“From The Deep Blue Sea” by Ocean Watcher; January 2022 (Updated)
“I am a shark …A shark who dreamed he was a man.” ~ Rick Yancey, The Last Star.
The ocean world is alien to humans. It is a truly alien environment compared to the world of air and earth. The animals that live in the ocean might as well live in another world from those on land. So, it makes me think it is little wonder that aquatic therians are so uncommon and those with species whose ancestors have never existed above the waves are all the rarer. It’s weird enough to identify as a nonhuman land animal (especially if it’s a mammal) but to identify as a nonhuman animal that is aquatic; that is even more alien. The difference between human and another mammal (a wolf, for an example) is one thing, but the difference between a human to shark is another. (Now imagine the difference between human to sea slug.) The differences in terms of behavior and physiology increases exponentially. After all, at least both a human and a wolf are generally anatomically similar; they’re at least both mammals with four limbs in common. So, it makes sense to me that not as many people would end up identifying as aquatic than as identifying as another mammalian animal.
That is not to say that there are no shark or nudibranch therians at all. I am simply explaining why I feel it makes sense they are rarer among any statistics regarding of theriotypes. They do exist, however. I would know as, despite the vast differences between human compared to shark and nudibranch, I am, in fact, a blue glaucus and frilled shark therian.
A Basic Definition of Therianthropy
In the time the multiple system I am a part of has been in the therian community (going on over 15 years), I have lost count how many times we have seen discussion and debate on how to best define therianthropy. One of the more popular definitions generally goes something like: “an individual who identifies as, typically non-physically, a nonhuman animal either partially or entirely.” Some in the community dislike the use of “identify as” for a number of reasons and so another common definition generally goes something like “an individual that is, feels, and/or believes they are in part or whole (non-physically) one or more nonhuman animals on an integral and personal level.” Another alternative is something like “An individual who considers themselves to be intrinsically a nonhuman animal on a non-physical level.”
Oh, and there has also been an again, off again debate among parts of the therian community over if the “animal” of therianthropy must be an animal species that is known to exist or once existed on planet Earth, or if it can apply to anything nonhuman so long as it has particularly animalistic instincts or urges. However, that debate is a whole other can of worms and is beyond a “simple” definition of therianthropy (and isn’t important in the context of this essay).
Regardless of what definition and exact wording used in the definition, there is a consist meaning being meant.
Either way of all this, the word therian is commonly used within the community as a shorthand for therianthrope and therianthropy is used to describe the state of being a therianthrope.
My Personal Therianthropy In Brief
I am called is Ocean Watcher among the multiple system I am a part of. I am a blue glaucus and frilled shark therian. Physically I am human, Homo sapien, and I am no more or less than that. Yet every part of me that isn’t physical, is actually frilled shark and blue glaucus rather than human, or at least that is how I feel. What I mean by that is that while I know that I am a human, I also know that I a blue glaucus and a frilled shark. I am, feel, and believe that I am a frilled shark and blue glaucus an integral and personal level. I feel that I identify as a frilled shark and blue glaucus to the point that I feel that I am a frilled shark and blue glaucus in some non-physical way. I see myself as both a frilled shark and blue glaucus within a human body, if you will. This is the state of my identity and experiences. My sense of self. The way I experience and perceive the world led me to consider myself this way back when I was still a child. My mindset, identity, sense of self, and everything that makes me who I am as a person, is that of a frilled shark and blue glaucus which has grown to act human through having a human body and living a human life as far as I can best describe it. Homo sapiens on the outside but non-physically within, in some bizarre way, I am Chlamydoselachus anguineus, and Glaucus atlanticus regardless of my body. This state of mine is a part of my everyday life and this self-identification is a long-term and constant feeling. I’ve identified this way sense childhood and, considering I’m well into my adult years, I see myself as still identifying this way into the foreseeable future. It is something which persists even after evaluating my experiences and trying to come to other possible explanations as to why I identify this way. As part of my state of being, I experience a number of things: species dysphoria, nonhuman phantom sensations, being nonhuman in shape while having out of body experiences, dreams in which I am nonhuman, a large array of instincts and urges that can best be described as animalistic, and more. All these experiences, I point back to my being a blue glaucus and frilled shark therian.
The Terms I Use
The terms I use for myself to describe my being nonhuman in a human body are therian and transspecies. While, of course, therian is just short for therianthrope I have a preference towards just calling myself a therian over calling myself a therianthrope in conversation. Using therianthrope feels very formal and slightly unwieldy. I also call myself transspecies. It was the first term we came across (2003) to describe people who don’t see themselves as human. I personally like it because of its symmetry with the term transgender as I am also transgender, and my gender is very entwined and very much complicated by our species. So, I personally resonate with the term transspecies as well.
