Exploring voluntarity and categorization in the otherkin and therian communities

Author's note: This essay was presented as an hour long lecture in which I also answered audience questions during Othercon 2021. The audio/chatlog of the presentation will be embedded on this page as soon as it has been published.

The focus of this lecture has changed a bit since I started working on it. My earliest idea was to discuss the grey area between otherlinks and kintypes - in fact one of my working titles was Grey Zones and Silver Linings. And I still plan on talking about this, though not in the way you might expect. I originally wanted to argue that those who found themselves in this grey area should be able to choose how they wanted to refer to their identity, but the more research and thinking I did, the more I realized that this would still leave a bunch of people torn and confused and wouldn’t solve any of the greater problems in our community. It also seems like such a water-is-wet statement with how the conversation has developed… and you know me, I’m only happy when I’m starting controversies.
So I went looking for the root of this whole categorization debacle.

The nonhuman community, as we know it, didn’t always exist, and though we often say it has roots in elven communities from the ‘70s, that’s only half the truth. While the Elf Queen’s Daughters and related successors such as the Silver Elves are the earliest known organized nonhuman communities, they’re by far not the only pioneers.

Because nonhuman identifying people have always existed, and our numbers have always been relatively small, some of us ended up grouping together without even being aware of the other groups that existed. And of course, all these independently formed groups ended up with their own cultures and traditions and philosophies.

Mailing lists, like the Elfinkind Digest, were generally open for anyone to join and read. But they also weren’t widely known or easy to stumble upon for folks who didn’t already have an interest in these kinds of spirituality and identification. This resulted in a culture where people’s self-identification was generally respected, and they would only be questioned if they made extraordinary claims.

Compare this with the newsgroup Alt.Horror.Werewolves, which was open for anyone to access on Usenet, and which was originally created as just a place to discuss werewolf media. On AHWw, the therians (or ‘weres’ as it was back then) would frequently have to defend their existence against strangers who just found them by coincidence. This would lead to a culture more focused on appearing respectable, which in turn would lead to grilling of new members and shut-downs of “fluffy” topics.

Other independent groups, such as Alt.Fan.Dragons, which was centered around dragons, or Always Believe, which was centered around unicorns, had their own cultures as well. For example, AFD generally accepted dragons from modern fiction, which would not have been tolerated on AHWw.

The Silver Elves is another semi-independently evolved group of elves, fae and similar beings that still exists to this day. They only represent a fraction of our community, but for today’s discussions I find their writings very illustrative. They’ve written about choice of identity on multiple levels. For starters, they believe a lot of elven spirits have actively chosen to incarnate into human bodies. More provocatively, and more interesting to me, they’ve stated multiple times that simply wanting to be an elf means you are an elf.

This is in contrast to the therian community on AHWw, where there was a big focus on involuntary shifts and theorizing on why some people were born with and animal side. I think it’s reasonable to assume this focus on involuntary experiences is due to the werewolf narrative that the community stemmed from. In werewolf media, a person’s wolfish side is rarely, if ever, a choice, while in new age and spiritual communities, like that of the Silver Elves, there’s a greater emphasis on choice of spirituality and subsequently on choice of identity.

It wouldn’t be right to say that every therian back then shared the same idea; however, the idea that involuntary shifts are a core trait of therianthropy does seem to persist in the AHWw’s userbase. Nearly all introduction posts include a line about involuntary shifts. Another idea that repeats itself is that the therian either had a “sudden awakening” or “just always knew” they were animalistic; contrasted with the Silver Elves’ idea that simply wanting to be an elf is enough for you to be one.

There are two main ideas about origins that seem to persist in all of this: That one is either born nonhuman or becomes nonhuman. Both are equally true. The ‘born-this-way’-narrative is quite a bit more common than the ‘becoming’-narrative, though that’s not to say that the idea of becoming nonhuman is rare, or even all that controversial in most communities - with a few caveats, that is.

The idea that one can become nonhuman tends to rest on the idea that what we become is outside our control. On the more metaphysical side of things there are stories of people being spiritually transformed into an animal after encounters with an animal spirit, or of having a shard of a god put into them. And on the more mundane side, there are stories of imprinting on a species during early development, or of taking on the experiences of a character after being engrossed in a piece of media. Most people I’ve talked to don’t have a problem with these ideas of ‘becoming’ as something outside your control.

