Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! So, it’s funny. It was a struggle trying to figure out how to introduce you. There’s all the amazing things that you do with the Zooier Than Thou crew, but I think that probably undersells all of the things that you’re no doubt involved with behind the scenes. So instead, I figured I’d just ask you instead. If you had to describe who you are to the zoo community as a whole, what would you say?
I hesitate to sing my own praises or anything. I’m a guy who does audio work who made friends with a very ambitious zoo who had the crazy idea to make a zoo podcast. I just went along for the ride with that project, and ended up taking it over when he passed. I try to support other things people are doing for the community as well, but outside of doing the podcast, I don’t think I hold any titles or anything in the community. I’m also a lifelong furry and a bit of a defiant punk to boot.
I appreciate the modesty, but also I feel like you’re underselling yourself a bit! It’s fair to say that ZooTT somewhat of a cultural fixture at this point within the zoo community. You’ve got four seasons, 51ish episodes, and a bunch of fun other content as well. Even if that’s all you’re doing, that’s still a lot!
Speaking of ZooTT though, do you think there’s something that stands out to make it such a hit with the community? Obviously there’s not a lot of content made specifically for zoos, especially this well produced, but is there something more to it?
Well, we figured if we were going to do it, we had to do it well or get completely buried, so we started with that in mind. But we definitely started with several important themes in mind that have resonated — something I can say confidently because of our recent audience survey.
First, we began with the premise that zoos have never been allowed to speak in their own voices and talk about what matters to them. Our podcast allows voices that wouldn’t otherwise be heard to be amplified. I think the magic for a lot of people is hearing people talk about things they never thought they’d hear someone say out loud.
Next, we try to keep a lens of zoo-positivity in everything we do. There is plenty of media critical of zoophiles, and there’s enough negativity floating around in the discourse that we felt confident in sticking with a positive outlook. I think that’s also been revolutionary for people. Even when we focus on tough topics, we try to have some kind of light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment to move things forward in a positive direction.
I think we’ve also had some truly incredible moments. I think the time that it really hit me what kind of impact we could have was when Lovecat’s dad came on the podcast. Just before that, we got a bunch of nonzoo allies come on. And I think one of the most crushing lies we’ve been told is that no one could ever love us for who we really are. What an incredible moment to have someone’s dad on to profess his unyielding love for his zoophile son. That could be life changing for people to hear.
The other stuff is hit or miss with different segments of the audience. We do things we want to hear because no one’s doing them. We started doing zoo raps and music because it didn’t exist yet. So we do shit like that, and not everyone likes it, but having quality media of your own is really empowering for some folks.
The family episodes are for sure some of my favorites. Even as someone that’s got a human partner that knows about my zooeyness, and a lot of close friends that also know, the idea of ever being able to talk about my canine partner with my family is just insane to me. It really gives me hope for the future that at some point we can all have those kinds of conversations, and receive the same support that you all have shown is possible! Getting to know the behind the scenes of how you look at running the show is neat too!
I’m curious. One of the most impressive things about the show is that it’s been going on for over three years at this point. Has the way that you approach the show changed during that time? Especially given the fact that it’s such a huge source of representation for the zoo community at this point, does that factor in to how you plan your episodes and content, or are you still making the same show you were making at the start?
Oh it’s definitely changed and evolved over time. When it was just Fausty and me and a handful of of our friends, there was a much more sardonic, over-the-top, in-your-face style of sexual humor that isn’t really present now. A lot of that is pure Fausty energy, and without him, that spark is missing. But by the time he passed, we had this big group of people who had started gathering around what we had created, and they brought their own perspectives and ideas, and things changed. I think season 2 was neat because of all the new voices that came on.
Topics started getting a lot more focused in Season 3 when Aqua became a member of the team, and there was very strong narrative direction throughout the season we didn’t have before. We even had our dream of having Hani Miletski come on the show, which Fausty would have been ecstatic about. That whole season is full of important episode topics that all tie together, and that’s really exciting.
In season 4, we’re trying to break the expected format a little bit and experiment with new things so things don’t get to stale over time. Episode 2 saw a break from our variety show format to a narrative style podcast, which was very well received.
I thought episode two was amazing. Not only did you show a very different time in the community, but you did it in such an interesting way. Someone on the cast is for sure a fan of true crime, because it was perfectly in that tone.
Anyway, you’re more than just ZTT. I wanted to learn a little bit about you as well! As well as being a zoo, you’re also pretty very furry, as you mentioned before! Science says that there are certain traits that tend to be common among people that gravitate towards certain fursonas. What do you think is the thing that draws people in to adopting the persona of a rat, and what do you think is the biggest difference between rats and mice?
