I’m twenty years old and I have recently awoken as a swan therian. I feel lost. When I seek out therianthropy resources, they always discuss mammals and mythics extensively, but rarely do they seem to mention any avians - and when they do, it’s never swans. I picked up Lupa’s ‘field guide’ and didn’t find a nonce of swans in there. Does this mean that I’m the only one?
There’s such a large number of swans in the world, and so many swan-focused brutalities occur on a regular basis that I would think that other swans would have had to have reincarnated as humans! I haven’t visited any members-only websites because I’m not providing my email address when I can’t see what I’m providing it for, but in all of the public areas, well…
The wolves all have their packs. The horses all have their herds. The cats - well, they’re mostly the solitary breeds - but the lions have their prides. Why can’t I have my flock? I am jealous of swans in the wild and swans in photography because I’m alone in the human world, and so far it seems as though I’m alone in the therian world. Swans aren’t supposed to be alone.
It’s interesting question, I never thought about it before, but my feelings about most species are quite similar to the swan’s… “why do I care?” Not a fear, not a love. The swan does not have many natural predators, the worst predator of swans honestly is human, and they tend to be the species I am less comfortable with. To other animals (even some humans), the attitude of the swan is mostly, “I’m bigger than you and I can fly, I don’t care” and they are not afraid of most creatures. In a similar way, I don’t feel afraid of other animals, even large ones.
Wolves sometimes are a predator on swans, and actually, they are probably the animal I would think as most frightening in the wild (more than a bear). Foxes are also, but, for some reason foxes don’t bother me. I guess because of the kami/trickster mythology, I find foxes to be interesting more than scary. That’s a part of my more “human” mind that becomes curious.
In the same way, swans do not really have a close bond with most other animals. The animals they interact with most is probably geese and ducks when they gather on the water together. I like geese and ducks and see them like “little cousins”… I still would move them out of the way if I want something, but, I’m happy to share my space with them.
It always has been in my bones that I was bird, it took some time to work out that it was, in particular, swan. I didn’t know in the beginning, I always had the idea of white feathers, white wings, and then it got more solid in my head, to details of white and brown. When I had those details I started to look at birds, and when I found swans… the more that I read about them, in reality, myth, folk tale, everything, the more that the anciest echoes back from all time that are associated with “swan”, felt like they echoes with me too. No other creature ever made me feel like this. I love many other birds, and there are even birds that I would have choose before swan if it had been a choice, but it is not a choice, and this is me.
As a therian, I imagine my ‘kin self without any jewelry. A swan would not wear it, so I don’t imagine my swan self doing it, also. But, recently after reading that in some myths, swan shapeshifters wear silver chains, I am thinking that I would get a silver chain to wear around my neck in this body, and probably, I will imagine wearing it as a swan, too.
But, in that situation, it would only be a symbol of the connection to the Otherworld in Celtic myth that is represented by the silver chain… not an idea that as a swan, I would really wear that.
This time of year is an interesting time, for my kind. Many swans have completed a long migration south, and, though mute swans don’t always migrate (some stay in the same place all year), their cousins, tundra swans are now spending the winter in large numbers on rice fields of Northern California.
This is a rare opportunity for me, and beautiful. I don’t live in a place where I can see swans at all, day by day. Many people are lucky that a pond or lake where swans live is very close, but, in the desert, you won’t find any swans except the few that people might keep in fancy gardens, not open to the public.
So, the swans meet me half of the way. It’s still many, many miles away to the places where they gather in numbers of hundreds and thousands, a white blanket over the fields. But I have plans to travel in January, to the place that is known for being the winter home of swans on the west coast, District 10.
I never have been surrounded by so many swans before. One or two… but, not thousands. I will be taking a telephoto lens and trying to capture as much of being surrounded by these living ghosts, wild spirits of my kin. And I will be opening my heart, too, to the calls, to the energy, and writing about that.
