Zoos are Literally Superheroes

Okay, maybe not literally, but there are actually a ton of similarities when you think about it. Sure, most of us probably can't shoot lasers out of our eyes. We can't fly, or lift cars, or move at the speed of sound. But super powers aren't what being a superhero is about. In fact, there's plenty of heroes that don't have any powers to speak of, outside of maybe some unnatural durability and a penchant for finding their way into the wrong place at the wrong time. In all the ways that really matter, your local horse lover is basically a caped crusader.
Skeptical? Let me explain. 
Let's start with one of the simplest comparisons. Costumes. A costume is an iconic staple of superheroes. Pretty much every hero out there has one. While a lot of superhero costumes are bright, vibrant, and meant to show off, the point is to conceal a secret identity. And that's pretty similar to what zoos do as well, isn't it? We create characters that we use to represent ourselves in spaces where it might be dangerous to have our identity revealed. Instead of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, we're Tarro, Akito and Kayco (there's a lot of o names for some reason). Our zoosonas, or even just our screen names are our costumes, which we make sure we put on before diving into the fray. 
There might be a lot of reasons that a superhero might need a costume. Maybe they're worried about their friends and family finding out they're beating up bad guys. Maybe they don't want the backlash from their actions as a hero to come back to harm their loved ones. Maybe they're in an antagonistic relationship with the law, where they're striving to do good, but it's in a way where some people just don't understand. If you're a zoo, at least one (if not all) of those probably sound familiar. A lot of us are afraid of opening up to our families about our sexuality because we don't know how they'd react. We're scared if we get doxed that our families and loved ones will be targeted. We're trying to change the way that society views us, but a lot of us are also technically committing crimes based on who we love, and might end up in hot water if our mask ever gets removed. We hope that if we ever do choose to reveal our real identity that our friends and family will support us, but for a lot of us that's not currently a risk we're willing to take. 
That's not to say we don't ever come out. For some of us, our close family might know. For others, we have a best friend we share everything with. Having a secret identity is hard. If we can have someone we don't need to hide from, it can help a lot.
"But okay Tarro" I can hear you saying as I manically scribble on a whiteboard trying to prove my theory, "big deal. Zoos wear costumes and superheroes wear costumes. So what." But don't worry dear reader, there's more to it than that. 
Here's the thing. Once heroes are actually in their costumes, what is it they do? They stop crimes, save people, beat up bad guys. Are you familiar with superhero powerscaling? There's a tier list that tries to give an easy way to explain a character's power without actually needing to know about them. It's based on scale. For instance, someone like Doctor Strange is universe tier. The problems that he deals with tend to involve saving whole universes. A team like The Avengers might be planet tier. They're fighting off threats to Earth, but probably aren't going to space to kill gods. Then there's city level heroes like Batman. For the most part, he's dealing with threats affecting Gotham City specifically. He can do more and have team ups, but it's not his day to day. And last but not least, there's street level heroes. This would be people like Daredevil or Jessica Jones. These are people that are protecting specific neighborhoods or areas. 
Below all of that is everyday heroes. These are people that are heroes in specific situations. Characters like Captain Gordon, Mary Jane, or even just unnamed characters that do good. That's about where zoos are. We aren't necessarily stopping Thanos from destroying the galaxy, but we are out here doing our best to protect a certain population of people. Animals! 
From trying to get people to understand animal autonomy, to protesting against and reporting abuse, or advocating for an end to factory farming, we're doing our best to protect the innocent and defend the masses. Here's an example. The more studies we do on it, the more we learn that spaying/neutering animals is bad for them. Turns out just cutting off parts of people's bodies is bad for them, who would have guessed! But, this scheme is one that runs below the surface. It's an injustice that most people don't even realize is happening. Which is why, thankfully, there's so many zoos trying to promote an end to spay and neuter. 
Or how about just animal respect? So many pet owners see their animals as either property they can do whatever they want with, or as children, who they never allow any freedoms to. We as zoos know that animals are so much more than that. That they're amazing, incredible, individual people just like we are, and they deserve to be treated as such. And so we fight to try and show people why animals deserve just as much respect as we show other humans. 
We also do a lot of fighting for each other as well. Sure, running a podcast might not be the same as stopping a supervillain, but it's certainly not nothing. I'm sure there's a lot of things that would be safer and easier for Adramedes to do than run Zoo Furs Unity on Telegram (check them out by the way, it's an awesome space), but he does it because he wants to make sure there's space for people like us to exist, where we can take a break from all the threats out there we all face. Not to toot my own horn here, but there have been so many people who have DM'd me after joining the Zooey Dot Pub Discord server to say they never knew there were so many people like them, and that being in a space with other zoos has made them go from hating themselves to being genuinely happy to be a zoo. I'm sure Toggle gets emails like that all the time from people who feel similarly about Zooier Than Thou. I'm trying to avoid getting too self-aggrandizing, but I also don't want to understate how much work a lot of people put in to make the community as amazing of a space as it is today.
Unfortunately, we also have our very own supervillains too. From trolls on Twitter who just spam hate over and over, to dedicated anti-zoo groups who go out of their way to shut down zoo spaces, all the way up to the social constructs that harm both us and animals alike. Sometimes evil wins, and a zoo space is shut down, or a community member is removed from a public platform. Sometimes they can bully someone off the internet or cause someone to question themselves. Sometimes they do even worse things. 
There are also people who may not be what they would claim to be: antiheroes, anti-villains, people who test the labels we would give to good and evil and seem concerningly eager to do so. People like Peacemaker or Homelander, who wear the label of hero, but tend to cause way more harm than good. People who tend to give the rest of the superheroes actively trying to do good a bad name. People that used to be our friends, but have chosen a different path. 
Now, obviously, this metaphor is a little stretched. I'm not about to put on tights and run around my town punching people who don't let their dogs sniff at things for long enough. But my point is that in this crazy, fucked up world we all live in, there's so many opportunities for you to do good. To be a positive change for the animals we love, and for the zoos we live alongside. A running theme in a lot of hero content is that anyone can be a hero, and it's true. In the same way that anyone can be Spiderman, anyone can be Toggle. It's not about the superpowers, it's about having the drive to make a difference. We have so many threats facing us, and even past that we have so many problems that we want to fix. You have the power to join in the fight and help make the world a better place. You probably have your costume designed already. 
So come on, dear reader. Let's go save the world. 
Article written by Tarro (November 2023) 
Questions, comments or concerns? Check out our Discord server! discord.gg/EfVTPh45RE

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