I know that this question may sound silly, that it may look like the asker is just trying to acquire attention, that it may seem as if by one's asking this question one is partaking in something absolutely ridiculous, but I ask this question in the most honest, earnest, and loving way possible.

I ask it because today I came across something called 'species dysphoria'. The only 'dysphoria' with which I can say I am quite familiar is gender dysphoria because I am a cisgender ally of the transgender community and one who believes that one can really be a transgender person --- rather than being a person who believes oneself to be transgender but is in reality just a mentally disordered person.

Some human beings seem to be most sincere when they say that they identify not as human beings. How can a human identify as a non-human? How could a human be a non-human? Of course, some would say that a human individual is defined by the properties that one possesses - the capacity for articulate speech, the ability to reason and the like - but that is very essentialist and one could use that argument against transgender people by saying that a man is a person who has an XY chromosomal pattern, a penis, and the like.

I, for example, believe not that when a transgender person says that they are X in the body of Y that they mean it literally. I see not how one could be X in Y's body. But I do see how that could be a metaphorical way for one to describe to cisgender people how one feels about what one believes to be one's sex and gender mismatch.

So can one who is a human be a non-human in a human being's body. If so, how?

  • 7
    If the "human" is taken biologically, no, they can not, they are part of the species regardless of their choices. But if it is understood in some psychological/ideological/ethical/cultural sense they can have at it. It is similar to the sex/gender distinction, one can be biologically a male and psychologically/socially a woman. There is no problem with being X and not X at the same time when the first X is taken in a sense different from the second.
    – Conifold
    Apr 3, 2019 at 20:35
  • @Conifold This post of my mine was partly inspired by a person who said on what I believe to be a program called Good Morning Britain to be an elf in a human being's body. So can one who is a human being be an elf in a human body? Can one identify --- as I have seen some people say as a criticism of the idea that one can be a natal male who identifies as a woman (which is the case for most trans women) --- as, as silly as it may sound, a postbox or a helicopter? Apr 3, 2019 at 21:46
  • 2
    One needs an existing social/behavioral niche for this to work. That of a woman is available, but that of a postbox or helicopter is not (except in mental institutions). New niches can be created (once upon a time there were no monks, for example), but it is a slow process of social negotiation. It is not enough for a group to lay a claim to it, they have to convince enough of their society to accept and accommodate it. This is already the case for shifting between the existing niches.
    – Conifold
    Apr 4, 2019 at 16:45
  • @Conifold I really, really liked this answer. One question, though: if 99% of society accepted that one could be a helicopter or a postbox, would one then be a postbox or a helicopter? Are identities only valid if the majority of society accepts them? If so, however could non-binary people exist as they are not accepted by most Westerners? Apr 4, 2019 at 20:44
  • 2
    "Identity" in this sense is a pattern of social behavior, and its perception as such by others, so yes, in this case, to be is to be perceived. And it takes a lot less than 99%. Sometimes, not even a majority but a plurality, given indifference of the rest, is enough to normalize an identity. Beyond that, to a degree, even mental patients, and their unique idiosyncratic identities, are accommodated, some identities are only grudgingly tolerated (as gays were), and some are recognized only to be treated/condemned (pedophiles, pocket thieves), but recognized nonetheless.
    – Conifold
    Apr 4, 2019 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


Species, gender, and sex dysphoria interestingly enough may arise in similar ways. Some people experience both gender and sex dysphoria along with species dysphoria and consider them to be related in that they believe them to be similar dysphoric experiences. Although Many factors need to be accounted for when addressing neurobiology. Gender, sex, and species dysphoria may arise from similar brain regions relating to sensory perception and may come about even for different reasons. Sex and species dysphoria are usually provoked by the person having uncontrollable phantomizations of their body that matches that of the sex or species they desire to be. How this develops is still a mystery but there are theories out there for how transsexualism and transgenderism might develop. However, research on species dysphoria is lacking.

Among the homosexual cisgender controls, weaker sex dimorphism was found in white matter connections and a partly reversed sex dimorphism in Cth. Similar patterns were detected in transgender persons compared with heterosexual cisgender controls, but the significant clusters disappeared when adding homosexual controls, and correcting for sexual orientation. Instead, both TrW and TrM displayed singular features, showing greater Cth as well as weaker structural and functional connections in the anterior cingulate-precuneus and right occipito-parietal cortex, regions known to process own body perception in the context of self. (Possible Neurobiological Underpinnings of Homosexuality and Gender Dysphoria)

What a person identifies as is independent of the dysphoria itself. Identifying as a different species doesn't make sense physiologically even if the person believes that they actually are of a different species. Most people, however, who experience species dysphoria don't identify in that way as the different species but instead, just assert they have a desire to become the species that which they desire. The same can be said for sex and gender dysphoria the difference is that sex and gender transition (FtM and MtF) are actually technically possible so it makes sense for someone who experiences these to types of dysphoria to actually identify biologically as the sex or gender they wish if they've transitioned. (I should point out that it's a common misconception that you can't change your sex). There are different ways a person can define a man, woman, boy, girl, depending on what characteristics they choose to define the terms by whether stereotypical or biological.

