Freaks - OutWrite Newsmagazine (Winter 2024)

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Table of Contents OutWrite Newsmagazine is published and copyrighted by the ASUCLA Communications Board. All rights are reserved. Reprinting of any material in this publication without the written permission of the Communications Board is strictly prohibited. The ASUCLA Communications Board fully supports the University of California’s policy on non-discrimination. The student media reserve the right to reject or modify advertising whose content discriminates on the basis of ancestry, color, national origin, race, religion, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation. The ASUCLA Communications Board has a media grievance procedure for resolving complaints against any of its publications. For a copy of the complete procedure, contact the publications office at 118 Kerckhoff Hall @ 310-825-9898 Letter From The Editor This is the Circus: Rainer FREAK FUEL transmutation of man For the Love of Furries This is the Circus: Ryan & Claude Make Kink Part of Pride In Observation The Hat Stays On This is the Circus: Bellze & Ellie Voidpunk and a Meditation on Human Bodies The Power of Cringe References 1 2 4 5 8 12 14 18 20 24 26 30 35 RIP ME OUT! TEAR ME UP! CUT ME!

Contributors in alphabetical order

Editor in Chief: Rainer Lee

Managing Editor: Christine Kim

Developmental Editors: Brenna Connell, Bellze T, Jericho Tran-Faypon

Graphics Head: Brenna Connell

Copy Chiefs: Emma Blakely, Bella Hou

Layout Director: Giulianna Vicente

Writers: Emma Blakely, Claude Chung, Brenna Connell, Mistress Raven, Bellze T, Jericho Tran-Faypon

Artists: Brenna Connell, Soren Kaur, Steph Liu, Len Park, Kaden, Kel Yu, Catherine Zhang

Copy Editors: Gracie Bitting, Emma Blakely, Ariana Castro, Gwendolyn Hill, Bella Hou, Ava Rosenberg, Niki S, JQ Shearin

Layout: Sarah Belew, Ellie Chun, Mia D, Christopher Ikonomou (guest), Bellze T, Ruth Torrence, Giulianna Vicente

Inner Front Cover: Steph Liu

Freak Fuel

Playlist by: Jocelyn Diaz

Illustrated by: Steph Liu

Letter from the Editor Graphics: Maya Balakrishnan

Cover/This is the Circus Production

Models: Ellie Chun, Claude Chung, Rainer Lee, Ryan, Bellze T

Photographer: Maddie McEwen

Editors: Maddie McEwen, Ivory Morales

Interviewer: Bellze T

Front and Back Cover Layout: Mia D

General Layout: Ellie Chun

Letter From The Editor

Content warning: transphobia, queerphobia, slurs

Dear Reader,

When I was in high school, my classmates would call the one openly trans person in our class a freak and a like they were something less than human. I thought their insults could never apply to me, but even as I distanced myself from my queerness, I subconsciously internalized their words. Like many queer people, the distance between normal and whatever-I-was felt immeasurably large.

In recent years, the queer community has become hyper-visible. Yet despite the benefits this has granted us, queerness remains a threat to the foundations of our cisheteropatriarchal society. Our society asserts a narrow view of to maintain the power of the in-group. It tells us that if we assimilate into a system built against us, our conformity might grant us equal rights. But a conditional acceptance which excludes the freakiest of us, often those of us with intersectional marginalizations, is not true equality, so we should never settle for it.

To be queer is to break away from what society wants from us. It is, in essence, to be a . It was the dykes, the faggots, and the trannies of the past who paved the way for the queer youth of today. To render our very freakishness into what bonds us is a radical act. It rejects the dominant narrative which deems us subhuman and reminds us that only together can we achieve liberation.

Our Winter 2024 print is a love letter to the freaks: the queers, cringelords, furries, kinksters, and monsterfuckers alike. Explore with us what it means to be human


Rainer (he/him)

“I started dressing like a freak to gain agency over the reason why the conservative Christians I grew up with hated me. But simultaneously, it's also been a lifeline that's allowed me to connect with other freaks in whimsical, clownish solidarity "

in the beginning, the creation story foretold — the second coming of man, forged by his own hand “scarring to forearms” stares back at me, a note my doctor left silently, (I didn’t think she could see). my mom still sighs and she weeps, sneaks to my room when I’m asleep, praying for them to soon leave, (but I understand her grief),

this promised body my soul within, having experienced far too much abrasion, my voice too high — my chest filled in, perhaps injection will bring calibration, I’ve long since put away my blades, but now for the work that God forbade, with this cottonseed oil I’m deemed man-made, (They told me They still loved me when I prayed),


crown of thorns trailing in vines, decorated arms with wounded lines, to bring about a resurrection, blessed with the art of creation, this bottle with my death birth name, my hand gripping thigh on edge of bed frame, alcohol wipe unwrapped to fix the maimed, cleanse the thick scars I previously laid, compassion in this bandage readied for aid, the motions my past would usually take, now purposed with the healing I reclaim, (renew a right spirit, to do away with my pain)

wiping off old acts of knife, readying scarred flesh for new life, forgive me for I have sinned, whispered as the needle pierces my skin, once a week I am given, a chance to shape my being, to darken my voice, lighten my heart, to learn euphoria as my own feeling, this essence of man allowing rebirth, of a beaten body created from dirt, following the truth of self I seek, assembling my joy as a mismatched freak.


