Other-Hearted vs. Otherkin
As the Otherkin community continues to grow the term is shaped and warped to encompass everyone and is often misinterpreted. A ‘movement’ that is gaining momentum now is trying to change the definition of Otherkin to encompass those who have strong feelings towards, or relate well with non-human beings. This thought process most likely comes from the lack of knowledge of a term that already exists for those who strongly relate to non-human beings. To fully understand these terms and their usage let’s break them down one definition at a time.
Definitions to consider
The fact of being who or what a person or thing is.
(Identity [Def. 1.])
Relating (relate to)
Feel sympathy with; identify with.
(Relating [Def. 2.4])
Definitions within the community:
When an individual strongly identifies with a species of creature.
Animal-hearted can be replaced with other-hearted when used in reference to non-corporeal beings, beings from folklore, etc.
- Examples: dragon-hearted, cat-hearted, fiction-hearted, wolf-hearted.
A community of people who (non-physically) identify as, in part or in whole, one or more non-human beings.
This is seen as an umbrella term for those who identify as anything non-human. Including but not restricted to: Earthly animals (though normally going by the term Therian), angels, demons, elves, aliens, energy beings, and even cartoon characters; the list goes on.
- Examples: dragon-kin, cat-kin, fiction-kin, wolf-kin.
Why is the difference so important to 'kin?
When explaining your ‘kin-self’ to others if you use phrases such as: ‘I have always related with’ or ‘I have always identified with” then you are more likely Other-hearted rather than Otherkin. Even though these feelings of relation can be expressed in the early years of someone being kin without knowing it, it is never the sole reason for their identity. Upon discovery of the Otherkin community most people will do their best to question, meditate, reflect and research often using those strong relations as a stepping stone in their discovery process. Finding your kin-type or theriotype is normally a long, deeply personal, introspective experience. It is not uncommon for some 'type' discovery experiences to take time upwards to a year maybe even more. Besides feeling a relation to a non-human being you must be able to further explain how and why you identify as that non-human being.
The feeling of 'something being relatable' is not enough to make one 'kin. No matter how much you feel related to something it is impossible to force an identity as said something. Being Otherkin is not a choice; a kin-type is not also not a choice. You may strongly relate to angelic beings, but sadly as much as you may relate to all things angelic you can't choose to be an angelic being if you are not one; in this case you could just be angel-hearted.
Being kin with a non-human entity is way more than just an extreme like of said entity. Liking something is a choice, and as I said before, being Otherkin is not. For example, I really enjoy wolves, and I can identify with and relate to the strength and freedom associated with the thought of a wolf; but it isn't so much that I would call myself that animal, no matter how much I related to it.
Some Otherkin may have a like or appreciation of their kin-type, an extreme appreciation of one’s kin-type is not necessarily required in order for someone to identify as Otherkin. (Some Otherkin have reported feeling drawn to their kin-type before their awakening experiences and such feelings should not be ignored if you are going to pursue figuring out if you are in fact Otherkin.) The only time I would begin consider a wolf kin-type would be if I started experiencing shifts of any kind that I could associate with being a canine or a wolf.
(As an interesting tidbit, there are actually some Therians and Otherkin who do not particularly enjoy their kin-type and just have to sort of live with it because that is a part of them that they cannot change.)
Those within the community often struggle with their non-human identity through personal hardships as well as hardships with maintaining relationships (i.e. coming out as Otherkin and being rejected, etc.) and often do not take very kindly to those who choose this way of life. In a way, the choice of being Otherkin can invalidate issues of those who did not choose to be non-human spiritually or psychologically; and so the distinction between the terms can become very personally important.
Confusion Surrounding the “I literally AM” statement
By observing introduction threads on many kinbased websites, as well as several blogs on Tumblr, I have come across the phrases: “I literally am x…” or “…all of these are seen very literally”. These statements confuse people. Do you mean physically are x? Do you mean spiritually are x? Do you mean psychologically are x? The questions can go on and on and on.
When those who use these phrases, or phrases like them, are asked to elaborate on such phrases we again are met with just "I have always related to x" which is not solely what makes a 'kin be a 'kin.