If someone experiences dysphoria there are other ways a person can identify with something other than physiologically in that you feel that you are similar to someone or something and can understand them or their situation such as psychologically, behaviorally, ideologically, ethically, culturally, spiritually, and possibly other ways. The phantomizations that a person might have with species, sex, or gender dyphoria would fall under the psychological category there may also be behavioral similarities as well.

  • Otherkin people are the people to whom I was really referring. It is they who say that they feel like cats and the like. Can a human being be a cat from a metaphysical standpoint? Apr 4, 2019 at 7:58
  • @OneWhoBelievesInPeace It depends on how you define a cat. If I display similar behavior to a cat, am I cat? Well technically no, but I am just like a cat in that sense, therefore I may identify with one. Same thing if I feel like a cat that doesn’t technically mean I actually am but I may identify in the same way. Some otherkin think that their metaphysical soul is of a different species to what they actually are which relates to ones spiritual identity. Embarrassingly and cringingly enough I was one of these in middle school, when I believed in reincarnation. ;)
    – user37181
    Apr 4, 2019 at 8:15
  • Rich and fruitful answer. But 'the opposite species' - there is no species that is the opposite of humankind. What could this mean? Also 'to identify with' is not 'to be identical to'. These are minor points, though, even if correct and relevant. +1.Well-deserved upvote,
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    May 17, 2019 at 14:41
  • @Geoffery Thomas thanks for pointing that out. ‘Opposite’ should be ‘different from’ and I hadn’t noticed I worded it that way until you pointed it out.
    – user37181
    May 17, 2019 at 14:53

Genetically if you modify the genome sufficiently to remove the homo sapien markers found in all homo sapiens then you have successfully created a non human being.

Phenotypically it may have almost identical features.

This begs the question as to whether a human being is merely the sum total of his biological machine/body or whether or not dualism allows for the mind to remain human despite the genetics of the physical body being altered.

Technically in a dualist sense the mind is agendered but once it takes on a body, the physiology causes the input to the mind to be framed by the male or female biology, as well as all the other genetic codings

Therefore if you have a non-human body the mind that results will behave in a non human way. Hence it’s possible to look human (for the most part) but no longer be considered human.

You can also create a hybrid whereby the human markers remain and another specie is added to the genome. Therefore both can be expressed though one will be dominant and the other recessive.

While the markers for what makes a human a biological human are not publicly available the technology to change the population through CRISPR and ‘gene drive’ is not only in existence but also being experimented on at a rapid rate. Populations of species can permanently be altered which poses existential, ethical questions and risks to consider. Also who’s to decide if a ‘super’ human or a designer genome is still human and but a step in the evolutionary journey?

Here is a link to differences between males and females and hence why their interaction with reality is vastly dictated to by their biological machinery


  • So if one identifies, as I said in response to another user, as a helicopter or as a postbox, as I personally have heard some people say --- albeit as what is thought to be a humorous critique of transgenderism --- can a human be a postbox or a helicopter or is that not, metaphysically speaking, a possibility for a human person? By what or by whom is an entity defined? Aristotle said that A is A and this is the argument against which one often comes when arguing in favour of transgender identity. Apr 3, 2019 at 21:53
  • @OneWhoBelievesInPeace in the dualist sense the biology dictates the identity. If however you consider the ancientGreeks then you can posit the idea that multiple “intelligence” (daimons) or minds can utilize the same biological housing. This complexity does have real world correlation. Especially interesting is to hear someone say “I don’t know what came over me”. They were behaving out of character. It’s a hijack of the body/brain by another mind that takes control. It is therefore not inconceivable that a biological male claim another identity based on another mind utilizing the same body. Apr 3, 2019 at 21:59
  • Personal question --- you're under NO obligation to answer, of course --- do you believe that one can possess more than one mind? If so, how? Apr 3, 2019 at 22:29
  • @OneWhoBelievesInPeace if you wish to discuss this question then please set up a chat and share the link. Thank you. Apr 4, 2019 at 12:42
  • @OneWhoBelievesInPeace There are examples of multiple minds residing in one body, but there aren't anymore supernatural than a typical person. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split-brain
    – E.D.
    Apr 5, 2019 at 18:22

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