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Article on 'becoming a therian'

I finally finished it, after giving myself more than enough time to sort through my thoughts on it and decide exactly what I wanted to include in it.  Turns out though, about half of it is new material that I typed specifically for the essay and the other half is made up of paragraphs pulled directly from my posts on a Werelist thread about becoming a therian, considering I had some good parts of my thoughts and argument laid out in that thread.  I think this maybe best in the Community section of the site because although it could fit in the Therianthropy or Introspection sections, it's primarily aimed at the community in general and has to do with community standards and stigma about the topic.  As usual, feedback is welcome.

 

Becoming a Therian

March 1, 2009

 

This essay is not intended to convince people that they should believe therians “aren’t born” or that even some of them seriously ‘become’ therians later in life. My aim is to help increase better respect for varying opinions and beliefs among therians, and to realize that one is fine to disagree with the very notion that someone can “become” a therian (regardless of how) rather than be born one. But that we should realize the facts are not set in our knowledge yet about many aspects of therianthropy--the beginning of therianthropy during a person’s life, being one of them. Further, this is about recognizing that there maybe people who develop therianthropy (become a therian) later on in life, at whatever point, but this does not mean I am providing evidence that any therians are such factually, just as I am not trying to factually refute the idea that any or most therians maybe ones born as such.

 

It’s our responsibility to realize when we are expressing information and observed (even if through anecdotes) parts of therianthropy or defining terms that need defining, and doing such for educational or helpful reasons.  And in contrast, we need to realize when we are instead stating things that are beliefs and opinions about the experience or state of therianthropy in general, and using them to shun, shame, or “win over” people into our own particular views of what we believe the “facts” of therianthropy’s requirements are.
 

 

Many therians have expressed a more explanatory view of the born-as-a-therian hypothesis to describe why therians often express only noticing their therianthropy (as an experience and part of self) at a later point in life than early childhood (particularly adolescence). This explanation follows that the therianthropy is (1) “dormant” until a certain time in life for the individual, (2) active but to a lower level of self-perception (thus an occurrence of “awakening” to this part of oneself), or (3) that the therianthropy has the potential to develop (such as through a psychological means). These are fine explanations and I personally agree that each one of them likely occurs, though amongst what percentage of therians I will make no guess.

 

However, the flaw does not so much come into the hypotheses themselves, but instead comes in the form of how these hypotheses are often delivered to other therians, mainly those who make statements or inquiring questions about why s/he hasn’t recognized therianthropy being an active part of him/herself before that later point of realization, beyond early childhood. People are too often quick to silence these statements or inquiries with supposed ‘facts’ of how therianthropy is necessarily a state or occurrence beginning at or before the individual is physically born. This is also a response that is delivered normally by multiple people, to help support and further back up the information as factual necessity of the therianthropic state. Consequently resulting in further inquiring or statements regarding the notion of therianthropy developing and, essentially, coming into existence for an individual years after birth, being dropped and not further explored, at least in a public/near-public discussion format.

 

I, as well, have had difficulty up to this point in getting deeper discussion out of this subject through my few efforts of trying to carry the discussion much further beyond “therians are born, even if it only comes to the person’s attention much later in life”. Though I will admit, I am glad to have gotten the levels of discussion on this topic that I did, even if they weren’t as satisfying and in depth as I prefer. Yet the social taboo of the becoming-a-therian topic has remained blatantly obvious to me. Even if it’s not outright stated clearly, it is apparent that talking about the concept as one either believing it actually occurs or curiously exploring the possibility of if it may occur for some therians--this is sought to be silenced, particularly in a quick, and often group mannered, way. A lot of times, people are seemingly “corrected” on it near immediately.

