Identity: Gender…and species?

Regardless of whether you are in favor of social progression or not, transgender individuals and the overall concept of identity has reached more publicity than it has it the recent past. As with any marginalized group gaining more representation, there has been backlash such as protests over keeping certain people out of restrooms.

Some people are tired of hearing about what they have deemed “political correctness” and the “social justice warriors” that encourage it. Largely due to the fact that within a few years, people have gone from being encouraged to accept concepts sexualities like bisexuality, to being encouraged to support the existence of multiple genders. And now, presumably, people are being encouraged to support the existence of “otherkin,” those who do not identify as human.

This concept has also been erroneously referred to as “trans-species” and has been speculated by some  many to have originated on the blogging website Tumblr as a means to discredit or mock transgender identities. While this is verifiably false, and I will go into more detail on that further on, there are some issues present regarding the rights of transgender people and the existence of ‘otherkin.’

The first issue is that many people, otherkin or otherwise, often equate and compare the two, and falsely so. This has only caused not only more backlash against trans people, but also against otherkin themselves. Otherkin or not, we cannot ignore that a transgender and an otherkin identity have significant differences.  This is true even if they do manage to have some similarities.

One of the most significant differences between the two is that transgender identities are serious. They are relevant. Sure the definition of “gender” may be vague to some and debated (unnecessarily), but all in all genders are a human thing. A person can have an actual gender. If someone walks up to you and says “I am a man,” they are a man. Simple enough.

This is not the case with species. Species is an entirely physical thing, with no misunderstandings or cultural implications that prove otherwise. If a person walks up to you and says “I am a frog,” it is likely going to leave you confused.

Gender is relevant. It involves everyday life: Pronouns, dating, legal documents, etc.

There are no additional species you can add to your drivers license. There are no pronouns that correspond to species.

Furthermore, transgender identities can concern medical issues, and are practical. It makes sense to transition if you are transgender and you choose to do so.

You cannot transition to another species. This would not in any way ever make sense. Transitioning to another species is completely impossible insofar as modern science goes, and would likely end badly 99.9999% of the time even if it were possible. If you changed species, you would drastically alter your daily life, more so than anything else would. You likely would not be able to survive at all, having been raised as a human. You would not likely be accepted by other members of the species that were born into that species. And you would likely wreak havoc on the local ecosystem. If we should not even release pet store-bought feeder crickets into a lawn, then there is absolutely no way releasing humans-turned animals into the wild to live as a completely different species would ever be condoned.

Other significant differences to consider are the experiences of the two. Otherkinity does not have a uniform experience that goes with it, nor does it have a set reasoning behind it. While the cause of gender dysphoria is largely unknown, there is no set experience of otherkinity for which to search for a cause. A person can be otherkin for reasons ranging from psychology to spirituality to family traditions. There is no singular thing that could cause an identity that has such diverse explanation behind it, unless otherkinity itself was broken down into smaller groups and rationalized that way.

One misunderstanding with the experiences is with that of dysphoria. While it is true that many people experience gender dysphoria and many otherkin experience species dysphoria, it is important to realize that species dysphoria as a concept and as an experience is not ultimately tied to otherkinity. Many people who identify as otherkin for psychological reasons cite species dysphoria as an explanation. However, many otherkin who identify they way they do often experience species dysphoria but do not use it as the reasoning for their identity, but instead use a spiritual explanation. And then there are those spiritual otherkin who do not experience dysphoria at all, as well as psychological otherkin who do not experience dysphoria. To make matters more complicated, there are those who experience species dysphoria but do not associate with otherkinity in any way.

 

“NO, the difference is that transgender people are real and otherkin are a joke. THAT’S the difference!” 

Now I am sure someone who has stumbled across this has thought something along the lines of the above quote. So now I will clarify on the history and ‘reality’ of otherkin.

For starters, denying the existence of something just because you do not “believe” in it does not make it go away. I do not believe in Christianity, yet Christians still exist. I do not believe in reincarnation, but that does not change the fact that there are people out there actually considering themselves to be a fox in a human body because of it. Whether or not you respect a group of people or believe in the reasoning behind their identity, they will still exist and continue to perceive themselves in the way that they do. You could say “otherkin identities are not logical,” but not everyone is logical, and being illogical does not make you disappear entirely.

As far as otherkin literally being a joke, this is a completely false assumption made by those who do not bother looking into things that bother them. Otherkin did not pop up by some ‘troll’ on Tumblr to make fun of transgender people.

