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the "butch kitty" ponders

I wonder if any academics are studying the intersection between body image and the otherkin/furry/anime fan notion of having an alternate identity as a non-human real or mythical creature (e.g., fairy, dragon, winged cat). To what extent do the mucked up body politics and gender politics of our society drive this, and to what extent is it a helpful response to same?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 19th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
When I heard of Otherkin, the phrase theat came to mind was "species dysphoria."
Oct. 19th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC)
*nod*. yes, definitely.

i'm not otherkin, but long before i heard of that term i had an internal image of myself as not-human. and long before i read any SF, i'd lay in the backyard at night, looking at the stars, sending out thought waves that "my people" should come and get me because i couldn't stand it here.

"species dysphoria" is quite the right term for it (because i don't actually believe i am an alien looking on the outside just like a human, *snicker*).

though for me it has nothing to do with body image / gender politics in the USian definitional space, being as this was long before i came to north america :). i wouldn't be at all surprised if there were such a connection for others, however.
Oct. 20th, 2006 12:06 am (UTC)
There are some Otherkin who identify with that phrase. There are other Otherkin (heehee, recursion!) who don't.

Me, I'm technically an Otherkin, for various complex spiritual beliefs based in my own experience that are a bit too complicated to explain here, but suffice to say that I don't have "species dysphoria" at all. Yes, I would like large, mobile ears; a long, fangy muzzle; claws; digitigrade legs; and other features that would ultimately make clothing and furniture (and probably speech) a pain in the ass. But those are things I'd like to have, not things I feel I'm missing, or somehow need. They're - for me, on the lines of getting my tongue pierced; I'm interested, I'd probably enjoy it, but right now it's too difficult and potentially dangerous, so enh, I'm fine without.
Oct. 19th, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC)
What about totem animals, familiars and "spirit guides"? Would they have something to do with animal-identification?

As for mine, it's just a game about "personality type". I think that most people are either cats or dogs. You are a cat, and I am a dog. I have fun trying to decide which people are which and what makes the difference.

Now excuse me while I go chase some squirrels.

Oct. 19th, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC)
Good question about familiars/totems.

I like dogs, and can "be" a dog when a dog is around.
Oct. 20th, 2006 12:07 am (UTC)
And yes, I have often wondered the very same thing. *nod*
Oct. 20th, 2006 12:15 am (UTC)
Would you say it has any effect on your body image other than your wanting certain features but not strongly?
Oct. 20th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC)
Um... hm.

Okay, I'll start from this angle: I wouldn't be surprised to find that most people's body images evolve over time, and in response to various situations. I know my own has changed dramatically. I have always had the capacity to imagine myself as a non-human, and I can maintain that image with a high degree of detail for a long period; but I never felt that it was... more me than my own body. I have also always had a strong "grounding" in my physical body; ultimately, this body is my home, it's what I'm familiar with, and I'd rather live here than anywhere else.

Part of it, I think, is a lack of attachment to any other particular single body structure. I've "tried on" various other forms in my mind, and some are nice, but enh - none that I would want to commit to, mentally, spiritually, or physically. Same thing with gender-swapping, really; I'd take the option to be able to change genders with relative ease in an instant (even with gender-changing clauses like "changes once a month," "changes when doused with cold/hot water," etc.), but I wouldn't want to change from female to male permanently. For that matter, I'm somewhat disgruntled that I'm stuck with being female based on my genes; but there currently isn't a viable alternative to "either one or the other". I want both dammit.

So, I'm perhaps not the best person to ask. If the technology existed to do serious structural body modification safely, not-too-expensively, reversibly, and with satisfactory results, I'd be shopping, with an eye to setting up a savings account for a particular mod in ten/fifteen years. But I don't have any particular plans, you know? My basic self-image is still me - redder hair, longer face, taller, leaner - but definitely and identifiably me-human.

On the other end of the scale, there's this fellow; though... I'm not sure if it's species dimorphism or what; he frames it as a spiritual/totem thing, but I've seen him at furry cons, so I know that he's at least furry-friendly. (and a picture here.) He is constantly pushing the limits of what is currently avaiable for physical nonhuman body modification; there are a few others out there, but he's the most well-known. I must admit that I admire his dedication.
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