That’s an interesting question! I just really like rodents in general. Rats in particular have a bad reputation, but they’re also adorable as fuck and some of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. People are drawn to them for a lot of reasons, so it’s hard to generalize. For me, I think rats are pretty punk rock. Lots of spikes and leather to cover their softer features. They make a good symbol of defiance.
In terms of the difference between rats and mice when it comes to anthropomorphic characters, mice are heroes, and rats are villains. Mice make great protagonists because the odds are against them. They’re small and weak and unassuming, and seeing them overcome overwhelming trials is very satisfying.
Rats, on the other hand, walk a hardened path. They are seen as dirty and evil, and they internalize that and become what people fear.
Fortunately, there’s been something of a rat renaissance in media. Ysoki in Starfinder recast rats as tinkerers with lots of spunk and energy with strong familial ties, which I think I identify with more. As rats gain a better reputation in popular culture, I hope to see more rat protagonists, because I think their species makes for interesting characters.
Rats being punk rock is something that I’ve never really though of before, but I guess they do for sure have that grunge aesthetic!
Oh, also, when it comes to furry culture, I wager mice are meek and submissive. Rats tend to be hedonistic and take what they want. I identify with a bit of hedonism, but I kind of reject that macho dominant stereotype
I dunno, based on the picture of you that’s on the ZooTT website, I feel like there’s one aspect of the way that you represent yourself that’s pretty macho!
Well, there’s a persona of confidence that I project when I’m Toggle. You’re not allowed to be a zoo who’s confident and self-assured. You’re supposed to be ashamed, quiet, demure. I think that confidence is important to project. My hope is that it inspires some confidence in other people.
Fausty did this with his online persona as well. Mocking and bravado. I asked him why he did that once, and he said for a long time, it felt like what was needed. If there’s anything people can say about me, it’s that I’m ballsy
I know that you’ve covered this in the show before, but just in case our readers haven’t seen all the way back to season one. If you’re okay with telling it, I would love to know how you discovered your zoosexuality, and what that looked like for you early on!
I discovered it when a very persistent dog insisted I let him mount me. I reckon a nonzoo would have been like, “No, get off me!” But I was curious and let him go at it. I had been curious about dogs for a little bit up to that point, and I spent that summer with a face covered in dog slobber.
Early on, I remember I’d have these moments right after where I felt confident and fulfilled, an all-encompassing sense of, “This feels right.” But then I’d spend the next couple of days feeling religious guilt. I was a very paranoid kid, so I feel the time I should have been exploring my sexuality with abandon was mired in shame, which I regret. I also had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t until I found furry that I really understood anything.
It’s unfortunate, but I think that shame is something that pretty much every zoo can relate to. I certainly don’t know anyone who realized that they were into animals and was like, “Wow, that’s super cool and not at all weird!” So was furry your gateway into the zoo community then?
Kind of! I found furry while looking for zoo porn, and realized I’d been a furry for my whole life. I was obsessed with furries from a young age, so finding a word and a community for it was very exciting.
When I decided to actually look for community when I was in my 20’s, I started on Zoophiles Forum, but I never really connected with most people there. It wasn’t until I got on Twitter that I really started meeting zoos. All the zoos I met from that point on until I met Fausty were through the furry fandom. And the number of people who accepted me as a zoo really helped instill the confidence I needed to do what I do today. I don’t think I can say I was a member of the zoo community proper until I started doing the podcast, though.
As a furry myself, I definitely can confirm that there’s a lot of zoos that are part of that community as well. Pretty much every furry I’ve ever sent feral art to as a sort of tester has replied with positivity of their own. Do you think that as the zoo community grows there’s going to be more furries that end up zoos, or is there always going to be this weird iffy divide that exists between them?
I think that as long as being a zoo is perceived as something to be ashamed of in the zeitgeist, furries will always be engaged in narrative resistance. Particularly since the furry fandom has a median age under 18, if I’m not mistaken, you’ve got a lot of young people absolutely invested in the idea that there are no sexual or zoophilic aspects to the furry fandom.
We should be careful not to suggest something like all furries or all ferals are zoos. But it’s ridiculous to think that a community that involves anthropomorphic animals wouldn’t cater to people who are attracted to animals. We will always be a part of it, and we will always be the last ones standing when the mundanes get bored and move on, because we’re heavily invested in a way mundanes are not.
So you’ve been around for a fair while at this point. I’m sure that you’ve seen a lot of changes within the community. Every group tends to go through shifts as new people join in. What are some of the differences that you see now as compared to how the community was back when you were first finding it?
Well, I didn’t have a lot of insight when I first joined it in my 20’s. But I can talk about what it was like for me before the podcast.