What really gets people’s goat is when someone describes specific choices they’ve made on their journey, which ultimately led to their nonhuman identity.

This finally leads to the theme of this lecture: The topic of choice itself and how we categorize others based on the perceived amount of choice or chance there’s been in the development of their identity.

Questions I’ll discuss include: What kind of choices do we have regarding our identities? What the heck does ‘choice’ even mean in this context? And how does the idea of choice (or lack of choice) affect the way our community functions?

There are many kinds of choices that we inarguably do make on our journey of self-discovery. Probably the first universal choice is to undertake the journey and to seek out a nonhuman community. Choices that naturally follow include choice of labeling - whether we want to call ourselves otherkin, therian, fictionkin, nonhuman, and so on - and the choice to accept or reject whatever feelings caused us to seek out a nonhuman community in the first place. In this line of thinking, being otherkin is a choice - you choose to label yourself as otherkin. However, the feelings, on which you base your decision to label yourself, are not a choice. The feelings that pushed you towards the community were already there.

Another choice that follows pretty naturally in this line of thinking is the choice to strengthen whatever connections you already have. This is something I’m intimately familiar with, as I’ve been doing it since I awakened as a bison. Before I even became aware of my species identity, I knew I was nonhuman. I’d been having simultaneous bison and gnoll feelings for a few years, but couldn’t separate them, and had, without much introspection, decided that I must be some weird kind of wolf. I think a lot of us with uncommon theriotypes have gone through a phase like that.

However, one day I experienced a very strong flashing image - basically a flashback - of being physically a bison. The vision was so vivid and tactile, I immediately knew what it meant, and for the next few weeks I ignored every experience that wasn’t quite bison in nature, and just examined the recognizably bovine feelings. This helped strengthen my bison identity, and in total my questioning process only took around 2 months.

Though I’ve settled in my identity as a bison, and I’m comfortable referring to myself as a bison, I never quit reinforcing it. While I didn’t create the original bison-like feelings, I’m very conscious of the fact that I do choose to connect every trait to my bisonhood that I can. Whether I see the traits as a cause of my current bisonhood, or a result of it, things like being stubborn, preferring physical fights over verbal ones, and even liking the taste of those Beanboozled jellybeans that are supposed to taste like grass… all these traits, that any human could have, are things I connect to my identity as a bison.

I’ve experienced some pushback towards this idea from a few therian communities. A very common rebuttal I’ve run into in introduction threads and grilling threads (which, introduction threads should never be grilling threads in my opinion, but that’s another story)… a very common rebuttal to considering these kinds of traits part of your nonhuman identity is: “Isn’t that just a regular human thing?”

I have so many problems with that question, I’m honestly not sure where to even begin. Yes, those traits are experienced by humans all the time. I think some of the only experiences in the community that regular humans don’t experience are, perhaps, species dysphoria and shifting. But if your identity began and ended with having dysphoria and experiencing shifts, it would hardly qualify as an identity. Treating an identity like just the sum of its parts, rather than a whole and complicated construct, is reductive and it doesn’t just hinder discussion, it stifles discussions.

I don’t know, maybe I’m the odd one here, but my whole nonhuman identity can not be encompassed by my horn dysphoria or the fact that I sometimes feel more like a prey animal than an apex predator. My identity is so much more than that. It’s how I view the world and how I view myself in relation to the world. It’s how I react to things, what I like and dislike, and what I want out of my life. When you envision an identity in this way, as a way to describe who you are, rather than a summary of every individual thing you experience, you absolutely will see some overlap with humans, like it or not.

Another reason I dislike the question “Aren’t those just human traits?” is that it’s often asked in communities where the consensus is that you were born nonhuman, and that your identity is somehow more real or ‘valid’ if it can be corroborated by childhood memories.

While looking back at your childhood and seeing how your current identity might have formed or changed throughout the years can help paint a picture of the identity as a whole, that kind of reminiscence should always be secondary to what you are currently experiencing. Your identity is not based on the fact that you played dog when you were a toddler. Pretty much every human child has played dog or been obsessed with cats or wished they were a dragon. It might be related to your current identity, but if those were your primary nonhuman experiences you would hardly consider yourself nonhuman, nor would you find a home in the community.

