Earlier this year, I wrote a short open letter to Therian Amino (TA in short) as a curator of the community. I never ended up publishing this letter to the Amino based on the advice of the other moderators, but I leave it up as an example of what it was like to be a moderator for the platform. Since that article was published, I have left the Amino and taken a very anti-TA stance. Can this change? I do not wish to cause harm to TA, and as someone who cared for the platform greatly, I want to see it grow in a healthy and safe way. I have taken the time to interview past and current members and seek out the opinions of those that matter most – the users – to construct an overview of the Amino and whether anything can be done to promote beneficial change.
To begin, I must preface this writing by explaining that this is based off of my own experience in the Amino as both a mod and a member, as well as the experiences of people who have participated or still do participate in the community. Whilst I had access to the behind-the-scenes such as staff chats, mod history, and anonymous feedback form responses, I did not and never will have access to the memories of other staff or members. I do not represent them, I only represent myself and what I have seen. Names of specific people will be changed for privacy unless the individual(s) consent to being named.
Any sections that require screenshots or other links – which can be found in a public Google Drive folder – will indicate such through an annotation like the following: [iv/a]. The first half of the annotation refers to the folder within the Drive that contains the images, and the second half refers to the image name. Names and profile pictures will be obscured to protect the anonymity of the individuals depicted unless the individual is myself.
i: The Age Gap
Upon first entering the Amino, you will likely notice a significant age majority: young teens. Whilst the age requirement to use Amino as an app is 13, some members of Therian Amino are younger than this. Depending on how close they are to their 13th birthday, these members may have their profiles hidden or be banned entirely. The age requirement is a simple consequence of child safety laws in the US, where Amino is based – something that isn’t too well known, especially amongst TA members. One user of TA, named Bone, mentions they disagree with this age rule and specify the reasons for this opinion as being due to the presence of ‘many Therians who are younger and [they] wanna feel heard’. Others have expressed dislike towards the rule even after the legal reasoning was provided.
The issue with having a platform dedicated to a serious phenomenon dominated by young people becomes obvious once time is spent in the Amino. There are often arguments (heated, in many cases) in comment sections and chatrooms that achieve very little other than upset on both sides. It seems as though the younger crowd are unable to tell the difference between corrections, non-personal criticism and outright attacks. What results from this misunderstanding tends to be an explosive display of anger, defensive behaviour, and accusations.
One argument that I found to represent this very well took place on a post regarding past lives and their relation to kintypes (‘Past Life VS Kintype’, since deleted) between myself (at the time a 20 year old individual) and ex-mod Khaki (a 15 year old individual who was a user at the time). As far as I was aware, this was my first interaction with this person on a one-to-one basis. The post itself was intented to be informative in nature, however, it missed the mark by stating things that were untrue (ie. “And [your kintype] doesn’t have a separate gender”, disregarding the possibility of sexual dimorphism affecting one’s therianthropy). My original comments[i/a-b] correcting the snippets I found to be untrue was swiftly deleted. When I commented again, Khaki replied with immense hostility. I was accused of ‘never [saying] anything nice to [them]’, making them ‘feel like shit’, and being ‘rude’. They then went on to tell me that them ‘deleting your comment [should have been taken] as a hint'[i/c]. Khaki then attempted to ask permission from other mods to have me blocked for these reasons and misgendering me as female as they did so. According to the mod history and testimonies from the other mods online at the time, Khaki was well known for aggressive outbursts and being rude[i/d-h]. Leader Ivory showed frustration with the individual, claiming they were ‘so tired of their shit’ and that they had been ‘having problems with [them]'[i/g]. It should also be noted that the original post stated ‘debate welcome’ in the text.
This sort of hostile interaction wasn’t limited to my own interactions by any means. Two other users, ex-mod Coral (17 years old at the time) and user Thistle (14 years old) , shared a back-and-forth that laid out personal opinions fairly simply. The post[i/i] which hosted the conversation was an opinionated piece by Thistle titled ‘i swear y’all are gonna HATE me for this’. After recieving opinionated replies to their original post, Thistle posted a comment (striked out through Amino’s text formatting system) saying ‘hehe i knew people would hate me x))))’. Coral then responds ‘Don’t be ridiculous. People disagreeing with you is not hating you’. The conversation continues in this vein[i/j]. One notable comment by mod Goldenrod reads ‘No one hates you.. it’s just a matter of agreeing or disagreeing. Opinions vary’.
Debates turning into heated arguments seemed integral to the community in TA. Even chatrooms weren’t safe from these hostile interactions, with debate chatrooms popping up and dying off when they ended up being breeding grounds for aggression. The constant infighting and arguing is noted by many members as being a reason they felt uncomfortable, unwanted, or outright forced to leave. Ex-user Green describes how they used to nickname their animal identities and ‘got so severely attacked and grilled over such a simple thing that [they] felt it was too overwhelming to stay on the platform so [they] left and [they’ve] never been back’. Thistle shared similar sentiments, describing the Amino as ‘a rabid wolf pack’ that harbored ‘heartless passive aggression’. Another individual – user Indigo – mentions that they’ve ‘seen how arguments escalate on this amino’ and that ‘it’s stressful’, showing how even those not participating in a heated conversation are being affected.
It would seem, however, that young age isn’t the only factor in determining how a conversation will go. Some users have brought forward their experiences with older members of the community, claiming that grilling and aggression is just as common as it is from the youth. Ex-user Yellow (16) mentions that ‘there was a LOT of older members being critical to younger members in a weirdly patronising way’, and that despite not remembering the specifics of their experiences, they felt the ‘vibes were off’. Another individual, a 13 year old nicknamed Aqua, feels a similar way. In a post outside of Amino, they write: ‘[Describing their experience with older therians]… for example on Amino, it feels like therianthropy is more of a strict rule because of the older, more experienced therians telling us we are wrong.’ The post shares many similar points, and can be viewed in its entirety in the Figures folder [i/k].
ii: Disagreements becoming Abuse
In my own experience – both as a member and a moderator – I have seen many arguments taking place that really had no need to occur in the first place. A lot of the time, arguments that started in one place will be deliberately moved to a different place where it isn’t relevant. For example, a comment section disagreement could be moved to a chatroom that was uninvolved with the initial argument, provoking new arguments and further feeding the hostility. This happened a lot in my time as a moderator, and I’ve had to step in and remove screenshots being shared and names being dropped far too often. Most of the time it seems the individual sharing such details are minors, and a number of these cases also seemed to be attempts to garner sympathy or ‘troops’ for their ‘side’.
