Skinside Out

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in February 2006.

What is therianthropy? The usual definition is something along the lines of “the state of a person being strongly connected to a nonhuman animal species in some way”. What is generally meant by that is that therians are humans who are also, in some manner, non-human animals.

There are all sorts of structures and rules and addendums that go along with this definition in the online therianthropy community, of course. But, like anyone else, I have my personal definition, and it’s a wordless feeling that doesn’t quite translate to a nice dictionary-style sentence. It requires poetry and imagery and metaphor. So that’s what you get.

Therianthropy is animality. It’s a state of being, a state of living – walking about in an ill-fitting skin, mind caught awkwardly between human and animal. Animal floods through your veins, flutters in your head and heart, twitches your muscles. It is what one is.

Therianthropy is human and animal combined. It is having a furred thing under your skin, or something feathered or scaled or even antennaed. It is living as a human, born and raised and embodied as a human, but something wild whispers in your veins and stalks inside your mind, and sometimes the animal-that-is-you peers out of your human eyes.

Therianthropy is living skinside out. Your fur is on the wrong side, itching underneath the surface. You have fangs and tails and claws, yet they exist only to your senses, overlapping and underlapping with human skin and human hands. You don’t quite fit inside your hide; your body’s the wrong shape.

Sometimes it feels right, being this mixture of human and animal; it feels like the most natural thing in the world, to the point where you can’t imagine one without the other. Sometimes it feels wrong to the point where you want to rip your skin off like a confining eggshell. Sometimes you want the animal with its too-strong flight-instincts or fight-instincts gone, you want to be rid of the reactions that get people looking at you oddly, you want the instinctive reactions that nearly get you in vehicle accidents to disappear. Or sometimes you want to shed your human hide, become on the outside what you often feel like on the inside and lose all human thought and worry, become just a cat or just a bird or just a wolf and not something stuck oddly between that and human.

And then, of course, logic sets in and you have to admit that life as an animal in the wild would be short and brutal and you’d probably not survive long; and yet you can’t imagine life without the wild creeping under your skin.

Why are there therianthropes? What is the nature of this condition? What is its cause? Honestly, I don’t know – and equally honestly, I don’t really care. Debating whether it’s spiritual, psychological, magical, allegorical, archetypal, genetic, chemical, totemic, or something else entirely is a purely intellectual exercise, and one without any real meaning beyond that.

All I know for certain is that I am human and I am bird, from skin to soul. And really, as far as therianthropy goes, that’s all I truly need to know.

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