No, your identity is based on who and what you are right now, and what you’re experiencing this moment. The validity of your identity should not be judged based on the number of times you pretended to be that creature in kindergarten. Your kintype should be determined based on your current experiences. And if your current experiences include things that humans can also go through, that should have no impact on the validity of your identity.

Alright, back on topic: Hopefully, we can agree that there’s no shame in strengthening your connections, reinforcing what traits you already have, and in drawing connections between a nonhuman identity and seemingly human traits. Which is a nice segue into a statement that might ruffle a few feathers:

Linktypes are typically based on preexisting traits that are reinforced to fit a certain narrative or ideal. A copinglink or an otherlink is rarely if ever pulled out of thin air. You just can’t craft an identity from nothing. Yeah, crazy, I know?

This parallels otherkin identities, which, as I mentioned earlier, are based on preexisting experiences and connections that one chooses to give a name and to strengthen.

The process of becoming a linker usually starts with recognizing certain traits that one either wants, or already has but wants to reinforce, by focusing them through a linktype. For example, wanting to become better at handling stress can be difficult to accomplish on its own, but is made easier by thinking about what a specific character or animal would do in a stressful situation.

But you can’t just establish a connection to any given character. There needs to be a resonance between you and the linktype, and if you don’t already have that resonance with the character, it’s impossible for you to craft an identity around them. And in that sense you could easily argue that there is an involuntary aspect to linktypes.

Once the prospective linker has recognized a connection with a character, they will begin the process of reinforcing the identity, which can include anything from writing fanfics in 1st person to wearing clothes reminiscent of the character to asking people to treat you like the character. All things that an otherkin or fictionkind might do when first establishing their identity.

A key trait of linking is that a linktype should fade away once you stop reinforcing it… Linktypes are supposed to go away if you just ignore them and push them away long enough. They’re built to be temporary.

However, a significant number of linkers or former linkers have talked about their linktype becoming an inseparable part of how they view themselves - even the ones who might be able to force their linktype away would at this point become completely different people if they did so.

In other words, their linktype has become an inherent part of who they are as a person. This integrality can appear regardless of how much effort they put into creating the linktype in the first place, and regardless of how nonexistent the linktype was before they created it… What I’m getting at is that some people describe creating an identity from scratch by their own choice, which later becomes an irreversibly ingrained part of them. It’s an experience completely contrary to the idea that we are born nonhuman. I’ll refer to these people as ‘linkers-turned-kin’.

There are a few regular rebuttals I’ve seen to this idea: That linkers-turned-kin just had a late awakening. Or that, perhaps, they felt compelled by their inner true species to seek out the identity. Or even that they were actually born nonhuman, but just didn’t realize until later.

All these rebuttals are disrespectful of the linker-turned-kin’s experiences and intelligence. I won’t even try to hide it: They make me angry. The rebuttals ride on the idea that the born-this-way idea of nonhuman identities is a fact rather than a common belief. I know that for a lot of people the born-this-way narrative rings true. I see you and I am not trying to invalidate your beliefs. Instead, I want you to acknowledge that others may not have the same belief as you. For several people in our community otherkinity is an identity that develops in response to certain traits they have - for some, those traits are inherent, something they’re born with. For others they’re traits that developed later in life, or that were worked towards. And I want to argue that, for some, these traits were expressly chosen.

The reason these arguments against linker-turned-kin make me so angry, aside from the fact that they’re built on the idea that linkers-turned-kin don’t understand their own experiences, and the assumption that your idea of how nonhuman identities work trumps someone’s lived experience… Another reason the arguments make me so angry is that they prescribe more importance to the why than the how of our identity. When you define otherkin by the way our identity formed, you’re basically saying that the cause of otherkinity is more important than the experience of otherkinity.

We can’t talk about this without also exploring the community’s animosity towards psychological beliefs.

Through my years in the community, I feel like I’ve had to handhold some folks through the concept of religious tolerance. I remember a little over 4 years ago someone on tumblr asked me my opinion on fictionkind - it would be another 2 years before I had my own awakening, so my response was basically that I was fine with fictionkind, though I didn’t understand their experiences and the only way it could fit into my own worldview was as a psychological phenomenon. Even after my awakening, the latter still holds true. My fictionkinity is primarily psychological. But yeah, somehow my statement that I didn’t believe fictionkinity was caused by past lives got twisted into me saying that fictionkind were all just roleplayers.