An example of this is one that involved myself and mod (a user at the time) Orchid. As I was directly involved, I was able to collect screenshots of both my actions and Orchid’s actions to represent us both, hence why I am choosing to discuss this incident specifically. The initial disagreement occured in a chatroom I created and moderated, and for added context I should add that said chatroom had a specific note in the description section: that questions about your identity will more than likely be asked when you join the chat. My reasoning for including this rule was to both weed out trolls or other malicious parties and also to see if any support could be provided to an individual or if they may be on the wrong path. As with all chatrooms on the Amino, it is assumed that you read the description upon joining. Orchid mentions that they are questioning being the species the chatroom is built around, and I ask them ‘Is it a recent development?’ before telling them they are welcome to refuse to answer my questions. Despite the opportunity to refuse questions, Orchid seemed happy to continue, stating ‘it’s fine!’. The conversation remains civil as I explain my personal concerns about questioning a species that only recently became a part of oneself, to which Orchid seemed to become agitated by[ii/a]. An hour later, Orchid sent several messages into the public ‘General Therian Chatroom’ chat, describing frustration surrounding being ‘shot down’ and having people essentially say their kintype isn’t correct[ii/b-c]. The cross-area reference to the discussion in the original chatroom didn’t end on the Amino, however. During the time of our discussion Orchid was made aware that I was present in a Discord server they also frequented. Around ten days after this, they shared the following message in said Discord server: ‘Arghhhh people keep gatekeeping [kintype] when I tried to explain my experiences [lol]'[ii/d]. No context was given regarding what gatekeeping occured and what experiences were in question, and people sided with them to offer sympathy. Whether this Discord message was directly in response to my Amino messages or the result of someone else is unknown, but I have yet to see anybody else who has spoken to Orchid about this in a public space.
Aggression in a public member-to-member environment was common on the Amino, but it wasn’t the only way hostilities were thrown at other individuals. As the mod team changed over time, we would seek out feedback from members to ensure we had good coverage on all the issues within the Amino. One way of finding out what users of TA thought was through anonymous Google Forms. These forms typically asked individuals to select which mods they liked or had an issue with, who they would like to discuss the issue with (if an issue existed), and to describe their feedback or opinions.
As a curator, I had access to every response to these forms and could evaluate if any legitimate criticism was present and useful. Whilst a lot of the responses to these forms were genuine, helpful, and provided good commentary on each mod’s performance, some were outright abusive and seemed only to exist as anonymous outlets for a user’s rage. I have been a target of this anonymous abuse, but in some cases, it felt obvious who sent the feedback form response due to several factors: time between hostile interactions and form response, writing style of individuals, and mentions to specific events all tend to give a general idea of who sent a hateful message. One message I recieved, which I unfortunately no longer have access to, referred to me as female (I am not) and called me several hateful names (ie. bitch). This message that had been sent anonymously was extremely similar in style to the aforementioned interaction I experienced between myself and Khaki. My suspicions on who sent the feedback should be clear.
Other mods, especially those with the ‘leader’ role, suffered anonymous abuse too. In some cases the leaders would be likened to clowns and in one case, Nazis. One individual referred to the running of the Amino as being similar to running a concentration camp (once again, this form I no longer have access to). These hateful remarks do not do much to help the staff team and instead can greatly upset them seeing as most mods wanted to see the Amino flourish and grow. I’ve seen mods be harassed ‘romantically’, some even had sexual advances thrust upon them without any consent. The members, many being young, seem to forget that the mods are also people behind a screen going about their day – though the odd adult would also act up, often in a condescending manner as if to dismiss the mods for their age difference. Trying to stay professional results in a cold and steely perception by some, whilst being open and jokey has people complain about unprofessionalism. Each approach to moderating the rapidly growing Amino was met with some sort of criticism. One thing that each mod did to ease off the emotions and stress, keeping a professional public face to some degree, was gossip in the private staff chat.
iii: Gossip – useful or harmful?
Gossip, or ‘talking shit’ as many would call it, is present in every community no matter what the topic is. People need to vent sometimes and whilst some would opt to do so publicly, the moderation team on TA would do so privately. The Leadership Team Chat was private – only those inside the chatroom could see the messages within or even the chatroom itself – and whilst it was mostly used to discuss posts, moderation decisions, ideas for the Amino and similar upkeep talks, it also hosted many a heated flurry of venting and frustration. As with any sudden high-energy release, the more emotional and opinionated statements occured when a mod was venting. This results in aggressive descriptions of members, cuss words being used, and over-reactions being shared that did not truly represent the true feelings of the mod. A low-energy example of venting could be seen in the discussion of Khaki’s behaviour as mentioned earlier, where myself and several other mods expressed frustration in regards to the situation.
It would be a lie if I were to say we never outright targeted individuals in the Leadership Chat. We would often find ourselves infuriated by a specific member and, in need of a release, we would vent in the private chat. Even other mods would be gossiped about: in one instance, ex-mod Sienna’s leaked screenshots of the staff’s private chats to a friend. This friend decided to address the situation head-on by publicly calling out the mods in a chatroom – called the Conference Chat – specifically designed for discussing the Amino and any problems it may have. The immediate effect of this betrayal of trust was very strong: we all felt angered by the breach in privacy when private vents were shown bare and often without context. Even after this incident was resolved, the mods (myself included) would continue to insult Sienna and call them names, such as ‘snake’. I cannot speak for the other mods, but I can at least say that I regret my actions and responses in these instances. It was unfair to the individuals discussed and showed a lack of empathy on my part. Sienna’s friend was acting out of a need to sort out an issue, and whilst they did so in a semi-aggressive way, the loyalty towards a friend was and still is admirable. As I will discuss later, we will later find that we would on the opposite end of leaking private chats – something which made me reevaluate my position on the Sienna situation entirely.
