“My Antlers Tell Lies” by Pantairin; January 2012 & February 2016

My species identity is that of all species of deer, extent and extinct alike. Yes, I identify as not one or even three species, but rather over 30 different species of related animals. I identify as every species of deer. Moreover, I overall identify as a general “essence” of what deer are, if you will. Something more archetypical or true across every species of deer, or at least that is the best I can describe it. Identifying as a larger group of animals as a whole (such as a genus or Family) rather than just a specific species is referred to as cladotherianthropy. As a deer cladotherian, I identify as all deer species from the little pudú stepping about the tropical underbrush to the great moose that roams the northern lands to the once even greater Irish elk with its amazing antlers to the once far smaller Candiacervus ropalophorus with its unusually long antlers.

I have identified as a deer ever since I can recall my own existence itself. However, defining my deer nature was a challenge for me. When our system’s body was still young I remember identifying as and seeing myself as a white-tailed deer, a caribou, and wapiti to name those I could even identify based on what knowledge I hard at the time of the different species of deer. I also recall a time during our teenage years when I saw myself as a red deer, an  fallow deer, and a Père David’s deer, among others ever prominently off and on among other species of deer. When our system discovered the term therianthropy, my identity as a deer made sense, yet my identity as so many species of deer still puzzled me. In the beginning, being a cladotherian did not even come into being in my thoughts as possibility. My original assumption was either the presence of several deer theriotypes (polytherianthropy), or that simply some of them were cameo shifts. Before cladotherianthropy came-up as a possibility I had applied to my being a number of deer species. I leapt between thinking I was one deer species to another deer species day by day. Being fairly sure of one deer species and being able to apply that shape onto my innerworld world body so easily, only for me to be able to so change to another deer species. By the time cladotherianthropy came into suspect, I had found myself labeled with no less than five species while also not being able to ignore all other deer.

The prospect of being a polymorph never came to mind since I knew I was a deer, identified as a deer, and only experienced things as only deer. It was vary narrowed down to a select spectrum and it was only the deer species that changed but never the identification as them. With the idea of being cladotherian in mind I began searching for any mention of the term and ponderings on the matter throughout the communities online. Finding personal experiences from others about their own cladotherianthropy was hard to come by, yet what I did come upon applied quite nicely and neatly to my experiences. Every time I looked afar along the deer family, everywhere I looked I could only find something within myself for every deer I came across. It was like looking into a mirror, and all I saw was myself reflected back in some curious way. It was not about being undeceive on a species, but rather being sure of being one with a group of related animals. It wasn’t that I could not decide of what I was, as much as I was actually all ready there. Bending to the deer species as nimbly as water flowing into a space. And so, as it was, I came to the decision I was a cladotherian of all Cervidae, in May 2011.

The shape of deer is so engrained within my mind that even in my dreams, regardless of their nature otherwise, I almost always take the form of a deer of some species or another without fail. The dream might be about my species identity or might not, but nevertheless my species is that of a deer. For dreams most related to being a deer in more than just shape, some of my more common dreams include wandering the grounds on our near a Buddhist temple as a sika deer, roaming on permafrost on large hooves but not feeling the bite of the chill while being a caribou, or moving about a green forest as a red deer. For dreams not related to actually being an animal, yet still being of a deer shape, they can vary as much as I can imagine. I’ve had dreams of going to university as normal yet being a deer, dreams of trying to do normal indoor and outdoor chores yet having odd responses from neighbors due to being a deer, and other funny dreams such as that.

I consider my mentality animalistic in nature in some measure. That is to say, there are certain quirks I express, or thoughts I have, which I relate to that of a nonhuman animal. Deer specifically being the case in my mind. The mentality I posses which I so strongly see as animalistic is a continuous experience rather than many in the therian community call a “shift.” My animality is a persistent aspect of my daily mindset. To add to this, as with others in our system, a mental barrier blocks the majority of our animalistic experiences from spilling out while a given person is in control of the body. This phenomena saves me from certain instinct reactions I have which must be kept in control (such as the instinct to blot at sudden sounds, for a single example). So as with other nonhuman headmates in our system, I revert to a slightly more human mindset naturally while fronting and then revert back to our more natural state rather quickly after removing myself from control of the body. One thing about my animality which tends to be assumed but is not actually the case is that the degree of what would be called a “prey mentality” makes up mentality. That is to say, instincts all and only about not becoming prey. However, deer are not just animals which have their own lives and do not live to just be eaten. They live for their own kinds existence and to continue on with their species. The nature and traits of a deer are for their own survival and deer did not evolve as they have because they are prey but rather they evolved as they have to avoid being prey, if your will. The wariness and sensitive nature of the deer is meant to keep them alive. So I do have certain instincts about social behaviors, related to food, and other matters as well. The deer that are seen on hunting and outdoor shirts and posters are not really how deer are. Just like many species of animals, deer are plagued with over romanticism of traits that human beings see as admirable while outright ignoring less ‘glamorous’ facts of life for deer. My instincts and behaviors as a deer is not just about fleeing from possible danger or standing as majestically as possible. When I see healthy lush plants such as grass and clover I have an instinct to eat it for a split second, I have an instinct to use my awareness and remain alert to what my senses are bring in, instincts of wanting to find a safe place to settle down and chew my nonexistent cud, instincts to blot at sudden  and surprising sounds or movement, and many more little things. My nature as being a deer in a human body is more than just one small aspect of a deer’s overall life and behavior. All animals are complex living organisms with a wide verity of behaviors. Further, my own cervine mentality is subject to the deer species I am. As a larger deer species such as the Irish elk or moose I am much less likely to be flighty in certain situations while as much smaller deer species I might be even more flighty or nervous toward a lot of activity or movement.

