This is Aurasyr (nickname Aura) from the Wildpath server! I identify as a nonhuman and shift between three nonhuman forms with hybridized forms existing between each. These three states are dragon, wolf, and horse. My horse aspect exists on its own, but the wolf and dragon forms both blend with human in varying degrees, resulting in “anthropomorphic” forms of each. I want to clarify that I do not identify as part of the furry community, though I hold nothing against them.*
This past year has been a bit of a transition for me, as I was still undergoing the process of extricating myself from another nonhuman community I had been part of since I was 16. I am 27 now and have been dealing with the deeply unhealthy ideas and notions put forth by the dominant presence in that group. Having joined it so young, I never got much of a chance to solidify my identity without constant (and often uninvited) feedback from the group’s founder, especially as an adult. Looking back, I can see now how damaging that was, and this past year has been all about figuring out who I am.
As part of the last group, there was intense pressure to find one’s “true form”, which idealized the seeking and finding of one’s “true” nonhuman shape. This was almost certainly a reflection of the founder’s deep and largely unaddressed psychological issues, which unfortunately fell back on the group time and time again. This seeking of a single state “to exist as” put an unholy pressure on my own understanding of self, and as a result, I didn’t feel free to exist as anything other than what was approved of by the founder. This “central” form I latched onto was a mix of something between a dragon and a wolf, which left my equine identity out in the cold, so to speak. So I spent a lot of time this year reconnecting with that part of myself, and I finally made myself full reference sheets so that I could detail exactly what was in my mind, and so that others could see the same.
I think the idea of a “true and singular form” is largely damaging, especially when it is enforced as the norm in a nonhuman community. If one arrives at this conclusion organically, without any external pressure, then more power to them! However, it seems to me that this is an idea that gets pushed on those who are trying to find their feet in the nonhuman space, and this can be both discouraging and damaging, especially to those whose experiences don’t conform to it.
Children need freedom in order to grow properly, as any person with restrictive parents will tell you, and I think the same applies to the evolution and growth of a nonhuman identity. Unfortunately, it seems that there are all too many individuals lurking about in nonhuman spaces who have egos to gratify when they pressure others to find a central form. They try to steer the identities of the impressionable individual just trying to find their feet to what they want. In my case, the figure of authority presented me with a design of their own original species, and because it had a comfortable mix of traits, I adopted it. But with it came the expectation that I would hold to that form. This was a mistake, as it enabled them to dictate that (and therefore my) species’ traits, characteristics, behaviour, etc. In hindsight, this was totally about placating their ego and maintaining control over me, not helping me understand myself.
Not everyone has the foresight to determine which influences are helpful and which will be harmful, especially when they enter the scene at a young age. For young folks, access to safe and trustworthy elders (of the community) is unfortunately difficult to find, because as I’m sure many know, those who have been around the community long enough can get very jaded with the power plays and drama that goes along with it, and therefore retreat to some kind of distance. At the same time, people serving their own egos will unfortunately be far louder than those with healthy perspectives, leading to more youngsters falling into the trap of a cult of personality. This is doubly unfortunate because most young people have a desire to find someone to give them guidance and validate their experiences, which can be a problem when walking into a community where not everyone has their best interests in mind.
In my opinion, the best approach to nonhuman self-exploration does involve a community, but it is crucial that those within that community can be trusted not to try and sway the new individual in any one direction based on their own expectations. For example, a good friend of mine now has been excellent in helping to repair my scattered sense of identity simply by asking clarifying questions on sketches I come up with. They are highly experienced artists themselves (plural because they are a system), and so ask guiding questions like what function a structure has, or how a textured part of the sketch would feel. This has been a very helpful form of validation and clarification, but without any one idea or outcome being expected. If everyone had access to this type of support, I bet we’d see far less folks coming out of communities feeling repressed and confused. Thus the onus rests on all of us who have been around the block before to be supportive, and encourage whatever direction a newcomer might go in.
My resulting understanding of my nature is that I am a shifter, but only within a limited spectrum. This is by far the most comfortable I’ve ever been with my nonhuman identity, and I’ve been more settled as a result. It will still take effort and time to unlearn the stringent frame that my nonhumanity was put into from the outset.
I have learned that the aspects I shift into are largely dependent on my mood and surroundings, but that’s not all that dictates which state I’m in. I don’t know if I’ll ever know exactly what brings out each state, but I do know it’s something instinctive, and it’s a source of discomfort if I try to draw myself in a state that I am not in. For example, if I’m shifted into a wolf, drawing my horse aspect rarely works. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s the way I’ve always been.
So, in many ways, 2021 was a year of returning to myself and the parts of me that I had let fall to the wayside in the face of external pressure. Going forward, I would like to be able to both learn the conditions in which I shift, and be able to control it so that there’s less limitation on what I can do with my artistic abilities, as my art is inextricably linked to my nonhumanity. It’s the primary way in which I deal with species dysphoria, and has always been.
Throughout the past year, art helped me understand myself on a deeper level simply by being able to show myself what I look like. Humans often struggle to visualize themselves without the aid of a mirror, and it’s like that for me with art. Art is my mirror, and without it, my form is obscured. If I have no medium through which to see myself, there is no clarity or awareness. This is hard for me to try and translate to words, but the process of working on my reference sheets essentially involves me exploring all of the different variations of colour and form that I experience, accepting that those are in fact all me, and then translating them on paper (or screen, as the case may be). My resistance to having so many different forms was a hindrance at first, but once I accepted it, it all came flowing out. My artistic identity is such a part of me that it’s not something I can really translate to language, but as they say, a picture says a thousand words.
Either way, I’m in a good place, and I’m excited to go forward to see what further understanding brings!
*As a sidenote, being nonhuman vs. being a furry is an important distinction here. Many furries have multiple fursonas that they may use interchangeably, whereas to a nonhuman their shape is not a costume or separate personality, but a representation of their own selves, what they are. This is not necessarily important to furries.