Members in the community have also been met with responses such as "My personality is just like x" or "I share a lot of personality traits with x" used in terms of elaboration.
Something important to keep in mind as you are considering your identity is that humans have bestowed a ton of qualities onto animals and other beings that are not actually a part of the entity itself (i.e. for purposes of personification when writing). For a fun example, male lions are seen as a symbol of nobility. In reality, however, lions are not exactly noble; they are more the lazy tyrants and 'bullies' of the Savannah. If you see yourself being drawn to an animal for symbolic reasons or humanized ideals about the animal or being that does not mean you are kin with them.
Personality is not the entirety of your identity and should not be treated as the only determining factor for your identity as an Otherkin. Again, if you are really drawn to them that way and have no other explanation for you being drawn to them other than 'I really like x trait or y trait' or "I have x trait or y trait" then you are Other-hearted.
Most of the time, simple likes or dislikes don’t mean much when it comes to being Otherkin. Sure, there may be some likes and dislikes that are a part of your kin-type, such as a dog Therian enjoying to play and run, but simply having likes, dislikes, and wants to do these things does not make you dogkin. No amount of particular likes or dislikes, or a want to be non-human can make you Otherkin.
Understanding correction of your term use
Some members of the kin community may have issues articulating themselves, and that is completely understandable. Do understand that you should try your best to answer the questions people ask you to clear up any confusion about who you are.
Questions about your use of the term to identify is not to invalidate or bully you. The members of the community often are not trying to push you into a corner. If you claim to be kin but others are pointing you more towards the term Other-hearted it is not the community members putting you down. Being Other-hearted does not and should not make anyone look down at you; it is not lowering your status in a community, nor is anyone mocking you by using the term.
The terms Other-hearted and Animal-hearted are not new terms. In fact there is an instance I found through a blog (linked below) that shows that the word Wolfhearted was used and not dissuaded on AHWw.
The term is not used to weed out any fakers or trolls and should never be used as such.
The use of the term is not trying to criticize or invalidate the experiences of those who identify with something non-human. People who have experiences with relation to Other-heartedness are incredibly powerful and deserving of the same respect that is oven to Otherkin experiences. Members of communities correcting your use of the term Otherkin, by replacing it with Other-hearted, are trying to connect you with others who feel and experience things more similarly to you.
If you aren’t identifying as your kin-type, you aren’t Otherkin. Nobody will call you a faker unless you give them good reason to do so; and you should not get defensive as if members are trying to do call you a faker when they are trying to help you find a label or a community that would possibly better suit you and your experiences. These members are just trying to help you grow and learn.
In light of this, their word is not the end-all-be-all and the decision to accept corrections is up to you. Do know however, that in other forum communities you can be met with the same kind of correction until you accept the correction yourself.
By uniting folks with more common experiences, it makes it easier for more relevant conversations to occur and that is what forums and communities that encourage learning need to flourish. It also allows for new discussion to spring up about the meaning of nonhuman identities and how those who identify as non-human are different and similar to those who identify with non-human things. Both sides have things to offer, and both sides are better served by having the Other-hearted community grow alongside the Otherkin community.
Although the two communities of Otherkin and Other-hearted can be tightly connected, they are not the same thing and their definitions are not interchangeable. Otherkin is an identity as something and will never be a choice. Being called one term or the other does not make someone superior or inferior and everyone's experiences can be very powerful. It is ok to mistake identifying with something for being Otherkin, but do understand that this is not what the term means, nor can it be molded to encompass 'identifying with...'. When corrected do not take it as being put down, and admit to the mistake by recognizing the difference between the terms.
- Identity [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries Online, Retrieved July 17, 2015, from identity: definition of identity in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US)
- Relating [Def. 2.4]. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries Online, Retrieved July 17, 2015, from relate: definition of relate in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US)
- Cult Envy. (1997, January 15). Am I Wolfhearted. Retrieved July 17, 2015, from Google Groups
- House of Chimeras. (n.d.). "Am I wolf-hearted?" 1997. Retrieved July 17, 2015, from HouseOfChimera's personal blog
- NLN, Kai (2012, June 12). Therian & Otherkin Terminlology. Retrieved July 17, 2015, from Therian & Otherkin Terminlology