Illustrated by: Len Park

Layout by: Giulianna Vicente

Content warning: queerphobia, including transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, anti-furry and anti-drag rhetoric, the use of the f-slur

When you think of furries, what comes to mind? Fursuits? Furry porn? People with cat ears being walked on leashes?

Comparatively, when you think of us queers, what comes to mind?

I want to preface this by making my intentions absolutely clear: I am advocating for furries.

“Why?” you might ask. I will put it bluntly: we are, in many ways, like furries — if not furries ourselves.

The way anti-furry stigma manifests is strikingly similar to past and present sexually-motivated constructions of queerness as an illness and a cause of moral panic.

In the same way that homosexuality and transness were deemed mental illnesses, identifying as a furry is pathologized under “species identity disorder” (SID), a diagnosis coined in a 2008 study led by Dr. Kathleen Gerbasi, a professor of psychology at Niagara County Community College.1 Her diagnostic framework centers on furries’ answers to two questions: “Do you consider yourself to be less than 100% human?” and “If you could become 0% human, would you?” Gerbasi describes furries who answered “yes” to both of these questions as “distorted unattained” in reference to a distorted sense of human identity and an unattained non-human identity, suggesting that “This type of furry has certain characteristics paralleling gender-identity disorder.” In a 2011 paper, “Furries and the Limits of Species Identity Disorder: A Response to Gerbasi et al.,”2 Dr. Fiona ProbynRapsey, a professor in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry at the University at Wollongong, Australia, highlights how the classifications of SID described in Gerbasi’s findings are


similarly problematic to that of gender identity disorder (GID). She points out how cisheteronormative assumptions of binary gender in the diagnostic criteria for GID are mirrored in Gerbasi’s diagnostic criteria for SID, asserting that SID “is based on unexamined assumptions about what constitutes ‘human’ identity and regulatory fictions of gender identity.”3

A core stereotype is that being a furry is a fetish, mirrored by bigoted generalizations that suggest that gay men and bisexual people are particularly promiscuous. In a 2011 international online survey by Furscience, kinship, escapism, and entertainment rank higher than sexual attraction to furry content as motivators for engaging in the furry community.4 Still, it’s true that in addition to these motivations for their engagement with the furry fandom, “onethird of furries say that sexual attraction to furry content is a motivator of their participation.”5 Many accounts that discredit the apparent shock of this stereotype point out that “like with any other fan interest (video games, comics, etc.) there are sexual themes present.”6 Certainly, people get turned on by all sorts of characters. They might even have sex in fandom-cosplay getups. Humans, as

animals themselves, have sex. Need I say more?

Further, politically conservative rhetoric groups furries with queer people in that they are “infecting the children.” In a clip from Joe Rogan’s podcast, Rogan states that an unidentified school “had to install a litter box in a girl’s [rest]room because there is a girl who’s a furry.”7 Republicans disseminated this claim between 2021 and 2022 in attempts to push anti-trans legislation.8 A Google search of “litter boxes in school” pulls up a handful of articles that find that this hoax is unfounded. Other anti-furry sentiments use language similar to anti-drag legislation from this past year.9 In an X (formerly known as Twitter) post by anti-trans internet personality Graham Linehan, Linehan writes, “Furries are grown men who dress as cartoon characters so children will trust and approach


Crucially, the majority of furries are queer. According to a 2020 survey, only 10.1% of furries identify as “straight or heterosexual.”11 12.5% of furries identify as transgender, 12.5% identify as non-binary, 4.2% identify as genderqueer, 5.6% identify as genderfluid, and 2.9% identify as agender.12 For reference, 0.5% of U.S. adults identify as trans.13

Queer furries describe the fandom as a safe haven for them. In anecdotal accounts from a YouTube documentary entitled “The Fandom: A Furry Documentary,”14 queer furries express a deep sense of gratitude for the fandom offering them a place to be themselves. Specifically, trans furries note that the fandom gave them space to exper- iment with genderqueer expression before coming out as transgender. With-

out the fandom, they may not have felt supported enough to come out.15

The furry community — deemed the furry fandom — offers a place for people self-identifying as furries to come together with shared interests and experiences. At its core, the fandom enjoys animal anthropomorphism — animals with human-like qualities — and anthropomorphic art.