Zoos had locked, private Twitter accounts. There were maybe… 5 zoos with active, public-facing accounts, including Fausty, Zoodonym, and a few folks from Europe, that I can remember.
Zoophilia also wasn’t really talked about that much in wider furry culture until the furry zoosadist leaks. Suddenly, it was in the discourse, but there weren’t really any zoos taking part in it openly.
I also had no vision of a future where zoophilia could ever be accepted. I thought I’d never be able to tell my parents, for sure. I had friends that accepted me, but I never thought I’d be able to be open about it anywhere but my locked Twitter account. It never occurred to me that there was a fight to be had, until the zoosadist leaks.
That’s when I met Fausty, after reading a book about him. That’s when things changed for me.
Now, the online landscape is vastly different. There are new open zoo accounts popping up almost daily on Twitter. People talk about this stuff openly. There’s organizing, projects put together for zoos by zoos, political direction that I hadn’t personally witnessed prior. I think people have a sense of something bigger than themselves, or at least, I do.
Man, no question here, but Fausty sounds amazing. I’ve heard you talk about him a couple of times on the show and always kinda had an idea of who he was, but I didn’t realize that he was such a pioneer when it came to creating a community for us. It’s a shame I couldn’t meet him, but it feels great to be able to try and help keep building the bridge he laid the first stones down on.
I reckon there was always a community, since the internet came about at least, but it was definitely different. And I know Fausty would probably be the first to put a halt on the idea that he laid down the first stones. But I think we did have an impact on the community.
Speaking of which, I want to get into talking about activism and the zoo movement as a whole, if that’s okay with you. What do you think that the movement is going to look like in the next year, five years, ten years? Given that you have a little bit more perspective on the trajectory that we’re all headed in, are you expecting good things? Bad things? Or a lot of the same?
Oh gosh, I’m no soothsayer. I don’t know if I would have predicted where we are now, three years ago.
If we base our trajectory on previous civil rights movements, we know this path isn’t an easy one. I expect that over the next five or ten years, things will get very difficult as we become more visible. We will face greater opposition from forces that are a lot more powerful than we’ve had to deal with so far. But with that visibility also comes allies. When people realize their sons and daughters, their friends and family, that people they know and love are zoophiles, our fight will become their fight.
I also hope that in that time, we’ll have some shared values we can all rally behind, something akin to the zeta principles, but adapted for who we want to be as a community now. I don’t think we all have to agree on every single thing, but I hope we have a baseline cultural understanding of what it means to be a zoo.
I hope that smarter people than me will be able to lead us in a direction that supports the animals we love and makes the world a better place for them, while ensuring that we who love them have a place at the table. I think we get wrapped up in the human side of this when we think politically, but animals are the true underclass in society, far more oppressed than we are, and their fight is also part of our fight.
I’m also hoping that by 10 years from now, we have some kinds of resources for young zoos just discovering their sexuality who need guidance and education. Resources, ideally, that also help protect animals by instilling animal-centric ethical values to the next wave of zoos who come in, rather than leaving them to go to sites like ZooX18 to find out what it means to be a zoo.
Say that you’re a younger zoo who’s looking to try and get into the community specifically on an activism level, and they might not think that they really have any talents that are applicable, but they have some free time and they have some drive to try and make the world a better place, what would you recommend that they do?
I recommend that people do what they’re good at in service of the community. I have basically no political savvy, but I’m handy with a microphone and a DAW, so I did what I do best, and it turned out to be impactful. A couple of years ago, there was an openly zoo Twitch streamer I watched play Persona 4. How cool is it to see someone like you just vibing and doing something they love? Kynophile liked to do music. People have written in that his King of the Pride song helps them get through the day.
Is there something that you wish existed for zoos that doesn’t exist? Do that.
Is there something that does exist for zoos you think you could do better? Do that.
Lastly, every zoo project that exists desperately needs personnel who are dedicated and have time to give. All of us are running these things with low manpower and barely enough consistent volunteers to keep things steadily afloat. Most of everything you see that’s still around is put together by a handful of very dedicated people, and anything you can do to lighten the load will be a godsend.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, I really appreciate it. Before we wrap up. Anything you want to say to the audience reading this? Social commentary, shoutouts, plugs, anything like that?
Zoos are different, and that’s not only OK, it’s important. Your perspectives are necessary, and the empathy you gain from your experiences as a zoo can be used to help other oppressed groups, not just zoos.
Please support as many of these zoo projects as you can. Shout out to everyone who puts stuff like this magazine together. Your work is valuable and appreciated.
Finally, you don’t have to accept the way things are right now. The world changes, and that change starts with us. Stay defiant!
Interview conducted by Tarro, featuring Toggle June 2022
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