Knowing that the people running the Amino were actively negatively talking about members – even if it was only a few individuals being discussed – was enough to spread the seed of distrust. To myself at least, it felt like there was a growing Us vs. Them mentality developing amongst members who were fans of Sienna or felt shocked by the idea that staff would gossip. One individual noted a similar feeling in the anonymous feedback form, stating: “[Some]thing that myself and former members of the amino have discussed is how it feels like there’s a sort of inner circle to the whole amino”. The existence of a sort of ‘circle’ within Amino was felt by another anonymous feedback responder – Anon Navy – who noted that they felt one of the leaders, Mod Linen, was acting in a biased manner towards certain members and treating users differently even if the same thing had been done by each individual. They write: “It can be incredibly frustrating when you get in trouble for something, and then another person does the same thing, but it just somehow is okay.” They also note that Linen dealt with certain events (likely guideline-breaking instances) in an inconsistent manner to the point where they would not ‘approach [Linen] for any problem because [they] feel as if it’s not going to get dealt with properly’. This sentiment was also publicly shared by Sienna’s friend who extended this level of wariness to the entire team, saying: “I cannot be honest with you all without anyone getting offended and then yelling at me for something.” It seemed there was a growing worry amongst members that the mods either didn’t care or didn’t like members enough to take them seriously. This constant back-and-forth between both members and staff felt like just another aspect of the ‘job’. Ex-mod Coral felt the need to address this, stating in a public and stern text that “members need to treat other members better. Members need to treat staff better.” The frustration was felt Amino-wide and likely contributed to the hostile interactions that took place so frequently on the app.
Can the private gossip and venting lead be labelled as a main cause of the hostilities in the Amino? I cannot be too sure. People need to release the energy they have pent up inside and if it isn’t let go, it may become a problem that resolves itself explosively. One anonymous ex-user of the Amino – Anon Red – says they are ‘not overly bothered [by staff gossip]’, stating that they ‘get that people can be frustrating’. Another anonymous ex-user – Anon Rose – seconded this opinion, saying: “It’s fine. Sometimes there are situations where such venting is helpful, I’m sure.” The understanding opinion isn’t limited to members – naturally, mods also find comfort in being able to privately vent out their frustrations. One current leader of TA, who wishes to stay anonymous and will be referred to as CL, says ‘things can quickly get too much and [the mods] need to let out [their] frustrations somewhere where [they] might want other opinions or people that can “get it”.’ They go on to further explain their viewpoint through the following: “Staff are unable to talk about certain topics with other members since they are either strictly staff-related issues or silly things that frustrate us that we feel comfortable enough to speak with people who have seen the full story and understand what’s gone on.”
The potential betrayal of confidentiality between members and staff weighs in on one ex-user’s (nicknamed Anon Lime) opinion, who otherwise finds private venting acceptable given that ‘running an amino seems very stressful’. Lime notes that despite this initial feeling, if staff were to gossip about things members had revealed in confidentiality, they ‘would be uncomfortable’. Ex-mod and ex-user Nineteen – having engaged in the private gossip on more than one occasion – felt it was needed to express frustration, however they understood the way it affected members of the Amino. They tell me: “I’m ashamed of how I talked about certain people from time to time as it was wrong of me to be so critical.” Nineteen has since gone on to try apologise to those they may have hurt, saying it ‘disgusts [them] that [they] let [themselves] feed into such a piss poor mentality.’
Whilst some members find venting to be acceptable in certain circumstances, other members feel unhappy interacting with moderators when they are aware they could be negatively talked about. One anonymous individual – ex-user Anon Wheat – shares their thoughts with me: “Staff are supposed to be supportive or at least neutral in frustrating situations and this makes me uncomfortable”. This sentiment is not isolated to Wheat either, with another anonymous individual – ex-user Anon Teal – stating that private gossip is ‘really shitty’, and ‘a dick move on their part’. Teal goes on to further explain why they feel this way, citing paranoia ‘about how many times they’ve probably gossiped about [them]’. The fear of being spoken about behind your back is a very reasonable one, especially if evidence is provided that shows the people meant to watch over you are gossiping behind-the-scenes.
Is there a way to please both parties in the gossip debate? It’s a very unclear path but I personally feel it needs to be addressed for the good of the staff team and the userbase of the Amino. It would appear that many members find discomfort in the apparent ‘shady’ way staff go about their venting, so perhaps an easy solution would be to give members a public notice. Staff could explain that stress plays a huge part in what is said and being able to vent helps to improve mood and keep the Amino running smoothly. Specifics need not be shared, but allowing the members to be warned beforehand that things may be said in private – things the mods don’t necessarily mean to say nor agree with later on – may help dissolve the barrier of distrust between user and mod by eliminating the sudden frustration when a ‘leak’ occurs.
As a moderator, we got to experience the frustration of being gossiped about firsthand when a prominent figure (user nicknamed Azure) vented about the TA staff in their own private group chatroom. Screenshots of this conversation were leaked by an ex-mod of the TA staff – Ninteen – who was present in the chat at the time. The situation started very simply: Azure asked permission to advertise as per our guidelines, and I suggested to the other mods that it was a little unfair to members that Azure rarely engaged with the community and seemingly only came online to advertise or promote something. The other mods agreed and this was mentioned to Azure – who was still given permission to advertise anyway – to make them aware of the way it looked from our perspective. Azure felt personally targeted by this due to their prominence, feeling as though the staff disliked them. Whilst there were mods that didn’t like Azure and didn’t support them, it didn’t have anything to do with their reputation and prominence. In order to vent out the frustration they felt, Azure then vented in a private chatroom discussing how they felt about the decision by TA staff and why it felt unfair. That was when we recieved the leaked screenshots by Nineteen.