Most beautifully, some furries share experiences of a sense of disillusionment with the physical body in a similar way to how I understand myself as non-binary. Within the online sources I researched for this piece, a key theme among therianthropes, also called therians, and otherkin — furries who feel spiritually or physically non-human — were expressions of deep, unapologetic “new post-human perceptions” that have been pathologized to “ruin the lives of many through the insistence on an obsolete paradigm.”16 For furries, this obsolete paradigm refers to the distinction that humans and animals are essentially different and that there are normative, human ways to exist that simply feel wrong to them.

For me, as a queer, working-class, self-diagnosed neurodivergent person of color, this obsolete paradigm captures everything: straightness against non-straightness, man against woman, whiteness against non-whiteness, rich against poor, able against disabled, beautiful against ugly, human against animal, normal against 10

abnormal. My body and mind have been made into sites of power ruled by society’s definition of normal which suggests I am wrong because I am. But it is precisely because I am that I could never be essentially, existentially wrong.

The pushback against the inclusion of furries in queer spaces like Pride falsely asserts that there is an acceptable way to be queer, outlined by assimilationist politics that seek an impossible legitimacy from our oppressors. Anti-furry sentiment in queer spaces is often coupled with the exclusion of T in “LGBT” and the rejection of the reality of bisexual people (sentiments of which are expressed vehemently in online forums17 and articles18). Because the fandom offers furries a safe haven for expression and community in the same way the broader queer community claims to do, it is hypocritical for queer people to perpetuate assimilationist violence against furries.

ist, cisheteropatriarchal, colonial — so-called normal, human — ways of being.

It becomes abundantly clear that the way being a furry pushes ontological boundaries is not only similar to but also deeply intertwined with queerness. As I’ve observed through my research, the freakish way that we (queer people and furries) exist is the reason why the stigma furries face is similar to the stigma against queer people. Furries, like queer people, push our understanding of what it means to be outside of white, capital-

Our understanding of what it means to be human is necessarily challenged by furries in the same way that queerness, once deemed a clinical abnormality, challenged existence in the preconceived norm of heterosexual, allosexual, male-plus-female reproduction. Furries are queer — queer as we understand queer to be non-cisgender and non-heterosexual, and queer as we ought to understand it: united in our existence on the margins of society.

Deemed subhuman, primal, morally reprehensible, worthy of institutionalization, worthy of being fagged, we — queers and furries — necessarily and freakishly exist outside of “human.”

Today, I unironically bark, meow, and howl like a freak — maybe even like a furry.


means freedom! I spent way too many years of my life suppressing my true self to appease others. But being praised for being someone who, deep down, I always knew I wasn’t, ended up being even more painful than just being myself. I hadn’t realized how close I was to suffocating under the pressure of ‘fitting in’ until I took that first breath of freedom. And since then, I’ve never looked back.”



Claude he/they

“After growing up treated as the weirdo (autism! who knew!) I find myself reclaiming the mistreatment I experienced by looking as freakishly goth as I can. I also wanted this look to channel my masculine identity while showcasing the eyes my Corean ancestors gave me.”


Part Prideof

Content warning: discussions of anti-kink rhetoric, queerphobia, and consent issues

I flash a member card to get in, writing my name on an adhesive tag and slapping it on my skin (leather and adhesive don’t really mix). A rush of warmth, both literal and figurative, greets me as I enter a large, dark room full of people, one of whom is already dangling from the ceiling as a human piñata. Someone waits next to them with a bag of candy to toss at people who come to take a swing. Throughout the dungeon, people mingle: introducing themselves, watching a knife play demonstration, and signing up for private rooms to scene in later. I go straight to sign up for the largest room — a jail-cell-type space with red bars, mats, blue lighting, and ample outlets for my submissive’s newest toy, an electric wand that shocks the sub who dares to hold too still. The spacious dungeon-esque space has the best lighting to get in my final scene of 2023. Three years ago, if you’d told me my New Year’s Eve party of choice would be a BDSM dungeon in my hometown, I would have grimaced and gone on my way. I would have been convinced being kinky was something other queer people did, and certainly not something to be talking about outside the bedroom.


As a lifestyle dominatrix, Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadomasochism (BDSM) and the kink community are far more than just sex. Kink and BDSM (a subset of the umbrella term kink) are a lifestyle, a community, and even a sexual orientation 19 for many participants. As a lifestyle dominatrix, I take the dominant role in kink activities that involve a power dynamic, whether it be casual play at a dungeon party or in a full time dynamic with a collared sub. This differs from being a professional dominatrix since I don’t make money doing so. I consider myself equally kinky as queer and as much a dominant as a lesbian. This is why I feel infuriated when Pride celebrations ban the acknowledgment of decades of kink history and participation in the larger queer community. Those defending the othering claim that BDSM at Pride exposes children to age-inappropriate material, that kink is purely sexual, and that the LGBTQ+ community must adhere to respectability politics. Besides reinforcing the stigma of kinky people as dangerous deviants, these claims overshadow the fact that kinksters deserve inclusivity in the queer community as much as people who are transgender and have diverse sexual orientations.

