I want to make it very clear that the following is by no means an attempt to get others to change their minds about zoos. If you enjoy them I hope you continue to do so.
But I don’t do zoos. I learned this a few months ago when I went to an event at the Tracy Aviary. When I decided to go I didn’t think anything about the venue. I like birds and anyway, the goal was to meet other queer people not look at birds.
But the birds were there and I couldn’t help notice them. I love birds it was nothing to do with the birds, but the fact that they were all in cages. These magnificent creatures that were created to soar to the heavens were in cages. That felt so wrong, so extremely very WRONG!
So wrong it hurt very deeply. At first, I didn’t know why it hurt so much I just knew it did. But after walking around a while, I was enjoying myself as long as I didn’t have to see the birds, it suddenly hit me.
I am trans and I have spent decades not being my self. While I didn’t feel like it at the time, it was like being in a cage. All that I am was confined to this cage called “societies expectation based on the outside shell”. I couldn’t be myself, I lived in a cage. At the time I didn’t know I was in a cage but I was.
Now I am free, so very free to be me. To fly to the heavens to soar over the mountains. So for me, I don’t think anything is as important as being your authentic self. And these amazing creatures were not allowed to be. At one point some one mentioned to me that most of the birds were injured in such a way that they would not survive in the wild and that the aviary was saving them from death.
Unfortunately, that didn’t help much.
You see I have this cat, or more accurately he has my heart. His name is Socks (the name we gave him). I don’t know why but I love him so much. He is very much a wild cat and he loves his freedom, to roam around the countryside. But we (my family and I) have befriended him. It took years to slowly win his trust. That has now grown to the point that he will regularly come into our house. Often that is just to get a bit to eat, but he sometimes stays a bit longer. In the winter when it is really cold, he will even stay over night some times.
But he always eventually wants outside. Outside is dangerous. It is very dangerous for him. He is getting quite old and doesn’t move that fast. He could be hit by a car, or be the loser in a fight with another animal. He would be so much safer if he just stayed inside our house. But he always wants outside, out where he belongs.
I am sure with some work we could convince, brain wash, him into staying inside, and eventually make him into a house cat. But I could never ever do that. He is wild and he needs to be left to be who he is. I know that means he will likely not live as long as he might if he were a house cat. I can accept that. I know one of these days I am going to find that he had left this world, and I will cry so very very hard. I can accept that too. But I can’t accept putting him in a cage.
Because it is not years by which one should count life, but the quality of the life lived. These past few years, since I came out, have so very much taught me that. Quality is so very much more important than quantity. It is so much better to live a short meaningful life than a long pointless one. Because in that short life, you will have actually lived, not just existed.
So I don’t do zoos, becasue they hurt too much. Because no one should live in a cage. No one should be forced to live a life that is not their true authentic self. Not me or you, not cats or birds.