Whilst I am unable to find the main bulk of the conversation in my screenshot archives, I do have a quote by Azure that was sent to us in the staff chat by Nineteen. It reads: “gosh they can call themselves lucky I’m not [public therian figure] or litteraly almost ANY other [wellknown individual]. I’d have mad a post or video lol. I personally dont do that ofc.” The mods at the time felt like this was a thinly veiled threat against the Amino, as if Azure was taunting us – a fear made even more potent when it was noted that Azure was fully aware that Nineteen was able to read these messages. This situation was a familiar reversal of our experience with Sienna and their friend, yet we didn’t respond with the same anger towards the leaker (in this case, Nineteen) – our inability to empathise with members was shown most clearly in this situation and is a stark reminder that we mods were not free of hypocrisy.
iv: Elitism-Validity Paradox
The topic of hypocrisy stretches far beyond staff discussions behind closed doors. One of the most common words used in feedback sent to me for this article was ‘gatekeeping’, which is an unusual ironic leap from the pro-validity approach the Amino tends to prefer. There is even a guideline specifically aimed at ensuring the validity of users’ identities are not put under debate (‘Validity Polls’, under Posting Blog/Wiki Rules). Doubting the existence and/or legitimacy of certain identities – particularly those such as fictionkin and objectkin – is frowned upon and may be removed depending on how harshly the post/poll is presented. Keeping a community free from malicious criticism can be useful, especially in an environment dominated by young people who are exploring their identity. Users can post about their experiences freely without feeling like they are outsiders or frowned upon for being part of a certain species or other identity group.
Despite this pro-safe space approach, many still feel they have experienced intense gatekeeping and elitism on the platform. Anon Teal felt the atmosphere in the Amino was rather ‘snobby’, noting how they felt newer members of the community were being treated in a hostile manner. Teal explains to me that the moderation team was part of the issue, citing their general mannerisms as a reason for feeling unwelcome. “I didn’t trust a single one of [the mods],” they explain, “They were nice and all, but something felt very exclusivist. They were all pretty egotistical.” Another ex-user – Magenta – shared their views on Twitter and revealed an experience that falls less into the category of gatekeeping and more into the realm of censorship. They write: “The experiences I have, which are covered on the therian wiki on integration, were removed and I was PM’d and told that while those may be therianthropy, those kinds of experiences ‘aren’t supported’ on the Amino because it would confuse kids.” They go on to explain their experience with the community further, tweeting the following: “I would repeatedly post things with citations and facts and decades of personal experience, and would get shouted down with ‘that’s not therianthropy’ and then my post would be deleted”. Another ex-user – Anon Plum – had a very similar experience on the platform. They say: “Posts about my dissociative therianthropy were actively deleted. I was told these kinds of posts, and experiences were not allowed. So gatekeeping!”
Whilst they didn’t experience outright censorship, some members felt they were pressured into staying silent about their experiences because they differed from the percieved norm. Anon Wheat describes the Amino as a place where differences were met with harassment rather than validation, saying: “I was heavily questioned to the point where you could consider it harassment for no particular reason by multiple members who didn’t like the way I presented my beliefs.” Wheat felt as though the percieved grilling was due to one reason: ‘[they] had different experiences from a number of people who obviously didn’t like that [they were] different.’
Anon Red also had their own fair share of negative experiences. They expressed concern that younger members, including themselves, were being targeted by older members. Red shares with me what they had seen in their time on the Amino: “being criticised for my experiences, older members questioning what I do and don’t know in a patronising, borderline aggressive way, and just seeing general dogpiling onto younger and maybe misinformed members.” The ‘dogpiling’ and other negative interactions being visible enough for other users to notice is a worrying look for anybody joining the Amino.
Are moderators doing anything to help in these cases? Some individuals do not feel optimistic. Plum describes an experience with one of the mods as the following: “[We] did not [get along]. We tried to talk in PM, however they blocked me.” Wheat’s experience with the moderators was not as hostile when it came to their own issues with the percieved gatekeeping, but it was still a clearly frustrating experience. They write: “I never had very much direct interaction with [the mods] but no help was given when I brought up [the harassment].” The attempt to speak with moderators about the uncomfortable interactions making them ‘feel unwelcome’ felt useless, as ‘nothing was done to either give the members a warning or resolve the situation in some other way.’
v: Changes for the Better?
Other users disagree with the viewpoint that the Amino is overall a negative place to be. Leader CL explains the changes that have been made in recent times, describing an active effort to remove sources of toxicity to improve the overall experience in the Amino. They explain that a member of staff – who had ‘been the root of a lot of toxicity’ – had been let go, which led to the flushing out of ‘a lot of toxic members’. CL goes on to discuss the new curator applications, showing hopeful optimism in the effects new moderators will have on the community. Their optimism is so profound that they feel Therian Amino is ‘by far one of the best places to go to for discussions on alterhumanity, in [their] eyes, and one of the most reasonable and uplifting environments’. Staff being determined to make a difference is extremely important when it comes to creating a healthy and fun community environment, and CL assures me that they’re ‘confident enough to say the staff on Therian Amino are by far very open to discussion and closely knit between themselves and the community as well’.
This sentiment was drastically different to the opinion of Nineteen. In their notes sent to me, they showcase a very difficult experience dealing with fellow staff members that grew to become so frustrating that they felt they had no other choice but to resign from both moderating and from being a member of the Amino. Nineteen expressed frustration with the lack of activity coming from the other mods, saying: “[Linen] alone, while [they’re] a sweet person, is hypocritical, as is [Ivory]. Advocating for activity yet barely online for 100 minutes in a week.” Nineteen describes a situation they found themselves in where they were seemingly handling more of the Amino’s moderation than the other leaders, sharing: “[I was] dragging the team at one point by putting in almost 2,000+ minutes a week and pushing back on my own personal life severely, as well as my academic career”.