Cause of My Therianthropy
The multiple system I am a part of is mixed-origin. Our state of being has come about due to several various factors and events. Based on what we can gather, our existence is best attributed to a combination of neurological factors connected to our atypical brain chemistry, psychological factors born out of life experiences, and spiritual factors brought on by a natural inclination toward spirit work. For myself, am I am the oldest of three “siblings” (Earth Listener and Sky Singer being my two younger siblings) and we are the hosts of our multiple system. We believe the three of us were basically born as we are into our human physical body. Three souls born in one body whose existence have been shaped by our body’s neurodiversity and several instances in our body’s childhood that had a psychological impact. I don’t have any past life memories but given my theriotypes that doesn’t seem all that suspiring to me. So that isn’t a factor in my experiences.
That is my current perspective and stance on my origins. Either way, what caused my therianthropy doesn’t mean as much to me as much as how my therianthropy affects me now in daily life regardless.
Figuring Out My Therianthropy
The multiple system I am a part of does not have any childhood memories prior to age 7 or 8. I have memories of myself right after that timeframe but in those memories, I already had a growing understanding of my animality. I didn’t know the actual names of my species, I wasn’t even aware my species identity was made up of two animals not one, but I did know I was something eel-like but shark and slug-like but aquatic. So, sometime before age 9, I had already come to the conclusion I wasn’t human and that was instead something aquatic. I recall things like watching nature documentaries on the Discovery Channel and really identifying somehow as/with the sharks whenever it was about them. Things along those lines kept me pointed towards sharks and sea slugs but I couldn’t quite pin things down to a species like others in our multiple system. I also recall already having dreams, phantom sensations, instincts, and the like which bolstered this conclusion. However, because of the lack of childhood memories I am not sure exactly how or when I made the connections I did.
Throughout this system’s preteen and teen years, I didn’t have any names for my species identity. My life paused in 2006 (we were 17 by that time) when, like almost everyone else in our system, I had to go into hiding inside our innerworld due to our internal denial at our own plurality turning toxic and causing us to go into an emotional spiral. That lasted until late 2008 (we were 19 by then). Between those times I was unconscious in our system’s innerworld. Right after coming out of hiding I discovered the discovered the existence of the frilled shark and in the summer of 2009 when I discovered the existence of the blue glaucus. I spent several months for both of them comparing these animals to my experiences: my self-image, how I appeared in our multiple system’s innerworld, the shape of my phantom body, things my species dysphoria nitpicked over about the human body, thoughts that gave me species euphoria, things my instincts and urges leaned toward, my form in many dreams over my life, and so on. In the end, I concluded that these species fit my identity and experiences. So, from then on, I have acknowledged them as my theriotypes. These experiences I have as part of my daily life even now are what affirms my species identity over and over again.
Two in One
Polytherianthropy, or the phenomena of having more than one theriotype, isn’t unheard of in the therian community. One thing which often gets asked about among polytherians is how their theriotypes exists for them and how they interact.
For myself, it’s kind of hard to explain. I see myself as a frilled shark and blue glaucus simultaneously in a human body completely. It isn’t like I have two spirits in me because, I am just me singular. My species identity is made-up of both a frilled shark and blue glaucus at the same time, always and completely. To every extent, frilled shark and blue glaucus interacts and mingles within my species identity. It’s not like an on/off switch of sea slug/shark where one minute the next the other nor is it like a scale sliding between them. Rather, my therianthropy is made-up of a combination of frilled shark and blue glaucus because both of them together make up the whole of my identity. I do identify as each of species individually; however, they have to be together to represent my species identity as a whole. Only focusing on one only equates to half of my species identity because I identify as more than one animal. Focusing on one doesn’t complete the equation that makes up my species identity. Both my theriotypes being together represents the whole of me. Due to this, my self-image and experiences mingle the two together seamlessly. I can’t separate them, everything about my two theriotypes are synced together to create the whole of my therianthropy. They are both what I am (non-physically) to every extent when it comes to my species. I just am an individual who is physically human that is, non-physically, a frilled shark and blue glaucus simultaneously in some way on the inside at the same time. Identity is a weird thing.
My Nonhuman Self Image
Because of the fact I have two theriotypes but I can only have one body in our system’s innerworld, one phantom body while I am at front, one body when I have out-of-body experiences, one form in my dreams, and so on, my theriotypes are combined into a composite animal as far as my experiences go. It just seems to be the way my mind figured out how to work around these two species at the same time. This default combination is how I experience being these two species. I certainly identify as a blue glaucus and frilled shark, but the daily experiences of being them have mingled together very naturally. I call this combination of my theriotypes a “quilled shark” sometimes (mostly, for tongue-in-check reasons) or as means to quickly describe the combination of these animals together.
The “quilled shark” very much looks like a frilled shark in body structure but has many, many blue glaucus features on top of that. I am about 1.7 meters (just under 6 feet) long with a long eel-like body with six pairs of gill slits. However, alongside my pectoral fins, pelvic fins, and anal fin of the frilled shark, there are the groupings of cerata from a blue glaucus nearly on top of them in a similar way that they exist on a blue glaucus. The coloration is also like that of a blue glaucus for the most part along the belly and sides, but the coloration is the light dull gray of a frilled shark along the back. So, very much a merging of both their features into one. The shape I take in our system’s innerworld, my phantom body, my form while having an out-of-body experience, my form while dreaming, and so on take on this composite form. (My instincts and such are also a mix and mingling of both animals as well.)