Sexuality is commonly defined by someone’s attraction to particular gender(s), but to consider BDSM as a sexuality, as Gemberling et. al’s research suggests, we can include attraction to

power dynamics under that umbrella. Sexuality that spans beyond gender is common, although it isn’t talked about as much.20 In her research, Dr. Sari van Anders introduces the idea of intersectional sexuality, meaning that gender-based sexuality can coincide with a “sexual parameter” (i.e. being kinky) to form one’s sexual identity. Hence, kink is as much a part of someone’s sexuality as being bisexual or lesbian — identities which Pride celebrations almost always celebrate openly. When kink and BDSM are shamed or left unmentioned in Pride spaces, it’s a slap to the face for the queer ancestors and activists who have fought for the ability to be


disassociate from certain controversial people or actions to gain the approval of outsiders.21 People’s understanding of BDSM often comes from mainstream movies and shows, like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and Netflix’s “Bonding,” both of which have received backlash for inaccuracies by the real BDSM community. Consent issues and a misrepresentation of the professional dominatrix industry were the most significant issues. Popular media and pornography are also some of the worst ways to learn about the kink community.

So for the readers out there who may be appalled by the idea of BDSM playing a role in your family-friendly, Instaworthy Pride parade, I’ll talk about my personal experience as a member of the community. You’ll be relieved to find I don’t have an unethically sourced dominatrix assistant like in “Bonding,” although I do often don a similar outfit to Mistress May. I’ve also (unfortunately?) never brought a whip to a lecture hall. And spoiler alert: none of it involves indoctrinating children or exposing them to any of the sexual aspects of kink.


The kink community has led me to the most wonderful circle of friends from all walks of life. It’s led me to deeper, more meaningful relationships with my partners, and even a fulfilling 24/7 dynamic with a submissive. Perhaps surprising to some, it’s improved my mental health, communication skills, and avenues of self-care — all of which are non-negotiable when practicing BDSM. The bottom line (pun intended) of doing a scene is to advocate for your wants and needs and to use and respond to safe words to express hard limits. If you don’t go into a scene with a clear idea of these, you’ll come out worse. It’s part of being a responsible dominant to make sure your sub receives aftercare, and vice versa, which isn’t talked about nearly enough. This is especially true when people’s knowledge of BDSM comes from porn, where aftercare is rarely shown. The BDSM community encourages Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK), 22 which means both partners are aware of the risks involved in what they’re about to do, they consent of sound mind, and the activity they’re about to do is considered kinky. Practicing BDSM is so much more than a couple deciding to buy rope and a cane, or the salacious scenes shown in heteronormative porn. It’s immense care for the wellbeing and pleasure of another person, knowing you’ll receive the same care and consideration in return. Why shouldn’t something so positive for many be welcomed at Pride?

Many might argue the kink community should try to educate the wider queer community, to normalize it enough to be part of Pride. But to normalize it would be inauthentic to the history and current culture of kink. To normalize kink by making it safer and more appealing to outsiders is to deny that being a freak is beautiful, courageous, and encouraged by the queer community. To be authentically queer is to be as messy, chaotic, and flamboyant as you desire. So why shouldn’t being open about kink identities become as ubiquitous as carabiners, campy outfits, and Subarus? What difference does it make to see someone wearing a collar at Pride or see a parade float full of dominatrixes? The average viewer might take only a slight note of it, but it would make a world of difference to those involved in the kink community and those who want to be. Inclusivity and Pride are a fallacy until all facets of the queer community are celebrated equally and openly. So go forth and be a freak in whatever (risk aware and consensual) way your heart desires, and don’t let anyone discourage you from celebrating your sexuality — however intersectionally intertwined and freaky it may be.


Content warning: dubious consent, monsterfucking, oviposition (egg laying), tentacles, knotting, use of feminine terms for transmasc genitalia

court’s jester is shirtless and straddling the tail of a half-human, half-snake individual — Lord Fel’se, serpentine diplomat — in the court mage’s quarters.

The jester trails his hand down Fel’se’s bare torso, pausing where the skin fades into surprisingly soft scales. He picks up the bottle he grabbed from a cupboard and pours the translucent liquid into his palm. “So your partner isn’t here because…”

Fel’se hisses, rolling their eyes. “My egg cycle was not supposed to begin this early in the solar year.”

“Hmm.” He spreads the slippery liquid across both hands, then continues down their body until the tip of one finger sinks further into Fel’se’s flesh than the others. “This it?”

watching the jester with predatory interest, eyes heavily lidded. “You know it is.”