 

The further problem of this lies in the reality that we don’t have the means (at least not even remotely at this time) to honestly and objectively find out that a therian, any therian, is factually born as such before or when they exit the human womb. How many therians can truthfully trace their therianthropy back to birth, specifically? However, I understand what the hypothesis is meant to denote: that many therians (whether the majority active at some point online or not) have described seemingly therianthropic experiences, behaviors, instincts, and so forth from so early of an age (such as 2 to 4 years old) that non-innate factors are rather unlikely to have caused the person to ‘become’ a therian starting then, rather than it being part of him/her from at or before birth. Yet, what of the numerous other therians who cannot find those such experiences and personal evidence that early back (or even within years more after those points) in their memories and accounts explained by other people in their lives then, as observers? I being one of those myself.

 

As documented in my “Upbringing, Imprintation, and Self-Development” essay, every time I look to my childhood to find evidence of my therianthropy then, prior to about 10-11 years old, I find nothing other than a pretty much typical childhood interest in animals (especially certain types), roleplaying as whatever type of animal (playing pretend), and such things. How would that be indicative of therianthropy for me? Simply put, it’s not. I hold the belief that my therianthropy is primarily, though maybe not necessarily entirely, caused by post-birth factors of a wide range. Thus I don’t rule out the possibility that I could completely be wrong about that, or more particularly, that there was some pre-birth factor that may have contributed to the increased potential for me becoming a therian nearly a decade after my birth. But, to me, potential for having therianthropy does not equal the actual state of therianthropy, dormant or otherwise.

 

Another alternative take on the concept of being “born” a therian is that for some it may not be from literal physical birth, but instead through the ‘birth’, per se, of one’s identity, self, and core personality. And this form of ‘birth’ generally occurs within the first few years or so of a person’s life. Such a core of self usually stays fairly the same throughout an individual’s life. However, it’s difficult to say exactly what is and is not part of that early “core self”, and there’s also the matter that people tend to change as individuals in personality, behaviors, etc. over the course of key parts of their development, and these changes may or may not influence one’s therianthropy. Life-changing experiences, whether traumatic or not, could possibly have some affect on whatever parts of oneself in which his/her therianthropy resides, or for some therians those areas may remain untouchable by those major experiences.

 

But can therianthropy actually develop later in childhood or some other time in one’s life besides early childhood, even after the ‘core self’ has been “born”? Personally, I believe it can, though the specific factors, experiences, and array of influences that would lead to such appear to place these situations in the minority amongst therians, however not limiting them to only being outside of the realm of therianthropy. One thing that should be kept in mind when dealing with the concept of people becoming therians is that the mind and self are more malleable in early life, even near or in adolescence, than we often like to think. Various factors, environmental (physical surroundings), social, totemic, interests, media (of numerous forms), and so forth could potentially play into affecting a person’s self and identity, particularly during key stages of mental, social, and body development, and therianthropy maybe something that in some cases results from these complex interactions of influences. This is, though, not to come as any type of refuting of spiritual, reincarnation, soul-based, or similar such explanations of therianthropy, which I believe have validity to them and maybe the cause for some people’s therianthropy.

 

On a somewhat similar note, I will briefly mention that the affects within a person’s life could also possibly lead to loss of his/her theriotype(s), either through losing his/her therianthropy entirely (which would likely result in or result from a notable change in his/her personality and self in some ways), or through the changing of a theriotype into a different animal, or in losing one or more theriotypes for someone who has multiple ones. This thus ties into the matter of the mind and self not being completely solid, unchanging things from the time of physical birth or even necessarily after early childhood.

 

Our lives, selves, and minds are not completely stagnant things over the course of decades of life, and as I mention in my essay noted earlier, why must therianthropy be excluded from that changing and development? Why is it that any person can never ‘become’ a therian? Even if what they experience correlates to therianthropy extensively but just lacks the “existent from birth” aspect (which is not a matter of proof itself any more than therianthropy is, but is personal opinion and perspective). Maybe in some ways the concept has the potential of opening up those horrible doors of “well, if a person can become a therian, then…” with the possibility of people jumping on it as an excuse to claim they are a therian without real reason behind the statement. People claim such anyway, yet I wonder if there is an implied atmosphere sometimes about what kind of bad issues could be released by “fluffies” and “roleplayers” if therianthropy was accepted as being valid sometimes through people becoming therians notably after birth (years and years later).

