Birds Of A Feather

By and for Bird-People

An injured bird hides

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An injured bird hides

Being therian is a learning experience that lasts your whole life. I guess that any identity is, but it’s even more interesting, maybe, when you are raised as one thing, and you are something else inside. Or, maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I have never been anything else that would know, or, if I have, I don’t remember it.

Some people think that being therian is something you find – “I’m a wolf/bear/boar!” – and then stop. You know what you are, so it’s over now, unless you discover another theriotype, or you realise after all, that therian does not describe you. But the real experience is nothing like that. You keep learning, all the time, what it is like to be a swan, or a hawk, or a sparrow. You keep finding the small things that connect, things that make the picture fit, and you wonder how you didn’t notice them before.

Like bobbing your head to greet people, not even thinking about it as a bird thing. Like realising that your emotions and urges of the year, match with what the swans are doing in that season. Like feeling that another species of swan feels like close family to you, more than the other kinds, and then you find out, the two species are related closer than all the other kinds, and they sometimes breed. Like reading about human myths that say that swans are often found on islands in lakes, in meditation journeys, and realising you always have been drawn to those places. Like the nature that looks at mammals, not just humans but all mammals, and sees something very alien… in their faces, in their social groups, in the ways they show affection. Like being a blunt, loud creature who breaks boundaries, not caring for the taboos that other animals fear, stepping all over the lines between wild and tame, taking what I want from the human world when it can help me, but never swearing any loyalty to it… and realising, that is exactly the way the mute swan lives.

Every time I find another little thing, it’s a little joy. It’s not a desire to “prove” my nature: why does a swan care about proving she is a swan? With my typical blunt swan-ness, I don’t need proof or care about what others think. I am me. You can respect that, or you can be chased away with hisses and wings.

The thing I feel from this, is just the pure joy of seeing pieces of the puzzle fit into place. A puzzle is always satisfying, the pleasure of seeing small things revealed, and the emotional rush of the pattern making sense… and it’s even more satisfying when that puzzle is you. I’m not a puzzle for other people to work out, an Autism Speaks puzzle to be fitted together by doctors and therapists. But I feel a joy in my own, inside puzzle, my own self-learning. It’s the only kind of true knowledge that anyone in the whole world can have about what it’s like to be me, and I think that’s fascinating. The keys to my treasure chest are something that only I can find and use, and I feel a joy about using them.

I found another little piece, recently. Another small thing. But, it makes me happy, and it helps me understand my self a little better.

I don’t like people to see me weak. Even writing about this is going to be a little difficult, because I would rather not mention that I am ever weak… of course, you know all people are, but maybe, if I don’t mention it, you will never think of it about me. I talk sometimes about physical pain that I feel, or negative experiences, but I don’t really complain much, or ever feel a need to complain… I talk about it in a distance, practical way. I hide my pain, not because I am a kind of person who “does not want to burden you”, and secretly I “really want you to talk to me about my pain”, but simply because, an interaction that is related to my pain is not an interaction I want to have with you. That is an interaction where I am weak and you are strong, and it’s not that I want to beat you, but… I just don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable, in a way that feels a lot like an instinct.

I didn’t really understand it, for a long time. I’m not really the kind of person who believes that someone will hurt me because I’m vulnerable. I don’t care about competition, I don’t want to come first in a social race. And, I don’t really care about looking “tough”. I just don’t want to look weak, also. It’s not for any “reason” I can think about… I just don’t like the feeling. The same way that the thought of having sex with someone you think is a “turn off” feels very wrong and uncomfortable, this feels the same to me.

But then I thought about it from a bird perspective. And, immediately, it makes sense. Birds hide their injuries. When they are hurt, they try very hard to not show it. They don’t make noise, though, what you will notice if you live with them, is that they become very quiet. It’s not a matter of trust… even with a human companion who they love, a parrot will hide it if they are sick. It’s just the natural way. The reason of course, is to defend from predators, but it is just a deep instinct, that works even when the bird is only around beings they trust.

It’s the same with me. It doesn’t matter if I trust you, it doesn’t matter if you are my friend. Something that is a deeper instinct than social ideas, tells me to hide when I am hurt.

I’m comfortable with that. It doesn’t bother me, now that I know why.

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