“Being Bison” by Poppy; April 2021

Part 1: Awakening

The bison was the first kintype I became aware of, back in spring 2016. I’d been getting phantom shifts for a few years at this point, but didn’t pay them much mind. They overlapped a lot with phantom feelings that I would later find out were gnollish in nature, and this overlap ended up as something very similar to a maned wolf. Especially the combination of unguligrade front legs with paw-like hands, and of a long tufted tail with a shorter, more bushy tail. I was extremely casual at this point – I didn’t even write my own stuff or read what others had written! Being not-quite-human was basically an afterthought.

So, like I said: Spring 2016. One second I was following along in my math class (well, I like to remember it that way, at least), and the next it was like I’d been transported into the body of a bison. I pictured myself wading through soft, green grass, feeling my heavy hooves and broad back working, smelling the summer air. And just like that I was back in my classroom. Crazy what the mind can do – I imagine it’s the closest I’ve been to astral traveling. The ‘vision’ was so overwhelming I had to excuse myself, go into the hallway, and just breathe for a minute.

I instantly connected the dots between that experience and my previous phantom shifts. For the next weeks I pushed aside all experiences that weren’t quite bison in nature, and just examined the recognizably bovine feelings. The questioning process took about 2 months until I was confident enough to say I was a bison therian. Then I promptly made a therian-focused aesthetic blog on tumblr :p

Since then I’ve had a few other ‘visions’ and I’ve had time to examine my bison feelings a lot more. I’ve come to the conclusion that the original experiences were spiritual in nature (partial rebirth, my soul includes ‘bison Dust’), and that they turned into an integral part of me through psychological reinforcement.

Part 2: Being Bison

By ruminating (ha!) on my shifts, visions/memories, and other noemata I’ve come to a few conclusions: The specific bison that my soul comes from was an American bison (Bison bison) ‘spike bull’, which is a bull whose horns haven’t started curving inwards yet – this means the bull is somewhere between 1 and 4 years old. The bison, at some point, was in a herd that included cow-calf pairs, and it felt protective towards these herd members, but through most of its life it roamed with a band of bachelor herd. I don’t remember ever breeding or fighting for a harem or anything of that sort (except trying to mount other young bulls), so I assumed the bison died before it could get the chance. I don’t have any memories related to death, but due to the environments I remember, I’m pretty sure the bison was in a managed herd, or maybe even a beef herd.

What all these vague memories and conclusions mean for my current self is that I identify partially as a bison bull on a spiritual and psychological level. This also affects my gender identity somewhat. My gender is fluid, but it’s usually somewhere along the lines of ‘gnoll female’ – which is really more like a human man than a human woman. But there are also hints of bovine in my gender. I’m not gonna lie: I wish I had the kind of equipment bulls have haha… But it does goes deeper than just physical body. I feel somewhat like a bachelor bull – an outcast who hangs out with other outcasts and plays at one day winning the respect of those who cast him out. Desiring females carnally (I don’t think I could make that sound more like the statement of an incel if I tried lmao). The whole vibe of being a young and virile animal. My gender isn’t so much ‘bison bull’ as it has hints of bullishness.

The bisonness doesn’t just inform my gender identity, of course; it is primarily a species identity. Don’t misunderstand that though – it’s not my primary species identity! That would be gnoll. What I mean is that my bison side mainly presents itself in a way that affects my overall species identity. My bison identity is directly tied to my body image and the way I think of myself, reflect on my behavior, and conceptualize my thoughts. At the most basic level, I deeply wish I could shapeshift, and just choose when to be a bison and when to be a human (or gnoll or other!). It’s a much stronger feeling than just “hey, shapeshifting would be cool!” The cool-factor is how I feel about, say, werewolves. It would be cool to be a werewolf. But my desire to shift into a bison is much more of a yearning. It feels like it’s the right shape (this hole was made for me!), though I’m definitely not blind to how impractical it would be. I appreciate my thumbs and brain and modern medicine!

When I try to imagine myself in ‘my mind’s eye,’ so to speak, I picture myself with a lot of bison attributes. Most notably the horns, but also the cape/chaps/beard, the sloped/humped back, the tail, and sometimes the hooves. The fact that I don’t have any of these traits is anywhere from an afterthought to deeply distressing, depending on the day. Whenever I get phantom shifts, it’s also these traits I feel. I can trigger the phantom shifts easily enough, but since they’re distracting I rarely do so. More often than not, they just show up on their own.

I rarely get strong mental shifts. The few I’ve had were disorienting and not very fun, so I usually try to suppress them when they do show up. Weaker m-shifts are a common occurrence, though, often spurred on by feelings of frustration. When I’m in a mental shift my personality becomes more “stereotypically bison-like’. I get bullheaded (pun partially intended), more physically than verbally aggressive, and my temper becomes more volatile. I perceive a lot of things as potential threats and become more defensive in that state – often those feelings are accompanied by mental images of goring said threats with my horns and urges to attack. Little of it shows outwardly; I just seem more sullen and like I want to be alone.

Shifting is a noteworthy part of my bison identity, but as a whole it’s a lot more about all the little day-to-day experiences. Mostly the physical ones of missing horns, and the social ones of not being treated like a bison-person or of not having the same social role as a spike bull would have in his herd.

Part 3: Strengthening Connections

There’s no shame in being a bit proactive about your identity. I think the therian community has this idea that you shouldn’t have a hand in creating your species identity, and I strongly disagree. While I didn’t create the original bison-like feelings, I’ve been reinforcing the ideas a lot since they appeared. Every little trait that could be connected to my bisonhood, I take to be connected to my bisonhood, whether as a cause or result of it.

I’ve always had these conflicting traits of being stubborn as heck and fairly conflict-avoidant (and of wishing I could resort to physical violence rather than talk when a conflict shows up). These traits could obviously show up in any human, so I don’t consider them “inherently bison-like” in any way. And yet they’re the same traits a 1000kg horned prey animal would have. If a threat gets too close to a bison, the bison will stubbornly stand its ground and attack – if the attack doesn’t work, only then does the bison flee. These traits, while not directly connected to it, help reinforce my bison identity.

My friends also help. They’ll buy me bison-themed gifts (one gave me a pendant that I wear every day) and they’ll jokingly refer to me as a bison. Once when we were at a safari park they stopped the car near the bison herd and just let me watch for as long as I wanted. I’m lucky that I get to be so open about this side of myself.