The jester traces along that soft spot until their genital slit parts around his now-slick hand. He fingers them carefully, intrigued by how soft and wet they are inside.

Soon, the jester leans down and glances up at Fel’se from under his eyelashes, his breath hot against their slit.

Their tongue flicks out of their mouth in satisfaction. “Keep going.”

Not bothering to hide his eagerness, the jester dives in, mouthing along the softly ridged folds. He’s practically nose-deep in sweet-tasting slick when something bumps against his lips. Something that’s… swelling?


A hissing laugh from above him:

“Where do you think the eggs come from, darling?” Their ovipositors — both of them — grow a little more under the jester’s tongue.

The jester plays at indignation. “Don’t think that you’re going to get a full lay out of me just because I’m eating you out.”

It’s hardly convincing when he returns to licking as deep as he can into Fel’se’s slit, one of his hands not-so-surreptitiously creeping down between his legs.

“You’re telling me you don’t want to help keep my eggs warm?” Fel’se croons. They flex the muscles of their tail to press snugly against the curve of his ass. The tip of their tail comes to poke between the jester’s legs, and he lets out a muffled yelp. His right leg kicks out and knocks something over that shatters with a tinkling of glass shards. He can deal with it later.

Their ovipositors extrude the rest of the way and fall against the side of his face, which is soaked and sticky with a mixture of his own spit and Fel’se’s arousal. The jester mumbles something indistinctly, pulling back from the wet heat of Fel’se’s slit.

“You’re quite damp, jester.”

Their tail prods between his legs again, harder. “I can use this hole if you

want.” Then it trails up his back and wraps around to caress his cheek, pushing his face closer to their ovipositors. “Or not. I’m also open to introducing your mouth to my other sexual organs.”

He wants to protest the halfsnake’s very unsexy use of “sexual organs,” but when he opens his mouth, Fel’se uses the opportunity to push one of their pseudo-dicks inside. And then he can’t think about anything else.

It feels much like a human dick, the way it slips past his lips, but it’s smoother and slicker, too. He closes his eyes and sucks. The taste is sweeter than honey, headier than wine.

Fel’se reaches down to swipe their thumb across the jester’s cheek. He blinks up at them with his face flushed pink, pupils eclipsing his irises and drool dripping down his chin. The other ovipositor rubs up against the side of his


face with every bob of his head.

A hiss works its way into their voice as they rasp, “Sssweet jester . . .”

They grab for his hair but miss and instead set the bells on his silly hat ringing. They growl and thrust deeper into his throat, but that only makes the bells ring again.

The jester doesn’t even notice; he grinds his hips against Fel’se’s tail, desperate for friction as slick continues to drip down into his throat. He manages to yank down his pants and finally — oh, fucking heavens, those scales are smooth when he grinds his hips down but catch his clit with the slightest sting when he thrusts back up.

Fel’se pulls out of the jester’s mouth in favor of guiding him up to kiss them. They help him slide his pants the rest of the way down just as the first egg slides from their ovipositor with a soft plop and slips down the side of their tail.

The jester feels a large blunt appendage bump up against his ass, almost sliding into the tight space between the tail and his swollen clit.

“You’re still trying to get inside me?” He teases, pushing back against it, but the snakefolk stills underneath him.

dered. “I believe we have an unexpected participant.”

The jester turns around quickly to find a hulking, eldritch monster trying to get at his ass. Huge, horns protruding from its forehead and tentacles coming from who knows where — one of which is of truly ungodly proportions and pressing insistently between the jester’s thighs.

“Ah…” they say, entirely bewil-

“Oh, fuck,” he whispers, then glances over at what appears to be a summoning circle on the floor, and the shattered bottle seeping red liquid across its outer edge. “Ohhh, fuck.”

The thrusts of the summoned creature’s tentacle glide a little easier between his thighs with every passing moment, because he’s positively soaking now.

“That might be a little much for you,” Fel’se says dryly, peering over the jester’s shoulder. They seem unfazed, idly stroking their ovipositors in one clawed hand.

“Yeah, no shit,” he growls. The last word turns into a whine as the creature pushes its tentacle forward enough to hit his clit. It looms over the jester and laves the back of his neck with a wickedly long tongue before sinking into his ass in one thrust. Fortunately for the jester, the tentacle dick must be magic because rather than tearing him apart it fills him up… just… right.

Fel’se catches the jester as he falls forward with a barely stifled moan, automatically rolling his hips in


response to the squirming heat that must be halfway to his guts by now. They raise their eyebrows at him, and he buries his face in their chest in lieu of a response.

“Fuck,” he mutters under his breath, then he glares up at Fel’se. “Fuck. Fine.”

