Still Not Human

Written December 18th, 2013.

I am still not human.

I am a little more domesticated than I was in the hormone-riddled throes of my youth; I am not so wild as a young lion, desperate to eke out territory against larger and more experienced hunters. Now I am one such hunter, and I feel my weight and my success like a pelt of earned scars and the absence of early youth's thinness.

But when the edges bleed out of the shapes and everything I see becomes a wash of motion and color—when I feel playfulness bite at my tail and urge me to leap and roll and bat at things—when I bask in the lazy comfort of my warm, secure den—

I am still not human.

Of course, I am not perfectly lion, either. A cat raised as a human will become both things in a strange, unique blend, in the same way a tree will grow around the barbed wire of a fence and, eventually, encompass it entirely inside itself. I have eaten these barbs and made them part of me, and they have shaped my guts as I grew around them.

Perhaps I am, then, a tamed lion. But what is a tamed lion but one that is fed and safe, with no need for natural violence to earn its meals and protect its lands? A tamed lion is a playful lion, a curious lion, sometimes a bored lion, but often a healthy lion (if that boredom is kept in check). I am certainly these things, now that I have freed myself from the instinctual pressure of territory by establishing my home, now that I am providing myself with the essentials of survival with a very human job.

But a tamed lion is still a lion. I am still full of flesh and teeth and claws, twitching ears and flicking tailtip and fanning whiskers. I will lean into the hand that offers a kind touch, but that affection does not erase the length of my fangs or the curve of my claws. I will still bite; I will still be off-put and get snarly and avoidant because there is a threat or disturbance that I cannot outright confront and chase off. Lions: not that great at subtlety.

Humans have an incredible toolset, being deeply social creatures, and with that comes some unique problems in our civilized age. Cat has no idea how to deal with a lot of those troubles; sometimes they get slept off, or sometimes they get paced over until they're sussed out by the less-instinctive parts of my brain. It's a weird internal split, half of me stimming to pass the time until resolution and the other half actively problem-solving and troubleshooting. Endure-and-fix.

I forget, sometimes, that I am still not human. I forget that this tawny-grey shaggy hulk of a cat inside me is not common to other people. I forget that my instincts, my perceptions, and my basic internal settings are not particularly typical. I forget that my physical dysmorphia is not shared by most, and my preference for quadrupedal movement is alien to my fellows. I have integrated my barbed-wire humanity so well that I can be both fence and tree at once, without having to choose one over the other, without having to compromise the integrity of one for the efficacy of the other. (Usually. You know nothing's ever 100%.)

So this is a reminder to myself: I am still not human. And that's a strange, wonderful, challenging, awkward, amazing thing, even more than a decade after I realized that I wasn't pure Homo sapiens.

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