How Zoos can Become Socially Accepted

Zoos are no strangers to the idea of being outside of the norm. At best, we are a bit weird to most mainstream people in how they view relationships, tolerated but not understood. At worst, we are targets of bigotry and shunned from society, possibly even arrested for our expression of love that we show our partners. This is an example of Ostracization: The active day to day maintenance of an out-group within the greater society and culture. Ostracization is a self fueling mechanism, it reinforces itself by signaling to the in-group that members of the out-group deserve to be an out-group simply because they are already being targeted. It is an unfortunate but normal behavior displayed in many different types of highly social animals as an adaptation for keeping tribe unity. 
Each person you encounter while advocating for zoosexuality will put a different weight or emphasis on how much the label of you being in an out-group affects their opinion of you, but everyone is affected to some extent.
In the interest of trying to help change hearts and minds to build acceptance for Zoos, I have built five archetypes of non-zoos you will encounter who will challenge you and how they will respond to you. This will be important when discussing tactics later. Let's get into who the zoo opponents are--a little field guide from an herbivore on how to navigate around these other concerning creatures in a safe an productive way.
The Zealot: These people are driven by forces beyond our control, chiefly disgust. The best way to identify a Zealot is the level of respect they show you and other marginalized groups. Likely, they already have hatred for other groups and they will let it be known. They will likely never accept you and it is best to disengage from conversations with them. They may be pretty inanimate-seeming targets for unleashing your pent up zooey fury if you wish to unload some fiery words, but at the end of the day they are also among the least likely to change their mind based on anything that you pose to them.
The Traditionalist: These people are driven by fear of change and an interest in maintaining moral consistency in society. This is MOST people active on the internet in anti spaces and unfortunately they won't be won over by debate. You can identify them by the fact that arguments don't work on them very well, they will always default back to your out-group status being self evident. They won't come around until the anxiety of what we are proposing, equal rights and social acceptance, is shown to ultimately not affect their lives or harm society. It is best to leave them be since they will be quicker to accept us later if they don't feel hostility from us.
The Survivor: These people are driven by fear of association with you and will performatively enforce your ostracization in order to protect their own rights. These are your LGBT, Progressives and Furries who can't tolerate Zoos due to us, in their mind, representing a danger to the hard won acceptance they have achieved. Their words often hurt the most but it is best to leave them be, fighting them won't change their mind. Until we prove we can earn rights and acceptance without endangering theirs, they won't change, sadly. They have the potential to become Radicals if they conquer their fear, however, so try to not create unwanted hostilities if possible. They may have the potential to be closeted zoos so debate can be fruitful sometimes. Test the waters to see if anything sticks.
The Academic: These people are driven by intellectual curiosity and don't care about social norms for their own sake. They are the most likely to be receptive to arguments but what we can expect from this group even if they get convinced isn't much: advocacy is hard and they don't have a stake in our struggle. Debate can be a sport to them so watch out for them focusing more on winning the argument rather than actually listening to what you are saying. Ideally this group can be utilized to help conduct more research on zoo topics to help bolster our arguments. But, without proper perspective really landing with them, we're more likely to see some weird blog post on how animals have sex in the wild but also totally don't understand sex at all in a house or an apartment.
The Radical: These people are driven by empathy and are your most likely allies. Even when they have misinformation about the topic or some moral issues, they will discuss it with the aim of accepting you and learning from you if possible. The fact you are an out-group if anything signals to them you need more attention and consideration to make sure the hate is earned. Take your time and be patient with these people, they are rare and valuable. Kindness really does pay in this situation.
Now that I have outlined these groups, I want to change topic to a theory which is used to described what is acceptable to discuss and do within a society. The Overton Window is a political concept which describes what ideologies and topics are 'allowed' in popular debate. Typically it's a left to right wing scale, with the moderate positions being within the “frame” of conversations and extreme positions such as Communism and Fascism being seen as less legitimate based on not the merits of their argument but because of a self-fulfilling lack of respect and allowance for discussion. Using the same principles when applied to sexual orientations/gender expression within the political sphere, I drafted up a basic outline of how things could be seen as they are now.
It's important to understand how things on the scale can move around, and suddenly be inside of the acceptability Window one day when they weren't there yesterday, or vice versa. In this case the orientations and the frame of the Window itself are constantly changing naturally. This above example is not how I would have drawn the points and frame for 80 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Through years of activism, many groups have been able to achieve better rights for their causes, which as a whole helps move the framing of the Window, giving other groups a chance for better acceptance too. Seeing Zoosexual activism as a natural extension of LGBT causes is something the Survivor will take great issue with, but it's hard not to notice the connection from this point of view. Many zoos may not be old enough to remember a time when these gay Survivors were acting the same way with bisexual people, viewing them as a perverted mockery of their monogamous lifestyle and unfortunate chromosomal defect that happened to make them homosexual out of no fault of their own (a talking point of the time). It took effort and patience for the LGB and later T community to truly stand together once the Survivors conquered their fear and realized they were in the wrong. Conquering fear and realizing you are wrong about something wired so closely to your core identity is a bold action that does not happen lightly for most people, and it should be no surprise that it didn't really happen en masse until the landscape seemed much safer to make the "less popular" choice.
Normalization is the opposite of Ostracization, and is the main tool combating bigotry. Bigotry isn't rational, it's primarily due to fear as shown with the Traditionalist and Survivor, so having the facts on our side isn't enough. We need to get the Window to grow so that not only these two archetypes but all of them, the Radical, the Academic and even to a small extent the Zealot, can become less hostile in a compounding effect. As someone is assessing whether they can accept you as a zoo, they will weigh their familiarity to you against what society has conditioned them to think. This is why people who have known you for a long time are more likely to be an ally, because losing you is a penalty they need to weigh against their instinctual bigotry in a subconscious ideological battle within their head. Strangers, however, are only familiar with you based on what the Window signals to them. As Zoosexuality comes more into frame, their fears lessen and former enemies can turn into pacified individuals or potential allies. And all that familiarity is achieved simply by being your normal happy selves while being Zooey. This is all speaking generally: it is of course possible for someone very familiar with you to still let bigotry win in their mind when you come out to them, and it's possible for a stranger to surprise you with their acceptance. But, when talking about large-scale societal change, we are looking at the trends of how people tend to behave more commonly.
Don't make the narrative about sex and abuse, controversial topics full of emotion, but instead make it about the mundane things you share with your adversaries. Make it about your hobbies, talk about your passions and how rich your life is outside of being a zoo. Make it about what sort of quirky things are unique to being a Zoo couple or maybe what sort of similarities you may have with human couples. Make it about projects that help the zoo community but might appeal to people who aren't zoos too. You can still do these things even if you are closeted, like me, by participating behind the scenes with an alternate persona, helping out in zoo community building and supporting zoos who are more public facing. You can also choose to participate in civil disobedience and public shows of pride if you are especially brave, with the proper understanding of the risks involved. As long as you are within sight and being a Zoo, even just as an online account, you are helping. History has shown there is no right or wrong way to advocate for rights, so long as they hold up the values the community embodies and are not harming people, the attention always helps add to exposing zoosexuality to more people, which then helps normalize it.
So go ahead, keep being your Zooey selves and debate if you wish to, but this is a battle which will be won through patience, not arguments or individual actions. We are stronger together, and every active zoo showing they are just like everyone else adds another multiplier to our exposure level. It may not always feel like it while living through it, but every day, that Overton Window's frame moves another inch in our favor. <3
Article written by Fawnly (February 2024) 
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