Tiger King star Saff talks about being misgendered and mauled by a big cat

Tiger King star Saff has addressed the issue of being misgendered by fans of the new Netflix show.

And he has talked about the moment a tiger mauled him at the zoo.

It is one of the most dramatic moments in the documentary series which follows Joe Exotic and his roadside animal attraction.

The series only dropped on Netflix in March but has become a huge hit. Extra viewers self-isolating due to coronavirus have further boosted viewing numbers.

But it turns out many of the shows fans have been accidentally misgendering Saff. In the show he goes by the name Kelci ‘Saff’ Saffery. But it now turns out that he prefers to be called Saff and identifies as he.

Warning, the following story contains some spoilers.

What is Tiger King all about and who is Saff?

The series follows ‘redneck homosexual’ Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who created a roadside zoo.

However it’s not just the animals who add the drama. Joe has two husbands, and a vast range of colorful, crazy and criminal friends and foes. To that mix you can add meth, guns and genital piercings.

But the major conflict is between Exotic and Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue. She accuses him of animal abuse. In particular he says his breeding programs, conditions and allowing visitors to pet lion and tiger cubs are cruel.

In return, he accuses her of hypocrisy, undermining his income and of harassing him.

After a series of twists, it culminates with an attempted murder which has now landed Exotic with 22 years in jail.

Saff is one of the staff at the zoo that the series features. He used to be a member of the US armed forces and toured Afghanistan and Iraq.

He emerges far better than others, largely because of his passion for the big cats’ welfare.

‘It blew up into this horror story’

Moreover, one of the show’s most dramatic moments comes in episode two and depicts how Saff lost his arm.

Saff placed his arm through a cage and one of the tigers tried to rip it off. As Saff tried to pull the arm out, the skin was ripped by the metal on the cage. The camera crew then captures the aftermath of the horrific accident.

The hospital offered Saff a choice of reconstructive surgery of amputation. And he chooses for doctors to amputate the arm so he could get back to the job he loves. He ended up being in hospital for just seven days.

He said: ‘I see how much they blew it up into this horror story that I felt like the best thing to do was get right back to work. To set things right.’

Saff after the amputation.
Saff after the amputation. Netflix

‘Easygoing over gender identity’

Now Saff has talked about finding fame from the show. He told Out he was shopping for essential supplies in Walmart during the pandemic and three people recognized me.

Moreover, Out also asked him how he felt about being misgendered. But he replied he is fairly relaxed and ‘neutral’, although he prefers male pronouns.

He says: ‘I’ve never been one to tell people what to be or what to say or how to handle anything.

‘It’s a big community out there so I don’t want to pick a side either way. If people are asking me what I prefer, it’s very obvious what I prefer and that’s he.

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

Meanwhile, he also confirmed he doesn’t identify as a trans man. He adds:

‘I can honestly say no. I don’t know that that describes me. You know, nothing was done. I really just have lived this lifestyle.’

However, Saff is not the only LGBT+ person who the series has made famous.

Joe Exotic is apparently loving his newfound fame from behind his prison bars.

Eric Goode, one of the show’s directors, revealed: ‘You can hardly talk to him without him mentioning the amount of press he’s getting.

‘He says people are asking to see his Prince Albert and girls are sending him sexy bikini pictures even though he’s gay. He’s over the moon.’


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