Therianthropes (therians, for short) are people who identify as animals. First spotted in Internet chat groups in the early 1990s, therians are found today on a range of websites, at regional gatherings, and as central characters in at least one series of romance novels.
• For me, I would explain it as being a wolf in a human body. Everything else—my mind, my soul—is wolf.
• I’ll growl sometimes, I’ll bark sometimes, and I’ll howl sometimes. I’m pretty open, but a lot of people will hide it—and for good reason. When I was in high school, I was severely bullied.
• We’re not furries. You know the people who go to Comic-Con and dress up like science-fiction characters? Furries are the same thing, just with animals. Unlike therians, they don’t actually identify with an animal as their persona.
• I’m not connected to humans because I’m a wolf inside, but I’m not connected to wolves because I’m in a human body. That can leave me feeling lonely and disconnected. Even therians who aren’t wolves—I’ve seen things as strange as cockroaches and insects—they know what I’m feeling. The only thing we all have in common is being a therian, so it’s a diverse community. But it’s also a tight-knit one because of the unique feeling we share.
• I’d definitely rather be my wolf self, but I do have some friends who are not therians, and I’m very grateful to have them in my life.
—Shiro Ulv, 19, IT specialist, Brunswick, Georgia (as told to Ryan O’Hanlon)