Are staff as ‘closely knit’ as Linen describes? Nineteen feels the answer is ‘no’. “I was deeply afraid to speak up against anyone,” they tell me, “especially other leaders. Call it cruel, but I was physically pushing myself for fear that literally nothing would get done if I didn’t.” The fear of nothing being done was matched by a second fear: a fear of being struck down for a mistake or opposing thought. Whilst errors should be corrected to ensure moderation is effective, Nineteen felt it was not about effective moderation, saying: “I feared deeply for my position if I opposed anyone at any time, and I feared deeply for my position again if I made a mistake. [I was] afraid I would be demoted, afraid I did everything wrong, afraid I wasn’t good enough, afraid as to what would happen to me.” Nineteen then goes on to describe severe panic attacks as a response to both staff interactions and member interactions, a very serious problem that should be addressed for Nineteen’s mental health preservation and healing but also for this reason: Nineteen wasn’t the only one. Ex-mod Coral shared the following in a heartfelt open letter to the community: “I’m tired of being constantly demonized. I’m tired of being thrown under the bus. I’m tired of having to sew up and bandage issues on this amino and getting nothing for it but shit. I’m tired of seeing my friends in pieces because they get flat out harassed by a member who’s pissed they got caught for breaking guidelines.” I myself have had moments where I was so broken down by the actions and words of members and staff alike that I needed to take anti-anxiety medication (and in some unfortunate cases, I am ashamed to admit, alcohol) to stop myself from crying to sleep. It didn’t always work.
The May 2020 feedback form also provided insight into staff performance from the perspective of the members. Anon Navy provided a rather indepth review of moderator performance – some of which we discussed earlier – but as seen before there was a stronger emphasis on Leader Linen’s inability to work as leader. They wrote, “[The mods] are fun but can be Stern when need be. I do not see that in [Linen]. It’s not that I don’t like [them] as a person. I just do not think [they are] good enough to be leader.” Anon Tan felt a similar way, though for different reasons. Tan explains that they ‘feel like an agent [leader] should be more interactive with the community, and maybe more active, but that’s just [their] opinion’, a sentiment seconded by Anon Blush who states: “[Linen] as a leader seems less there and would rather be watching TV than moderating”. The other mods seemed to agree with these statements, and at one point we formally requested Linen step down as agent leader – however, according to my sources, Linen may still possess this title.
vi: ‘My morality is law’
When it comes to making changes to a platform, sometimes you have to consider options that may not have been a first choice. Other options may even at first appear difficult to even think about, but may prove useful in the long run. Community hubs like Kinmunity and Therian Guide have each had their fair share of updates and views that pleased some and upset others, but nothing seems to enrage the Therian Amino userbase more than community views on zoophilia.
This topic is one that paradoxically divides and unifies the therianthrope community. My goal with this section is not to shame zoophiles or antizoophiles, but instead to provide an overview of the situation from both sides in a manner that is as unbiased as possible. Disgust and morality plays heavily into this topic, so I can only ask that you remain openminded and avoid falling into a pit where you refuse to consider viewpoints that differ from your own. If you cannot or will not act maturely when it comes to this topic, I am afraid this article is not for you. Civil discussion is integral to the therianthrope community and I refuse to censor myself or others purely because of disgust – be it my own or someone else’s.
To begin with, what is zoophilia? There are many variations of the definition, with some being vague and open-ended (ie. ‘the love of animals’) to those that are outright accusatory in nature (ie. ‘animal rape’). The simplest way to describe zoophilia (also known as zoosexuality or bestiosexuality) is to describe it as an attraction to nonhuman animals, be it romantically or sexually. Zoophilia is purely descriptive of the attraction, and should not be used to imply an individual is either purely attracted to animals (many zoophiles are non-exclusive and will happily form intimate relationships with humans) or engaging with sexual encounters with animals (some zoophiles identify as ‘no contact’, meaning they do not engage with animals on an intimate level). Zoophiles may not even experience a sexual urge in relation to animals, instead finding romantic or sensual attractions being the dominant aspect of their orientation. Zoophilia as an attraction has been heavily stigmatised in modern society, with opposition reasons ranging from anthropocentric (ie. believing intimacy with an animal degrades the human or glorifies the animal on a level that implies they are equal to humans) to moral (ie. believing animals are incapable of consenting to relationships or feeling it is disgusting to be intimate with animals). Others may find they oppose the attraction due to laws in many countries outright banning sexual encounters with animals, and others still may oppose it for health reasons (be it the health of the human or the welfare of the animal).
Science has been rather quiet about zoophilia, making study difficult for both anti-zoos and zoos alike. Recent growths in public discussion, however, has coincided with a similar growth in professional interest. With the growing public chatter, it has been difficult to put aside personal disgust and morals for many – an understandable issue – and for others, it opened an often terrifying door: the realisation that one could be a zoophile. Where do you go for help? What will happen if you speak out? Will you lose friends or family? Are you now no longer welcome in communities you once frequented? This is where I must bring in the topic of therianthropy.
For some, the link between therians and zoophiles is nonexistent or even outright malicious. The earliest known poll showed that more than 70% of the community identified as ‘zoo’, whilst a more recent one from this year puts tthe estimated percentage at around 60%. For some perspective, if we take the lower, more recent number and apply it to TA, we come up with an estimated 4800 possible individuals who may experience zoophilia to some degree. One well known community member showed public frustration with some of the statistics floating around at the time, referring to them as ‘made-up’. Another openly anti-zoo Twitter user has a concrete opinion regarding the potential link, stating: “zoophilia has no basis in therianthropy and should never be used to justify such actions”. Leader Linen’s opinions follow in this vein, establishing Therian Amino as being anti-zoo in every way. On Twitter, they publicly state the following: “Bestiality is not and never will be an inherent aspect of #therianthropy. This is not the last time I will be saying this. Abuse has no excuse, justification nor exception.” It would appear a large number of TA members support this statement, with the following comments existing on a Zoophilia PSA announcement:
- ‘I can’t listen to any of Therian Guide’s videos on YouTube now in fear that I could be listening to a “zoo” [vomiting emoji]’
- ‘Thank you for this, it’s astounding and disgusting that people would think this is okay. I’m glad TA is taking a strong stance against this.’