I also have an anthropomorphic form I can take on as far as my body in our system’s innerworld, phantom body, and so on. This form mostly looks like an anthropomorphic version of my “quilled shark” save for a few things. For one thing, rather than having a nonhuman shaped head, my head is basically human shaped. For another the three sets of cerata are located more along the far sides of my back (main set located on the back of my shoulders, second set located farther back on my hips, and the third smallest set located on my tail). This form seems to have come about due to the limitations of my fully aquatic species. A way for my phantom body to be a little less alien to our system’s physical body. This hypothesis seems to check out as those of us who front a lot tend to develop these anthropomorphic forms and myself and my two siblings front the most out of anyone else in our system (and they have their own anthropomorphic forms as well).
Species dysphoria is when someone experiences a feeling of discontent, discomfort, discontentment, restlessness, dissatisfaction, depression, and/or anxiety over their species. This is what I experience to different degrees about several things related to my body. My species dysphoria haunts me constantly. I feel awkward in this body. I feel like I am in a foreign body despite living in this body for over 30 years. Most of the time it’s just a subtle nagging dissatisfaction, but sometimes it’s more than just that.
Sometimes my dysphoria nags at how something so real and obvious to me is completely invisible to others around me. Something that is my truth is also something I can’t be open about to others. Not even in a passing way if it were to somehow come up in conversation. It hurts. Socially, my species dysphoria also clashes with my gender dysphoria in being called words that describe an adult human of a certain gender. Certain words being used on me feels like a one-two punch because they feel wrong both for my gender and my species. At least with the gender stuff sometimes I feel comfortable and safe enough to bring it up, but I can’t about my species in most situations, especially offline.
A lot of my species dysphoria is all body related though. There is a lot about living in a human body that feels strange and alien.
For one thing, my species lacks any of skeletal structure at all yet humans obviously have and that can lead some slight dissonance. Blue glaucus have absolutely no hard structures to them at all while frilled sharks only have cartilage. They just float in the ocean. Humans have skeletal structures, and rather complex ones at that. The human body is not, for lack of a better word, “pliable.” The human body has a lot of physical limits. Both frilled sharks and blue glaucus are very flexible animals. This difference plays a small part in my overall dysphoria, and sometimes can lead to some awkward (though utterly harmless) movements when the body can’t do what I want it to.
Another major physical thing my dysphoria picks at is the lack of gills. The instincts this human body has about breathing and not drowning clash dramatically with my species identity. When I am fronting, I am very protective of my neck and get very anxious with things being against or near my neck. It feels suffocating instinctively, but when I pause, I know the human body shouldn’t feel that. This neck doesn’t have to be bare for me to breath. That dissonance can be so jarring at times.
There are plenty of other things about my body that cause me dysphoria if the shape of our system’s physical is brought to my attention: human teeth being so blunt, the lack of sensory awareness, lack of a tail, walking, and more. Most of the time a veil of dissociation keeps me from brooding on our physical body which allows me to go about my time fronting, but when that breaks the dysphoria can come pouring in rather quickly.
Species euphoria is when someone experiences a feeling of happiness, contentment, fulfillment, excitement, and/or relief associated with feeling that our truer selves are being affirmed or represented in some way, or otherwise feeling a sense of rightness when thinking of ourselves as a nonhuman species.
While therianthropy is about internal experiences and is not dependent on physical expression, some people find comfort or even species euphoria in wearing things on their bodies which showcases either their theriotype(s) specifically or notes they are a therian. Due to the rarer nature of my theriotypes and being part of a multiple system, body decoration isn’t much of a part of my personal therianthropy. Also, I’m a bit of a conservative dresser due to drawing attention to myself makes me anxious, so that also limits the scope of what I could theoretically do to my body even more. So outside of our system owning and always wearing a theta delta necklace, I don’t have anything that our body wears that I personally connect to my therianthropy.
I find body modification very interesting, but between being a multiple system and the nature of my theriotypes, body modification is not for me. I cannot just make unilateral permanent changes to our physical body and even if I could my choices for body modifications that could make me look more like my theriotypes would be limited. Also, as I said before, I have anxieties around presentation and catching people’s attention, so also would limit the scope of what I could theoretically do to my body even more.
The multiple system I am a part of is going through transitioning to look more androgenous for gender euphoria vs gender dysphoria reasons. Interestingly, I have found that the modifications we have done to our body towards our goals have actually been slightly species euphoric in ways I can’t exactly define to words. Which is a nice bonus alongside the intended goal of decreasing gender dysphoria and increasing gender euphoria. So, I’ll take it.
