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j e w e l f o x ' s  o t h e r k i n  f a q

by Jewelfox
Originally posted at Dreamwidth here
and reposted here under a Creative Commons - Share Alike license.

~ The Basics ~

What are otherkin?

People who don't identify as human. Usually they identify as some mythical or crypto-historical creature, like angels or dragons.

What are therians?

People who identify as members of historical animal species. This FAQ uses "otherkin" as a blanket term for both therians and otherkin, but not all therians call themselves otherkin.

What does it mean to "identify as" something?

To see yourself as that thing. It's like gender identity; seeing yourself as an otherkin just feels right, in a way that seeing yourself as human does not.

What are "kintype," "phenotype," "theritype" and the like?

These words are all used to indicate the specific non-human thing that an otherkin identifies as.

What "types" are there?

Where to start? There are dragonkin, demon- and angelkin, elves, vampires, and a whole slew of animals like foxes and wolves which may or may not have a magical aspect to them. I've even seen a swan here on Dreamwidth.

How come there aren't any cockroach- or naked mole rat-kin?

This question often comes up as a way to put otherkin in their place, so let's get it over with. Yes, most animals and mythical creatures that otherkin identify with are the "cool" ones.

There are two things to keep in mind here. First, otherkin often start on their journey to otherkin-ness by seeing a photo, or painting, or live example of their species that calls to them. Something that fills them with longing, or even with memories, and makes them yearn to live that creature's life.

Let's face it: there aren't a whole lot of chances for naked mole rat-kin to have that kind of experience. So if you want to blame someone, blame the world's artists and storytellers, for not depicting enough naked mole rats.

Second, otherkin aren't stuck identifying as the first species that calls to them. They might think they're a peregrine falcon at first, and then realize the tree swallow's closer to their heart. This doesn't mean they were wrong for choosing to identify as a falcon, earlier. It just means that they've found something more right for them. (Or even that they're both species at the same time.)

Personally, I've run across a combine harvester "machinekin." So I wouldn't rule anything out at this point.

What about otherkin who say that they're fictional characters?

"Fictives" exist, and there's probably one of your favorite character. They're controversial even inside the otherkin community, for two reasons.

One is that many otherkin are as incredulous of fictives as many (if not most) humans are of otherkin. They believe that they live in a world where elves, dragons, and animals take human form, but the idea that their roommate is the Sephiroth -- much less that there are a dozen others who say they are, too -- just makes them shake their heads in disgust.

If you aren't an otherkin, this is obvious to you, but I'm going to point it out anyway: The otherkin who don't accept fictives lack empathy and self-awareness. They either don't realize, or don't care, that they're doing to other people what others have done to them. They don't see "because my life finally makes sense to me now" as a valid reason to identify as something. They want to decide who gets to be what, and they're miffed that fictives "chose" an identity that they don't like.

Sometimes they tell themselves stories about fictives, like "they're just saying it to make themselves feel special." As though no one has the right to feel special, and as though that'd make one bit of difference if it were true. Just like with otherkin stereotypes, these only serve to depersonalize the fictives in question, and to make it easier to deny them what they long for: To be accepted for who they are.

The second reason that fictives are controversial is that most otherkin on the Internet hold a first-world view of culture and copyright. They think it's okay for a large corporation to hold the exclusive rights to a myth, and to prevent others from telling stories about it or identifying with parts of it. And they don't see the disconnect between (for instance) drawing on stories of fox spirits to learn about their kitsune heritage, and telling someone he can't be Shippo.

~ How to relate to otherkin ~

How can you tell if someone is otherkin?

If that person says that they're otherkin.

In what way do otherkin consider themselves to be non-human?

You'll have to ask the otherkin yourself. Each one has a different reason or list of reasons. The only thing they all have in common is that they identify as something other than human.

The most commonly given reason is that the otherkin in question believes that they have the "soul" of a non-human creature.

Do otherkin think that they're better than humans?

That depends on the individual otherkin, as well as the time of day and how much humanity is getting on their nerves.

