in the character as a representation and shed it from my identity like a snake shedding its skin as it grows.

When I returned to Second Life, I tried a dragon avatar and found it a decent fit, as I’ve said before.  I also met one of my ex-girlfriends at around the same time, and at her request I pulled the fox avatar back out again for a while, to match her black vixen fursona.  It worked, but I found it didn’t fit quite right anymore, like trying to put on a pair of old pants after having lost 60 pounds.

Still, I found myself reluctant to give up the fox portion of my identity, as it had been a part of me for at least 6 or 7 years(longer, really), and for all I knew at the time, the dragon stuff might only have been a phase like ‘taurs were.  So, I decided to try blending the two.

Using various avatars as tools, I started modding and tweaking, trying to distill it down.  Rather than furry crossbreed legos, I was aiming for a complete blend.  A clear, perfect facet of myself, an answer to the question “Who are you?”.  Looking at the past 7 years, you could say that I’ve succeeded.

Ironically, what started as an attempt to preserve the “foxiness” has in the end almost entirely eliminated it.  Honestly, my dragonself is really foxlike in name only, as any features atypical of a Western-style dragon could just as easily be attributed to Eastern-style dragons.  I actually find this very fitting symbolicly, considering how I’ve grown up in the Western world but I’ve also internallized quite a bit of the Far East(or at least Japan) as well.  There’s other symbolic parallels I could name, but this entry is long enough as it is.

I also know for sure that Second Life is not the cause, as between work and WoW, I basically did not touch SL for about 2 years before returning for a short bit this past week. Even still, I never felt the need to stop representing myself as such in that time, and my dragon avatar still fit like a glove(within SL’s limitations) when I logged in.  I am human, but like it or not, I am also dragon.

FYIAD - Deal with it.

*puts on sunglasses*

Who are you?

Inquisitor: Who are you?
Delenn: I am Delenn.
Inquisitor: Unacceptable answer. I already know your name. Who are you?
Delenn: Delenn! [shocked]
Inquisitor: If you repeat an unacceptable answer, the penalty will be increased. Who are you?
Delenn: I…I am the ambassador for Minbar.
Inquisitor: Unacceptable. That is only your title. What other people call you when you choose to hide behind formalities. Who are you?
Delenn: I, uh…I’m the daughter of…[shocked]
Inquisitor: Unacceptable. What a sad thing you are. Unable to answer even such a simple question without falling back on references and genealogies and what other people call you. Have you nothing of your own? Nothing to stand on that is not provided, defined, delineated, stamped, sanctioned, numbered and approved by others? How can you be expected to fight for someone else when you haven’t the fairest idea who you are?

Babylon 5, “Comes the Inquisitor”

One of the most dangerous questions out there is the seemingly innocuous “Who are you?” Most people’s first impulse is to respond just as Delenn did above. Quick superficial answers. Names and labels provided by others, or society in general. Some reject those labels, and fight them tooth and claw, while others accept them and take them upon themselves. But when you strip all that away, what makes you, you?

Identity is a nebulous thing. Trying to lay hands on it is like chasing a well-oiled ferret with a jetpack in zero-G. Ultimately, most just don’t even bother with it, and go on with life. There is nothing wrong with this. Still, the better you know yourself, the better idea you have of if you’re following the path best for you.

Another way of looking at this is a series of masks. We present one mask, one facet of our identity to our co-workers. We present another to our friends, and possibly another to our family. Some may be in several of those categories and see more sides of us. And before you say you never do that, just think: do you discuss your sex life with your family or co-workers? Do you take the same attitude at work as when you’re at the bar with friends? So you share your baby pictures or stories of dumb things you did as a kid with your co-workers? It’s not something we do consciously, but something we have to do in society to survive.

I consider myself fairly honest, in that fashion. I seldom try to present myself as something I’m not just to fit in the group. Even still, there are things I don’t voluntarily share with my co-workers, because I know how they’d react – how they view those concepts is completely different from how I view them. I don’t actively hide these facets of myself, but I don’t trot them out either and wave them in people’s face going “Look how special I am!”

That’s actually probably something that deserves it’s own entry, actually – how dangerous labels can be, to ourselves and to others, so I’ll leave that alone for now and get back to the subject of identity.

Now I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the program called Second Life. It’s got a reputation for raciness, but then what on the internet doesn’t? What it really is is an online environment where you can be whatever you want to be, and build whatever you want to build, within the limitations of your skills, imagination, and resources. I mention the last part because SL allows people to sell their creations in-world for a SL money called Lindens, so you aren’t necessarily limited to what you can make yourself, which is a very good thing.

For some, it’s simply a chat program, albeit a very graphically pretty one. For others, it lets them explore their creativity, for good or for ill. And for yet others, it allows them to explore their own identity – in a world where you can be anything, what would you be?

It’s actually kind of interesting to see the sort of breakdown out there, between the various types. A heck of a lot of people out there basically take their physical selves as a template, whether they realize it or not, and then change all the things they wish they could change(or think they wish they could change) based on society’s images of the ideal (wo)man. In other words, lots of buff guys who could crack peanuts with their pecs, and women that a thin breeze might snap in half, with breasts as large as their head. Now a lot of these are probably in the first group I mentioned, who just are using it as a glorified chat program(and possibly trolling for virtual sex), but I have to admit that however shallow of me it is for it, whenever I see one of those I find myself just shaking my head internally – is that really how they would wish to be? In a world of Adonis and Aphrodites, where everyone is almost exactly the same, what then? (Not to mention the overtones that some of these lay on top of those physical images…)

There is a second side to that however – genderswapping. While there are many I’m sure that have made an avatar of their dream girl and then go and look to get laid virtually, for those who might be more comfortable as the opposite gender, it allows them to present as that gender and not have to deal with all the crap they would in the real world. It’s 100% up to the individual whether or not they want to reveal what sits behind the keyboard.

Of course, the same freedom to express yourself led to a large furry population as well. To borrow a quote, on the internet no one can tell you’re (not) a dog. Given the misunderstandings among the general population about what furry is(in no small thanks to certain media outlets) if you see one you know at least that that is an identity they’ve claimed for themselves. For some, it is another mask to put on, while for others, they may feel it is the mask they take off. It may be symbolic, or they may just find that species of animal really intriguing.

Again, when you have the freedom to be anything, what you choose can be telling.

Identity is also rarely static. We experience things; we learn; we grow. Who you are at 20 may not bear much resemblance to who you are at 60. You’ve had 40 years to learn more about yourself. 40 years in which you’ve changed the world, even if just the tiniest bit, and for it to have affected you.

There’s a lot more I could write, but I think I’ll leave it for there for now, as it is getting late. Babylon 5 however did love to ask the hard questions. And so, whomever may be reading this, I ask you:

Who are you?