After spending about 5 years in disability right and identity politics, I have learned that I stopped caring about language and personal labels. What people call themselves is none of my business what they reclaim isn’t my problem until it comes one. But I guess this is a commentary on a word that I took offense to that now I want to actually redirect and reclaim.
For those that have seen my art, I draw a lot of satyrs and fauns. I have bit of an attachment to them and other fae like creatures. I have made pair of satyr dolls (Santos and his mate Krysanthe which found loving homes when I raffled them off at Beltane) and I working on a third one and I have project in mine for a centaur doll. I don’t know when this attachment started or if this is a special interest but I’ve always filled my pages up with fauns and satyrs, dragon people, snake people and various kinds of nonhumans. I write about them and their lives in my stories as well. To me their lives are more interesting than any of the humans I write or draw. In some way I have appropriated my character’s nonhuman identities in regards to myself. I know that this is probably a response to the years of abuse and marginalization in which my humanness has been taken from me. As an autistic, I’ve been pretty much been swamped by the “changeling’ label and I’ve discussed ‘changeling culture ‘(the idea that our children has been taken by anthromorphed disabilities and we need to ‘free’ them from it) at length and frankly this isn’t a re-hashing of old news. In some way I took that label of ‘monster’ of ‘nonhuman’ and I embraced that metaphor. If I am not human to you, then a monster I’ll be.
This is not to say that I am not human at all or that I don’t deserve to be treated like one. If there is an ongoing theme with my nonhuman characters, is that they don’t asked to be treated like a human, to subvert what makes them a merman, satyr, dragon folk or whatever. But rather for people to accept that difference, as valid as their humanness and that their satyrness isn’t something that needs to be tamed in order to live among human society but instead, for it be recognized that it’s ok. That it is alright to be something other than human. Granted, authors have been waxing identity politics with using fantasy races, aliens and robots or whatever, as a metaphor for race, gender, sexuality or…whatever. But in regards to that, I’ve noticed it’s always the human being the protagonist. He or she is face with the racism and oppression as someone that benefits from an unfair system and it’s about her or him realizing it and undoing it. It’s rarely about the nonhuman dealing with the unfair system and the expectations forced on him through it and when it is, there is the human acting as the audience avatar or translator. I never found that necessary really. I don’t need a normal person translating my autistic or transgender experiences to a cis or allistic person. This satyr doesn’t need to explain himself or why he does the things does, to you or anyone else.
When I was working on “Drinking the Styx, “ I wanted to make sure there were no humans in my story as part of the main cast that cast was going to satyrs and their experience didn’t need to be translated or explained away by humans or human sidekicks. I wanted to be clear that Hermes isn’t a human it’s one of the reasons I spent so long drawing him and his design. I wanted his eyes to be alien and strange, to be hard to relate to at first but eventually you see him with all of his satyrness, daddy issues and problems with mental illness. I shouldn’t have to soften him, maybe him less goatish for my readers. I don’t compromise.
It’s the same reason I refuse to make Tikaani completely verbal, it’s the same reason I don’t always submit to the idea that I need to wear my ‘mask’ in order to be valued. I should be valued even when I am flapping, shrieking or talking to you plainly. My worth shouldn’t be based on how functional I am or how well I pass. Yet, it is. My identity as a ‘monster’ is measure how well I can hide my fangs, my horns, my long floppy ears any everything about me. It’s how well I can make eye contact, how well I speak, how articulate I can be, how well I can follow verbal cues (when I can’t process them very well) how well I can sacrifice myself for someone with little respect for my own needs. Those are things that people want from me, from others.
When I do pass, I am seen as ‘over coming’ that I am ‘rising above’ something . My disability mainly, no one actually realizes how much work it is and many autistics have explained this. But I want to continue to make it clear on how aggravating it is to pass, even when in spaces it’s ok to flap. Because in the end someone is going to see your fox tails and or goat eyes and jump twenty feet in the air and go “Wait! You’re not human!?” I don’t see my disability as something to be compromised to make you feel better; I don’t see people being friends with a goat man like me, like it’s an act of charity. You’re not a better person for not starting at my horns or hooves. You don’t get good karma cookies for not mentioning that I am walking on my toes or chirping.
It’s being a decent human being, to a decent satyr.