Some background: From as far back as I can remember, I haven’t felt quite human. Many human concepts and emotions have always made little to no sense to me. Certain human conventions seem alien. I often have to try to act human” in situations, usually those that involve the emotions of others or emotional responses expected of me. I expect that often makes me come off cold and unattached…and maybe I am. I’m adopted and I’ve always known to the point where I often felt that my parents used my being adopted as a way to distance themselves from taking responsibility for how I "turned out”. I also look nothing like any of my family members. Thus, I’ve never felt like I fit into my family. From a young age I was bullied for being different, either because I was overweight or how I dressed, you know the usual things children use against each other. That being said, while I never felt human I could always fit in as a human. If I was in a different part of the country, I’d find myself taking on the regional accent. If I spent enough time with the same people I’d find myself taking on some of their more prominent mannerisms and adopting often used figures of speech. In short, I’d find myself altering behaviors and so forth to best become what I subconsciously figured people wanted of me or what I subconsciously figured would make me fit in best. I say subconsciously because never once was this a conscious choice. All of it was done without me even noticing until it was pointed out...but humans are natural mimics. I make mention of this because it will become important later, so file it away.
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The bullying was all but constant until I reached college age when the main issue was my hatred for my (still overweight and out of shape) body. I learned, especially in high school to embrace being different because if people fear you they’re less likely to hurt you, so I became a "goth” kid. Ah the angst.
The otherkin stuff: I was raised Catholic, but never found myself "at home” with the religion and, when a friend in the 7th grade came in with a book on paganism one day, I found myself finally finding a spiritual system I could identify with. I quickly began reading up on Wicca, delved briefly into Satanism, and settled finally into an eclectic mix of my own beliefs. In high school I read up on vampirism a bit, but it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I found a group of pagans, that included a psychic vampire, that I really started looking into why I felt so not human. Also in college, I had a professor whose wife is a spirit medium and who taught a course jointly with her on the paranormal and sociology (he’s a sociology professor). During this time, I took part in a guided meditation past-life regression twice, once with said professor’s wife and once at a pagan shop in Gettysburg, PA. I also started meditating daily as homework for that class. During these regressions and meditations I found myself viewing what I believed was past me and snippets of that past life. Me standing atop a waterfall where there was a silver city in a verdant landscape, being someone’s "other half” so to speak. Betraying that person and deciding to try to destroy myself, landing myself incarnate here. Those "memories” started my search for their meaning and brought me to the online otherkin community. I started off identifying as some sort of angel (after seeing myself so many times as a winged humanoid with flowing red hair in a white-silver gown) phoenix (because of how that life ended). Discarding the phoenix part, and drawing on further memories, I then thought I was a Balancer (a type of polymorphic being I’ve written an article on...long ago). After a smack upside the head from a friend, I abandoned that identifier and broke down my identity to non-denominational angel with a few forms (namely flaming tiger and reptilian feline). Finally, I realized that any form seemed to "fit” so I landed on polymorphic non-denominational angel, ultimately settling on my job description being an angel of death and divine wrath. This was circa 2007 or so I'd wager (I first entered the community in 2004, just for reference).
The logic hammer: In college, I majored in biology and environmental science and prided myself (still do) on applying the scientific method to identity, meaning develop a hypothesis, gather data, see what said data says about the hypothesis. I also think of myself as a rational person, despite my past spiritual and current otherkin beliefs. I think that the best way to get people thinking about why they believe what they do and to weed out the "fluff” from the serious people is to ask questions, especially to ask people why they believe something. Asking someone to think about what they believe is, I’ve found, the best way to weed out the serious people from the trolls, fluff, and lulchasers.
The relationship: I said I’ve never felt human, right? Like ever? Well, that all changed around the spring of 2011. After years of being single, I met a guy at work and we started dating…and being with him, I actually felt human for the first time in my life. I broached the topic of otherkin with him and he had the initial knee jerk reaction of "well I can accept souls ending up in the wrong body, but people who think they’re incarnate energy beings like angels and stuff are just insane.” Needless to say that conversation ended quickly. I abandoned ship…later he said he was kidding but that kind of killed it for me so I never brought it up again. What does *that* have to do with anything? Well, I was just me around him, no explanations aside from the human ones, no excuses, just me. And he was cool with that…and it was kind of awesome to have someone just accept me like that—as is, quirks and odd behaviors and thought processes and all. Anyway, that relationship is now over, but it changed my personal identity from a spiritual one to a more psychological one.