Rereading the whole debacle that ensued, this twisting of my words had little to nothing to do with my own personal beliefs - it instead exposed a widespread antipathy towards psychological otherkin. When I have talked about my current experiences as a gnoll, my shifts and my flashbacks and my hiraeth, people generally accept it without a second thought. But when I mention that I believe it’s caused by various psychological phenomena, I have on multiple occasions been told that it must not be a real identity. Some people have even treated my parallel life is just an elaborate fantasy, rather than something that’s completely real to me. I have, word for word, been told that there’s no way I could identify as a nonhuman, or be another species than a human, without believing I have a nonhuman soul. A direct quote: “To say “I am fae” when [you] don’t believe in fae is illogical.”

What I take from these kinds of responses is that a subset of people within our community take it for granted that whatever beliefs someone has about the origin of their identity are objectively true, rather than understanding that our beliefs about our origins are just that: Beliefs. Whatever conclusion we’ve reached based on our experiences, reincarnation or imprinting or something else entirely, and no matter how much we believe in it, it will always be a belief and never a fact. I’m fully convinced that my bison identity is caused by a past life, and that my gnoll and Ben 10 identities are caused by various psychological phenomena. But if that doesn’t fit into someone else’s worldview, they have all the right in the world to explain it away however they want. I have friends who believe my bison identity must be caused by something psychological, and I have friends who believe my gnoll identity must be caused by something spiritual. That is their prerogative.

It doesn’t matter how people make sense of my nonhumanity, as long as they’re respectful towards my own experiences with my identity and don’t try to impose their beliefs on me. If you have to quietly believe that someone really has a faerie soul in order to accept that they’re really a fae, so be it. As long as you don’t try to deny the reality of their current identity. As long as you don’t try to claim that they aren’t really nonhuman, just because they have the quote-unquote “wrong” beliefs about their origin.

There is another, more recent and more prominent, example of the animosity towards psychological otherkin that comes to mind. I will not mention the term itself for fear of people harassing its creator. For the purpose of this lecture, I’ll refer to the concept as “nonhuman by birth”, which is essentially its meaning. If you know which word I’m talking about, I ask that you please don’t mention it in the chat. If you need to know, you can DM me. Also, don’t misunderstand this as me hating on people with past life or soul beliefs. Remember, my own bison identity is based on a soul from a past life.

So, last year a rather old community member on tumblr coined a term, separate from ‘otherkin’, to refer specifically to those who believe they have a nonhuman soul. Which wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself. After all, terms like animafidem and cerebrumalius have been around for half a decade with no issues. However, “nonhuman by birth” is specifically described in its coining post as a “less bastardized” alternative to the word ‘otherkin’. What this post describes as “less bastardized” is spiritual experiences, and specifically those spiritual experiences that are based on soul transfers and reincarnation. Essentially “nonhuman by birth” defines all other beliefs as bastardizations of what otherkinity is supposed to be. All beliefs, including spiritual beliefs that aren’t based on souls or past lives, psychological beliefs, beliefs of becoming nonhuman, beliefs based on magic, neurological beliefs, and archetypal beliefs… None of these are quote-unquote “true otherkin” according to the “nonhuman by birth” concept.

The word thankfully never gained much traction off tumblr, but I have seen individuals use it, and it always, without fail, makes me feel unwelcome, and unwanted. Not because there’s anything wrong with a strong belief in past lives or souls, but because those who choose to use that label specifically believe themselves to be the only true nonhumans. Because the term itself is not based on a respectful, individual belief, but on what its coiner believes to be an objective fact. Because this subset of our community has an almost-evangelical conviction that all nonhumans have nonhuman souls, and those who don’t have nonhuman souls are not nonhuman.

And like I mentioned earlier: The cause of otherkinity can affect the experience a lot. That’s why we have these discussions in the first place - we come together due to our similarities, and we try to understand each other and ourselves by discussing our differences. And this is exactly why proclaiming any version of nonhumanity as the One True Kind of Nonhumanity is so damaging. It completely stifles any exchange of ideas. It makes it impossible for us to understand our differences, and it leads to more and more narrowly defined subcommunities that all believe themselves to be more real than the others.

