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The first transspecies flag proposed by mordecai midas[1]

Transspecies (also spelled 'trans-species' or 'transpecies') is a word used by some people in the alterhuman community to describe a specific relationship to nonhumanity. It is typically used to draw parallels between the experiences of species identity and gender identity. In some countries, it is the preferred term over otherkin or therian, and it has also been used synonymously with those terms in the past. It is additionally used by people outside of the alterhuman community, primarily academics.

Experiences[edit | edit source]

Experiences common to transspecies people include the experience of species dysphoria, a desire to transition (physically or socially), and a sense of their species identity being related to their gender identity.[1] Most, but not all, transspecies people are also transgender.[1][2] Some experience their phenotype as being a different sex or gender from themselves, regardless of their transgender status.[3]

Some people additionally choose the label as a political statement, aiming to show the social construction of species as similar to that of gender.[1][3][4] They see the centuries of philosophical debate of what it means to be human, and the denial of humanity to marginalized groups as demonstrations of this.[3][4] They may advocate for the recognition of certain surgeries and cosmetics as medically necessary.[1][4]

History & etymology[edit | edit source]

The word transspecies was presumably coined by analogy to transgender. It is likely that many different people have independently come up with the word at various points in time. The first use by an alterhuman person is unknown, but examples can be found in therian communities from 1994 onward.[2] In the early 2000s, some people treated the term as synonymous with therianthropy.[3] In 2003, psychiatrist Dr Eric Hollander used the term in reference to furries who undergo body modification in the documentary Animal Imitators.[5]

One of the first people to become known for using the term on tumblr was Tsu, who went by the username swanblood. She was criticized for expressing her dysphoria, and for comparing the experience to being transgender.[6] Tsu also harbored a number of more extreme ideas, which may have compounded the stigma against the word by association. While she was particularly condemned because she was cisgender, popular opinion in the communities at the time was still that gender and species identity should not be compared at all. While it is a vocal advocate of the term today, in 2014 mordecai midas wrote that the term was "best avoided". It acknowledged the past use of the term by transgender therians, and simply made the recommendation based on the controversy the word attracted at the time.[7]

Opinions of the term remained sour until 2018, when flock-of-changes published Why I Call Myself Transspecies[4] and mordecai submitted a transspecies flag to the tumblr blog queer-buccaneers.

"initially, the flag was a private little thing i made for myself and a partner after we'd talked about it for a bit. at the time, the tumblr otherkin community as a whole was still scandalized by the idea of comparing alterhumanity to being lgbt+ (and they still would be for a while) so it wasn't something we wanted to make a big deal out of. but i mentioned it offhandedly in the alt+h discord server, and people seemed... excited?" - mordecai, Transspecies: two flags and an FAQ[1]

In 2021, the House of Chimeras presented the results of a community survey on attitudes towards the term. While it was still controversial, the majority of people reported feeling neutral-to-positive about it. Feelings towards people who used the term were even more positive overall.[2]

Flags and symbols[edit | edit source]

A flag version of lapis-lazuri's design, created by Fy of beyond-mogai-pride-flags[8]

On November 13th 2017, deviantArt user lapis-lazuri uploaded a transspecies pride stamp. The design featured a paw inside a hand, and stripes in various shades of pink and purple to represent ultraviolet light.

"The idea behind that may be obscure.... I wanted to represent colors invisible to the human eye to sort of symbolize the realm of personalities beyond the human grasp. [...] Sort of, what you cannot see with the naked eye. Also, a way for me to say: the fact you don't see something doesn't mean it does not exist." - lapis-lazuri[9]

mordecai's second design[1]

The ultraviolet symbolism would serve as inspiration for mordecai midas' first flag, which additionally included crimson to symbolize infrared. In the middle it included a black stripe, and a yellow compass rose. This design was submitted to the tumblr blog queer-buccaneers on June 28th, 2018.[10] Sometime later, mordecai released a second design which replaced the horizontal stripes with diagonal ones, and the compass rose with a stylized glyph of the constellation Ursa Minor, and Polaris, the north star. While this design was not intended to replace the original, only to "better satisfy [its] own artistic taste", it suggested the Ursa Minor glyph could be as a standalone symbol, as others had stated that they would not recognize the compass rose on its own.[1]

Outside of the alterhuman community[edit | edit source]

The word has also seen some use in academia. It has primarily been applied in the humanities to various theories about the relationship between the human species and other animals. Academics in transgender studies have employed the term in examining the relationship between gender and species. The term 'tranimal' is also used in this context to similar effect.[11][12]

Reception[edit | edit source]