The book: I read the latest book by Michael Shermer a while back ago called "The Believing Brain”. It’s really interesting and I recommend it to everyone, especially otherkin. It’s all about how and why we (humans) form beliefs and how we are hard-wired to believe something and then find supporting evidence (sound familiar?) even in the face of conflicting evidence (to the point where we will simply ignore it). This book got me thinking further, what if I took what I had been feeling since birth and simply jumped at the first seemingly plausible explanation for it: that I was an incarnate angel. Furthermore, what if my brain them simply filled in the grey
spaces with more stuff that reinforced the identification. Sufficed to say, I started re-analyzing everything I've ever experienced, going through every detail, forming a new list of "traits and experiences to pick at. I broke my identity down to its parts and then sought to put it backtogether. This meant tossing out the whole "angel" thing and seeing what shifts, mental states, etc. have been consistent. What I found was that I have always, in some way, identified as a large feline and something aquatic.
The present conclusion: Right now, I identify as a polywere (polytherian if you prefer), my theriotypes being an African lioness and black tip reef shark. Period. I am an atheist, of the a-spiritual persuasion, and believe my identity stems entirely from my brain. I have experienced shifts to all sorts of animals and beings, phantom and mental primarily. I’ve found myself
randomly experiencing the gills of an axolotl, regularly experiencing what I deem reptilian feline (lioness meets dragon) especially in terms of musculature/claws/shoulderblades/teeth/urges, and often experiencing sets of wings along my back, among other randomness.
Why lioness and black tip reef shark? Well, at one point I identified as an angel of a sort with "preferred forms" of mermaid, big cat (tiger at one point), mountain lion, and reptilian feline. Over time, I came to realize that all of the feline (or partly feline) experience could be attributed to one theriotype: African lion. Similarly, I started identifying as a "mershark" and not a mermaid and then realized that my kintype was not some sort of shape-shifting shark, but that "mershark" was my brain attempting to make such an alien body plan more relatable.
Now the big change came from putting together the feelings I’ve had from birth, the crap I’ve lived through from a young age, and all the rest, to reach my present conclusion for why I identify as a polywere. I identify as a psychological polywere…psych-kin if you want to slap a cute little label on it. I presently believe that my brain adapted from a very young age to always "fit in” be it with other humans or other creatures entirely. I find myself understanding other animals, altering my behaviors/accents/etc. to fit in with other humans without meaning to (the latter I feel is from being adopted and wanting to so badly fit in with other people for fear of abandonment). It is apparently common for adoptees to not feel human, to feel separate from the rest of the human race. The other side of the coin is the belief that my brain’s chemistry/wiring/whateveryouwanttocallit is simply different from a "normal human” brain’s.
To sum up, I now identify as a polywere for psychological reasons, mainly that the identity comes from a combination of abnormal brain wiring and unconscious adaptations of my brain to my life experiences and emotional traumas in my childhood.
The psych-kin connection: I can still trigger a phantom shift if I really want to, but who knows if that’s psychosomatic or not. Does my otherness being a psychological deal instead of a spiritual one make it any less "real”? Heck no. I experience the same things I always have, the only thing that’s changed is the specifics of my identification and the mechanism for it. Back when I believed my identity was other due to spiritual reasons (incarnation), I felt the same phantom/mental shifts that I do now, had the same disconnect with the rest of humanity. I do not view being psychologically other as a defect. I am able to hold down a job, make and keep friendships, live with other (non-kin) people, pay my bills, and overall function in society.
Being psych-kin does not in any way impair my ability to lead a productive life. Therefore, it is not a "detrimental condition” such as schizophrenia or manic depression can be and does not require any sort of professional intervention or treatment. Psychological otherkinity (to give it a name) is not a mental dysfunction, it is not a gift, it is not a curse, it simply is. It doesn’t need fixing, it just takes adjustment just like spiritual otherkinity does. Would my life be easier to lead if I weren’t otherkin? In many ways it probably would be, but that was be the case when I identified as otherkin for spiritual reasons. Does being psych-kin make me somehow less "credible”? Honestly, I’d say it makes my experiences more credible if anything. After all, I can prove my brain exists, but I cannot prove my soul exists. But that's a topic for another article thinger.
The bottom line (aka TL;DR): Being "other” is an intrinsic part of me, regardless of why I am "other” in the first place. I am a psychological therian, specifically I believe that a combination of "abnormal” brain wiring and psychological adaptations to emotional traumas from my youth have led to my identification as polywere (lion and shark).