My Existence in Our System’s Innerworld
An innerworld is an internal landscape that we “see” the inside of our mind where we exist. Basically, it is an internal place where we are manifested with our own bodies and where we can interact with each other. From our perspective, it is where we live on a daily basis whereas the world around our physically body is more of a place we visit. Our innerworld takes the form of a planet with one huge continent and one massive ocean.
Because I live in our system’s innerworld and just occasionally going in being in control of human body, I have the opportunity to live out a portion of my life in a body I find far more fitting to my sense of self. Overall, because of my existence within a plurality and because of the existence of our internal world, I have an easy outlet to be myself in a way that singlets and/or people without an innerworld do not. I feel I am lucky in that respect. If I am at front, and my gender and/or species dysphoria gets to be too much, I can handover control to someone else. I consider it a bit of a luxury.
So much of my is spent in our system’s innerworld. Much of time is spent behaving like what one might expect a frilled shark/blue glaucus: swimming about in the ocean, hunting, and so on. Some of my day I might take on my anthropomorphic form to hang out with others in our system (either still in the ocean or on land).
Also, even when I am fronting, I still exist in our system’s innerworld. My awareness of my body there is simply dialed down and its like that body is more in a trance-like state. So even while I am fronting, I can still pull some comfort or ground myself with my awareness of my truer self within our innerworld.
My History With Shifting
I don’t really experience “shifts” as they are called in the therian community. Instead, the experiences I have which relate back to my species identity are constant daily life experiences rather than things that come and go on a regular basis. The intensity of how much I feel my animality doesn’t really change in any way throughout daily life. It is an unchanging aspect of my mentality, my perceptions, how I perceive myself, and such. Like everyone else in the system, my animality is kept in check and even masked over thanks to what our system calls “the mask.” They keep me from acting animalistic in everyday life, especially when out in public. This human masquerade is both a strong product of growing up in a human body being molded by family and schooling to not act so much like an animal, and simple nature of having a human body in which human behavior is prepackaged. The mask is a persona that further helps whoever is fronting to keep from acting too nonhuman and whatnot. Because of this and because I am a polytherian, my experiences of being a blue glaucus and frilled shark are mixed and mingled together. Because there aren’t any shifts to my phantom body and everything else are both my theriotypes exist at the same time.
Full Phantom Body
Feeling the sensation of having a body shaped differently than a human body overlapping our system’s physical body is the bread and butter of my therianthropic experiences when I am at front. These phantom sensations are constantly there in so many ways in the form of a full phantom body which combines both of my theriotypes into one form. This full phantom body is like a complete tactical hallucination overlapping our system’s physical body. The sensation of my phantom body feels as real and “there” as our system’s body feels to me while I’m fronting. So, it isn’t simply a passing whimsy, or something easily forgotten if not being thought about. It’s a very strong sensation and presence to me while I am in control of our system’s physical body. The form my phantom body takes is either that of the natural combination of my two theriotypes into one body or my phantom body takes on the specific anthropomorphic form of my two theriotypes. The latter is the most common due to the quilled shark form just not really being able to “mimic” much of what my physical human body is doing.
When my phantom body is that a quilled shark what I experience is tactical sensation of a roughly six-foot-long eel-like shark “swimming” in the air like it were at sea within the same space taken-up by our system’s body. In this state, my phantom body usually stays roughly parallel to the ground that our system’s body to standing on and usually around the height of the torso area (never higher than our body’s neck nor lower than the waist) while I am fronting. This body mimics (or, more accurately, tries to mimic) what actions I take while in control of our systems body. This can come about in some weird ways due to my phantom body being so different in form from our system’s body in anatomy. For example, if I push open a door with a hand, through my phantom body I feel myself opening the door with my snout. In another situation, if I was picking up something with our hand, I would feel my mouth picking up the object in question. If I am walking quickly, the strokes of my phantom caudal fin move ever faster to keep my phantom body in line with our system’s body, yet if I stand still my phantom body will still ungulate as if swimming very slowly (perhaps due to how frilled sharks swim constantly). If I lay down or sit down my phantom body rolls over onto my back and more mimics the behaviors of a blue glaucus – naturally just “floating” there. (Blue glaucus are sea slugs that float on the surface of the water and what is technically their backs.) However, sometimes my phantom body just can’t mimic what is going on in any scant way, such as all the actions while driving, working at a computer, washing dishes, and various other daily activities. In daily life events like that, I feel my phantom body just being there and not doing anything for the most part or at all.