While fronting (controlling the body our system lives in) I experience a phantom body over the actual body of our system. This body is, of course, that of some species of deer. As such, my phantom body’s size may vary at different times. Sometimes being one species of deer, and the next moment another. These experiences of phantom bodies is a constant one, it’s just that the form is subject to change due to being a cladotherian. My phantom body, no matter the form, tries to mimic my actual body as best as possible in whatever ways possible. Thus, an opening of a door via a door handle, may be translated as a deer mouth gripping the handle rather than a hand, for example. However, due to being a body that is not actually there and due to the differences between a human body and any deer body,  my phantom body does not often “fit” with the world around me leading to me going through objects and abstracts at times. For example, if I am sitting at a desk my phantom body may likely be laying down through the chair I am sitting in.

My therianthropy’s relationship with anthers is a particular  thing. The anthers on my head (whether in relation to my phantom body, my body in dreams, or my body image) very with species. Also, the stage of my antlers varies with the species of deer depending on what is natural for them at that time of year, though generally during the late summer to early fall is when many antlers I might have itch terribly as the velvet falls off to reveal hardened bone only to fall off/disappear from my experience during late winter to early spring to begin a cycle of new growth. If I change from a deer species that has lost their antlers to one that still has their antlers at that certain time of the year or the reverse my phantom antlers will appear or disappear in relation to that species of deer. Regardless, once they are fully grown some antlers become rather “heavy “even if they are only phantoms. Even if they are not there, some part of my mind thinks they are, and so I feel the weight of them. Wait even larger antlers, their size can get in the way even if they are not there. My first impulse is to still think that they are there, and I have to remind myself they are not.

The existence of my antlers (whether in relation to my phantom body, my body in dreams, or my body image) is actually the greatest conundrum of my identity because my antlers tell lies about my gender. I am female by identity and my body in our system’s innerworld, in my dreams, and my phantom body reflects this fact. Yet, as I‘ve already described, I annually grow and shed antlers akin to any male from any given species of deer even if the female of that species do not normally have antlers. Regardless to what species I take on, my antlers will look accordingly to the times of the year for that male kind of deer. The reason why this is so and why my head aligns with male deer is a mystery no matter what I try to make of it. Antlered does, as they are called are not unheard of. Some species of deer are actually more notable to experience this phenomena than others, as its been noted to happen to white-tailed deer, and red deer with some commonality. The grown of antlers depends upon certain hormones being present to begin the process, and then a final set of hormones causing the velvet to fall off to reveal a fully developed rack of antlers. However, a for a doe to experience these hormones at the right time to have a fully developed rack is unusual, and it’s even more unusual for this to happen year after year to completely female deer. That is to say, that a number of cases of “antlered does” which have annual antler growth to the full extent are often hermaphrodites to some extent or another or have some other abnormal trait which is causing their hormones to be different than other does. Yet I identify as female and I am female in our system’s innerworld, in my dreams, and with my phantom body while still having a rack of antlers. Never-the-less, I grow antler‘s like any make deer even though my femaleness is not in question to me.

Being a deer cladotherian, rather than a specific species of deer therian alone might actually explain why I am female yet grow antlers akin to a buck. Since my identity is the overall nature of all deer, it seems much more reasonable to me that I have antlers as they are such a part of the whole biological family Cervidae. Antlers are a trait of the Cervidae family though only male deer have them regularly in most species. Plus, even female deer have the potential to have antlers under the right circumstances. Does, just like bucks, can grow antlers and it’s only their pheromones which create the necessary barrier. My identity doesn’t have a gender. I have a gender, and since my species identity is so encompassing of all traits and natures of all deer rather than defined by a gender or species, antlers seem a logical addition to my daily life as a deer cladotherian. Other than that possible explanation, I have no others. Some things are just as they are without a good solid or known explanation. That seems to be the case when it comes to identity.

