So many people cling to the need to label themselves and to identify what’s inside of them. Yet we each claim a unique individuality that cannot help but label us. Words, by their very nature, define us. That’s what words do, it is their purpose. So claiming to be something, however simple, is still a label. And every human society on Earth labels things. Even the Native Americans had names for the things around them. Is it possible that animals label things? I have no idea. But I would assume a bear would have a way of recognizing a specific tree or a den site. Or that a shark could remember a specific rock outcropping and give it a name. Or that an eagle could identify the best place to catch fish. But who knows?
And what is wrong with labels? In my opinion, nothing so long as they’re kept simple. Since everyone is different, we each need to have our own uniqueness that sets us apart from everyone else. This is where labels come from; the desire to be set apart from the rest of society. Granted, getting too specific with naming what you are will get confusing to others (not to mention yourself!), but having general labels is good in that it helps to clearly define who you are. At first glance, people can gather the basic knowledge as to what you are and therefore better understand you. At least to some general degree that is. Obviously it takes time to truly get to know someone, but getting basic information is a good place to start in talking to other people.
And everyone needs a sense of self or a name for what they are so that they can try to better understand it and themselves. Do animals give themselves names to show uniqueness? I have no idea. But as humans, our society has thrived on giving names to everything. So why should therians or Otherkin be any different?
Does my wolf side thrive on identity? Of course not but then neither does my human side. I know what and who I am and I’m comfortable with the different labels I’ve collected over the years. But the wolf in me recognizes a unique physical appearance and also connects with a specific name for itself which are different than my human side’s physical appearance and name. Does my wolf side care if it’s original home was Alaska or Tennessee? Of course not. But the human side of me realizes that knowing where the wolf came from is important in better understanding it. Does it define me? Partly. It gives me names to explain myself to others and to get a better handle on what’s inside of me. Sure, I could just call myself a wolf therian, but there is so much more to learn and I would feel like I had cheated myself if I stopped trying to learn anything else.
Each of us has the capacity to better understand ourselves through words. For some people it might be enough to just have a general label for themselves, something that just barely scratches the surface. But I need to know more to better understand who and what I am inside. It makes it easier when talking to other people, but labeling yourself is more to better understand who and what you are.
I wouldn’t be satisfied with just being of a Caucasian background, so I’ve researched my family history to better understand where I came from. Why should it be any different for my therianthropy? I know that I am a wolf, yet I seek to better understand that aspect of myself by trying to discover where the wolf came from, what it looks like, what subspecies it might be, what types of shifting I experience, why I’m different from other therians and so on. It’s all in an effort to clarify for myself what I am.
Learning one term for yourself only gets the ball rolling. It opens the door to learning things about yourself that no one else can tell you or teach you. We are constantly changing beings, always learning new things. Would you stop trying to learn from books after reading one specific fact? I doubt it. I would hope that after learning something new, you would seek to verify it in other places and would not be satisfied until other sources claimed the same facts.
Humans crave knowledge and with knowledge comes a large vocabulary. In labeling yourself, you’re only adding to the vast knowledge of what makes up you as an individual.
So my advice to people seeking to label themselves; keep it simple and stay true to yourself. It doesn’t matter if other people accept the names you use for yourself or not. What matters is what you know about yourself.
Originally written on March 19, 2007