When my phantom body is of my anthropomorphic form, things are little less hit or miss due to my phantom body then having arms and legs that then can mirror the physical body. I still feel how things don’t line up exactly: my phantom body is slightly taller, is digitigrade, I have a tail, cerata and fins, gills on my neck, and more. So, while my phantom body being a little more humanoid helps with dissidence it doesn’t eliminate the feeling. It still can cause feelings of dysphoria: my phantom gills making having things on or around my neck feel like I am choking, my tail or cerata getting “crushed” in doorways or seats and “hurting,” and more. Things along those lines. I feel parts of my phantom body so vividly. I feel my gills: six long slits of feeling across my phantom neck with the first one right behind the jaw and the last one just before the pectoral fins. I feel air passing through them rather than water due to my phantom body “swimming” through air when I am fronting. The sensation of them rippling as air passes through them is an odd sensation to say the least. This action is like my gills are trying in vain to breathe for me rather than relying on our system’s lungs, or sort of like an instinctive/automatic impulse. When it comes to my fins and cerata stick out a fair bit from my phantom body. Each cera (singular form of cerata) is flexible and boneless though they still tend to keep to a certain position. My phantom fins also have a bit of give but are still not completely flexible. They do not move at my will nor beyond the natural range. Because of this, they get in the way sometimes. Thankfully, the cerata either bend back when walking against things go through them. (However, it’s still a bit odd no matter how long I’ve lived with it.)
However, I cannot control if I have a phantom body or not. I just always feel one. So, I have to live with it. These details and others about my phantom body are presence I deal with every day.
Out-of-Body Experiences – Projecting
Out-of-body experiences is really common in a multiple system. Mostly they come in the form of someone experiencing themselves outside of our body and the headmate who is fronting at the time “seeing” them. We tend to call these experiences “projection” and the act in progress “projecting.” (These aren’t plural community terminology as far as we know. They are just what we personally have come to call them.) This is something I (and everyone else in our system) can do voluntary though involuntary projection also occurs to a less common degree for myself and others.
The experience basically involves my phantom body simply being outside of our system’s physical body. Other than that, the experience is a lot like how I experience my phantom body when I am fronting in how real and detailed it feels to me. I feel a body that isn’t there but rather than my awareness being in the same space as our system’s actual body, instead my awareness is somewhere outside that body. During these experiences I might “swim” around in the air unless there is a sizable body of water nearby, where I tend to prefer being there instead. Other than that, what I might do while projecting varies a lot. Distinguishing projection from shamanic journeying is rather simple for our system. While projecting, I am still in this world, while journeying involves being on another nonphysical plane.
Out-of-Body Experiences – Journeying
I, like many in our multiple system, I have animistic beliefs. These animistic beliefs include a belief in “otherworlds” and the belief in the ability to journey to such non-physical places by way of out-of-body experiences. Out-of-body experiences where we are “elsewhere” is something our system started experiencing in our teens. (It’s because of these experiences and others that we took an interest in animism and paganism.) Shamanic journeying is a spiritual practice, not a therianthropic experience; however, my therianthropy does influence this spiritual experience and thus why I mention it here. An intrinsic part of this journeying is that my form is that of how I see myself (species and all) and not another form or how our system’s body looks. That is just how I am naturally ever since I can remember. When I journey, my form is still nonhuman.
Being Nonhuman In My Dreams
My therianthropy often influences my dreams. It is very common for me to have dreams that relate to my therianthropy. The most obvious ones are dreams where I am nonhuman (most often a quilled shark rather than one or the other theriotype) doing animal things one would expect from such an animal. When I am a quilled shark that usually takes the form swimming through water hunting or eating (often while “upside down” due to the blue glaucus influence) a wide range of aquatic life that one or the other species would eat. (On rarer occasions I’ll have dreams I am only one of my therioptypes,) Another type of dream is where I am nonhuman (either in my anthropomorphic form or as quilled shark simply “floating” in air) and the dream focus is around trying to “play human.” In such dreams, dream characters may or may not notice my nonhumanity. It all depends upon the dream is about. If it seems to be getting at my frustration of not being noticed as my species or having to hide my animality, I might be going about something daily life related with people treating me as normal and dream-me is agitated or whatnot. If the dream is about my fears of people reacting negatively to my nonhumanity, I might be worrying over how to hide my appearance or downplay any nonhuman behaviors. These types of dreams can come in so many different forms. A little rarer dream that still directly relates to my nonhumanity are transformation or “were” inspired dreams. Dreams of suddenly starting to transform and the issues that would quickly arise, dreams if turning into a sort of were-shark, or so on. The rarest kind of dream that directly references my therianthropy are dreams where I have a type of shift: dreams where I false wake-up having had a therianthopic related dreams, dreams where I have an mental shift at a really inconvenient time, and so on. These various kinds of dreams are very common for me.
My therianthropy also has a habit of showing up dreams even if the dreams aren’t “about” my nonhumanity at all. Sometimes dreams that would otherwise be “normal” have something which references to my therianthropy but the dream seems otherwise ignore my therianthropy entirely. For common example, I am nonhuman shaped in the dream, but no dream character treats me as nonhuman and nothing about the dream references my therianthropy otherwise. I have all sorts of common dream topics any number of non-therian people have and it’s just that as a twist I am nonhuman shaped and just only I am aware of this in the dream.
I also have dreams where I am not a character at all and instead, I am just watching various dream characters like I’m watching some movie. These dreams rarely related to therianthropy in general let alone my personal therianthropy directly.