To move from my personal therianthropy to how I relate to the therian community, the multiple system I am a part of has been active in the therian community since 2007 and have lurked the therian community online since March 2006. So over the years, I have seen secondhand and have personally experiences some undesirable reactions within the therian community related to my being a deer therian. As a deer therian in the therianthropy community I am tired of being called food. In the past, I have on occasion received back comments from other therians about how deer are tasty or given teasing jokes of promising not to hunt me. I might be a deer in a human body but I am still human and if an individual seriously might consider me food then I implore such people to seek psychiatric help. And for that matter if I were physically a deer of any species, it’s important to remember a healthy deer can often outrun many other animals and if need be a deer can defend itself with its hooves and antlers (if they have them). Deer are not defenseless. Dogs, gray wolves, and other animals can be and have been killed by a good kick or from being gored. In such instances, where my life is being joked about and I bring up not liking being called prey and bring up that deer are not prey I have been waved off as not being able to take a joke. I hardly find calling someone their food a joke. This is what happens in the therian community on occasion. Some might point out that deer are often hunted unlike some other animals, yet remember – any animal can become prey to another animal if the opportunity arises to another. Wolves have been seen hunting down and even eat foxes, coyote, bears, or other animals if given the chance and drive. And regardless of this, how socially awkward do you think it feels to herbivore therians to be called food to other therians? Treated like a piece of meat literally? Truly it is tiresome and straining.

Further driving a wedge between my identity and the majority of another therians in the community is the difference in nature between a number of herbivores and a number of carnivores. A lot of people don’t seem to get therians over all, but even within therianthropy the subgroups can’t seem to fully get the others. Granted many therianthropic experiences can be similar but others are as alien as ever to the other. I can’t image the instincts that drive some therians to want to hunt and chase let alone eat raw flesh of another; but in the same token, I doubt some therians could imagine my instincts for complete awareness of my surroundings and alertness nor my strong desire to graze. Different animals, different behaviors. Sadly, this difference effects the therian community in how topics come about. When threads are created about how therianthropy might effect one’s diet, most often the actual questions focus on meat-eating instincts, or threads related to instincts toward food gathering instincts focus on hunting instincts. Little things such as that.

Another thing which has come up over the years of being in the therian community is the question about my diet due to being a cervine cladotherian. It has been asked many times before, “How can you eat meat if your theriotype is a herbivore?” I have had it asked of me and I have seen it asked to others over the years. My response is two-fold: one is that its actually not unheard of deer to eat meat if given the right insensitive and opportunity (which having a human body certain provides), and the second response is a reminder that therians are human. All species of deer, extant or extinct, are/were herbivores. Meaning their diet is mostly made-up of plant material. Yet there are a number of  documented cases of deer eating meat. A two fairly common examples of deer eating flesh material is when bucks are shedding their velvet they will sometimes either eat their own velvet, and the other instance is that a doe who has just given birth will eat the placenta. Deer have also been caught eating or trying to eat carrion which they come across. More so, there are even a few documented cases of deer actually going after and eating small animals which had been alive beforehand. So its not unheard of for deer to partake in eating meat under some circumstances either due to need or opportunity. Its just not part of their normal diet. Above all of this, however, is a simple fact that trumps everything else. That fact is that therians are humans. Humans that happen to identity as a certain animal, but still very much biologically human. No matter what we think or how we feel, we (therians) are human. The human species has a very wide range to choose from over what to make a meal out of. What is taken in as one’s diet is just as much based on personal choice, ethics, cultural influence, and availability for therians as it is for non-therians. A therian does not have to eat what their theriotype eats. It’s a choice to make. Being a therian is a part of one’s personal identity and that identification is not lessened or strengthened by one’s lifestyle choices. Further, the human body requires some amounts of certain foods – or more correctly certain minerals and other substances found in certain foods – to remain generally healthy. A therian can choose to eat what they eat; however being human no matter how much we identify as nonhuman animals cannot be forgotten. So I find it silly to think a therian should or would necessarily eat a lot like their theriotype anyway.

So that is a bit about my experiences as a cervine cladotherian. What has been written is far from the only things about my therianthropy, but it is a nice inquiry of some of the more prominent points I have thought to include. I hope this essay has given those who read it some insight into my personal cladotherianthropy. 

– Pantairin