 

With it being each person’s decision as to whether they are a therian and what their theriotype(s) is/are, I believe it’s also up to individuals to figure out what explanations seem to ‘fit’ for them regarding the cause(s) of their therianthropy. It’s not right for people to say “you aren’t a therian because you weren’t born one” any more then it’s okay for people to say in general that a person certainly isn’t a therian, especially based off of information that correlates to therianthropy in many ways except some differences from ‘community standards’ about therianthropy (in this case, the initial time of therianthropic occurrence). Our understanding of therianthropy in a more generalized sense comes from individuals sharing their experiences, and without people saying things like “I wasn’t always a therian from physical birth” then the overall community’s understanding of therianthropy will tend toward being exclusive from such experiences and beliefs. The typical trend has been “I have always felt this way from as far back as I can remember” which became accepted widely as more than just a trend but as people trying to define it as a necessity of therianthropy. And if someone did not fit that aspect then they were often considered and encouraged to view themselves as not a therian, or for the person to change his/her opinion about not being born a therian. A person can sit here and say “yes, I have been a therian since birth” without evidence or reasoning for it with him/her feeling s/he didn’t manifest therianthropy during childhood, and yet they don’t have any more evidence for such then a person with similar feelings of his/her childhood who says “I believe I developed therianthropy later in my life”.

Other people have the right to believe someone’s therianthropy was there since or before birth if the individual believes it developed later, like others have the right to believe it’s a spiritual or a psychological thing even if the individual believes it has a different cause(s) than the other person/people. Yet I would like to see people being respectful to each other and not stating disagreements in opinions over the cause or time of occurrence of therianthropy as being factual without enough factual evidence. We don’t know for sure who is right and who is wrong, though we can speculate and debate about it, or believe someone else’s view isn’t correct. But until there is actually enough viable and substantial proof regarding the origins of therianthropy, we can’t claim much of that as factual, let alone to the point of excluding people of a different line of thought or opinion who have reason to believe they are also therians. And even if we did have such an extensive level of proof, that does not mean that exceptions to the ‘rule’ or trend couldn’t occur regarding the born vs. becoming a therian matter.

 

Also, in relation to those who would fret over what supposed damage could be done to the online therian community by opening up the doors of acceptance and respect regarding people who sincerely believe they ‘became’ a therian, just because of “roleplayers”, I have a response to that as well. Just because it may make separating 'sincere' therians from 'roleplayer' or 'misled' therians somewhat more difficult, that doesn't mean that someone who does sound sincere and serious about their therianthropy but just lacks the "I was always [or born] one" belief should be thrown in with the people who are either outright lying about being a therian or are otherwise notably misled. In the community's attempts to "keep out the fluffs and RPers" I'd prefer that we also not lose sight of sincere and serious experiences that would result in building up walls to keep out the liars and end up keeping out some other real and serious therians along with them (even if the latter aren't but few being kept out). And the roleplayer types are usually pretty obvious anyway without it coming down to a single saying of "I became a therian" or "I wasn't always a therian"--surely, at least I can hope, there would be much more reason to call someone on being a roleplayer than just that one aspect or type of statement, otherwise people probably shouldn't be calling roleplayer on them.

 

Thus people should separate the serious ‘I became a therian’s from the roleplayer types in a similar way it should be done for people saying they have always been a therian--like I mentioned, if that's all a person really needed to say in order to be "accepted as a real/serious therian" we'd have a rather difficult time separating RPers from serious ones (because all they'd have to do is throw in that line that they were born one). Yet that's obviously not how we, in general, approach such matters and people. We should be taking the whole concept of "sincere therian or not?" on a case-by-case basis anyway, not relying on some “textbook example” of what a therian is or is not.
 