- ‘Christ. I didn’t know that TG allowed zoophile talk. I’m disgusted that I even signed up for the site.’
- ‘People who feel “pride” in being an animal abuser is honestly disgusting. Thank you for standing up to this.’
- ‘This is why tg and anyone who associates with that site made me feel disgusted for being a therian how could someone choose to associate with that site knowing all whats come out of it.’
- ‘Just ban them tbh. Animal rap*st are not welcome anywhere and should seek psychiatric help.’
- [Reply to the above comment] ‘banger reply. dont even give them the chance to speak about it, just ban them for even breathing [relieved emoji]’
These are just a handful of the 115 comments, and as far as I could tell, they were all in support of the post. Despite there seeming to be an overwhelmingly positive response, other areas of the community have been vocal in their displeasure with the decision to ban zoos. Whilst TA is within their right to decide what kind of content is allowed on their platform, one individual took issue with the way it was done. Anon Mint says: “Staff have allowed members to say discriminatory things such as “zoosexuals are not true therians”/ “Zoophilia is a crime” / “you shouldn’t have these desires/attractions” (the attraction itself is not a crime, only Bestiality, the act of sex with animals.).” Looking at the comments on the original PSA shows that indeed, hateful comments were made and endorsed by the staff. Another post, which was disabled for violating an unspecified guideline, had comments with similar language. One comment read, in part:’gods you people are gross’ and ‘[this] honestly means you aren’t a true therian to begin with’. Regardless of your opinion on the topic of zoophilia, this is a blatant case of hypocrisy when it comes to what hateful conduct is acceptable.
Mint also took issue with the decision to ban one single orientation (for those who dislike this language, I recommend the study “Is zoophilia a sexual orientation? A study” by Hani Miletski, Ph.D. – found as [vi/Bestiality-and-Zoophilia.pdf], specifically page 90 – though do note the document linked is a compilation and contains other articles on the topic that may be graphic in nature and unsuitable for the easily disturbed.). They write: “I feel that adult topics shouldn’t be allowed on a site primarily used by minors, but once again, I feel as though the ban on anything zoosexuality related is discriminatory. I have seen various LGBT related posts, including LGBT polls and questions. If the topic of ANY sexuality is allowed, I see it as unfair to ban the topic of a specific sexuality. (As long as the discussion/artworks are safe for minors, the topic of a sexuality should not be banned.)”. Whilst this appears to be valid criticism, one could argue that other sexualities are not currently illegal to practice under many countries’ laws, therefore making discussion more acceptable. There is also the fact that TA is minor-dominated, and it is difficult to justify sexual discussion in such spaces. Anon Cyan feels similarly, noting: “Given the heavy population in younger members [the restriction of sexual orientation talk] is needed.” They also add that they feel sexuality is ‘demonized’, something that is worth addressing even if it is just to bring awareness to how certain topics are talked about.
Nineteen gives a fair criticism of the current adult topic ban, saying ‘by censoring it so heavily, [TA is] setting [users] up for failure in terms of how to deal with it and how to behave when it is mentioned.’ This is a sentiment that is shared amongst mental health professionals, who feel it is best to provide support (which is not the same as condoning something, mind you) to ensure an individual doesn’t end up using negative coping mechanisms and resorting to secrecy. Nineteen also reaches out to clarify the following: “I’m by no means saying to hold a BDSM event on the platform, but what I am saying is actively censoring something that people should at least know what it is and how to handle it socially is inevitably a path for failure.”
What can be done to ensure the safety of the children on TA that doesn’t ostracise a majority of the community? It is difficult to provide solutions when the only one who can enforce them is vehemently against change. I’ve tried my best to establish a set of tools that could potentially help, and whilst I am by no means demanding TA becomes a zoo site, I firmly believe that there are better ways to deal with the problem than public disgust and censorship. After reading through the advice of experts (which would usually apply to therapists, but seem applicable here), I present a possible list of things which could be implemented:
- Provide education on zoophilia, therianthropy, and how it may intersect. Being as objective as possible is key here – you do not want a young reader to feel they must adhere to a certain set of morals or opinions. Let them decide themselves.
- Establish a private and heavily moderated space for people to discuss their feelings, fears, and advice. The last thing a young questioning zoo needs is to feel like the people they look up to find them abhorrent. They need a place to get help from those they trust, even if it is just somewhere to vent.
- Disallow hateful discussion of zoophilia. You are more than welcome to have your own personal views on the paraphilia, but public hate speech will only create more divide within the community and could cause significant harm to young people who have no idea what they have done to deserve this.
- Help people learn about their local laws regarding bestiality/zoophilic material. Depending on where an individual lives, certain acts or imagery may be illegal. We need to make sure we aren’t setting up the next generation of therians to become law breakers – they need education and support so that they can find healthy and legal alternatives.
- Provide links to decent sources and support groups. Avoid places that contain NSFW content (ZooVille is a prime example of somewhere to avoid) and instead locate an SFW place that can provide decent help to those who need it. My research found that ZooCommunity, Therian Guide, and Zeta Verein are great for providing materials to learn and – in the case of ZC and TG – a safe place to discuss feelings and learn boundaries.