If you're surrounded by people not like you, there's a strong temptation when they annoy you to think uncharitable things about them. It usually passes once you calm down.

Is this like roleplaying or something?

No, although many otherkin like to roleplay. It's as close as many of them will get to being themselves in this life.

Are otherkin furries?

Some are. Others are quick to draw a line between them. Not all otherkin look kindly on furries, and not all furries respect otherkin. The otherkin who are furries tend to be way over on the "furry lifestyler" end of the spectrum.

It's worth nothing that an otherkin fur may or may not have the same species, for their fursona and kintype. I know I don't.

Are otherkin mentally ill?

Not as a group, although they can be just like anyone else.

Don't otherkin know that they're human?

Otherkin are aware that they're physically human. Pointing it out to them is considered bad manners.

How should I treat otherkin if I don't believe they're non-human?

Keep it to yourself. If you're not willing to accept them for who and what they are, then at least don't insult them by calling them human.

But "human" isn't an insult! It's what they are!

It is an insult when it's used to put someone else in their place. It's like calling your wife "woman"; it says "I don't care what you say or who you think you are. You will listen to me and do what I tell you."

Before calling an otherkin "human," ask yourself this: "Do I have any evidence that this person is human that they have not seen yet?" Because otherkin don't believe that simply having a human form means they're human. That's what makes them otherkin.

~ Otherkin and religion ~

Is otherkin a cult?


A cult is not simply a belief system out of the ordinary. As the phrase "cult following" implies, a cult demands complete loyalty. It obtains it through mind control and behavior modification techniques, including guilt trips and thought-terminating phrases.

Any group, religious or otherwise, can have cult-like characteristics, and there's no particular reason an otherkin can't also be a cultist (aside from the fact that the other cultists might object). Otherkin itself, though, is not a cult. It's barely even a community. You can't "join" it. You just decide that it makes sense to call yourself otherkin. After that, it's up to you if you do anything about it or not.

Is otherkin a religion?


An otherkin identity can form part of the basis of a healthy spirituality. It prompts questions, like "Why am I this way?", that deserve satisfying answers. Few churches or other groups take these questions seriously, or address them in any meaningful way. Because of this, most otherkin have their own beliefs about who they are and what their identity means for them, which may or may not accord with those of the church or group they belong to.

If otherkin isn't a cult or a religion, what's with the occult symbols you're using?

The "occult symbol" in question is the taijitu. According to Wikipedia, "It is the universal symbol of the religion known as Taoism and is also often used by non-Taoists to represent the concept of opposites existing in harmony.

To me, it means that there's enough room in this world for both humans and nonhumans. It symbolizes acceptance and understanding, and reminds me that people can grow and change.

(Editor's note: the above question only refers to one particular symbol, which apparently is used by the author of this FAQ. The taijitu or "yin-yang" may be used by individual otherkin, but is not particularly related to otherkin in general. A more common, though still not universal, symbol for otherkin is the acute seven-pointed star, also called a "septegram", "heptagram", "sevenstar", "faerie/faery star", or "elven star".)

What religion do otherkin belong to?

Any or all of them. There's usually no reason why an otherkin can't belong to a particular religion, or even be atheist / agnostic.

But isn't otherkin-ness against [insert religion here]?

That's between you and your preacher(s) or holy book(s).

Fundamentalist religions (and fundamentalist atheist communities) are usually hostile to anything outside of their prescribed norm, and otherkin are most definitely outside the norm. So if the religion or belief system in question has a "my way or the highway" approach to metaphysical questions, it's likely to teach that people who believe diffently, i.e. otherkin, are wrong. This may cause people who belong to those traditions, who would otherwise identify as otherkin, to refrain from doing so. Sort of like how growing up in certain religions (or countries) is a barrier to coming out as gay or transgender, even to yourself.

My religion requires me to teach others that they are children of God (or some other identity which may conflict with their being otherkin). How can I reach otherkin?

