Note: I have no idea why I was inspired to write this. Probably because today I read something snark worthy about Otherkin, but cringed when I saw all Otherkin being dragged through the mud as a result. I spent some of my day thinking about it off and on, and this is what resulted. My muse is really, really weird, and I felt compelled to get this out before I go to bed (way later than I should have). So, there you have it.
Yes, I'm talking about Otherkin. No, I will neither confirm or deny reports that I am a dragon (I'm not). What I will say up front is that I don't think that Otherkin are completely 100% batshit insane like most people do, and I do think that there are parts of the Otherkin community that have merit.
Before you recoil in horror and click the link to tell me I'm crazy/stupid/weird, hear me out. I do not
believe that people who identify as Otherkin are really
dragons, vampires, snakes, elves, wolves, rabbits, or fairies. They are biologically human, right down to the DNA. Anyone who says he is not physically human is not playing with a full deck and/or abusing drugs. I've yet to see a person make this claim and back it up with any sort of scientific proof, so I don't think it's impolite of me to scoff when I read about such people.
What I do believe is that people who recognize they are physically human but identify as "other," should not be immediately written off as insane, stupid, or attention-seeking. Sure, you can apply those labels to a number of Otherkin, but it is not the entire population, and sometimes I wonder if the quiet, reasonable ones really are the minority they seem to be. It wouldn't be the first time the ones with the louder voices and biggest persecution complexes painted an entire group. I've had friends who identify as Otherkin of one flavor or another and were quite earnest in their beliefs and able to articulate those beliefs well.
I make no secret that I'm big into the spiritual Woo deal. I'm quiet about it, and I don't blog about some of my expriences, but it's there nonetheless. I believe in gods, ghosts, and even fairies. I believe in reincarnation, and I think there is quite a bit of mystery left in the universe. Oh, I'm a skeptic, and call bullshit far more than I do say something seems legitimately supernatural/paranormal/touched by deity, but at my core I am a spiritual person open to many ideas and beliefs. Because of this I won't dismiss a person solely because he/she identifies as "other."
I have a few theories about Otherkin, and I've had quite a bit of exposure to the concept even without the aid of the inernet. In fact, the first time I heard of something resembling Otherkin, I was maybe twelve or thirteen, a couple of years before I made my first journey to the World Wide Web. My father and I were big into paranormal stuff, and as such we watched a great deal of the "weird stuff" on television. One show did a little feature about a man who had written a book. His book claimed that a fair number of people on the planet were really alien hybrids as he believed an alien race visited earth a long time ago, and in the tradition of anal probing, mated with some humans. Though I was a big fan of The X-Files
and a big believer in UFOs at the time, I did think this man was sort of out there, but the idea that there were people on earth who weren't entirely human seemed pretty interesting to a kid with my kind of imagination, so I listened to what he had to say.
During the interview with the author, which took place at a public park, a passer-by overheard the conversation and stopped the author to speak with him. The author had been using some vague terms and described that there were many people who felt "wrong" in society - that they didn't fit in and could never figure out why. The eavesdropper was astounded and wanted to talk to the author because what was said really resonated with him on a very deep level. What happened after that interview is anyone's guess, and as this was 15 or 16 years ago, I can't recall a title or name, though I think it was profiled on the Fox show Sightings
; however, I still draw from that interview anytime I encounter a discussion on Otherkin because it hits on something that is, maybe ironically, innately human. Humans need to belong somewhere, and for those of us who don't fit in and don't feel we have a "home" as it were, what do we call ourselves? (I say "we" here not to identify as otherkin, but because I know what it feels like not to belong somewhere, and to feel like an outsider.) If you spend your life being ridiculed and/or feeling lonely, isn't it a relief when you find a kindred spirit, even if that kindred spirit is talking about someting as out there as alien hybrids?
