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Film and TV

Tiger King hero Saff addresses being misgendered throughout the hit Netflix series

Nick Duffy April 6, 2020
Saff, featured in the Netflix documentary Tiger King

Saff, featured in the Netflix documentary Tiger King. (Netflix)

Saff, the kind-hearted park manager who starred in Tiger King, has spoken out about being misgendered.

The Oklahoma keeper, who lost his arm in a tiger mauling, had his gender widely misreported following the release of the documentary series, which saw others refer to him with the pronouns ‘she/her’.

Robert Moor, who made a podcast series at the park before the Netflix show came along, has clarified that Saff uses he/him pronouns – explaining that “all of the news broadcasts at the time, and most of the people at the zoo, use the wrong pronouns for Saff”.

In interviews with Out and Esquire, Saff himself addressed the issue head-on,  making clear: “I’ve always gone by ‘him’ since I could say that out loud.”

Tiger King star: ‘Obviously I prefer “he/him” pronouns.’

He does not take a particularly prescriptive stance on the issue, however, explaining:  “If people are asking me what I prefer, it’s very obvious what I prefer, and that’s he.

“I’m not going to tell anyone what they need to or should call me. I think that everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and I’m obviously as easygoing in that department as I can get.

“I don’t think that I personally get offended I think others do. I think everyone should stand up for what they believe in. I just – it’s literally one of the last things that I really considered worrying about.”

Saff, featured in the Netflix documentary Tiger King
Saff, featured in the Netflix documentary Tiger King

Speaking to Esquire, he elaborated: “On a daily basis, I am called 17 different things. I never really took it to heart.

“I love being able to speak on this… obviously it’s not something that I’ve even actively participated in ever, so, for context, my conversation with Rob was that he asked me, ‘What do you prefer? Saff or Kelci?’ And of course I said Saff because that’s what I’ve been called for the past 20 years.

“I was in the Army prior to the park and they always use last names. So, Saff was my preferred name. And I’ve always gone by ‘him’ since I could say that out loud. My family was always very supportive – it was never an issue.”

On whether he specifically identifies as a trans man, Saff said: “I don’t know that that describes me… I really just have lived this lifestyle. And, you know, my family knows this. And obviously, people closest to me know. This is how I’ve lived my entire life. I don’t know anything else.”

Where is Saff now?

Saff quit the zoo in 2018, and now lives in California, where he is working at a “clock in, clock out job” that does not involve animals.

He added: “I invested so much blood, sweat, and tears into that place, and for my own health and sanity, I needed to take a break… [At the zoo] we did the best that we could with what we had.

“I think we obviously had too many, and that’s where the issues came into play for the most part, as far as animal care goes. As far as day to day, those animals were so loved by everyone who took part in their care.”

More: Joe Exotic, misgendered, netflix, pronouns, Saff, Tiger King

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