Zoo Pride Week 2024 (Part 1) 

Happy Zoo Pride Week, Zooples! This is local Floof Woff-Brand here, and over the past 9 months I've had the incredible privilege of immersing myself in our vibrant community. As we celebrate this week together, I've been pondering what this community truly means to each of us individually and mutually. Every Zoo brings a unique perspective to our collective identity, and with an amazing helping paw from Tarro, and some shared wisdom from other community members out there, I've gained a deeper understanding of our 'proverbial' pack.
In this article, I will be reflecting on the zoo community, and sharing some quotes from community members. It's zoo Pride Week, after all! So what better time than now to think about who we are and what we're all barkin about. Obviously there are zoos from all walks of life, and people who "do zoo" in very different ways from others, but this article is about the community that I have seen myself, that I have gotten to know and love in my time here.
An obvious starting point that we all share is that we view our animal companions as people. We encourage everyone to treat their companions as equals with valid agency, as much as is possible in such a human-centric society. It sounds obvious to us, but I know there are many from outside our pack who don’t see animals as anything more than pets or property. We love our furred, scaled and feathered friends and strive to train them to live in our human world with the respect they deserve. Knowing that there are others out there who also give animals the same consideration is comforting. For some people, that strong love for creatures can sometimes seem like a curse, but it's the first and most important thing that brings all of us together.
While on the topic of bringing zoos together, I want to mention the unity of our community. Many of us can have differing opinions; whether it's about being a vegan, politics, handling antis, or a myriad of other things. Those differences don’t stop us from letting people be their animal-loving selves and I think this quote captures that well. 

“It's nice to spend time with people who think similar to me on some (but definitely not all) topics. Nice to spend time around others who understand that animals are more than society treats them as.” 

In the modern era of Twitter where hate is so easily spread online, it’s easy for zoos, both new and old alike, to feel alone. Our pack gives zoos a place to be themselves and not be afraid of what others think. The zoomunitys in the public eye like ZDP, ZooTT, Z&M, and many others are all beacons for Zoos to realize that they shouldn’t feel ashamed of who they are. This quote brings a voice to everything I've been trying to preach here.
“Its trite, but finding your people means finding out that there was nothing wrong with you in the first place.” 

Our pack gives people hope, hope that there isn't something wrong with them. It's also that spark of hope that reinforces that they aren't alone in this unforgiving world.

"I don't know that I could capture all the things that the community means to me - there are many - but I think foremost is the ability to give and receive with others that share in something of my experience. It is important for me to be present with others in a way that is uplifting - removing isolation and shame. There are so many of us out there even now, even with the internet, that are so alone in the human context of this experience. I would like to make sure that every zoo can be seen and heard and know that they are loved and accepted as they are."
Following up that quote it’s not just the unity we share, but a quest for self-realization we strive for and help each other achieve. Being in a pack gives us a feeling of safety that lets us experiment and express ourselves in a protected environment full of healthy information.
“It gives people the opportunity to share with other zoos things that non-zoos may not truly understand. Such as why losing a companion can destroy you, when to non-zoos it's just an animal so go get a new one.” 

Time and time again, the voices given to Zoos through our efforts show us that the unique events and quirks of our lives can only be understood by our own kind in full. We can talk about the losses of our dear partners, we can share the fun plans we have for Zoo Pride Week with them, and most importantly we can open up about loving our companions to people who understand and aren't going to just respond with like “Ew, you love animals romantically?” The zoomunity provides us the path forward to be Ourselves without any strings attached. In the current state of the internet and real world, we can't currently let all our zooeyness hang loose in every and all spaces. So having a community that doesn't just accept us but understands and celebrates who we are is truly amazing.
“The zoo community has been incredibly liberating. Outside of the internet I live with what feels like a false identity. It's isolating and hellish. Prior to discovering the community I was considering suicide. Learning there's more people out there has kept me alive. It's given me an outlet to talk about being a zoo. It's the only place I can openly grieve for my partner without fearing for my own safety. Zoo Pride Saves Lives.”

An invaluable part of this community is that Zoo Pride does in fact save lives. The combination of unity and freedom gives zoos a huge web of support as well as motivating more zoos to join into activism themselves. Before they may have felt internal conflict and suppressed their feelings, but now that they are connected with the pack their whole world changes. Being a zoo is a challenging attraction that can eventually grind even the strongest zoos down to our knees. When they stand united with the community, however, they stand tall knowing they aren’t isolated and that they are loved by peers.
“It is a way for us to share information about how to live with our companions in ways that improve our lives, human and non-human. I gained so much from the advice of others when the internet came to be and I found others, I feel an obligation to share that and help others.”
As a last point I learned from reading all these quotes, this community gives Zoos an amazing network of resources and support for their lifestyle. So many zoos want to give their companions the best life they can and the zoommunity is more than ready to provide books and suggestions for new zoos to start forming beautiful bonds with their potential partners.
“The insights gained by sharing our struggles, ways through, similarities, and differences in a community that cares for and is motivated to help each other is a powerful and greatly beneficial experience. I do not believe this can come from anything as large and anonymous as the entire zoo community, but the zoo community is a portal to connect with true personal community.” 

There's plenty of knowledge to be learned from the struggles of the past and the community is glad to share with those seeking advice. Whether it is the struggle of coming out to loved ones who might not understand or how to have better Op-Sec, the info is there in the community ready to be accessed.
As for my thoughts on the zoomunity… It is a fantastic group of people who want to help out every animal they can. From unconfident floofs like myself who may just need patient support, all the way to animals suffering from abuse. These amazing zoos I interact with daily are kind-hearted to all that show them respect no matter what walk of life they come from. To end the article I wanted to put in my favorite submission for what the community meant to them. 
Happy Zoo Pride week, and don't forget Zoo Pride saves lives
“We all know they are people too, and deserve the respect and compassion that goes with that status. So what does the zoo community mean to me? It means love. It means struggle. One that may never end, but one that we can't just give up, either. There are too many animals, too many zoos, too many people counting on us. This community means love. And I love you all. We will continue to exist against all forms of adversity that tries to snuff us out. You will continue to exist. To live. I know you will. I'm on your side, and so is everyone else here that loves you so much as one of our fellows. Stay defiant, keep loving”
Article written by Woff-Brand (July 2024) 
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