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
tawncherie
Mar. 2nd, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Oh, wonderful! I liked that you mentioned that therianthropy could potentially be lost or change as well.

Overall, I found it pretty clear and well written, only one paragraph has really thrown me.

It’s our responsibility to realize when we are expressing information and observed (even if through anecdotes) parts of therianthropy or defining terms that need defining (as they were not always part of the therian community language), and doing such for educational or helpful reasons.

This sentence was a little awkward. It sounds like it should be ‘we are doing such for educational…’, or something along those lines, instead of ‘and’.

And when we, in contrast, are stating things that are beliefs and opinions about the experience or state of therianthropy in general, and using them to shun, shame, or “win over” people into our own particular views of what we believe the “facts” of therianthropy’s requirements are.

This feels like a fragment, like it was going somewhere, and then it suddenly cuts off?

Otherwise, I think this is great. And I think you’re right, definitely fitting for the Community section (and something quite a few people could do to read, which would have included me… twenty minutes ago XD).
sonne_windsoul
Mar. 2nd, 2009 02:07 am (UTC)
Yeah, I thought that part sounded kind of awkward and jumbled, though I wanted to see if someone else noticed problem with it before choosing to change it. So I altered it to make more sense, and to keep it as two sentences (otherwise the whole few-lines long paragraph would be a single sentence):

"It’s our responsibility to realize when we are expressing information and observed (even if through anecdotes) parts of therianthropy or defining terms that need defining, and doing such for educational or helpful reasons. And in contrast, we need to realize when we are instead stating things that are beliefs and opinions about the experience or state of therianthropy in general, and using them to shun, shame, or “win over” people into our own particular views of what we believe the “facts” of therianthropy’s requirements are."

Glad to hear you like it and that it turned out well :3. Plus it's nice to finally have an essay on this subject, which will hopefully help in bringing to light the matter of the "must be born as a therian" standard as not being an obligatory part of believing oneself as a therian.

Also, I worked some today on compiling further the links list, got the otherkin and wereside definitions done (which I'll have to throw onto the definitions page), and decided that there's not really any use in making a 'quick guide' to the definitions, unlike what I had initially intended. Most of the shifting definitions are pretty simplistic, and even though many are a few lines long they are explained well and generally have the basic definition stated in the first sentence or two. The types of therianthropy definitions just wouldn't be done justice enough, I believe, by breaking them down only into one or two line definitions, and I don't see point in making a separate page (or even on the 'types of therianthropy' page itself) to only list very short definitions for about 3 or 4 terms.
tawncherie
Mar. 2nd, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
Amazing how much a tiny change in a sentence can make. (: Makes sense now.

That's fair about definitions. The pages we have now are definately enough and well defined. In the few instances they're longer than a definition traditionally is, it wont harm anyone to read a paragraph or two.
sonne_windsoul
Mar. 3rd, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
By the way, I put this essay over at Werelist too (and will also probably post it on Awereness Forums, though that place gets very little activity anymore). At least it's gotten some views, though I have no idea how many of those have actually read it. Apparently, as I figured there would be, there's a distinct silence regarding responding to it, kind of similar to the discussion threads on the topic where all I could really get of people was the standardized "therians are born" answer or derailing of the thread. Nevertheless, I just want to have the essay out there where it can be accessible and read by people, regardless of whether it sparks discussion or not. Plus I don't think much of anyone beyond a few (you and I included) are "brave" enough to talk about this topic publically on forums in this way for now, and people probably don't really want to be caught agreeing with those who are breaking such a community taboo (at least that's one speculation of mine on it).
(Anonymous)
Mar. 5th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
I hope some people respond, or /at least/ read. I’ve seen topics about therianthropy developing/ changing met with good reception, so it’s a little strange how icy the responses to therianthropy developing completely (as opposed to already existing and just evolving/ changing over the years type of developing; which is funny because really those are quite similar ideas) can be.

Maybe slowly things will change though! I hope so. =D
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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