Episode Forty One
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Monstrous Agonies E41S02 Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]
Monstrous Agonies: Episode Forty One.
[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through rock music, pop music, and a voice saying “-that's not a joke-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]
-their eyes have changed since last you looked.
You're listening to the Nightfolk Network, the UK's only dedicated radio service for people of the night. Next, I'm answering listener's questions on liminal living.
First tonight – how to make sense of an ambiguous identity.
The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)
I grew up in a sapio-normative family. Or, I thought it was sapio-normative. I mean, you do, when you're a kid, don't you? You've got nothing to compare it with. Whatever's going on with you and your family must be the norm.
I didn’t think much about my identity. I didn't notice the little things that weren’t adding up. I mean, lots of kids have allergies. It didn't strike me as strange that mine only flared up in winter, when they were salting the roads. Or that other kids couldn't smell the things that I could smell – hear the things I heard. I just kind of assumed, you know?
But, these past few years, as I learned more about the creature community and reflected more on myself and the people around me, I’ve come to realise that, uh... maybe I'm not quite as sapio as I thought. And that’s fine, you know? It doesn't bother me.
It’s just that-- [sighs] Well, no-one ever tells you how hard identity can be in the community. I’ve been learning about other genuses – large population, small population, supergenus, subgenus, cultural or geographically-specific genuses. But I still can’t tell exactly where I land.
I do think my mother is at least sapio, but on my father’s side… Well. That’s not my secret to tell.
It's just hard, you know? You tell someone you’re part of the community and if they ask, “Oh, what genus?” suddenly you have to go in like, “Well, I noticed some feathers popping in last spring, but I can also hear the wails of lost souls from deep within the bowels of the earth? And I think I may have some dream-altering abilities but I haven’t really tested that one out yet and you know, I just don’t know?”
It makes it hard to relate to others in the community. They all have a word for who they are. People can relate to their specific experiences. And I don’t. How do I make peace with an identity that is hard to pin down, hard to label, and even harder to explain?
The Presenter (as themselves)
Firstly, listener, I can reassure you – it's perfectly possible to be of a mixed genus. Not all combinations of genuses are compatible, of course, but it's far more common than many people think.
I'm sure plenty of listeners will remember the bad old days when people whose genus was in any way ambiguous were seen largely as a kind of entertaining novelty. Time was, you would only see someone admit to any uncertainty about their genus on daytime television, sitting in front of a studio audience while some horrible little man screamed at them about taxonomy test results.
One only has to look at the popularity of websites like Taxonomy.com and their DNA analysis tests to see that there is still a great deal of anxiety out there about being able to describe precisely what one is.
I strongly discourage any of our listeners from taking one of these tests. They invariably involve sending samples of one's hair, chitin, saliva or other emissions, alongside your personal information, with little to no protections on how that information will be used or by whom. These companies – and the megacorporations that invariably own them – are not to be trusted.
The fact is that you may never get any definite answers for what your genus “really” is. Making peace with your identity is likely going to involve making peace with your ignorance. It's no bad thing to have a complicated, open-ended answer to the question, “Who are you?” In fact, the more people embrace and celebrate outside-the-box identities, the more room we all have to simply be as we are.
I understand your frustrations at your perceived lack of community. But communities are built on difference as much as they are on similarity. You can still connect with the people around you, deeply and meaningfully, without having to share the exact same identity. You're a person of the night. That's enough.
Stick to your guns, listener. Embrace the ambiguity. You are enough as you are – whatever you are.
[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]
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[End background music]
Our next letter this evening is from a listener looking for something different.
The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)
I've been alone most of my life. Part of that is just the way my genus functions. We're a minority genus, nobody's quite sure of our exact number of individuals but odds are it's, uh, pretty small. I've never met, uh... any.
We don't go in for parenting in our genus. My progenitors met somehow, and my egg was left somewhere safe for me to hatch. I have siblings – we were together as larvae, but when it was time for us to metamorphose, I'm afraid I was a bit of a dawdler. By the time I emerged, they'd all gone their separate ways. I haven't seen them since. And that's just how we do it, you know? Family isn't really a thing.
Of course I-I have friends. But I can quite happily go several months – even years, sometimes – without seeing them. Without seeing anyone. Or being seen by anyone. Occasionally I'm the subject of a bit of blurry photography from an over-excited sapio but, uh, no, generally speaking I-I, uh, keep to myself.
Sometimes, though, I wonder. It might be nice, I think, to have someone. Someone specific, I mean. I'd never considered it before. I didn't see how I could get what I wanted – closeness, intimacy, perhaps a... cuddle? Sometimes? Without all the stuff I didn't want.
