I want to start by sharing an image drawn by tumblr user arijandro: 
(A woman in a red riding hood outfit with a wolf's arm and leg stares defiantly out the canvas, one eye bandaged. Behind her in the silhouette of a house is the text "I MAKE NO APOLOGIES FOR HOW I CHOSE T
This captures something about my own becomings-animal that I hadn't really managed to place before. I don't mean to say that I wouldn't have found foxness if I hadn't been abused, or that I wouldn't mew to say hello if I hadn't experienced trauma; I suspect there are other paths that would have awakened those kernels in me, encouraged those habits, had I not taken the ones I did. For me it doesn't matter; my foxification is intricately tied up in my need to defend and delineate myself in response to trauma in ways that I am trying to pick apart by writing this post.
Sometimes I feel like a terrible unperson, an abomination unto man and God, a thing unworthy of kindness or compassion. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one in particular makes it stick: If I were a person, deserving and beautiful, why would people have hurt me without remorse? Why would others take pleasure from my unwilling suffering? I must be trash, or else the world is so terrible that how could it even exist? This is busted thinking, of course, but it's busted thinking that is incredibly difficult for me to get past, except when I take on the position of the animal, lay claim to it, and demand my own worth regardless of my inhumanity. Here I mirror Susan Stryker, in "My Words To Victor Frankenstein...," reclaiming the monstrous: "I assert my worth as a monster in spite of the conditions my monstrosity requires me to face, and redefine a life worth living." The building blocks of my monstrosity are just baked from a different soil. 
My life --- my survivor's furry genderfucked life, with the Pokemon and the fixed-gear bicycle and the androgynous face and the pain and the pink glasses and a ridiculous quantity of pasta in oil sauce --- is a life worth living. The archetypes that called to me, the limb I stitched on to replace those taken from me as the woman in the image did, I took not from humans but from foxes. When I look at art of myself "as a furry," I am using an intermediary to see the self I cannot see in the mirror or in photographs; the human eye, the camera, are not suitable intermediaries for viewing me. (This is why I very rarely commission art of myself; to me, it is offering someone else the chance to build a part of me, and is not something to be taken lightly.)
I am also cat, from time to time --- and I much more often take on the physical trappings of felinity, though you'll catch me occasionally in the right mood with fox ears and different painted whiskers. First of all, being a cat is fun, but it's also a more effective form of externally visible armor. Presenting as feline (I like to call it "going out en chat" because at the end of the day I am a huge dork) taps into a bunch of archetypes about female sexual availability --- even when someone is presenting male, I think (although the one time I tried cat costume in men's dress suit I think something different happened). That's occasionally fun and sometimes terrifying but it's not the main reason I'm doing it --- it also, at least for me, taps into archetypes of feline ineffability and a different means of boundary enforcement. When I'm wearing street clothes, and someone harasses me or pressures me into interacting with them, I have difficulty saying no, I freeze up, it takes a lot out of me to manage that boundary because I am full of fears that the boundary won't be respected when I express it, because when was it ever before?  When I'm a cat, I just hiss at them, claw them if necessary, and move on. It's legitimately much easier for me to enforce those boundaries, and it costs me less, when I'm a cat. (Or when I'm a fox, but I tend to just run away.) The costume isn't the thing that makes this possible, but sometimes it's the thing that makes it accessible just then, literally sewing together felinity to evoke that I've sewn metaphorically into myself.
I'll ask it so no one else has to, since we're talking about catgirl costumes: "But isn't furry, like, a sex thing?" I've gotten this question from everyone from academics to cosplayers, and there are a lot of fascinating, snarky, beautiful answers to this question. I'll add this answer to their number: The human Rax who might have had sex is gone, if they ever existed. I had to sew something else in there to build a Rax capable of such vulnerability, but don't worry for me. My paws are softer than hands, my claws more nimble than fingers, and my teeth every bit as eager as a man's. I can love as a cat does, aloof and unconditional, or as a fox, distant and hungry, or as a cactus, slow and resolute; I love as a human does only in that these are ways a human can love and is loving. Furry is not a sex thing. My sex is a furry thing, and I wouldn't and couldn't have it any other way.
It's important to note that this relationship to the animal, while it's amazing for me, is not unproblematic. This post isn't about all of that, so I'm not going to go into detail, but I want to mark space here for a few things. First, this use of animal archetypes is connected to but not directly about the experiences of molar, "animal-born-animal," animals, who affect and are affected by this kind of identity work. Second, there are many people who experience being called animal as deeply negative and hurtful, for both personal and structural reasons. I claim and own and inhabit it, but that isn't the right path for other people, and my decision and comfort is affected by which structural reasons assholes had for calling me inhuman while abusing me. Someone else might respond to that with a fierce declaration of humanity, and that path is also beautiful. But me?
I am become menagerie. When the narrative of the human cannot staunch my wounds, I find another.
 If you're also grappling with issues of abuse, survivorhood, and reclamation at the moment, there are way worse things to do than spend a couple of hours reading through this tumblr and crying. I did it last weekend, and I'm so glad I did. It's even better if you also like Homestuck fanart.
 As tempted as I am to buy into the idea that it was desert soil all along, the Sonoran desert will never be mine or be me. As I stitch pieces of it into myself and shed self into the sand, though, I gradually stop being un-desert just as I will never be un-Rhode Island.
 A lot of times, if I charted them all on a calendar, but there are so many times in my history that it wasn't and a few very recently besides that... it often feels fruitless.
This entry was originally posted at http://rax.dreamwidth.org/119997.html.