To define is to limit. We need some limitations, otherwise a dog is a cat and no words have meaning. But we need to be extremely careful where we want those limits to be, otherwise we end up with a community where psychological otherkin are bastards, and only those who are born with nonhuman souls are really nonhuman.

The next thing I want to discuss is subjective truth… Subjective truth is one of the most important concepts to understand and really internalize if we wanna have fruitful discussions and respectful experience sharing. In short, a subjective truth is something that is not real because it can be proven to exist through scientific measurements but is instead real because a person experiences it as real. If I make the claim that tea tastes better than coffee, for example, you cannot refute that simply because you think coffee tastes better. We have to understand each other’s experiences and accept that we experience the world in different ways. It’s equally true to say that coffee is better than tea and that tea is better than coffee. This is what I was talking about when I said that the “born-this-way”-narrative and the becoming-narrative are equally true.

So, how does subjective truth apply to this discussion?

A phenomenon in the community I’m sure we’re all aware of is kin memories. If you’re somehow not aware of them, in short they are images, episodes, sensory information, and similar experiences that are thought to stem from another life, usually a past life. They have all the qualia of a memory, except they didn’t happen to the body currently recalling them. These experiences, though, are not restricted to those who believe their nonhumanity stems from a past life. They aren’t even restricted to spiritual otherkin. Plenty of folks with psychological beliefs, mixed beliefs, and other beliefs report the exact same experience: Images, episodes, and sensory information that does not originate from this world or from this current life.

For decades there’s been a lexical gap in the community to describe these memories that aren’t memories. Which is where I can’t avoid tooting my own horn a bit. I have an extremely rich and detailed parallel life as a gnoll, from which I can quote-unquote “recall” events, people, traditions, names, and so much more. It’s all integral to my nonhuman identity.

However, because I believe it all stems from some deep unconscious part of my brain, and because it feels like a parallel life, not a past life, I never felt right calling these things memories. So almost two years ago at this point, I undertook the quest to fill that lexical gap. And after looking through dozens of obscure web pages and dictionaries and articles, I found something useful: The word ‘noema’. Noema is a rarely used Greek word that translates to concept, idea, perception, or thought. And I’ve been very happy to see the term catching on in my corner of the community, where it’s often used as a broader alternative to ‘memory’.

In philosophy, a noema is defined as “the perceived as it is perceived.” At first this might sound a bit vague or esoteric, but when looked at through the lens of subjective truth it suddenly starts to make sense. A subjective truth is something that’s real just because a person experiences it as real. A noema is the perceived as it is perceived. So when we’re using noema as a substitute for memory… when we’re discussing memory-like experiences in the community and we explicitly refer to them as noemata, instead of referring to them as memories, the actual cause of the noema is then irrelevant. The only thing that matter is that it’s in one way or another perceived as a memory. When talking about noemata, it’s completely and utterly irrelevant if they’re real in any objective way - the only thing that matters is that the individual experiences the noema as real. Essentially the word ‘noema’ makes the cause irrelevant, so we can instead focus on the experience alone.

And I think the fact that this word has caught on (at least on tumblr) hints that our community might be moving in a positive direction. I at least dream of a community where we care a lot less about our origins, and a lot more about our actual presence in the world.

I had a conversation with a friend a few months ago, about this community-wide worry about the origins of our identity. And just to reiterate, I’m not saying your spiritual beliefs are irrelevant, because they can be really important when forming a whole picture of your identity. I’m more so saying they can be a bit of a distraction. In my opinion, the whole discussion about spirituality vs psychology is a red herring. Most of us didn’t seek out the community because we had certain spiritual beliefs. We sought it out because we felt not-quite-human, and it was only later that we reached any conclusions about why we feel nonhuman.

So, my friend and I talked about the role this discussion of origins plays in our community, and we reached a few interesting conclusions. For starters, it’s really upsetting to some folks to have to earnestly consider the idea that reincarnated souls are no more real or ‘valid’ than psychological imprinting, or any other non-spiritual beliefs for that matter. That’s part of what started the whole ‘nonhuman by birth’ idea I mentioned earlier. And it seems this uncomfortableness stems from a place of insecurity.

