My time in the online zoo community has been relatively short compared to some, I’ve only been around for about a year and a half now. But in my time here I’ve seen more than a few people who have issues with zoo perception and self-worth. My goal with this piece is to not only give some encouragement, but to tear down many of the irrational ideas spawned from internalized anti-zoo rhetoric.
Self-worth is no easy thing to repair. I’ve seen many different zoos with all number of different causes for the feelings of shame and self-hate they have. The easiest thing, as you might imagine, would be to start with the loudest source. Anti-zoo rhetoric is something I the wider community, have worked exceptionally hard to refute in all corners where it appears. Despite this, no matter how irrational it may be, some zoos still have trouble rejecting these ideas and internalize them instead.
Were I to go over the rather played-out arguments here this would be several times longer than necessary. We have covered the topics many times before. I want to stress to every individual having any sort of self-doubts as a result of heckling from terminally-online nobodies that it is purely . Objectively, there is nothing wrong with who you are. Your life does not need to conform to the status quo in order to be valid, and I would see every zoo suffering from this self-hate turn it outwards onto those who try to harm them.
Some zoos truly do not understand the level of intellectual bankruptcy that to assault them. Trust me, as someone who has argued head-on with anti-zoos for years and years, they are one of the most unbelievably incompetent and dishonest groups on the planet. No matter how little you may think of yourself, these people do not deserve to affect you.
As common as they may be on the internet, the average fanatical anti-zoo who devotes a shocking amount of their free time to hate and misinformation is far from the only source. The second most common source of self-doubt in regards to zoosexuality is family. This is a fairly common trope in itself among non-heteronormative groups, and it’s even dicey to come out as gay or especially trans to a lot of parents. While you can’t change who you’re related to, you can change who you’re bonded to. People do not deserve to abuse you just because they conceived you. Stand up for yourself, cut people out of your life if they cannot show you even the most basic level of respect, no matter how hard it may be. You will find eventually you’ve cultivated a circle of people who love you for who you really are. I know this isn’t an option for everyone all the time. When it comes to family there’s plenty of cases where zoos rely on them for housing, food, and other forms of financial stability. My advice is to work on getting out of that situation as quickly as possible, and reminding yourself that it’s not forever. Not only does it give anti-zoos an unreasonable amount of power over you (potentially outing you to them), but it places an immense mental burden on you.
I myself have had to cut people out because they do not respect me for who I am, and I am better off for it. It’s a story you’ll see all throughout the zoo community if you look just a little. My point being, if we can do it, so can you. Not only that, but there’s plenty of people who know exactly what it’s like to go through that process and can support you through it whenever you need. Simply ask in any zoo space (although I myself stick to DSI spaces) and you will find a litany of individuals who have experienced these things before and can guide you through them. Although not everyone wants advice, simple emotional support can be provided just as easily.
I’d like to switch back for a moment to the topic of anti-zoo rhetoric, particularly in regards to the zoo community. If you’re a newer zoo or someone who isn’t quite familiar with the entire debate, and you see an argument that makes you unsure, bring it to the rest of us. There’s plenty of people with great experience and knowledge debating the topic (including myself) who are more than comfortable with explaining things.
Some arguments take greater levels of critical analysis to dismantle, such as the idea that most animals are only as smart as a 5-year-old. The average anti-zoo sees an article and assumes it must be correct. However, actually delving into these things you will find the metrics used to define “intelligence” are not only arbitrary but completely anthropocentric. Which is to say, defining an animal by the number of human words they can recall is like defining fish by how far they can climb up trees. It’s completely irrelevant. You will note that the people who put forth these arguments can never actually explain what it is that animals do not understand that they would need to understand in order to consent. A critical eye can dismantle any argument put forth about the “inherent wrongness” of being a zoo.
Generally I would recommend not engaging with anti-zoos unless you are doing so purely for activism, or your own enjoyment at seeing bigots flounder in response to proper opposition. Shutting them out is not “running away,” on the contrary it takes quite a lot of self-assurance to completely disregard those who hate you. It’s quite achievable, I’d like to see every zoo possess that level of self-confidence in regards to their sexuality. Whatever problems or doubts you may have, none of them should be in regards to your attraction.
It’s easy enough to just say these things, but I would like to stress that it’s not something everyone can do by themselves. There is a wide community to support you. While there’s no big comprehensive list of zoo spaces for security reasons, there’s plenty of people willing to help you branch out. I started out rather small, just making a Twitter account. Then, ZooCommunity forum. Now I occupy a wide list of Telegram channels and Discord servers. I’d be willing to bet there’s at least one person reading this magazine that is a zoo, but hasn’t made an appearance in the community yet. If you’re feeling unsure, just give it a shot. You might be surprised.
Well, I think I’ve said more or less everything I have to say. This ended up being a bit more heartfelt than I typically am, but I can’t stand seeing other zoos filled with self-hate because of other people. You really do deserve better than that. Hopefully this has inspired at least one person to be defiant, and take the power over their mental health out of the hands of the people who would hurt them. If there’s any piece of advice to take out of this, it’s to lean on the community and reach out when you need it. That’s all from me, I’d sign off with my name but with this many woofs it’d wake up the neighborhood.
Article written by Werewoof (April 2023)
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