The word 'transspecies' has been invoked as a slippery slope argument against transgender people.[3][2] Individuals who use it this way aim to paint transgender identity as absurd; they argue that if society accepts transgender identities, it would have to accept transspecies identities too. Orion Scribner describes the use of transspecies people to discredit transgender experiences as "a rising cliché for the last decade".[13]

People who sincerely use the word have faced broad criticism from those who feel it to be an appropriation of the transgender experience.[3] Proponents have responded by pointing to the substantial amount of transspecies people who are also transgender, and demonstrating where they feel the comparisons to be accurate.[1][3] A number of people have further asserted that claiming the two experiences cannot be compared is erasure.[3]

Some people who use the term perceive the backlash against it to be rooted in respectability politics.[4]

Notable people[edit | edit source]

A number of people have risen to prominence in the media as a result of using the transspecies label. Not all of these people identify as part of any alterhuman community.

Tiamat Legion Medusa[edit | edit source]

Also known as the Dragon Lady, Tiamat describes itself as "the most modified transsexual in the world",[14] having spent around $70,000 on modifications as of 2018.[15] It considers itself a reptilian, having been "adopted" by diamondback rattlesnakes when it was abandoned as a child.[16][17] It sees its being transspecies and transgender as "doing two transitions simultaneously", and the processes as being intertwined.[17]

"It was when I accepted myself as a female that I was able to accept myself fully as a member of another species, which is a reptilian species. And I decided at that very moment, when I saw myself as both a reptilian and as a female, that I was not going to let myself die in this world- I didn't want to die in this world being a human." - Medusa, When I Leave This World[17]

Luis Padron[edit | edit source]

Luis Padron is an Argentinian elf who has spent upwards of £45,000 on body modifications. He became motivated to pursue extreme body modification after seeing a woman who had transformed herself into a Barbie doll with plastic surgery. He identified himself as transspecies in an interview on British daytime TV show This Morning, where he stated that body modification was as necessary for him as transition is for transgender people. [18] Padron also appears in Anthony Padilla's video I spent a day with OTHERKIN.[19]

Neil Harbisson, with his antenna clearly visible

Neil Harbisson[edit | edit source]

Neil Harbisson is a cyborg artist and transspecies activist.[20] Born without color vision, he developed an antenna which converts color information into sound.[21] When he attempted to renew his passport in 2004, the UK Passport Office rejected it, stating he could not wear the antenna in his photo. He successfully argued that it was not an accessory but part of his body, and the application was eventually accepted.[22] Harbisson went on to found the Cyborg Foundation, a group which assists people in becoming cyborgs and defends cyborg rights.[23]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 mordecai midas. "transspecies: two flags and an FAQ"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The House of Chimeras. (August 14th, 2021) "The Use and Misuse of The Term Transspecies"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Akhila. (May 25th, 2013) "On the appropriation of trans narratives by therianthropes"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Aster. "Why I Call Myself Transspecies"
  5. Justin Pemberton (Director). (August 15th, 2003). Animal Imitators. Natural History New Zealand.
  6. Rogue. "anonymous asked: Well, you might be upset."
  7. mordecai midas. (December 31st, 2014) "Otherkin and Beyond: An FAQ and reading list for curious and confused parties"
  8. Fy. "Transspecies Pride Flag"
  9. lapis-lazuri. (November 13th, 2017) "Transspecies Pride stamp"
  10. (June 28th, 2018) "transspecies"
  11. (May 2015) "Tranimalities" TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Duke University Press.
  12. Florentin Félix Morin. (May 17th, 2017) "EGO HIPPO: the subject as metaphor" Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities - Volume 22, Issue 2: tranimacies: intimate links between animal and trans* studies.
  13. Orion Scribner (frameacloud). (February 22nd, 2023) "In US, three anti-transgender bills also oppose alterhumans; similar recent Supreme Court cases"
  14. Tiamat Legion Medusa. "Tiamat Legion Medusa (@MedusaTiamat)"
  15. VICE Life. (2018) "I'm a Real-Life Transgender Dragon"
  16. Diana Tourjée. (September 20th, 2018) "The Trans Woman Who Became a Dragon"
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Carlos Motta, Tiamat Legion Medusa. "When I Leave This World: Tiamat Legion Medusa"
  18. "I've Spent £45,000 to Look Like an Elf | This Morning" This Morning. ITV.
  19. Anthony Padilla. (October 7th, 2019) "I spent a day with OTHERKIN (People who aren’t entirely human)"
  20. "Neil Harbisson"
  21. (May 27th, 2008) "Colourful artist: on a slightly different wavelength" The Irish Times.
  22. Laura Serra. (January 19th, 2011) "No hi ha blancs ni negres, tots som taronges" Ara.
  23. "Cyborg Foundation"