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  • Writer's pictureH.R. Owen

Episode One Hundred and Five

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Monstrous Agonies E105S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode One Hundred and Five.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through piano music, a voice saying “-hi Tom-”, a voice saying “-I’m Paul-”, a voice saying “-quashed-”, a voice saying “-exclusions apply-” and unintelligible speech before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-teeth, certainly. And I think notes of… marigold?

The time is 2.45 on Thursday morning. Up next, our weekly advice segment where I answer your questions on life, love and all things liminal. Tonight’s first letter is from a listener concerned about parenting choices in the family.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I’m not sure I should be writing this. My step-sister has made it perfectly clear that my opinion is unwelcome, and I can’t imagine she’ll be happy to have this shared with the public. But I have to talk to someone, so… [sighs] Here goes.

I’m a creature of the night, but my step-sister is a sapio. She’s married to a member of the community, and their relationship has always seemed perfectly healthy. Respectful. I really believed she was an ally to the community. Until they had a son.

My nephew is lovely! [laughs] Albeit hard to describe. You know how young shapeshifters are – I carry about six different photos of him in my wallet just to have one that might look like him on any given day!

He’s a beautiful, healthy young creature who’s hitting all the appropriate milestones for his genus. [sighing] But my step-sister doesn’t see it this way.

She’s recently started taking him to this… “counsellor”. If you can call it that. One of those dreadful quote-unquote “experts” who focuses on making creatures conform to sapio-normative expectations.

They insist on making him have exactly two eyes at all times, and only at the top of his face, never on stalks. And he has to have exactly two arms, not tentacles or spikes or anything else.

My step-sister raves about how much better my nephew is doing since he’s started therapy. But he wasn’t unhealthy to begin with! The only difference is that now, he’s better at conforming to her expectations.

He is visibly uncomfortable when he has to hold his body in the same shape all day. It’s not actually normal for a young shifter to stay static so long! Sometimes he’s almost in tears about it.

But my step-sister insists that she’s his mum, and she knows best.And besides, I can’t possibly understand how hard it is for her to have a son who doesn’t look like her.

I am really concerned how this is going to affect my nephew’s well-being. But my step-sister and her husband have told me to mind my own business. What can I do to make sure this “programme” doesn’t scar my nephew for life?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I am so sorry your step-sister is putting you and your nephew through this, listener. She is demonstrating a fundamental lack of respect for his identity, and you have every right to be angry.

Regular shifting is normal and healthy for young people of somatically non-stable genuses. Young lycanthropes chew, young sapios chat, and young shifters shift.

These sapio-normative “treatments” are at best wholly ineffective at suppressing liminal traits and tendencies. At worst, they are distressing and uncomfortable, as the child struggles against the powerful biological need for regular shifting.

They also deprive the child of important practice exploring their somatic variance during early development, and can lead to them having less control over their shifting later in life.

However, I do not think anything will be gained by bludgeoning your step-sister and her husband over the head with scientific fact. No matter how tempting that might be.

They aren’t making their decisions based on scientific evidence. They are having an emotional response to his shifting, and are seeking out validation for those feelings wherever they can find it.

Your nephew needs an adult in his life to act as a role model for happy, healthy liminality. Someone who can provide him the support and understanding that his parents clearly can’t. You can be that person – but you must tread carefully.

The worst case scenario here is that his parents take such offence to your objections that they cut you out entirely. I don’t think I need to elaborate on just how vulnerable your nephew would be in such a situation.

You can’t change the choices they make as his parent. You can only gently offer your insights when the opportunity arises. Otherwise, concentrate on being there for your nephew as he grows up.

In time, perhaps his parents will change their minds. I certainly hope so. But if not, your nephew will know at least one adult he can trust with his true self. And that will count for an awful lot, I assure you.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

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[End of background music]

The Presenter

Our second letter tonight asks how to handle changes in creature culture.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I've noticed a change as regards how certain members of our community behave in sapio-dominated spaces. It seems to have become the fashion for young people to leave off such elements of disguise as I have known many of us to be accustomed to wearing.

