What does it mean to be human? As the 21st century drags on, the appeal of creating an avatar, a new persona, or a better version of yourself grows increasingly more enticing as technology allows people to be whomever, or whatever, they want. Otherkin, or people who perceive themselves as animals and fictional creatures, are a perfect example of the fluidity of identity. If this is the first you’re hearing of the subculture, then you’re likely asking yourself, “What are otherkin?”
What began as a pagan subculture in the early '70s has blossomed into an entire collective of people who believe they were born as the wrong species, and with that special brand of dysphoria comes otherkin sexuality, pronouns, and a bottomless well of questions that you no doubt have about this group of individuals who were brought together by a desire to be anything besides what they were born as.
Despite being a fairly new subculture, there’s a substantial collection of otherkin facts about everything from what they prefer to be called to otherkin sex; there’s nothing that you can’t discover about otherkin. Out of all the new subcultures of humans and things that are coming about, otherkin may be one of the most fascinating that you’ll ever read about, and maybe one day meet. Until then, keep reading to discover all of the facts about otherkin that you’re dying to know.
Giving into the primitive thought that otherkin are simply people who believe themselves to be the personification of a thunder storm or an earthworm-person is nothing more than an easy way to make yourself feel better about living an unexamined life. Otherkin are so much more than what you think they are - they've been born into the wrong body. Rather than being someone who's born with the wrong parts, they're creatures whom genetics have played a trick on, a species being laughed at by the universe.
Otherkin believe themselves to be wolves, fairies, or anything else, really, that was born into a human body. There's some crossover in the otherkin community with furries, people who feel that they're transethnic, and even fictives (otherkins who believe themselves to be fictional characters). The fine folks over at Kitsunet host an exhaustive timeline (seriously, don't click that link unless you've got some time on your hands) about the otherkin where you can see how the community has changed throughout the years.
The Otherkin Timeline The Recent History of Elfin, Fae, and Animal People by O. Scribner traces the otherkin movement back to the early '70s where it was initiated by the Elf Queen's Daughters (EQD), a group of people who believed themselves to be elves, likely due to the Tolkien fandom that weaved itself into '60s counterculture. In an email to the authors of the Otherkin Timeline, the EQD said that the formation of the group would lead to the beginning of a subculture:
"About 1972, Arwen and Elenor, who were, and are, very adept magicians were visiting friends in Carbondale, Ill. They were, and are, the most adept necromancers we’ve ever encountered, using the Ouija board to channel a spirit, and receive answers and guidance from it. On this occasion, the spirit told them to form the Elf Queen’s Daughters.”
As the group grew, physically and via their texts, throughout the '70s, the EQD gained more members and slowly began to change the way people thought about who, or what, they were.
Nah, bro. Otherkin can be whatever they want and that's pretty rad. Otherkin that aren't things like foxes or sea turtles are known as fictives, kins whose true identity is that of a fictional character from anything you can imagine. If you're still confused, think about it this way: if your true self is a bat then you're an otherkin, but if your true identity is one of those bullets from Super Mario World then you're a fictive. Or, as Jeff Foxworthy might say, if you post on Tumblr as a tree sprite from Rise of the Blood Masters: Book Five of the Dragon Stone Saga instead of as a cisgender hetero white male, you might be a fictive. Just by taking a cursory glance of many otherkin and fictive blogs on Tumblr, it's obvious that posters often have multiple personas, some of them otherkin, some human, and maybe even a mix of the two, but it's usually split up between different accounts so things don't get too confusing.
Aside from wondering what otherkin actually are, the biggest question asked about the group is how they transition from being human to being something else. The process of transitioning in known as "awakening," and this change has many of the same elements of body dysmorphia and thinking that you're losing your marbles that someone who is transgender feels before they transition.
The awakening is a slow realization that you were born in the wrong skin, similar to what Evan Urquhart describes in their article about realizing they were trans in Slate: "My understanding of what gender dysphoria was and the realization that I had it came slowly, often through experimentation, as I became more aware of the experience of trans people and more willing to try things out myself."
Obviously realizing that you're transgender and realizing that you were meant to be born a fox are two different things, but they share the commonality of feeling like there's been a genetic mistake. While there are no cut-and-dry rules for being trans, there are plenty of very specific ways to know if you're of the kin. According to this super legit tripod site, if you "had an odd experience being born," "remember being conceived," or you're a loner, you were probably meant to be born a thunderstorm. If none of those things apply, that's fine, there are 23 ways to identify whether or not you're otherkin and one of them will likely apply directly to you.
Adalen, an otherkin who identifies as “not fully human," puts the awakening in a less fantastical way by breaking the realization into two different camps: “A common one, including my own path, is that you’ve always known yourself to be different and usually had an affinity for an animal. They might come across the idea of otherkin and realize they are not alone. Other times, they might have a sudden spiritual experience or revelation that leads them to the conclusion that they are otherkin.”