I'm not going to say that all Otherkin really need is a group to belong to - that's too dismissive and, I think, only one part of it. However, I can't ignore that desire to belong, to share something with another person. The first time someone doesn't call you a freak, or tell you you're worthless, is a powerful moment for a person who has heard nothing but. It's probably why Otherkin appeals to a large number of teenagers and adolescents - those bullied loners and shy introverts who log online and find out that somewhere in their painful world are people who understand, who identify with the pain that is growing up. Deity knows, 13-year old me would have latched onto this concept and never let go. The fantasy of being welcomed somewhere, anywhere
, was indeed something I spent a great deal of time wishing were true. It's probably why once most of those teenagers get older, the Otherkin label loses its luster. They go to college or otherwise get out in the world and find friends who love them as they are. I know more than a few people (probably a few reading this) have an Otherkin skeleton or two in their closets (or a "craft name"-shaped skeleton like Lady Ravensilvermoonbeam). It becomes like that bad haircut you got because you wanted to look like Rachel from Friends
- you just want to forget it ever happened to you, and you pray you've burned all the evidence so your future offspring won't someday pull out your high school yearbook and say with look of sheer horror, "What happened?!?" But not everyone "grows out" of this label, and I know of more than a few Otherkin in their late twenties/early thirties, and even older. Those people are by most accounts not lost emokids, and are fairly well-adjusted adults (with a few exceptions I'll admit). What do you say then?
Like I said above I believe in reincarnation, and unlike some people, I don't believe reincarnation is limited to human forms. If you can have past life memories of driving a Model-T Ford, why not a memory of the time you were a bear or an eagle? The memory of that life could be so strongly linked to your soul that you can't ignore it. Maybe it becomes a part of your spiritual practice, or maybe it's just one more thing that defines who you are. Whatever, it's there and you can't ignore it, so you find something to call it, or you accept it for what it is.
For others, they just find it easy to identify with an animal type, either through extensive study or observation. Of course, not everyone who does this is automatically Otherkin. They have totems or "power animals," but may not think they themselves are/were that animal. As for fairies or elves, it's not so hard to identify with creatures of myths you can read in books. Take it a few steps further, and people may feel that they are
a mythological being of some sort. The difference is that they can't necessarily observe that creature's behavior, and there may be quite a bit of conflicting reports concerning what one looks like, how one acts, or even what it eats. (By the way, there is nothing quite like a flamewar of "I'm a more realistic myth than you!")
While you certainly can't prove someone is Otherkin, there are some ways they find validation for their beliefs. One of these is the concept of phantom limbs, a concept I take issue with. You've probaly heard about it before as a medical phenomena. Someone loses a finger, toe, or a whole limb, but he/she can still feel the missing body part. They feel pain, or they get an itch even though it's no longer a part of them. Otherkin hold this same belief, only it's with body parts they've never physically had. They'll claim to feel a missing tail, wings, or claws, but I'm not so sure this can really "count" (if anything can be said to count). I say this because, via meditation and visualization, I've been able to make myself feel an extraneous bodypart. It's all a matter of belief and the power of suggestion. If you start thinking you're a wolf, and you're focusing on what a wolf is, well, you just might feel like you've got a tail after some time has passed. Of course, I'm no expert, and you can't exactly test for a body part that isn't there, but I don't think it's something unique to Otherkin at all, and it feels rather silly to me to say this is one of your biggest reasons for identifying as whatever type of 'kin. Fortunately, most people I've read use this as an aside and have a whole list of other reasons they identify as some type of Otherkin or subset.
Don't confuse the phantom limbs with what's known as shifting, in which, in my understanding and reading on the matter, a person feels as though their body "shifts" from human to their 'kin side (mostly I see Therians refer to this, but Angelkin, Dragonkin, and other 'kin do too). No, they don't believe they're literally
changing form, and in some cases I believe it's done via meditation and while "journeying," which is definitely something I can grok. Yet, again, I think it's something anyone could do if they desired, and not exactly unique to Otherkin.
I think when it comes down to it, I'm on the fence, and some days I think these people are nuts (like I do with most of humanity, really), and other days I actually believe there is some truth to it. Of course, I do this with the understanding there might be underlying social and psychological reasons for a person to subscribe to this idea. Yet, when I look at it through a spiritual lens, there's even more I can understand, and the people I know willing to talk candidly about it, and who aren't offended if I don't jump on their bandwagon right away, make me feel that it's patently unfair to write off the whole idea as utter nonsense.
Still, I'm going to giggle anytime I hear someone say, "Fuck you, I'm a Dragon!"
(Link is likely NSFW and goes to Encyclopedia Dramatica.)