But then I was listening to your advice segment – I- [laughing] I tune in every week, it's my favourite. It was back in April and one of your letters mentioned this thing I'd never heard of before. A “queerplatonic relationship”.
I admit I, I didn't really get it at first but the more I looked into it the more I felt all these pieces falling into place. I kept seeing the same ideas coming up again and again. Commitment. Dedication. A grounding sort of love, the sort of love y-you can build your life on.
But without the, uh... [laughs] Well, with- without the sex for one thing. I'm sure it's perfectly lovely for those who want it but, uh... Well, frankly the idea has always made me rather queasy. And, I-I don't know, the, uh... The romance thing... Well I've never really tried it. Maybe I'd like to be someone's... partner?
I can't be there all the time. It's not a matter of selfishness, I just... I can't. But I don't mind if, I don't know, maybe it doesn't have to be someone. Maybe it can be two someones? And-- And they could keep each other company while I'm away – is that a... thing? It's all so new to me, I-I don't know what the rules are.
Also, I'm... Well. I'm scared. I've never done this before. I-I've never opened up like this. What if I'm not good at it? Not built for it? I do hope this isn't too much a jumble. I just have a lot of feelings and thoughts and I need some help. Please.
The Presenter (as themselves)
It's not too much of a jumble at all, listener. Before I get into any practical advice, I want to address your questions about terminology. You ask what the rules are to having a queerplatonic relationship. I hope you can take it as a reassurance when I tell you: there are no rules.
The listeners you mentioned back in April looked at their relationship and found a word for it. They used terms like queerplatonic, aromantic, asexual to describe themselves. These were helpful ways for them to formulate their experiences. If you find them helpful, you can use those terms as well.
But there have always been people who interact with one another along these lines. All over the world, throughout history, people have enjoyed relationships that our listeners back in April might see themselves reflected in. That you might see yourself reflected in.
Please, don't get too bogged down in terminology. Concentrate on exploring what it is you want from this kind of relationship. If it feels helpful to call it 'queerplatonic', do so. If not, don't. The important thing is that you're happy.
Practically speaking, I think your best bet for finding others who might share your sentiments is to look online. Not only is it easier to find specific groups online, it has the added benefit of giving you a great deal of control over how you interact. You can maintain your distance, and preserve your solitude, without sacrificing sociability.
Concentrate for the time being on making friends. Find people with whom you can discuss these things. I promise, they're out there. You're not alone in wanting intimacy without sex, devotion without romance.
Finally, a word of reassurance. You are built for this. It will be an adjustment, letting people into your life in a way you haven't before. Be brave. Be honest. And be kind – to yourself, as much as anyone else.
That's all for our advice segment tonight. Tune in next week for more listener's questions. Next though, we're talking movies. Film correspondent Robin Bean investigates those creaturely stars of the silent screen whose snarls and howls didn’t survive the leap to talkies...
[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through voices saying “-cardio!”, a voice saying “-in crisis-”, unintelligible speech and country music before fading out.
Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]
Episode Forty One of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.
Both letters in this week's episode came from anonymous submissions and this week's ad came from Compost Witch. Thanks, friends! See the show-notes for how you can submit your own letters, suggestions and ads.
In an unusual demonstration of preparedness, I'm recording this episode a week before its release. As such, if you signed up on our Patreon since last week's episode, I'll be doing your shout-out next week. And if you're not signed up on our Patreon yet – why not?! Head over to patreon.com/monstrousagonies to pledge now.
This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.
Thanks for listening, and remember – the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.
[Fade to silence. Then...]
[Honking, music plays, traffic and sirens in the background throughout]
We need an operating room. We’re running a code and we got head trauma.
I need 4 CC’s of pentobarbital, stat!
So you’re the new admit I’ve been hearing about?
I swear, Fisher, I’m gonna have you fired for this.
What’s got Terrier in such a mood?
Mr. M 33 John Doe?
We can’t talk about it here. This guy might wake up.
Ha! This guy’s not waking up anytime soon. He’s in a coma!
No! How many times do I have to tell you no, I won’t do it!
I don’t know, and I don’t care.
I know this is the forever ward, but I sometimes think I’m the only one with hope!
Any sign of bruising?
Oooh pants! A clue!
Okay, so, he’s definitely in a coma.
Ugh, what’s the coma patient doing out here?
Patient 33 is available on all podcatchers today. Visit patient33.com for transcripts and more information.
Patient 33, welcome to the hospital.
[Fade to silence]