He’s glad he doesn’t have to elaborate; Fel’se immediately lifts him (as best as they can while an eldritch monster is — patiently? — grinding against his ass) and sits him down on one of their pseudo-dicks. Their other ovipositor slaps against his clit as Fel’se bottoms out, and that’s when the jester finally orgasms.

But it’s foolish of him to expect it’s over then.

With a particularly unforgiving thrust, the eldritch monster plung-

es in not just its tentacle but also a newly inflated bulb that catches and then sticks fast. The creature releases, bellowing, its endless stream of spend plugged in the jester’s ass by the knot.

There’s a flush of warmth throughout the jester’s entire body; a subsonic voice in his head says, “And so our pact is sealed.” He doesn’t have time to figure out what the hell that means before Fel’se groans and spills a stream of eggs and slick inside of him.

Looking down at his lower stomach — now stuffed with both seed and eggs — the jester finds a bloodred tattoo tracing from one hip to the other. It looks suspiciously similar to a warlock’s mark symbolizing their pact with a patron.

“What in the actual fuck just happened?”





“My look is about feeling far too seen and perceived by people - whether it feels like being seen for my weight, my grumpy goth look and vibe, my assumed aloofness and off-putting-ness. It is embracing the strange looks that people give me and daring them to stare rather than wilting under the attention.”


“I have never fit society’s mold of a desirable sapphic or Asian woman, which is a blessing in its own right (fuck fetishization), but I always felt alienated from my sense of sexuality because I never looked how I thought I should. My freak look is about reclaiming my desirability and owning how, just by existing confidently, I rebel against what society wants me to be.”

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Content warning: discussions of dehumanization and bodily discomfort, mentions of colonization, fatphobia, gender dysphoria, and slurs

I didn’t want to be human anymore.

I struggled with accepting my full queer self. I had difficulty feeling empathy and emotions. I felt alone in my queer experience while living in the conservative suburbs where I could count the number of queer people I knew on two hands, causing me to

doubt its validity. I was terrified of being unable to empathize with other people because I felt off-putting, like they would be able to look through me and see that I wasn’t fully human because I couldn’t feel emotions how I thought people should.

I tried not to feel any of these loud, messy feelings because as a person of color, I wasn’t supposed to have loud, messy feelings. I should have arrived in this country fully formed and humbly grateful for the opportunities provided here, never ever complaining about the capitalistic, heteronormative, patriarchal circumstances that America reinforced. My body


dysmorphia fixates on the wrongness of my skin and my fatness. My gender dysphoria fixates on the wrongness of the femininity inscribed into my body. There is a claustrophobia and wrongness to my skin — my body is too big and there is too much of me wishing to be someone, something else.

But if I cannot be human, where else could I go?

I looked up voidpunk on Tumblr (a primary source for many nascent queer people) at the recommendation of a friend after telling them I was afraid of being inhuman.

Voidpunk was conceptualized by Tumblr user @arotaro23 and coined by Tumblr user @ milkchocolateowl24 in 2018. As described by @arotaro, voidpunk is a subculture that refutes normative society’s idea of what it means to be human and instead celebrates the idea of not being human. Created for marginalized communities who often face dehumanization by an oppressive, normative society,25 it is commonly expressed through aesthetics of the inhuman. This ranges from the creation of voidsonas — avatars that allow one to reimagine nonhuman bodies — to moodboards that aesthetically depict the creator’s personal connection

to voidpunk, or to the simple art of verbalizing the feeling of claiming inhumanity. “There is no one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be voidpunk,” writes @arotaro.26

It is important to recognize that voidpunk was conceptualized and informed by @arotaro’s specific experiences as an allosexual aromantic person.27 I do not identify along the aromantic and asexual spectrums, but I am greatly indebted to the aroace community in my own experience as a person coming into their queer identity. I particularly want to express my gratitude for the community and their continuous reimagining of ways to be, love, and identify as people.

Voidpunk gave me the feeling of finding a community for the first time. It let me reshape what I thought about being human. Voidpunk’s ability to deconstruct humanity resonated with me because it challenges the fabrication of normality as the heart of assimilation.

The rhetoric surrounding humanity is largely decided by oppressive forces who find it convenient to decide who gets to be human and who does not. Dehumanization is a familiar instrument of colonization and conquest, a forced cognitive


dissonance that allows the oppressor to justify violence.

I must ask: Is being human defined by one’s ability to look at an Other and call them inhuman? Does someone else’s ability to call me a faggot or savage make them more human than me?

If these are true, then the question changes from “Am I good enough to be human?” to “Do I even want to be human?”

My discovery of voidpunk was just one of several paths that could have allowed me to confront and reconsider what humanity and living meant to me. Voidpunk, along with many other subcultures that tend to overlap with the queer community, celebrates the feelings commonly shunned for their rejection of the normative, misleading fantasy of hegemony. At the heart of such subcultures is the radical queer notion that takes aim at the minimalist, homogenizing force of aestheticism and politicism that threatens to subsume the LGBTQ+ community.