First off, you could find otherkin who belong to your religion or a similar one, and ask them how they reconcile the two. The answers you get might surprise you.

Second, try listening to and empathizing with the otherkin in question. People choose to identify as otherkin because it fills a need that they have. If you feel that whatever your religion has to offer them will fill that need better, then as a friend you should offer it to them. Just don't be upset if they say no ... or if they say yes, and then become a member of your religion who is also an otherkin.

I'm an atheist / freethinker / skeptic who's trying to prove to someone that it's irrational to believe that they're otherkin. What should I do?

Give up.

The choice to identify as otherkin is a rational one, based on needs which are felt by the person who does so. You can teach them the basics of skepticism and rational inquiry, but you may just find that you've created a more skeptical otherkin. No particular religious belief, like a belief in "souls," is required; a person just has to feel the need to identify as otherkin, and then do so.

But is there even any evidence that otherkin are what they say they are?

Whether or not otherkin are otherkin is two separate arguments. One is a matter of metaphysics, involving the answer the otherkin use to explain why they're otherkin. The other is a matter of language, and identity. Otherkin are otherkin because they choose to call themselves otherkin. They feel that the word describes who they are.

If an otherkin believes something that can be falsified, such as "I physically change to a werewolf on nights of the full moon," then you can disprove that by showing up then and bringing a camera (preferably a silver one). Most metaphysical beliefs otherkin hold, though, are of the non-disprovable kind; i.e. "I have the soul of a fox" or "I was a dragon in my past life." If you feel that you have a more satisfying explanation, then by all means share it. Just don't be surprised if they've heard it before, and are getting quite tired of it.

The reason they're getting tired of it is because they keep getting asked to explain and justify who they are. Over and over again, they have to tell people that it just doesn't work for them to not see themselves this way. They have to explain the awful hopelessness of being stuck this way to a skeptical audience, who more often than not thinks that there's something wrong with them.

The otherkin experience is very much like the transgender experience, and I say this as a transgendered otherkin. There's the same feeling of wrongness in the body that you were born with. There haven't been studies yet to show the differences between otherkin brains and others', and to the best of my knowledge people aren't getting beaten up in public restrooms for being outed as otherkin. But then, otherkin aren't able to physically change themselves yet, not in the same way that trans people can.

Give it time.

~ Otherkin-ness and you ~

Am I an otherkin?

I don't know. Are you?

How do I know if I'm otherkin?

If you're asking that question to start with, there's a pretty good chance that you are.

Ask yourself why you want to know. Ask yourself if you want to become this thing, what you would give for it, what you would do if it happened. Especially, ask yourself what you would do if you found out it never could. Would you be disappointed? Would you feel like you have an itch you can't scratch, or a chronic pain you can't treat? Like now you'll never be whole, and maybe life isn't worth living?

Now ask yourself this: Isn't that exactly how a real one would feel, in your situation?

But the thing I admire is so [X], and I'm so [NOT X]. How can I possibly call myself one?

Let's turn this question on its head. We'll use dragons as an example, since there are a lot of them and I'm fond of them.

In this example, then, the real question you should be asking is "Why am I letting people insult me when I'm a flippin' dragon!?"


You're not born with the idea that you're stupid or ugly or worthless, or that it's hopeless to wish or to care about things. You get that idea from the small, shallow people around you, who don't know or care what you are inside and who think that the tiny sliver they see is the real you. Who encourage you to be only that thing, if they like it, and stomp on it mercilessly if they don't.

If you wish that you were this thing -- if you long for it, daydream about it, know exactly what you'd give up for it -- but you feel like you don't have permission to be it, then give yourself permission. Right now.

You don't need to convince anyone else.

You don't need to act a certain way.

You don't need a "real" one of that kind to approve you.

You are one.

What you do is what "they" do. What you're feeling right now is what "they" feel. And what you look like is what "they" look like.

Someday you'll be able to change what you look like, to match how you feel on the inside. In the meantime, keep longing and dreaming. You'll bring that day closer for everyone.


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Last updated 5/31/12