At the risk of offending some folks, I’m gonna draw a parallel to the trans community. In the trans community there’s a discussion of origins that parallels the one in the kin community and is likewise an attempt to draw lines between the quote-unquote ‘real’ trans people and the so-called transtrenders - which are supposedly people who pretend to be trans for clout. Those who attempt to draw these lines proclaim that being trans is a medical condition that they wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy, and one that’s marked by intense dysphoria and stress. They’ll also regularly state that being trans is only real or ‘valid’ because it has been proven through MRI brain scans that some female-assigned people have supposedly male brains, and vice versa.

(And just to make things clear, those brain scans are not real. It’s malicious pseudoscience spread by people who want to ‘cure’ transness by preventing trans kids from being born.)

But I think this attempt at validating your identity - in this case with science - stems from a dislike of one’s own traits, or more likely from the outside world’s dislike of those traits. When certain trans people try to prove themselves more valid than others in the eyes of the public, it’s not because they just hate those they deem ‘not trans enough’ - it’s because they’re afraid of being rejected by the rest of the world. These people are basically saying: “I didn’t choose to be trans. This is how I was born, so you have to accept it because it’s unchangeable.” It’s a cry for acceptance in an unaccepting world. And all this is not to say that some trans people aren’t born trans; I really think most trans people have a narrative like that. I’m more so trying to get across that, someone else’s narrative of choice should have no impact on your narrative of involuntarity. Both are real ways to experience being trans. And in many ways, having a narrative of choosing to be trans is necessary for the community, because it closes the doors for eugenicists who would try to eliminate quote-unquote “the trans gene”.

Viewing transness as a purely medical phenomenon where you need to meet certain requirements to get a trans diagnosis is a really reductive way to look at identity. Like I mentioned earlier: An identity is not just the sum of its parts, and it cannot be summarized by being forced to feel dysphoria. The fact of the matter is that we don’t know trans people are real because we have brain imaging technology, or even because certain people meet the medical criteria for having gender dysphoria. We know trans people are real because there are real people who identify as trans. We should be able to trust that people are trans when they tell us they are. And I think we need to look at nonhuman identities the same way.

Before I move on to the conclusion, I want to explain why this topic has become so important to me. A couple of months ago, after a good year or two of introspection, I realized I had created a hearttype. Not a kintype, but nonetheless an equally integral part of how I view myself and engage with the world. And changing something so fundamental about myself sent my thoughts racing.

When I was a kid I picked up a fear of spiders. It wasn’t bad enough to give me panic attacks, but it was bad enough that I couldn’t pick up a spider and carry it outside, even though I could do so with other bugs. I was around 10 years old when I decided that this was dumb, and I wanted to change it. So as a tween I quickly started on my own exposure therapy, looking at photos of spiders, reading about them, photographing them in nature, and after several years it had gotten to the point where I barely had a reaction to seeing them. But as I continued on, getting used to the idea of holding them and touching them, something changed in me.

Where I had previously felt fear, I started to feel admiration and love and a sense of familiarity. I wanted to surround myself with these animals, I wanted to work with them, and I started spending a not-insignificant amount of money on terrariums. And now, after more than a decade of rewriting my own thoughts and changing a mild fear into a love so deep it affects my sense of identity itself, I feel confident saying I created a hearttype. It was not an easy process. Like I said, it took more than a decade. Changing your entire mindset like that can’t be done with just a snap of your fingers. But evidently, some people are able to do it.

Though I have to add that, even here, it’s very easy to argue that there was some level of involuntarity. I already had an emotional response to spiders when I was scared of them. I don’t think I could form this kind of relationship with something I’m completely indifferent to, like, I dunno, a Toyota or a Marvel character. You can’t really form a relationship from nothing. And I appreciate this argument, because it really highlights just how confusing the entire concept of choice is, and how it doesn’t make sense to define ourselves by our lack of choice, when we can’t even define what counts as a choice.

