walking with the wolf

written may 5, 2022

my family inadvertently turned me on to furry media from a young age. as an autistic child with an affinity towards animals already (easier to understand than people), my parents would shake their head and give me whatever cartoon animal media they found, maybe in an attempt to appeal to what i already liked.

growing up, i watched a variety of things, from the classic disney's robin hood to the more niche once upon a forest, not to mention xenofiction like warrior cats, watership down, and cartoons like ranger rick or really any particular animal-focused sunday comic.

maybe it was those medias that influenced how i came to feel about myself, my gender, and the world. or maybe i was predisposed to it. it's hard to say!

when i was very young, i didn't have a lot of friends, but i did have one good friend at the time who i would play all sorts of imaginary games with. we had imaginary horses (which we flipped between *being* them and *owning* them very fluidly) and would LARP warrior cats in their backyard in the summertime. so maybe they also influenced me, a bit. (regretfully, we do not talk anymore for various reasons. i have heard they have not gotten any better since then.)

and of course, entering middle school was hard, because i lost that friend (they had to go to a different school) and then failed to make new ones. and thanks to imbalanced hormone levels, my body gained weight and that in addition to my #weirdgirl nature left me socially stranded.

so, i turned back to the anthro animals i remembered from childhood. i drew my funny little warrior cat characters, and my pokemon fancharacters, and went on the internet, and especially deviantart, where animal fans were everywhere. these would also be furries, looking back, though when i *heard* the word furry and finally went to look into it, the 'oldfurry' lifestyle felt like the 'correct' one to me, and i was incredibly intrigued by it. i stayed up well past midnight to read about conventions, fursuiting, and eventually.... therianism.

for those of you who don't really know what that is, have you heard of 'otherkin'? it's a fairly recent phenomena (i want to say it was coined circa 1970s?) of people feeling a disconnect from their flesh self, feeling as though perhaps they were born in the wrong body (but not so much in a trans way, or perhaps only partially so) and should have been born as an animal of some sort.

... that's the broad definition that i came across, though i know in this day and age, the word 'otherkin' is sort of a broad label for a whole spectrum of feelings ranging from 'this character feels very much like me' to 'i think this was me in a past life' to 'i dunno, i just feel like i see myself in them', things like that. what it *means* for any one person depends on said person, and there's a lot of flavors of it.

when i first heard of therians, i thought, wow! i understand! i had these vivid ideas in my head, these mental landscapes of me, by the lakeside at night, crisp breeze running through short fur, cricketsong reaching pointed ears. and these people felt that, too! (well, not entirely the *same* landscape, of course, but kindred spirits!)

it was incredibly wild to me, you know, to have that sort of uniting experience. i did not get very much into the community itself - i've always been a bit of a hermit, and i was, and probably still am, a bit self conscious about expressing that part of myself. but i read so much about it. i read about p-shifting and m-shifting, which were supposedly ways you could turn yourself physically and mentally into your 'kintype' (i.e., the life form you felt a kinship to). the p-shifting was, of course, bogus, as most 'internet magic spells' were and are.

but imagine, if you will, a very lonely 13 year old, staring desperately into the bathroom mirror, discontent with who they are and what they look like, focused on trying to change something - anything - about themself to make them feel more at home and comfortable with their body.

in retrospect, this was definitely the beginnings of my gender realization, as well as the terrible effects of my body image being ridiculed by my peers daily for many years. but i would also say, yes, it did have something to do with my animal-media upbringing too.

as i graduated to high school, my sister granted me some respite by allowing me into her existing friend group - though only a few of these people would i still call friends. (madison, ian, i would never forget you! my cis allies. LOL...) and the matter of 'furry' continued to weigh on my mind. in senior year, i was given the chance to read an old "letter to self" that i had written as a freshman, which, among other things, had the written phrase "have you come out of the furry closet yet?" which is a little funny considering everything.

around 2011, i also joined tumblr, you know, the microblogging "hell"site, which soon after became known for its young otherkin ('kinnie', as an insult, usually) userbase. it was not entirely good for me, but i did make lasting connections and still talk to many people from that time period. (mutt, wyatt, petzfan, anya, julie, etc...)

during this time, the actual therian part of my otherkin identity still *existed*, but i think during that entire time my self was in a bit of turmoil thanks to... many things that i will not entirely touch on here, as i want to finish this page in a reasonable length of time.

as i came out of my teens and grew past 20, i've slowly become more stable, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and also getting a more solid support group. (i would say this period of growth started sometime after 2018, where i had started dating my girlfriend cynthia. we are still dating as of writing this, four years strong!)

but then, in the back of my mind, i could still feel it, that canine self lingering, lurking, watching. it was a primal part of me, the part of me that wanted to roll in the grass, or watch the mist creep in, or watch the sun rise.

i say "was", as if it had ever left. but now that i've more comfortably settled into my place in life - i am a freelance artist now, with a loving girlfriend & support network, and a future - i feel these things coming back to me, reminding me of where i even started in all of this, and what i drew my strength from at my weakest moments.

so, yeah, i'll wrap this up with a statement:

there's a wolf in me, and there could be an animal in you, too, if you think to look!