Author's note (22/8/2021): This mini-essay is highly lacking in nuance. While I still believe that otherkinity can best be summarized as an ontological phenomenon, it's misleading to state that it is "not a religion", because to some folks it genuinely is. Otherkinity as a whole can not be defined as a religion, a spiritual belief, or a psychological belief. But to state that it is none of those things is equivalent to stating that "dogs aren't brown". Sure, not all dogs are brown - but a lot are.

It’s not a religion. It’s not always a spiritual belief or even just part of one. The majority of the community don’t consider it to be a (purely) psychological thing either. So what can we describe it as?

Well, otherkinity is a phenomenon concerning someone’s interpretation of their own humanity. You can neither convert to, nor disaffiliate from it, as you can with a religion. If you are otherkin, you are otherkin; if you aren’t otherkin, you aren’t otherkin, so the community has agreed. I consider it to be an ontological phenomenon, first and foremost, and like to draw parallels between otherkinity and determinism, as different as they may seem.

Both ‘otherkin’ and ‘determinist’ are identities that one chooses based on observations. An otherkin might observe frequent supernumerary phantom limbs and urges to act in what’s generally considered a nonhuman way. A determinist might observe that everything happening seems to be caused by something else. Both are, in a way, beliefs, but they’re based on some kind of evidence. More than beliefs, they’re fundamental parts of the way one perceives the world and the self. Both otherkin and determinists ultimately end up looking for the moniker that most closely matches what they’ve observed, and add it to their ever-growing list of identities.

But where does this cross the line from being empirical to ontological in nature? I’d say, when one starts speculating on the cause of otherkinity. Some would argue that we truly are nonhuman, while others would argue that we only express behaviors that fall outside of the usual human experience. Some would argue that it’s a spiritual thing, others a psychological, and others again that it’s a mix of the two. Some claim that our otherkinity must be here for a reason, while others say that it’s random.

It’s an annoying subject to discuss if you’re looking for a definitive conclusion, since (I would argue) no such thing really exists. Just a lot of personal ideas based on vaguely similar experiences of ‘nonhumanness.’ So in conclusion, the best way of describing the concept of otherkin, that I’ve found yet, is as an ontological phenomenon.

Last updated: August 2021

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