Jersey Zoo

PRIDE: Is 'Zookeeper' a Pronoun?

Posted: 23rd June, 2022

This month, in celebration of PRIDE, we are giving space to LGBT+ voices from across the BIAZA membership. The PRIDE blogs will provide a snapshot of the experiences of LGBT+ people working in the zoo sector and highlight diversity across the animal kingdom too.


I hope everyone is able to reach the revelation - and it is a revelation because we as animal carers are terrible for this - the discovery that life is so much more than our jobs. This statement is a lot heavier than it seems. We have chosen a field, dedicated our lives, to a cause that is bigger than ourselves. We definitely don't do it for the money or the glory or the glamorous lifestyle, we do it because we care, and we want to protect our world from ourselves. We do it because it's our vocation. Our calling. A life outside of that, to some, may seem unimportant or less of a priority. But it is essential.

I am the classic tale, I knew from the start that this profession was my endgame. My only goal. Life until this point was about getting there, no matter what it took in terms of: hard work, sacrifice, rejection, late nights, early mornings, coffee fueled study, voluntary work for the tiniest taste of practical experience. Making things work because I had to. That drive and passion with a huge amount of good timing, fueled success in my story. I ended up working for my dream collection at the age of 18.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to take away from that success and the celebration of that accomplishment. It was incredible and I loved my time at that collection. 

But once that initial elation had settled, as it does, something else important also happened. I realised I needed to set new goals to keep learning and keep growing. I realised how deeply planted I was in being a zookeeper. I realised I had no idea who I was beyond that.

People talk about the five pillars of life - there's lots of variation but essentially covering work, home, health, relationships and wellbeing. So my column for work was greatly established, from my point of view you could liken it to the great columns of Rome, I was that proud of where I was, whereas, the other alleged 'columns' were more like... pebbles.

Life had been so dominated by my passion for the animal world and desire to get into the field that it became my whole identity. Everything was animal related - I was just an 'animally person' you know like the 'sporty people' and the 'science people' . This was so extreme I didn't realise I could be more until I had finally settled into that dream job and started looking at my pebble columns and *more importantly* started working to build them higher.

Last year, I realised I am Transgender. That's a massive revelation. It took me until the age of 23 to work it out despite some very clear signs from a very young age and I'm convinced it's because all my life I've never really identified as a 'boy' or a 'girl' or a 'man' or a 'woman' . I just identified as a zookeeper.

I am now playing catch up; finding my community and support network; getting my physical health and mental health to a better place; balancing out all those other columns. It has been truly difficult at times but it has lead to stability and happiness that I wasn't experiencing before.

I admit and accept that not everyone will have that large a revelation. Being trans is quite a large blind spot I managed to miss! But there will be an element of your life that you've ignored or you've pushed aside in place of your work. If you can, take a moment this week, to reclaim a little of your own identity. For example, If you listen to podcasts maybe skip the one about animal behaviour this week and listen to one linked into an interest or hobby. If you can't think of anything I reccomend trying one on work-life balance and see how much you learn. No nature documentaries this week, find something fun or exciting, something that makes you feel good. If your choice this week is to go on lunch or finish that extra little task - this time - you're going to take your whole lunch break. Just for once this week, ask yourself  'who am I outside of work?' but also ask 'who could I be?`



By George Pritchard (He/Him), Primate Care Staff, Monkey World - Ape Rescue Centre  

All blogs reflect the views of their author and are not a reflection of BIAZA's positions.