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University of Arizona denies ‘official’ relationship with trans-hippo visiting scholar

‘He is beyond excited to be in Tucson’

A doctoral student that claims to be a scholar at the University of Arizona publicly identifies as a hippopotamus as a “rebellion” against the confines of mainstream transgender culture.

But the university seems eager to distance itself from Florentin Felix Morin, despite its own news release welcoming him to Tucson earlier this year.

Morin, a PhD student at the Université Paris 8, published his paper in the peer-reviewed “theoretical humanities” journal Angelaki for its recent issue on the link between transgender identities and animal studies.

The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies gave Morin a warm welcome as a “visiting scholar” in January, according to its news page.

“He is beyond excited to be in Tucson for the Spring semester, benefit from all the department’s and the Institute’s activities, conduct fieldwork in the US, and meet everyone!”

Morin is at least the second academic connected in some way to UA’s department to subordinate the hard sciences to gender theory.

Whitney Stark, who is also based at a European university, recently expounded on her support for “combining intersectionality and quantum physics” in another academic journal.

His gender is hippo, too

Morin begins “Ego Hippo” by describing how his identification as a water-dwelling ungulate allows him to “escape” classification from traditional binaries, such as gender, sexuality and age.

“I don’t have to be a boy or a girl, a child or adult, normal or strange,” Morin writes. “It brings me freedom, space, and a thrilling sense of possibility.”

The doctoral student explains that the hippo identity brings him “comfort” and makes him feel “safe.”

“I do strongly love when my friends call me ‘hippo,’ refer to my ‘paws’ and pretend that they see no difference between me and one of my stuffed hippopotamuses,” says Morin. (Hippo feet are known as hooves, not paws.)

Not only does Morin identify as a hippo – specifically a “baby hippopotamus” in his journal biography dated May 17 – he considers his “gender” to be hippo as well.

While his bio indicates Morin uses male pronouns, he writes in Angelaki that he enjoys correcting people who refer to him as a guy.

“When someone… calls me a ‘goofy guy’ I correct them by saying ‘you mean a goofy hippopotamus,’” says Morin, adding that by doing so, he is “attempting to intervene” in what other people “imagine to be my gender.”

The PhD student has tough words for the transgender community as well, describing it as a hyper-policed state that can impose its own limitations on identity.

“Unlike the somewhat checkered, locked-down, and policed space of transgender, the space of transpecies remained open, as it is not scripted yet,” he writes.

Morin concludes by writing that self-identifying as a hippo is “a political form of resistance to the (trans)gender policing of my body,” and that being a hippo is “the most precious gift that was ever given.”

We didn’t pay the hippo

Other articles from Angelaki’s “tranimacies” issue analyze “queering ocean consumption” and “trans-animality in digital life.”

Angelaki is published by Routledge, which has published such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Friedrich Hayek and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Whether Morin actually made it to Tucson for the spring semester, as suggested by his journal bio claiming to be a UA researcher,  is unclear.

A university spokesman told The College Fix that despite “some early contact” with the department, Morin “was not a researcher or an employee of any kind,” and he had no “student status” with UA.

“He received no money from the university” and did “nothing official” with the department, the spokesman said. He did not give substantially different answers when asked three times to explain the department’s welcome message for Morin.

Morin did not respond to Fix queries.

MORE: Feminist researcher on ‘intersectionality and quantum physics’ 

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About the Author
Toni Airaksinen -- Barnard College