I don’t feel human, and I don’t need to feel human. Instead of having the label of humanity shoved onto me, I will choose to be with other people and care for them not by virtue of the ideal of humanity, but for the sake of shared experience and care for the living.



ward pause after a joke that doesn’t land. But most videos are filled with people seemingly living their lives and posting content on social media that you could find anywhere.

By no means are these videos a new genre of content. Much changed during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the loss of in-person interaction as cities experienced lockdowns. The combination of reduced pressure to conform, more time for self-discovery, and sheer boredom meant an uptick in cringeworthy content production.

These types of cringe videos feature many kinds of people. Two in particular catch my eye as worthy of analyzing in terms of their individual impact and broader social implications.

The first category involves unconventionally attractive people following the same video-posting format as con- ventionally at- tractive people. Most times,

fatphobia and ableism are the driving forces of this “unattractiveness” that makes the content cringey; when fat or disabled people choose to display their bodies — or worse, take pride in them and assert their beauty — they are met with backlash and involuntarily reduced to a feature in cringe compilations.

The other category highlights individuals who would be victims of bullying off and on the internet: the “freaks.” Ableism comes into play once again as neurodivergent individuals film themselves expressing emotions in non-normative ways, whether by stimming or doing so in an otherwise unrestrained way. These forms of expression are considered embarrassing for their emotional vulnerability, especially since Western society demands that we show the best versions of ourselves everywhere except behind closed doors. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle: people anticipate being made fun of for showing emotion, so they make fun of those who do.

The other people that fit into the category of “freaks” in


this context are people with non-normative hobbies, interests, or identities, such as furries and fans of children’s shows like “My Little Pony.” This content is labeled cringe because of Heider’s balance theory28 — a psychological effect that explains that we are most comfortable liking people who like what we like and disliking people who like what we dislike. Aversion to those who enjoy “weird” things is the most cognitively comfortable position to take; it’s also a massive hurdle to tolerance.

Commonly, queer people are also featured in this category, particularly queer people who are unpalatable to society because of their disinterest in assimilating into a “normal” (e.g. married — maybe with kids — 9-to-5, quiet, binary-conforming with one person who wears the pants and the other the skirt) life. Essentially, these are queer people who embody a kind of radical queerness beyond their sexuality and refuse to be overlooked, whether in their politics or presentation. People who use neopronouns, transgender and genderqueer people not deemed attractive or acceptable by cisheteronormative standards, and anyone who “makes being gay their whole personality” are frequently up for humiliation in these videos.

In cringe videos featuring queer people, the comments are

filled with people saying, “I’m queer, but this is embarrass- ing.” One of the primary reasons that I believe these cringe videos are popular is explained very well by Festinger’s social comparison theory.29 Downward social comparison — when people compare themselves to someone who is worse off to make them feel better about their own status — is of particular relevance here, since looking down on these people makes commenters saying, “Well, at least I’m not one of them,” feel a little better about themselves.

Ultimately, these videos are centered around shame; it’s the internet equivalent of putting someone in stocks so that commenters can throw rotten fruit at them in the form of nasty comments.

To some extent, these videos are for entertainment. They’re short, follow predictable patterns, and elicit emotion. Sometimes, that’s enough to keep you hooked. But on a broader social scale, it’s important to recognize that shame is a powerful weapon.

Humans are social creatures — we’re evolutionarily wired to care what other people think, because 33

it has survival benefits in a pack setting.30 Ultimately, the reason why people in these videos are considered cringe is because they’re refusing to be silent and restrained about an identity or interest of theirs that is non-normative according to white, able-bodied, able-minded, cisheteronormative standards. While social comparison theory explains why individuals might like watching cringe content, the broader social intentions are to shame the people featured into being “normal” — into censoring themselves so that they appear the same as everyone else, even when they’re not. The people commenting, “This is why we should bring back bullying,” illustrate this point pretty well.

Maybe you’ve seen some of these videos and agreed with them. Maybe something in you saw someone being earnestly excited about something and cringed before you could think about why. I’d encourage

everyone to investigate that feeling further, to think about what in someone’s expression of their identity or hobbies makes you embarrassed on their behalf, and who it benefits for you to think that. If you’re queer, someone else in the world cringes at your identity in the same way you do at furries; you could just as easily end up on “LGBTQ+ Cringe Compilation #32” as soon as someone decides your identity is cringeworthy, so why wait? Pick up that hobby you thought was embarrassing, and show it to your friends. Make that sick cosplay that’s been sitting in the back of your head for months now.

And lastly, for anyone who’s been called a freak — the therians, the autistic people, the “My Little Pony” Lovers — keep doing what you do. The simple act of being yourself and showing that to other people is revolutionary in a world that wants nothing more than for us to oppress each other so that it doesn’t have to do the work itself.