It will be a gather of many birders from California and other places. I like birders, they are always comfortable people to be around. Even if we don’t share the love of birds for the same reasons, I know that there is something that lights up in their hearts when they see the birds, the same as in mine. I know they think of them as friends, family, precious kin that we share the world with, more than most humans to. To many humans, birds might be annoying, or a meal… the most that they are, is pretty. But for birders, this is what sets their heart on fire. And, maybe, for a little time then, the human birder and the swan in a human-shaped body are not really very different, staring out into the world with excited eyes, letting the wild come alive inside us.
Dysphoria is not always about wings and tails, though, it’s what people think of. It’s even what I think of, when I talk about feeling uncomfortable with a human form. I think about the ache in my shoulder blades when my wing chakras are doing… whatever they do that makes them feel all blocked up when I try to do magic. I think about feet wrong, skin wrong, need clawsfeathersflyflyfly.
But sometimes, it’s different things. More dysphoria than dysmorphia, I guess, uncomfortable with the whole human role rather than just the body.
I realised last night, a lot of the reason I am uncomfortable socially, is because I can’t be an animal, socially. Humans have replaced a lot of the animal ways of managing social life, with layers of “politeness” and “manners” and complicated codes. This is not natural for me, and, let’s be honest… it’s not natural for any being, humans included. People made this up. It’s artificial. Yes, animals do have social codes, but they are a lot more simple than the ones humans expect.
It is not polite of me to hiss when someone is invading my space. In fact, it is considered a sign of mental illness - simply to do what all animals do, and the human is an animal too, if you insist to see me as human, though I protest against that. It is not polite of me, if I am having a bad day, a painful day, an anti-social day, to decide that I will do my tasks out of the house with as little interaction as I can, and hiss, when someone tries to catcall at me, or asks too many questions. I can’t raise my wings to look more like a threat, and I can’t do the human version, hold out my arms in a threat pose.
Because, in human society, threat is not okay. Threat is a serious thing. It is not something that people manage in a simple way: submissive posture if you do not wish to challenge the threat, or, return the threat if you do. It should be that simple: do you accept that I don’t wish to be bothered, and walk away, not taking it as personal offence but simply an animal behaviour, or do you continue to bother me and start a challenge?
If “social skills” were like this, I could handle them. Threat and not-threat, it takes two moments to understand. It is not all these layers of dodging politeness and making up words in my human mouth with my human tongue, to work out what I need to say that will not offend the person but also make them leave me alone. Most animals rarely have politeness. They simply express true feelings.
So, I must go out in the society and use the very complex, human displays of feeling. And then, there is also… a strange shifty feeling, I was having last night. Normally, I am a person who dresses in clothes that are modest, but femme. I like long flowy skirts, and cute shirts, etc. But, last night, I was having a strong feeling… even though I was in bed, and not going anywhere, I felt vulnerable, in a retrograde way. Thinking of all the times I went out like that. I wanted to wear jeans, and a heavy hoodie. I wanted to hide my shape. Not because of gender dysphoria, but, species dysphoria.
Because, to shifty swan mind… the human body is signalling all the time, “I am ready for sex”. Humans do not have a breeding season, humans do not have a way that their body signals that sexual time, the feather colour does not change, there is not a part of the body that changes colour or shape (…well yes, there is that. >.> But, not a visible part). And… that makes swan mind uncomfortable. That makes swan mind want to hide. Because, swan mind has a breeding season. It is not now! So, must hide body. Must hide human body that does not turn off the things that attract humans, does not make them disappear. Must make them disappear, under clothes, so no one can see.
Parts of mind that know about social justice know, it is not something I should have to do, hide my body, so that I will not be treated sexually. It is the responsibility of people looking at me to control their selves. (I make it sound like I make people lose control, haha. （´・ω・｀;）) But, it’s not about “should”. It’s about swan mind. Swan mind does not like the human sexual display. It does not matter if people do anything with it. Swan mind does not like.
So, this is what shiftyswan deals with when going out. Dysphoria is strange, and not always what you expect. Or, even what I expect.