What is Otherkin? - An Introduction To The Otherkin Community
The otherkin community is perhaps one of the most bewildering subcultures you’ll find on the internet today. There are many articles about otherkin on the internet today, but very few that accurately explain what the concept is to those who are unfamiliar with the community. The purpose of this article is to provide a basic overview of the otherkin community that is understandable by both people who are curious and people who have never heard of the community before.
So, what exactly does "otherkin" mean?
This question is not as easy to answer as it sounds. If you ask ten different people who identify as otherkin what it means, you'll likely get twenty five or so different answers. We have developed a standardized definition that we use on Kinmunity that we feel most would agree with:
Otherkin are people who identify either partially or wholly as one or more non-human beings, entities, or concepts in a psychological or spiritual manner.
While we feel our standardized definition would fit most cases of individuals who identify as otherkin; it is by no means an "official" definition of the word "otherkin" and what the otherkin experience entails.
A brief history lesson...
The practice of identifying spiritually or psychologically as "other than human" has existed for a very long time, some would say as early (or earlier) as 3100 BC. Others would say the Native Americans developed the concept. Because this is not something that is easy to track or prove, we're simply going to focus on the modern online community for the purposes of this article.
The modern otherkin community as you'll normally find it online is actually a merging of two distinct communities; the therianthropy community, and the otherkin community.
The Otherkin Community
The earliest known manifestation of the otherkin community on the internet was formed in March 1990 as "The Elfinkind Digest" by R'ykandar Korra'ti. It was an online mailing list created for those who identified as elves. Eventually, those who identified as beings other than elves began participating in the list. A list member called Torin began referring to these members as "otherkin". The term "otherkin" implied "other than elf", as the newsgroup was primarily developed for elves.
The Therianthropy Community
The therianthropy community actually developed independently from the elven and otherkin communities.
It was born on Usenet in 1994 on the newsgroups Alt.Horror.Werewolves. Individuals who identified as wolves were using the terms "were" and "lycanthrope" to identify themselves, and the term "therianthrope" eventually became used as a more general term that applies to all animals.
The merge, well, sort of!
The otherkin and therianthropy communities developed independently of each other, and for much of their history were considered separate and independent communities (although with much overlap). The term "otherkin" was originally used to describe those who identified as mythical creatures, where the term "therian" was used to describe individuals who identified as creatures who currently or once walked the earth. In the late 2000s, online forums (such as Wulf Howl) and social media platforms such as Tumblr started forming communities that united the concepts of otherkin and therianthropy under one umbrella term of "otherkin". There are many within the community who still see strict lines of separation between the communities, and who reject the "otherkin as an umbrella term" concept. However, the vast majority of the community welcomed the integration.
Spiritual v. Psychological
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to identification as otherkin. Identification due to spiritual beliefs, and identification due to psychological or neurological factors. Kinmunity actually has two great articles which explain both in depth, which will be linked below:
Misconceptions and what the otherkin community is NOT...
It is human nature to reject or even attack things that are strange or different. There are a variety of misconceptions propagating on the internet regarding the otherkin community, and there are a good amount of internet trolls who intentionally propagate misinformation to make the community appear as something that it is not. Below, are a few debunked misconceptions that many may have regarding the community.
"The otherkin community is part of the furry fandom."
Although there is some overlap within the two communities, the otherkin community is entirely separate from the furry fandom. The furry fandom consists of people who are fans of anthropomorphic animals and artwork. Furries generally do not identify as their fursonas.
"Otherkin are mentally ill!"
A mental disorder (also called a mental illness, or psychiatric disorder) is a diagnosis, most often by a psychiatrist, of a behavioral or mental pattern that may cause suffering or a poor ability to function in life.
- Identifying as otherkin is not, by itself, mental illness.
- Identifying as otherkin is not, by itself, unhealthy.
- Identifying as otherkin is not, by itself, a delusion.
"Otherkin think they're oppressed!"
This is a common misconception propagated by troll blogs on Tumblr, and by those new to the concept of otherkin. The vast majority of those in the otherkin community do not feel that otherkin are an oppressed group. Although there are individuals who are harassed because of their identity as otherkin, it does not meet the definition for systematic oppression. Young people within the community often confuse being bullied with being oppressed, which also further propagates this misconception. Repeat after me: "Otherkin are not an oppressed group."
"Otherkin think that they're physically non-human or that they can physically shift!"
99.9% of us know that we're physically human and that we cannot change that. We have jobs, we use computers, we do things that non-humans physically couldn't do. Individuals who believe that they're physically non-human or that they have the ability to physically shift are suffering from delusions.
"Otherkin use noun-self pronouns and invalidate the experiences the LGBTQ+ community!"
This is yet another misconception propagated by troll blogs and undereducated minors. The vast majority of the otherkin community feels that noun-self pronouns are ridiculous, and that they go against all established rules of grammar. Although we have our own experiences that we would argue are equally valid, we are not a part of the LGBTQ+ community. By definition, an experience is different from person to person, therefore we do not believe it is possible to validate nor invalidate an experience.
"Otherkin is a coping mechanism for trauma or mental illness."
The majority of the otherkin community frowns upon using the term "otherkin" when referring to identification solely as a coping mechanism. Instead, the term coping link is used in this case. We've got an article on coping links here.
What the otherkin community IS...
- The otherkin community is a community of people who identify either partially or wholly as one or more non-human beings, entities, or concepts in a psychological or spiritual manner.
- The otherkin community is diverse and includes individuals from various walks of life. It includes people of all ages, genders, and professions.
- The otherkin community is an environment where critical thinking skills, logic, and an inquisitive mind are cherished.