I do not consider myself very social person and quite an introvert. I wouldn’t say I am not anti-social as I do like to interact with people, but I just also really like my seclusion in good measure too. I like to recharge and relax by myself. I tend to deal best with people in small personal groups. I find it amusing how this seems to happen to complement my theriotypes as neither animal are very social. Frilled sharks are completely solitary as far as shark researchers have surmised and what sightings of them alive had shown, and blue glaucus have been known to cannibalize members of their own species at times if they float too close to another under the wrong circumstances.
I am not a very verbal person. I like communicating and discussing things, but speaking is very weird for me. Some of this seems to come from a quirk in my mind where words don’t come naturally as I tend to think more in pictures and such. Also, I often have what a friend of mine once affectionately referred to as “the dead look” because of the lack of expression of emotions on our system’s face. I have a tendency just to forget about them. When it comes to me at fronting, any form of expression other than some general body language tends to be forgotten by me unless I think about it. Which makes sense given the nature of sharks and sea slugs, and my being used to lack such ways of expressing myself inworld. So, I tend to connect this quirk of mine to my therianthropy for this reason. Another thing I can’t help but find connections is how interestingly my therianthropy happen to compliment with my gender identity in one certain way.
Body Movement & Posture
Frilled sharks, as one would logically conclude, sink when they stop swimming. So, a major instinct with frilled sharks is swimming and not stopping. Blue glaucus, on the other hand, are a species of nudibranch which float along the surface thanks to their “foot” acting as a natural floatation device and they depend on the currents to move them. So ironically, these animals are dramatically different in this way. This difference crops up and mingle in weird ways in my therianthropy. This manifests within my therianthropy like how my phantom body acts more one species or the other depending upon if I am moving or not. When I am standing still, sitting, or laying down my animality sides more with being more like a blue glaucus, but with being a “nudibranch” while walking, etc. my animality sides more with being more like a frilled shark. So, there is a tradeoff of instincts at certain times. At times, some instincts dominant more than others depending on which is more compatible.
Walking can feel awkward at times because of the added sensations from my phantom body. One body walking upright on two legs while the other body does not walk to all let alone on two legs. This confusion can lead to me questioning and second guessing my actions. This tends to happen to several us whose body in our innerworld is drastically different from as human body. For me, once I get moving, or if some other instinct which I consider more shark-like is bring drawn out, I tend to want to move/keep moving.
So, when I sit down, and so on is when my combined animality leans toward blue glaucus. With blue glaucus, there is an instinct for not moving and there is an alien feeling for moving all really. It’s interesting. For me it’s strange and it’s amazing sometimes. So that is how my therianthropy colors how I think and feel while moving and remaining stationary, but these experiences extent beyond simply while I am on land.
Ironically, enough while I love being in water, in some ways I don’t really care to swim in it. Too many conflicting thoughts – human legs only able to go up and down yet in our system’s innerworld. I am used to swimming in a side to side motion. The difference can get really confusing sometimes times. Sometimes to the point of me not wanting to swim because it feels too awkward. So, because of this, I rarely go swimming while I am fronting. Instinct makes me want to swim one way, but the human body simply cannot mimic it. Then, along with the awkwardness and dysphasia due to body differences, there is also concern for my health.
One thing I experience regularly is hunting related instincts. Most of these impulses seem to be easily triggered by certain things such as the smell of blood or the sound of rapid movement. Of course, impulsive thoughts are one thing while, actual thought to act on those instincts, (let alone actually acting upon such) are another. The thought might be there for a moment, but I’ve long since trained myself to not act on any such impulse. My hunting instincts or instincts towards food might get stirred up by any number of things, but I just ignore them. Sharks are rather well known for their keenness toward blood. I don’t crave blood or anything like that. At the sight or smell of it, it makes me think of food. Well, sort of. A better way of describing it is more along the lines of making me think of hunting. An interactive thought of possible prey. However, with these instincts they don’t make me want to reach out with my hands, which makes sense as neither of my species have limbs. What instincts I have here focuses on the mouth – wanting to grab with my mouth.
Neither sharks nor sea slugs have lungs. Sharks have gill slits and sea slugs gain oxygen from the water through their cerata. A pair of lungs is a lot different than either of these systems. I can safely say I’ve stopped and thought to myself my on earth do I have to breathe. Breathing is hardwired into the brain involuntary so it’s not like I’m in danger for forgetting to breath. It’s not like I’ve been so conflicted in thought I forget that the human body cannot breathe underwater. Merely, that it has caused me pause at times. My therianthropy isn’t that hazardous. Plus, when I do get the impulse to breathe with other than the lungs of our system’s body, it focuses on my phantom body. My phantom gills and cerata are on my phantom body after all, so I simply get the desire of wishing they could do the work our system body has to do. So just to be safe I am very alert in what I am doing while I am swimming.
