The Performant: Trans-cendental Meditations

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The Tranimals come out at Nightlife

The time is probably coming when humans will be able to adapt animalian traits, ala “Transmetropolitan,” either as a weekend whim or on a permanent basis. The whole notion is too tempting to remain a fiction forever. Imagine possessing the smooth, insulating skin of a dolphin, the soaring wings of a peregrine falcon, the keen night vision of a bobcat. The desire for such transmogrification is as ancient as recorded history: from Centaurs to Satyrs, Mermaids to Manticores, Mami Wata to the Minotaur, there’s hardly a mythology around without some reference to human-animal hybrids, whether monsters or gods. Years from now, the very notion of “transitioning” might well have to be expanded to include folks shifting between all kinds of bodies and capabilities. Until then, we’ll have to make do with costumery, flaunting temporary feathers and furs like so much wishful thinking.
 
You probably won’t find a denser concentration of fantasy animal drag outside a furry convention than at a “Tranimal” contest -- particularly one hosted in the California Academy of Sciences, where accurately portraying animal characteristics is serious business.

At last week’s Pride-themed NightLife (and adult-themed, cocktail-hour weekly event that draws a huge crowd with ever-changing themes), an eager crowd eschewed the planetarium and rain forest sphere to gather in the glass-walled piazza for a mini-Trannyshack show followed by the surprisingly competitive Tranimal contest. “We were afraid no one was going to want to compete,” pageant organizer Heklina marveled as close to 40 contestants jumped on and off the makeshift stage for their 15 seconds of fame. Each costume more elaborate and exotic than the last, all manner of fauna was well-represented. A mysterious, stiletto-heeled figure in a spotted jaguar mask named Latrina (“Oh, how punk,” remarked Heklina); a flame-haired, fur-armed creature of the night called Envy; a surprise appearance from touring circuit star, Scotty the Blue Bunny (“We should just hand you the grand prize now and get it over with”). For the most part though, more faithfully-rendered animals swept the awards: a shy, lighted jellyfish, a spunky, slithery reptile “the Sex Raptor,” and the delicately-finned, giant-toothed “Lady Angler Fish”.

“That’s every gay man’s nightmare of a vagina,” joked Heklina about the lady’s enormous jaws ringed with gigantic, dagger-like teeth that obscured her entire abdomen. Some of the best costumes didn’t even compete. My personal faves, husbands Roger and Joel, looked ready for action as intrepid naturalists covered in giant insects and normal-sized birds, nets at the ready.
 
Down in the aquarium, costuming was scarce, but thanks to the pulsing sounds provided by Honey Soundsystem, and the disco-worthy
lights illuminating the fishtanks, a purely psychedelic experience was still available. Drawn especially to the languid varieties of jellyfish, “ballerinas of the sea,” I found the Soundsystem soundtrack extremely well-suited to the mysterious perambulations of the colorfully-illuminated Medusozoa. In general, all the fish seemed appreciative of the shindig, even Claude, the albino alligator was moved to leap off his usual perch and splash around his swamp domain. True, he might have just been trying to get away, but the possibility that he might have been fantasizing about donning a more human skin in order to join the party was an irresistible notion.

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