Rather than hiding themselves, they choose to accentuate their non-sapio attributes, or they wear clothes that loudly advertise their place in our community. Even those who could easily pass for sapio instead, go out of their way to appear visibly… monstrous.

And stranger still, the most reaction I have seen from sapios is... a longer-than-typically-polite glance. No harassment, no shame. Just mild curiosity.

These young people’s confidence in their own safety, and the responses I see from our sapio neighbours – it is a ray of hope that the world has truly changed for the better.

[sighing] I do worry they are not as safe as they believe. I have seen tides of opinion shift quickly enough in the past. But I can only trust that they understand their situation and the risks they may be taking. What is more concerning is when they place that risk upon me.

I am slow to change. I won’t be leaving my disguises at home any time soon. But I’ve been put on the spot more than once by a keen young creature seeking a kind of solidarity I cannot give them.

I know they mean well, when they pick me out of the crowd in my bulky jacket and hat and say how “cool” they find it to run into a member of my genus. But I don’t find it “cool” to be identified out-loud in front of sapio strangers.

There have been times and places where that identification would have threatened my very existence. Those times have not ended everywhere. Those places can still be found – perhaps as close to home as in the hearts and minds of our neighbours.

I understand wanting to be noticed. Wanting to be seen. I've exchanged thousands of knowing nods in my lifetime. But these things used to be understood!

You could say you liked my jacket, and we’d both know you meant that you knew I was hiding my wings under here. Or I might compliment a person’s tattoos, with the shared understanding that I recognize the scars from their various limb reattachments.

I admit, I’m not always up to date with current affairs. But if the sapios really did melt down their pitchforks, pack up the witch-hunting tools and welcome the creature community, scales and fangs and all, with open arms… I do think someone in my life would have told me! [laughs]

Am I being unreasonable? Has the world changed that much?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I don’t think you’re being unreasonable, listener. I’m sorry people are failing to respect your boundaries in this matter, and I do sympathise.

Attitudes to the creature community in the UK have changed a great deal in the last few years. Still, it would be a gross misrepresentation of the facts to pretend that all genuses are safe, in all spaces, at all times.

I do question your portrait of the louder, more visibly parts of our community as being necessarily younger. There have always been creatures who can’t or won’t hide their nature, and who have faced the dangers of difference head on.

I don’t say this to undermine your position. I simply think it unhelpful to create dichotomies where none exist. This is not a matter of young versus old, but rather, one of various different attitudes around the complex relationship between visibility and liberation.

Not quite as catchy, I know. But I think the complexity is rather the point here. Your letter serves as a valuable reminder for all our listeners that what is powerful and liberating for one person may easily be frightening or dangerous for another.

If you have the emotional energy, I think these encounters offer a good opportunity for you to voice that difference and reassert your expectations of how we treat each other in this community. A gentle correction might go a long way.

Otherwise, I’m afraid I’m rather limited in how I can really help. I’m not actually the voice of liminal Britain. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, and I certainly can’t issue forth some kind of commandment for young creatures to be a little less presumptuous around their elders.

Quite apart from anything else, I’ve known too many young creatures to really believe it would have any effect.

I suggest you try to join some mixed age, mixed genus social groups. Make connections with creatures with different life experiences, seeking out the opportunity to share your own perspectives while hearing from others.

After all, sharing our stories with one another is a vital part of building solidarity across lines of difference.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

You’re listening to the Nightfolk Network, on 131.3FM.

[End of background music]

The Presenter

Next tonight, are you paying too much for lair and contents insurance? We discuss the best offers from liminal firms that can help protect your home from slime and mucus damage, heroic home invasion, incendiary respiration and acts of gods...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-constantly rippling-”, a voice saying “-to call a spade a spade-” and a voice saying “-it needed more work-” before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode One Hundred and Five of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was submitted byReggie Kim,the second letter was from Leslie,and this week’s advert came from Tinytonimeloni. Thanks, friends.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Mitt. Join them at, or makea one-off donation at

You can also help us grow our audience by sharing with your friends and familiars, and following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.

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]


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