But yeah, realizing that I created a hearttype, an identity that at the time was considered involuntary… realizing that I didn’t just play a part in creating this identity, but that I did create it, period. It sent my mind spinning, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what else might be possible. If I could create such love in myself, could I also do the opposite and tear down my own hearttype and recreate the phobia? Not something I want to test. But I think I could. And which other identities could be created like this?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the creation process has no impact on the nature of the identity itself, and I ended up posting a really controversial thing on tumblr. In hindsight I understand why some people got so pissed off about it, but I still stand by those thoughts. I’ll read it to you in full: “Theoretically I probably could force myself to not be otherkin. But it would take a decade or more, the way my hearttype creation did, and it would require constant work throughout those years. However, I see no way I would benefit from that work, the way I did when I unintentionally created a hearttype in the process of getting rid of a phobia. It would just rid me of a part of myself that’s intrinsic to how I recognize myself. That’s not something I in any way want - and because I don’t want it, and because the choice would have to happen continuously on a timescale I can barely comprehend, I couldn’t make that choice in practicality.”

A very long and very complicated discussion came out of this post that I’d need a whole separate lecture to recap. But a few important ideas were developed, which I need to mention here. For starters, when discussing shadowwork and the Jungian archetypes, Jasper accidentally coined the term ego alteration. Through that discussion we ended up defining ego alteration as the process by which you proactively alter your conscious mind, your self-perception, and your thought-patterns. It’s not something to be taken lightly, as you’ll essentially be changing your sense of self by it. And it’s also not something everyone has the ability, desire, or drive to do. To integrate something into your sense of self, or to remove something that’s currently a part of your sense of self is serious business, and, like my hearttype creation, is something that should be thought about on a decades long timescale. I don’t have time to get in-depth about it here, but to consciously change your identity and your sense of self is definitely possible for some folks, and it’s nice to have a name for the concept.

Something else that came of that discussion is my own thoughts about how we define otherkin. The most common definition I’ve seen is “to identify, wholly or partially, as something nonhuman on a nonphysical level, by no choice of your own.” … I suggest we drop the last bit.

Okay, it’s a bit more complicated than just deleting a few words. In order to drop the “by no choice of your own” bit, without losing the meaning of otherkinity completely, and letting kin for fun take over, we’d need to rethink that entire definition.

Instead of defining otherkin by the amount of choice we had in the formation of our identity, I suggest we define otherkin by how integral our identities are to us. It was briefly mentioned on in one of the other panels (though I forget which one), but a pretty big source of conflict is that kin for fun just don’t understand the gravity of otherkin identities. If we define otherkinity as something that’s inseparable from who we are as individuals, it would not only make it clear to kin for fun that this is, well, not for fun. It would also get around the problem of people who worry that their identities might be invalid because they’ve made certain choices.

Your otherkinity is inherent, and by that I mean you would be a fundamentally different person if not for your kintype. At its most basic level, your kintype is what you recognize yourself to be. It’s the kind you belong to, rather than, or in tandem with, belonging to humankind. You kintype is an intrinsic part of you, and even if you could get rid of it, it would fundamentally change who you are is a person. If you chose not to be otherkin, you would also choose not to be you. In that sense, I suppose otherkinity is involuntary, in that you yourself can’t choose not to be otherkin, because as soon as you make that choice, you aren’t you. Though you could also argue that it is a choice because you wake up every day and choose to be you. And thus, the topic of choice leaves us running around in circles like it always has.

Being otherkin… being otherkind has never been about being forced to feel species dysphoria. It’s about being of another kind. It’s about knowing and recognizing humankind, and accepting that, in one way or another, that does not describe us.

And all this is not to say that copinglinking shouldn’t be a concept, but we need to rethink that as well. From the very few copinglink writings that exist, one topic I’ve seen several times is the idea of copinglinks becoming inseparable from you. This is not the point of links, and those who do go through a change like that find themselves more at home in the kin community than the link community. I don’t want to impose myself on linkers, but if we want these two words to make sense and have a use, we need to redefine both. I suggest defining copinglinks and otherlinks by their lack of integrality or by their ability to be dropped when necessary.

The line that has been drawn between otherkin and copinglinkers doesn’t help anyone as it is. There are far too many nonhumans who straddle the line, who feel torn between either community, or who only call themselves linkers because they feel pressured to do so. There are far too many nonhumans who don’t feel like they have a community they can call home.

So, I’m gonna propose a new and much more inclusive definition: To be otherkin is to identify as something nonhuman on an inherent or integral level. There you go, clean and simple. No more caveats or nested sentences.

Last updated: August 2021

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