Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Felt out of place in work or awkward in a group of people? What if you felt out of place within your own body?
‘Otherkin’ is a relatively new phenomenon where people identify as an entirely different species. The range is startling. Wolves, elves, dragons, squirrels, anything else you can think of. The phenomenon seems to be similar to transgender people, feeling like you are male but born into a female body. Otherkin feel as if they are not necessarily human.
It’s a world of self-categorisation so you can take your pick of belonging to as many or as few sets and subsets as you like. For example, ‘otherkin’ is the generally accepted umbrella term for people who feel non-human but, there are also subsets of ‘Therians’ who are earth based creatures and ‘Fictives’ who are fictional characters but generally still human. After that you get into ‘Contherians’ who are people who don’t mentally “shift” into their otherkin selves and some people who just feel ‘other’. There are also ‘Shards’, who are not exactly quite sure what they (Shards is a “host multitasking in a body” so ‘they’ is the appropriate term) are, believe their origins to be extra-terrestrial.
For people who believe they aren’t people, the otherkin community is surprising self-aware. A blogger called “Roguesareth” explains the difference between physically shifting and mentally shifting: “A physical shift would be where the person physically transforms into their kin type. This type of shifting is impossible; anyone claiming to be able to physically shift is either lying or delusional”.
It is also strange that the community is both very open and closed. It was very difficult for me to to talk to someone, but the web is full of people publicly declaring themselves as otherkin or talking about being otherkin on social media sites is massive.
So why do people feel like this?
There is a number of explanations for otherkin, depending on what you believe. According to Crisses, a host of one of the otherkin forums, multiple personality disorder is quite common in the community and this could be an explanation. Still, it is unfair to attribute all otherkin-ness to a mental health issue. The main reasoning behind the sense of otherkin-ness is that the body and the essence or ‘soul’ are separate things entirely. There appears to be a lack of connection between the two and this is the reason for feeling “other”.
Nicholas Ryan, a psychiatrist, had never actually heard of otherkin but suggested that “people who go through some physiological pain can invent an alternative reality to escape from that pain”. While this sounds serious and may be the case for some otherkin, feeling like they don’t belong may not necessarily be a bad thing. “We psychiatrists always think about risk […] you’re welcome to be eccentric, it’s when it interferes with your life socially or in work, that’s when it becomes a problem.”
For a lot of people, otherkin is a spiritual connection. Many believe in reincarnation and their otherkin status is as a result of a blip in the process meaning they got an animal soul in a human body. Many of the people who identify as mythical creatures such as dragons or unicorns believe they are different souls in human bodies due to their race being wiped out for various reasons.
However, strange it may seem to us, now there are many instances of people identifying with animals and non-human creatures in some cultures. The Native-Americans believed that everyone has a connection to an animal and Hindus believe in reincarnation, where you come back as something else but you are the same soul. Jainism is slightly different in that you can come back as anything from an insect to a demon depending on your karma.
Some people genuinely believe they are a different soul trapped in a foreign body but others simply use it as a tool of self-exploration, it is easier to examine yourself from an outside perspective and most people don’t have the money to pay someone to sit down and tell them who they are.
A lot of people who are otherkin identify as ‘multiples’, which are sufferers of Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Identity (Disorder). The other identities in their heads are “headmates” some of which may not be human, therefore “otherkin”. There is also the possibility of the other identities being “fictives” i.e. fictional characters. Personalities such as ‘The Doctor’ from Doctor Who are common, while others can take different shapes such as: “a man named Don with black hair who’s stuck with me through some pretty heinous shit and supported me my entire life.” said one anonymous Tumblr user.
Another large part of being otherkin is past life regressions. Some otherkin people believe they are human now but have been other creatures in past lives and occasionally those lives intrude upon their consciousness. ‘Felkes’, a snow leopard, describes what it is like to have a big regression on her Tumblr: “Whereas I almost constantly feel face, head, ears, and tail, the stronger feelings this weekend were my body and limbs. It made walking on two legs very difficult”.
Nothing on the internet is safe from scrutiny, and with something as outlandish as otherkin, there is bound to be a lot of mocking or derision. The community takes a lot of abuse from the wider internet claiming they are otherkin but identify as objects or machines, I got a Facebook comment saying he/she felt like a “bucket wheel excavator” when researching this. Others take a more creative approach: “Excuse you. I’m an asshole-kin; I’m trying to deal with the repressed memories of my past life as an asshole, so thanks for triggering them. Stop being so close-minded.”
It is hard to know what to make of otherkin but I think the closing sentiment on otherkin.net describes it nicely “In the end, without further evidence, it comes down to a matter of personal belief. As personal beliefs go, it’s relatively harmless.”