You are your Alt

Alts. They're very much the expected in the zoo community. Outside of a few brave souls, most people engage with zoo content on an account that's separated strictly from all our more public-facing social media. Hence the term. An "alternate" persona. Here at Zooey Dot Pub we get why this is so common. I (Tarro) am also an alt that exists specifically for this space. And there's nothing wrong with that. Right now, it's a weird time to be a public zoo, and not everyone is ready for all the major upheavals that "coming out" would entail.
But it leads to a problem. So many zoo alts are only here to engage with zoo content, so those common topics of zoo acceptance activism and zooey sexual material can start to feel one-dimensional. And especially with the focus being on adult-natured zoo content, it can seem to the people who stumble onto us that zoos only care about one thing. 
Like many of the problems that we face, this is something parroted in the bigotry against other minorities as well. A lot of the criticism against gay men wasn't just about the fact that gay sex was seen as bad, it was also about the "gay lifestyle." It was thought that all homosexual men were young, partiers, drug abusers, satanists, etc. (And those who didn't seem to fit the bill, like homosexual women, were rarely considered at all!) There was this idea that being gay wasn't just about attraction, but also about a slow sink into debauchery. 
Now, here's the thing: sexuality, at the end of the day, is about sex. And so yes, it turns out that homosexuals do try to find same-sex partners. And when most places are intolerant of gay couples, those people are forced into smaller and more radical spaces. There's an idea that gay people "really know how to party." The reason for that is that when you feel like you can't be yourself in real life, when you get a chance to break away from that and enjoy who you really are, you tend to take that opportunity wholeheartedly.
To the straights, that's when gay people are visible. Your brother Mark is just another guy when you're talking to him, while the place that's known for crazy parties and good times is "where the gays are." Even if it turned out that Mark was there every night, hooking up with guys and sticking things in places, your perception of Mark is still largely the same when you talk to him at home. And likewise, even if Mark never goes to a party, has a partner he's been with for 10 years, and always says a prayer to God before fellatio, straight people's perception of "the gays" is still the same. There's a difference in perspective between individual gay people, and the gay community. 
While there are parallels for zoos, the setting is different. There are no "zoo bars" (that I know of; if you frequent a zoo bar, please shoot me the details!) and so our community tends to congregate online. ZooCommunity, ZFU, our Discord server, or even Twitter. And in these spaces, we celebrate our zooeyness. We talk about how hot dogs are; We appreciate horses for more than just their rideability; And like many zoos, we're engaging with our sexuality in ways we wouldn't feel comfortable with in any other space. And therein lies the problem. When outsiders look in, they see only the "fun gay debauchery" side of us. And to be clear, I don't think that any of that is a bad thing. I hope everyone can enjoy whatever gets their rocks off. But here's where it leads to complications. 
Unlike brother Mark, it's hard for us to wear a pride flag, or talk about our partner, or even openly support our cause without fear of severe backlash. Which means that even though most people probably know someone in real life who's more than a little zooey, chances are they're never going to find out. Which is a shame, because the thing that really changes people's minds more than anything else is personal connection. Mark coming out to his siblings might be the thing that makes them really think about the "gay stuff" in a way that causes them to confront their initial hesitations. A zoo coming out might be what causes someone in their life to confront their issues, too.
As we've already mentioned, it isn't currently easy for zoos to live openly. So what's the solution? This is where it all comes back to our alts. You can live a whole life on the internet. Games, social media, forums, video platforms, etc. Your alt doesn't have to be your alt. You can make your "normal" non-zoo account your alt, and live out your main online life as your zoo persona. 
A quick story. A few months ago I made a new account for a popular multiplayer game that I play. I set it up with my name, "Tarro," and have just been playing the game exactly like normal. Not for any activism reason. Not to try and promote zoo stuff in chat. Just because that's who I am. I've made a few friends on that account, and recently in a conversation with someone, Twitter came up. He sent me a meme he posted on his Twitter, and I liked it. When he saw the like, he was confused at first. He asked, 
"Are you into animals or something?"
I said
"Yep. Anyway, we playing again?" 
He said
"Sure, I can do one more."
And that was it. Since then, we've kept playing together, we still talk pretty frequently. We're still friends. I "came out" to him, but it didn't need to feel like coming out, because it's all still me, as Tarro. I don't know how he feels, I didn't follow him and he didn't follow me, I definitely don't want to send all the 14 year old trolls running his way. But if absolutely nothing else he now knows a zoo who's given him a positive experience. If nothing else, it's a start. 
You can have this kind of encounter with any online space. I love tweeting at my favorite content creators, in the same way I would with anyone else. I happily engage with other Discord servers that aren't zoo spaces. And sure, sometimes it leads to blocks or bans or whatever, but just as often as not it leads to positive interactions. 
To sum everything up, my point is this. If you're someone who exists in a lot of online spaces someone who talks to people, leaves comments, participates to any degree think about maybe doing so with your zoo face forwards. The more everyone sees that we're people with full lives and interests, people who do other things, the more we can get people to question whether what they've heard about zoos all being monsters is really true. 
This goes double for if you're someone who's actively thinking about creating content. If you're someone who's looking to stream, make videos, whatever, being subtly zoo could introduce people to this idea in an easy way, without it feeling preachy. 
And hey: if you do put your zoo foot forwards and end up getting kicked out of spaces, well, that's why you have the alt!
Article written by Tarro (May 2023)
Questions, comments or concerns? Check out the discussion thread over on ZooCommunity, or join our Discord server!

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