Let’s just say that my relationship with gravity is weird. Sharks and sea slugs live their lives swimming and rarely (if ever) touch ground. They live in a world where weight is almost meaningless. Even when it comes to my phantom body, I feel that sense of swimming rather than being stuck to the ground. Yet, that is very different than how life is for our system’s body. Gravity pulls you down obviously. It isn’t possible to just swim up or down to get something. Life is limited to a much more horizontal playing field. This limitation can leave me feeling weird, especially because of the presence of my phantom body. I might need to reach high to get something and my phantom body might rise up to where I wish to go, but I won’t be able to reach it and will need a stepstool or latter. It’s something so minor, but it’s the persistent minor things which remind me of the difference between my species identity and our multiple system’s body constantly. Things which remind me of that I might feel one way, but I’m physically not that species. So, my therianthropy even influences here.
My relationship with my senses is a little strange. My mind pays extra attention to certain senses over others. I put a lot of attention toward my sense of smell and touch. It is not like when I am at front, our body’s senses are better. I just pay more attention to what my sense of smell and sense of touch are telling me. I relate this to my therianthropy given the nature of sharks, especially. I also have several “false” sensory experiences that are directly tied to how a shark senses of the world around them.
Smell is one of the senses that we strongly associate with my therianthropy. The shark’s ability to detect things such as blood through the water is well known. The body our system lives in doesn’t have an unnaturally sensitive nose, that we’re aware of anyway. I just pay attention to what our nose picks up rather that flittering such information away as unimportant. I know I pay more attention to what this nose tells me because I am almost always one of the first people to take notice of a smell, be it a food smell or a bad. Even when I am simply going about my daily life, I am one to pause and quietly take note of the smells around me. I do feel some dysphoria, some unease, around the knowledge of how poor the human sense of smell really is. Logically, I know this body doesn’t need a keen sense of smell to live, unlike a shark, but my instincts sometimes make me want to feel otherwise. When our system’s body gets sick and our nose becomes stuffy and useless can be anxiety inducing for me as well.
Though one wouldn’t assume it, sharks are very sensitive to their senses of touch. Well, at least, they play close attention to what touch and pressures against their body’s and especially their faces tell them. I am hypersensitive to touch. Even subtle things like a breeze or a pressure change. I tend to be sensitive to vibrations and movement. Meaning I tend to pay attention to changes and movement around me more than it seems many people tend to do. Other people often seem to easily file it away as background noise. I don’t naturally do this. I tend to have trouble not paying attention to those kinds of stimuli.
Also, lacking limbs to explore their world any other way, a shark depends on its mouth to interact with things around them. A shark’s mouth is its own symbol for the whole animal. After all, say “jaws” to just about anyone who is a native speaker of English, and they will likely know whose dental work you are referring too. Sea slugs also only have their mouths to explore their world, but their mouths aren’t symbolic like a shark’s is. I have a lot of instincts surrounding my mouth. As an autistic child they called it an “oral fixation.” Even as an adult, I tend to chew or otherwise mouth items, especially when feeling anxious or sensing to much as once. Beyond that, I am far more likely to use our body’s mouth to hold things when our hands are full compared to others, in my experience.
Further then all this, my experiences with touch bleeds over to other senses and experiences. Parts of my world of touch slides into synesthetic realms and into my experiences with my phantom body. Most notability, these experiences work to mirror a shark’s Ampullae of Lorenzini and lateral line.
Ampullae of Lorenzini
The ampullae of Lorenzini is an organ on the snouts of sharks that pick up electrical signals. I experience something where my mind tries to mimic the ampullae of Lorenzini in the form of tiny points of static on my face/snout of my phantom body’s while I front. These tiny always-giving-a-tiny-tingling-sensation points get more intense when our system’s body comes near people or objects our brain assumes would be giving off some amount of electrical charge. So, for example, if someone comes to stand in front of our body while I am fronting, these points tingle all the more, with the phantom ampullae of Lorenzini that are closest too where the person is standing being slightly more intense than those farther away. Of course, I can’t actually sense electrical fields while fronting. It is just my mind making an echo of what my body scheme says should be experienced and what sense should be there but is not. It is sort of like type of synesthesia.
Another synesthesia-like experience we have is one that tries to mimic a shark’s lateral line. The lateral line is a line that runs along the sides of fish which consists of a series of sense organs which detect pressure and vibration. For sharks, the lateral line begins as several lines around the head before becoming a line down each side of their body ending on their tail. This phantom lateral line is a lot more subtle of a experience than the Ampullae of Lorenzini sensory stuff. While I front, my mind registers sound as touch. In the way it is sort of like a temporary auditory-tactile synesthesia experience. For however long I am fronting any auditory stimuli or felt pressure will be felt as a sort of tingling-pressure starting at the part of our body closest to the location the sound came from before reverberating around our body like a ripple, dissipating as it goes.
Intersectionality: My Gender
Human beings, like many modern animals have generally distinct sexes – male and female (even though, at times, biology can throw a curveball that muddles those binary distinctions). However blue glaucus, like many other nudibranchs, are hermaphroditic in nature; they are a species whose members have both necessary parts to reproduce. Frilled sharks, on the other hand, tend to be male or female only barring a chance of circumstances in their development.