TA shouldn’t and needn’t become a place allowing explicit adult content, but censoring a common therianthropic experience could prove to be harmful – especially when dealing with young teens who are only just beginning to explore their identities. One individual on Reddit sums it up simply: “Creating that void inside communities and those who feel that way and ask something among the lines of “Is it normal to feel attracted towards my kintype?” only to end up being banned. This creates a toxic environment which ends up with people not sharing it and ‘dealing’ with it in their own way, which might not exactly end well…”. Do we want to see the consequences of minors diving headfirst into self hatred? It is a very serious and taboo subject for sure, but I and others stand behind the notion that a supportive and safe environment is essential for any healthy community – especially one dominated by young people.
vii: Bridging the Divide
One of the most prominent issues with Therian Amino is the noticable distance it keeps from the general therian community, be it intentionally or not. One of the questions I asked various aspects of the online community involved the need to network with known therian hotspots and whether it would be beneficial or not, and I am grateful to have recieved many responses. One notable input was from Nineteen – when asked if TA should reach out to other areas of the community, they said the following:
“Yes. We shit talked Therian Guide and other places so profoundly that I was utterly convinced that these places were terrible as I truly wanted to believe that these people had my best interest in mind. After all, I just found a place that explained my lifelong identity struggle, so why would I question that? Well, it was a very naive assumption I made then and I deeply regret such. I adore Therian Guide and other platforms that TA seemed to shit talk left and right. They truly acted as if they were the white knight crusade on this blazing battlefield.”
Another mod – current leader CL – disagrees entirely. They left the following response to the same question:
“No. Therian Guide accept bestiality, most of the staff team being zoophiles, admittedly committing bestiality or zoophile apologists. Werelist is inactive and Kinmunity is fairly inactive as well. If any would like to form a connection with us we would be happy to discuss our terms however for the time being since nobody has reached out to us and we have little to no interest in interacting with the “greymuzzles” of the community, since most of them seem to talk extremely negatively about some subjects instead of being open to discussion, we feel it’d only create a rift between us that I would much rather prevent since there’s already so much unnecessary drama going both ways in this tiny community.”
Keeping the last section of this article in mind, it is hard not to find this statement hypocritical. The sentiment that ‘most of them seem to talk extremely negatively about some subjects instead of being open to discussion’ could also apply to CL in this case, further highlighting the disconnect between TA and the greater community. This desire to form connections if the opportunity arises is doubted slightly when CL’s other statements are called into question. For example, the contempt aimed towards other forums is not hidden in the following quote: ‘In comparison to Therian Guide and Kinmunity, for example, the moderators and community [here] as a whole are accepting and mature.’ The previous statement regarding ‘greymuzzles’ also finds itself called into question with another statement by CL, which reads: “Nah, anyone’s welcome, though I’d really love to see older members come back and help restore the place to what it once was before the kids took over lmao”. There is a very confusing dislike towards older members of the community that is then followed by a desire to see them return. My only question would be this: what exactly is needed from the older members, and what makes them simultaneously unwanted? Finding out what is missing from the Amino and what is not wanted would likely dissolve any barriers put up between TA and the older members of the greater community.
There is also an issue with staff’s interactions with other communities. Aside from spreading malicious rumours about certain sites, Leader Linen and another TA user seemed to find the conflict and resulting drama amusing. On a public Twitter thread[vii/a], Linen shares that they have had an account on TG for ‘years now’, adding ‘how do you think I got the [tea emoji]’. The TA user then replies with ‘brb making an account, my brain thrives off of drama’. Instead of trying to avoid the creation of drama, Linen appears to endorse the behaviour, responding with: ‘LMAO good luck’. This seems to imply a lack of desire to form connections, instead finding the ‘drama’ satisfactory or even entertaining. This is not appropriate behaviour for any community leader and should not be brushed aside.
As mentioned earlier on in this article, the age gap is one of the more well-known concerns when it comes to the Amino. The current age demographic raises many important questions that I personally feel are fundamental to finding solutions for the many issues on the Amino:
- Is the Amino better suited to a single demographic?
- How can TA best cater to the needs of its various age groups?
- Should more of an effort to get older and more experienced people on the staff team be made?
- Should informational blogs be monitored or restricted?
In my research, two possible solutions to the age gap problem were equally endorsed. The first solution is for TA to select an age demographic to cater to and stick with it, ensuring all resources and content on the app fit the needs of the present members. Anonymous ex-user Slate feels this would be a good way to keep members happy, saying: “Yes. The age gaps sometimes just doesn’t work. The app is also made for 13+ instead of adults.” They also add on in response to a question about how the age majority affected their experience on TA: “Being [18+] on that app makes me feel like I walk on eggshells all the time. When you educated someone you got yelled at ( calls or plain rude I mean ) . And well the age gap is pretty big in my eyes when speaking of beliefs and terms and whatnot.” Another user – Anon Plum – had a very simplestatement that represented their opinion on the current age groups: “[It was] like I was in a daycare.” Leader CL, however, finds their experience on their app isn’t too strongly affected by the age groups, going into detail with the following:
“Outside of general immaturity when dealing with rule breaking, it doesn’t affect my experience much at all outside of complaints that there aren’t any more informational/”good” posts anymore despite zero efforts from anyone in the community at all to putting them out. There are still members who are mature and old enough to have constructive conversations on there for me to not feel out of place. A bit of fun is appreciated and having a younger demographic helps things not get too dark and broody.”
Another individual wth mod experience, ex-mod Nineteen, feels that sticking with one demographic may actually be beneficial to staff members and the way they establish the community rules. They tell me: “We were always divided on who to target age demographically speaking and, as a result, this lead to a lot of the issues we encountered when discussing guidelines. Don’t go for a hodgepodge on an app where you need a vase.” They describe how minors were more likely to speak out against certain rules than adults were, resulting in difficulties amongst the staff when deciding which rules to change and which to keep. Nineteen describes one such incident that affected them quite deeply due to the conflict: “On other servers I administrated if we had a rule that was that big of an issue we would then discuss on whether or not to let it go. This did not seem to matter to [the TA mods] in the slightest. Reciting the usual “are you going to let 12 year olds dictate how we run things or are you blah blah blah.””
