I have come to believe that some of the things that tend to push my submissive buttons the most have to do with identity... how I view myself and its place in the world.
Once I entered into the lifestyle everything proceeded at such a high speed that it wasn't long before these things came into light. The reading and research I did for K at the start played a big part on this as well. By the time I had just scraped the surface in my experiences I already had a full book of knowledge in regards to the lifestyle and its perceptions.
I believe most people entering the lifestyle (or dealing with fetishes) struggle with the concept of identity. Some embrace things and thrive. Others struggle with it and can be trapped by it.
submissive was the first term that was used to identify me. I accepted this term from the outset and was okay with it. It implies a lot but doesn't carry any severely negative connotations. It acts as a base descriptor of who I am in a relationship. Basically, I still feel relatively normal if I describe myself as a submissive.
The second term that began to flow into things was slave. While old guard traditionalists may draw a distinct line between slave and submissive, I believe in many lifestyle relationships this identity occurs by way of the Domme moreso than the sub. It can often be used as a term of endearment or "title" during play, but once the word slave creeps into a sub's head, it begins to change things.
The most obvious is the perception. I have "outed" myself to many vanilla friends as a submissive and when I explain what that is, they do not bat an eye. "Oh, interesting. If that makes you happy, great." If I were to change that to "I am a slave," I have to believe their view would change completely... all of a sudden this is something horribly abnormal rather than just slightly different but still within acceptable parameters.
Secondly, even if it isn't a symbol of TPE, being a submissive implies a voluntary role with the scales tipped in favor of the dominant. Once slave is introduced, something symbolic kicks in inside my brain. Gone is the idea of mutual pleasure. As a slave you cease to exist as a human. You now focus only on her and if she chooses to grant pleasure, you are a lucky slave indeed. This was the first of several identity hurdles I had to clear over the years. I can't say I've become perfectly comfortable with it... as this is something I might only use when speaking with someone that is "kink aware." It is not for public consumption. This greatly affects my mindset while serving. As soon as "slave" pops up, I instinctively become more docile, more obedient, and a little bit afraid.
After K brought dressing into the mix, I was horrifically terrified to be labeled as a sissy. My reading had brought the stigma to light and it was something I wished to avoid. The term is still one that stirs me at the core of my being. I do not wish to identify with it. My blog and usernames were chosen in order to help me grow accustomed to this term. 6 years later and I am no closer in my quest to be more comfortable with this identity.
As the road that led me to this place seemed to parallel my interests with fur, while there is a lot of overlap, there are some interesting differences as well. These differences explain in some ways why there are many submissive fur fetishists out there that secretly relate to the related topics I have covered in the past as well as those that might seem similar from the outside but do not line up very well at all in reality.
One thing that startles me in a way is how comfortable people get with identifying themselves as fur fetishists but how uncomfortable they are identifying as submissives. It's like... coming to terms with one used up all of their courage so that there was nothing left to confront the latter. While not all fur fetishists are submissive, a very large percentage of them do share submissive desires that they keep hidden. Personally, I find it harder to admit to being a fur fetishist than a submissive.
Another oddity is that sissies are rare in the fur fetish community. It's not that they don't exist, it's just that those with that identity are a tiny minority, even among those heavily into dominant women, bondage, and humiliation.
As you may well know, somewhere in the realm of 90-95% of the fur clothing out there is designed for women, which inevitably means that unless a fur fetishist is rolling in money, they likely end up wearing a good number of women's fur items purchased as either accessories or coats on the 2nd hand market. This in itself is a bit interesting as many are fine with this while others carry guilt over it and struggle to accept it.
The next identity line (the one that keeps the sissy descriptor limited in this scene) is that of a cross-dresser. Technically, if a man wears women's clothes... that does imply they are a cross-dresser, but it seems that there are those that draw a firm line in the sand from an identity standpoint as to whether or not they choose to identify with this.
One stage deeper falls those who would go by transvestite, but there are far fewer of these than people who associate as cross-dressers.
I don't really mind labels or identities on anyone, I mostly find them interesting in how they affect us personally. If anything was to strike me as odd from the fur fetish community it is the number of straight, non-submissive fur fetishists that actively wish to bottom in a kinky way regardless of the gender or sexual-orientation of the top. It seems through fetish they are able to ignore the identities of bisexuality and submission and return to their "normal" state after completing a scene.