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Originally posted at Dreamwidth here and reposted here under a Creative Commons - Share Alike license.
~ The Basics ~
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?
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.
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