“ 34


1 Gerbasi, Kathleen C., Nicholas Paolone, Justin Higner, Laura L. Scaletta, Penny L. Bernstein, Samuel Conway, Adam Privitera, and Adam Privitera. “Furries from A to Z (Anthropomorphism to Zoomorphism).” Society & Animals 16, no. 3 (2008): 197–222. https://doi. org/10.1163/156853008x323376.

2 Probyn-Rapsey, Fiona. “Furries and the Limits of Species Identity Disorder: A Response to Gerbasi et al.” Society & Animals 19, no. 3 (2011): 294–301.

3 Probyn-Rapsey, “Limits of Species Identity Disorder,” 296.

4 “2.10 Furry Motivation.” Furscience. January 27, 2019.

5 Furscience, “2.10 Furry Motivation.”

6 Matthews, Dylan. “9 Questions about Furries You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask.” Vox. December 10, 2014. https://www.vox. com/2014/12/10/7362321/9-questions-about-furries-you-were-tooembarrassed-to-ask

7 Reuters Fact Check. “No Evidence of Schools Accommodating ‘Furries’ with Litter Boxes.” Reuters. October 18, 2022. https://www.

8 Kingkade, Tyler, Ben Goggin, Ben Collins, and Brandy Zadrozny. “Cat Litter Box Myths Are Suddenly a Culture War Flashpoint. Here’s How That Happened.” NBC News. October 14, 2022. https://www.

9 Baska, Maggie. “School Official Denies Litter Boxes Were Given to Students Who Identify as Furries.” PinkNews. January 25, 2022.


10 Linehan, Graham (@Glinner). “Furries are grown men who dress as cartoon characters so children will trust and approach them. A lot of them share pornography involving their characters.” X, January 22, 2023, 9:38am.

11 “5.1 Orientation.” Furscience. November 4, 2020. https://

12 “Summer 2020 Survey.” Furscience. April 18, 2021.

13 Herman, Jody L., Andrew R. Flores, and Kathryn K. O’Neill. “How Many Adults and Youth Identify as Transgender in the United States?” UCLA School of Law Williams Institute. June 2022.

14 Coyote, Ash. “The Fandom: A Furry Documentary Full Movie.” YouTube video, 1:28:47. July 3, 2020. watch?v=iv0QaTW3kEY.

15 Coyote, “The Fandom.”

16 Feijó, Pedro. “Why Be Human When You Can Be Otherkin?” University of Cambridge, July 16, 2016. features/why-be-human-when-you-can-be-otherkin.

17 u/divb188. “Why are Furrys at pride. Just curious don’t behead me furry community.” Reddit, June 25, 2022, 3:49am.

18 Bartosch, Josephine. “Pups, Furries & Kinksters Have No Place in Pride: Josephine Bartosch.” The Critic Magazine. August 20, 2020.

19 Gemberling, Tess M., Robert Cramer, & Rowland S. Miller. “BDSM as sexual orientation: A comparison to lesbian, gay, and bisexual sexuality.” Journal of Positive Sexuality 1, no. 3 (2015): 56–62. https://


20 Van Anders, Sari M. “Beyond sexual orientation: Integrating gender/sex and diverse sexualities via sexual configurations theory.”

Archives of Sexual Behavior 44, no. 5 (2015): 1177–1213. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10508-015-0490-8.

21 Jones, Philip Edward. “Respectability Politics and Straight Support for LGB Rights.” Political Research Quarterly 75, no. 4 (2022): 935949.

22 “Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (Rack).” Leatherpedia, 2017. http://

23 Arotaro. “Anyway I’m starting a new subculture around the concept of not being human.” Tumblr, February 18, 2018. https://arotaro.

24 Arotaro. “VOIDPUNK. YES. I LOVE IT. EXCELLENT.” Tumblr, February 18, 2018. milkchocolateowl-replied-to-your-post-anyway.

25 Arotaro. “can you elaborate more on what voidpunk is bc i wanna make voidpunk stuff.” Tumblr, March 9, 2018. https://arotaro.tumblr. com/post/171677143816/milkchocolateowl-arotaro-can-you-elaborate-more.

26 Arotaro. “The bigger voidpunk gets, the more I feel like it gets misunderstood, so I want to clear up a few things.” Tumblr, May 17, 2019.

27 Arotaro. “A Note on Voidpunk and the Aro Community.” Tumblr, March 10, 2019.

28 Heider, Fritz. The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1958

29 Festinger, Leon. “A theory of social comparison processes.” Human Relations 7 (1954): 117-140. 00202.

30 Gilbert, Paul. “Evolution, Social Roles, and the Differences in Shame and Guilt.” Social Research: An International Quarterly 7, no. 4 (2003): 1205-1230. DOI: 10.1353/sor.2003.0013.


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