Sticking to a single age group may ostracise a demographic, but it may also encourage groups to form their own community spaces where they feel less alienated. Anon Rose mentions that their experience on TA was one of discomfort, stating that they ‘felt completely out of place’ due to being older. Nineteen felt similarly, though seemingly on a much deeper level. In response to my question on how the age group majority made them feel, they told me the following: “Outcasted, alienated, lonely, isolated .. I never had many friends, if any at all. I was desperate for affirmation as I was beyond upset that I kept feeling so out of place.” Anon Mint described a more specific cause of isolation in adult groups, citing discomfort interacting with minors as a main factor. “I feel as though this amount of young users give the site a more child-based feel,” they tell me, “where adults or older therians may potentially be uncomfortable interacting with members due to most of them being minors.” We have already seen cases where older individuals move on from TA and create their own Aminos, so perhaps this is the solution to the alienation issue: encourage the splitting of different age groups.
When asked about their opinion on sticking to a single demographic, Anon Red felt it isn’t necessary but could be beneficial, stating: “I feel like amino as a platform is geared towards young people, so the TA should also gear guidelines towards minor safety.” The idea of keeping the youth of TA safe is one that is seconded by many, including Anon Wheat who tells me: “I feel a community of mainly young people can have a lot of immaturity and some people can come into contact with age-inappropriate material easily which is not ideal”. Minors being moderators brings similar concerns, with Red expressing worry over the content minors may encounter when moderating TA. They write: “I feel like minors shouldn’t really have the stress of enforcing rules, especially when it comes to something like posts that shouldn’t be there or issues that put minor safety at risk.” I myself have come into contact with very inappropriate content on the Amino as a moderator, and whilst it was always removed before too many people saw it, the fact it is there for moderators to see brings legitimacy to these concerns. In one instance, outright bestiality porn was posted – uncensored – to the Amino. It was disabled before long, but what if the mod who disabled it was a minor? How would they feel knowing this could be the content that pops up from time to time, especially considering it would be their responsibility to deal with it?
Another problem with sticking to a youth-oriented demographic (especially one where adults feel outcasted) is this: where does the education come from? Anon Cyan expressed concern with the known trend of minors creating informative blogs and wikis, saying: “Young people teaching young people isn’t a healthy system. Some issues with misinformation over thw years has come from inexperienced people trying to spread information (but it ends up being misinformation).” Anon Rose finds the idea of minors being in charge of such a group to be undesirable, saying: “Why would minors be in charge of a group like that with no supervision? That seems disasterous.” Perhaps a means of verifying information posted by members of the Amino could be implemented. Requiring a known source, for example, could help prevent misinformation being spread – be it intentional or accidental. Educated members with known experience in the community could also be invited to act as ‘educators’, providing information they’ve gathered over the years. Whilst minors can be knowledgable of therianthropy, there seems to be a distrust in their ability to communicate it without supervision.
Having a mix of individuals on the staff team could be beneficial for these reasons, too. However, instead of having minors act as more prominent leaders in the community, smaller tasks could be given to them to prevent stress or unnecessary conflict. A pseudo-mod role – one labelled by a title rather than an official position – could help get the youth involved with how TA runs without giving them a sense of power that could potentially be misused or become a source of stress. Adults could then act as the higher-ups for the reason that they are usually able to handle stressful situations better and may posess life experience that could help in moderating such a massive platform. More than 60% of those I talked with felt adults would be better suited to the general running of the platform, with the remaining ~40% feeling indifferent or feeling a mix of both would be alright. This system, which represents the wants of the community, could help in ensuring the Amino’s changes are thought over by more mature minds whilst the general running is assisted by chosen minors who can feel they are truly making a difference.
How does one select a new mod? The current system is for applications to be publicly posted and then for the current staff to decide who they prefer. In my opinion, this is a flawed system. Considering the size of the platform, how heavily used it is, and how the current staff team are presently performing, a more democratic approach could be taken. Curator applications could be sent in through a form, and then the responses – with identifying information removed or hidden – could be listed for the userbase to see. They could then vote as a community on who they feel would best suit the Amino. In cases where a tie occurs, mods could then have their own private vote. Listing applicants anonymously and ensuring identifying information is kept private could help prevent the possibility of popularity winning votes or skewing the polls, and by having the community decide as a group who they feel would suit the needs of TA better a more logical choice could be made on who becomes a moderator. This system may or may not work, but I figure it is worth mentioning as a possible idea.
I came into this article with the intent of letting people know how the Amino is run, but through my research, I found that people just aren’t happy with the Amino and haven’t been for a long time. Only 18% of the people I interviewed for this post said they had a positive experience on TA – a worrying statistic. Too often have moderators left the Amino with horror stories of abuse, intense stress, and negative mental health effects. At first, I had assumed this negative experience majority was due to the members and their maturity levels, but as I speak with more and more individuals who are both on the Amino or have left, I find the main problem is more ingrained into the Amino itself: the leadership team.
As I write this, I am filled with a growing anxiety that stems solely from this conclusion. The fact that myself and others – mods and ex mods including – feel fear when opposing the current leaders is not acceptable and shows that drastic changes need to be made to Amino. The young impressionable userbase seeking a place to explore their identity have spoken up for a long time and all too often they have felt shut down by the mods, specifically the leaders. Based on what I have learnt and experienced, my only advice to the Amino is the following:
Replace the mod team entirely.
Train up new curators and leaders and interact with the community on a personal level. Learn what they feel and allow criticism. Be mature and step down if asked. People are scared to speak up to staff when the staff should be their go-to support, and this is absolutely unacceptable. Something needs to change so that TA can flourish and become the safe educational environment the leaders flaunt it as.
This writing may be edited at any time to accomodate new thoughts and opinions from people who wish to speak up. The writing is not intended to be a malicious or hateful piece and is instead a genuine call for TA to do something about their platform. TA is becoming the laughing stock of the wider community and it seems like the team doesn’t care.
Figures and the Zoophilia pdf can be found in the following Google Drive. If you cannot access this for whatever reason, you may contact me through Therian Guide under the username ‘Emi’.