I believe the nature of their sex between these two species has influenced (or at least just complimented) some of my experiences with my gender identity. I consider myself a bigendered /non-binary person. In brief, I don’t identify as strictly male or female but rather identifying as being somewhere in-between though I do slightly lean toward masculine. This happens to work well with how blue glaucus are a hermaphroditic species. My gender reads as having traits of both masculine and feminine, and blue glaucus have the equivalent of male and female sexual organs. Add in the stricter binary of frilled shark and that is a nice explanation for that slight masculine lean. That isn’t to say I think my frilled shark theriotype is male of even has a gender all its own. It’s more a conceptualization of how my species and gender identities intersect and complement each other.
Unfortunately, with my gender I also have gender dysphoria. However, since I don’t identify as human or relate to a human body in anyway, my gender dysphoria is different that many other transgender people. Because for me, with my gender dysphoria there is always some species dysphoria. My body dysphoria regarding my gender isn’t eased by being treated or treating myself as being on the other far end of the gender spectrum. This makes dealing with my gender dysphoria a challenge to say the least.
Overall, my gender, while it is not the same as my species identity, is still completely influenced and changed by it.
Intersectionality: My Spirituality
Our multiple system’s overall spiritual beliefs can best be described as pagan. There is an undercurrent of pantheism, hard polytheism, and animism running through the members of our system; however, what is focused on, how much reverence is given, how regularly practices are preformed, and so on varies greatly among us. A major part of our spiritual practice is heavily inspired historical accounts and academic insights into groups like the Benandanti and Neuri as well as cases like that of Old Thiess. Another major part of our practice is heavily focused on local nature spirits and, to an extent, aiding the nonhuman dead.
My nonhumanity intersects with my spirituality in several notable ways. For one, being nonhuman certainly has had an impact on my religious perspective. My beliefs are not as human-centric as is usually the case. For another, as brought up already when I have out-of-body experience, my form is nonhuman. So, when I am journeying and interacting with spirits of deities, I am not human, and I am not treated as just human either. Also, a part of our spirituality focuses on taking in the nonhuman dead and this is the origin of a large number of members in our system. So, a large portion of our system know the exact cause of their therianthropy. This isn’t the case for me person though as I, along with my two siblings, were born into this body near as we can figure out.
My Community History and Involvement
The multiple system I am a part of discovered the online therian community in the spring of 2006 and became active in late 2007. However, around the time we became active as around the time we went into denial about our plurality which lead to most of us, myself included, going into hiding and not start coming out supersession in 2009. Even once I came out of supersession, our multiple system was still picking up the pieces of our denial (dealing with its damage to our mental health, rebuilding trust and communication between us, and so on). In the confusion and due to Earth Listener and I being similar personality-wise, we all thought Earth Listener and I were actually the same person. By 2010, we had both realized and accepted our mistake. I was finally given a written name to mirror the non-word name I go by in within the system. That name was Ocean Touched but not long afterward I changed it to Ocean Watcher as it sounded better but still mirrored my in-system calling.
Since then I, myself, have been a regular in the therian community. Since then, I have had all number of reactions to people learning what my theriotypes are. Any number of people who spend enough time in the therian community will come across topics of why certain species of animal are more common than others for theriotypes. One argument that comes up from time to time that I have heard and have even had said to me is that the reason there aren’t many therians with “less complex” animals as theriotypes is that people can’t identify as such animals. Now, it makes sense that the human mind is more familiar with the image and behaviors of certain mammals but not so much with others; however, some therians have claimed that it is actually impossible for people to identify as a “less complex” animal (despite their being therians with such theriotypes, though rare). I have been told I am not a therianthrope because they think someone can’t identify as a mollusk and/or a fish. When this has happened to me, sometimes all it takes to change someone’s opinion is to explain my personal therianthropic experiences and identity in detail. Other times, however, it doesn’t matter how much is explained. No amount of explaining one’s identity and experiences could change their mind on what is and isn’t possible when it comes to therianthropy.
I do find it rather weird at times that there are therians who say certain animals can’t be a theriotype. Common beliefs include only certain types of animals have souls, only certain types of animals have “enough” behaviors that can be applied to therianthropy, or even only certain animals would ever reincarnate into a human body because of their relationship with humans. I find it ironic though that such people would often become outraged if someone implied the same for their theriotypes. More often it seems like “it’s just my opinion” when it’s against someone else, but the moment it’s applied to them it’s an offense.
Regardless of anyone, therian or not, who feels about rarer theriotypes, at the end of the day my experiences are still there.
So that is a general overview of my personal therianthropy and some of my experiences related to being a frilled shark and blue glaucus polytherian. Shark therians are rather rare and mollusk therians are most certainly rare, but we do exist in the community. Hopefully this essay explained some aspects of my personal therianthropy as well as a little bit of what it can be like for a therian with my kind of theriotypes.