When the “Tranimal” is something important

HIPPOA transgender person has coined both a new term and new identity: tranimal.

The article describing the writer’s identity made it into the peer reviewed journal on theoretical humanity called Angelaki. Essentially, the author, a transperson, identifies as a hippopotamus.

Fascinating. I’m not even going to try to get the pronouns right. I honestly can’t make them out. The basics in the author’s own words:

“It was, in fact, the main way through which I had learned to deal with what was broadly considered to be my “trans identity,” a term that always felt uncomfortable and irrelevant. For a while, if someone was asking me how I “identified,” I would joke about being a hippopotamus trapped in a human’s body – later, a human trapped in a hippopotamus’ body, until my humorous “truth” solidified and I began announcing myself as an old butch hippo dyke trapped in a young human faggy transboy’s body (it may sound better in French)…”

“…In a surprising, sometimes overwhelming way I find comfort in this collectively performed animal identity. Let me put it this way: something about being a hippo makes me feel cute, confident, sexy, and safe. I discovered that another self was available for me: being a hippo means that I don’t have to be a boy or a girl, a child or an adult, normal or strange. It means that my smile becomes a hippo smile, and the way that I carry my body, a hippo walk. It brings me freedom, space, and a thrilling sense of possibility. Where does this transformative power come from? How does a word, how does an image disrupt “reality” to the point that my body’s relationship to space is somewhat altered?…”

What I find so intriguing about this, especially as it relates to trans-ness and trans-attraction, is how much freedom humanity is aggressively taking in expressing itself in as many diverse ways as possible. I don’t know if humanity has always done this, but there seems perhaps to be a golden age to identity that is blowing to smithereens, nearly every convention of what it means to be human.

Another fascinating trend is being “Tell me I’m fat”. This American Life featured two weeks ago a show about women who are claiming being fat as an authentic identity, not something that should be shamed or be embarrassed about. The podcast episode is deeply satisfying…if you can accept the possibility that All That Is is getting serious about diversity, tolerance, and acceptance. Here’s a transcript excerpt. In case you haven’t heard the show, Ira is the host. Lindy is a fat guest.

Ira Glass

Coming out as fat is a strange idea, because, of course, people can see if you’re fat. It’s no secret. It’s not like when you come out as gay or transgender. Nobody says to you, dude, I can’t believe you’re fat. Lindy says it was obvious how big she was.

Lindy West

But I always felt like if I didn’t mention it that maybe people wouldn’t notice. Or it could just be this sort of polite secret, like, open secret that we didn’t address, because it felt so shameful. It just felt impolite to talk about, like me not wanting to burden you with my failure.

Ira Glass

Like, I’m not going to bother you with this.

Lindy West

Yeah, and just give me a little more time. Let’s not talk about it, and I promise I’ll fix it.

Ira Glass

That’s key, she says. As long as you’re a fat person who’s trying not to be fat, that’s acceptable. That’s a good fat person. You don’t totally admit to yourself you’re fat, because, well–

Lindy West

The way that we are taught to think about fatness is that fat is not a permanent state. You’re just a thin person who’s failing consistently for your whole life.


So to actually say, OK, I am fat– and I have been as long as I can remember, so I don’t know why I live in this imaginary future where I, you know, someday I’m going to be thin.”


We’re certainly living in interesting times!