The modern otherkin community has its roots loosely in a neo-Pagan group known as The Elf Queen’s Daughters, which was established before the mid 1970s. From there, another neo-Pagan group known as The Silver Elves arose, which directly influenced the existence of the modern otherkin community. All of this was happening long before the existence of Tumblr and the unfortunately widespread ‘hobby’ of “internet trolling.” From these groups of people, who largely identified as humanoid mythological creatures for spiritual purposes, came two separate groups of those with nonhuman identities: In 1994, therianthropes, those who identify as nonhuman Earthly animals; and draconites/draconics, those who identify as dragons came about. As of the last half decade or so, however, those who identify as dragons are simply referred to as “otherkin,” “dragonkin,” or “mythkin,” and those who identify as real animals are referred to as “therians.” The modern otherkin community was initially largely spiritual, but has since included many more of those who consider their identity to be psychological, philosophical, or experiential.

All in all, otherkin were completely unrelated to transgender issues (as the should have been) until their presence on Tumblr, wherein the assumption that they were the joke of a transphobe popped up, and when younger, ignorant individuals began solidifying this assumption by actually calling themselves “trans-species,” and/or callously equating the two when they discovered the concept on Tumblr alone. In addition to this, unsurprisingly, many pseudo-otherkin accounts were created by others specifically with the intent on making otherkin into a transphobic joke, hence the presence of “toastkin” or “chairkin” Tumblr accounts and the phrase “sexually identify as” often accompanying those identities, along with ‘nounself’ pronouns like “che/chairs/chairself.” Whether or not these people aim to simply discredit otherkin or to further transphobia, they are certainly neither real nor relevant to actual gender identities or otherkinity.

 

“Actually, neither are real. There’s no proof, so there actually is no difference!” 

…And I am sure someone reading this has probably thought this as well.

This goes back to the fact that disrespect or dislike for, or disbelief in someone or something does not mean it does not exist.

That aside, identities are not necessarily something that can be proven or disproved. If someone legitimately sees themselves a certain way, no amount of not believing them will change their self-perception. The causes and explanations for an identity, however, are another story…sort of. For example, if someone identifies as a dragon because they believe in an alternate universe where they are a dragon and their soul (or whatever) got switched with that universe’s version of themselves, that may very well be disproved by science one day. If we gain scientific evidence that shows there is only one universe, we will know this person’s logic behind their dragon identity is invalid. If we gain scientific evidence that souls and any variation thereof does not have any physical existence whatsoever, we will know that an identity reasoned with reincarnation is using an invalid explanation. Certain explanations for self-perceptions and identities can be false. If someone says “I am a wolf because my mother was a wolf,” this is clearly biologically impossible and therefore not a valid explanation for why they see themselves or consider themselves the way they do. This is more likely to be a delusion rather than a reason or explanation.

The above quote also follows the logic that despite there being reason for believing in something’s existence, it does not truly exist until confirmed with scientific evidence. This is irrational. If we followed this logic, we would have to insist that no human had ever experienced love up until oxytocin and/or vasopressin were discovered (and we were made aware of their role in human relationships). But considering the fact that pair-bonding ceremonies have existed for centuries in various cultures, that many of us humans seem to be so fond of monogamy, that mothers have not been murdering their infants left and right for no reason, that love poems and courting have been around for centuries, that we cry when our family members die….all of these things and more have suggested the existence of love. Regardless of how well it was understood scientifically and regardless of the fact that it, in and of itself, was not considered to have any singular physical or visual existence. It was known to exist because we experienced it and people documented it. Perhaps someone who has never been in love would have no reason to believe that it existed at all, if it were not for others recounting their own experiences.

Experiences that may or may not explain an identity can be the same way. There may not be a singular, solid scientific explanation for gender dysphoria  yet, but this does not mean that it does not exist at all. The fact that there have been suicides due to some peoples inability to cope with gender dysphoria, the fact that many therapists and psychologists diagnose people with it, the fact that concept of “transgender” has existed in multiple variations throughout history in a variety of cultures, the fact that in around 30BC Philo of Alexandria described it, and many more occurrences and situations all repeatedly suggest that gender dysphoria does exist whether or not we can explain why.

Species dysphoria, understandably, is more complicated. It makes sense for it to be a much less commonly experienced phenomenon. However, the fact that there are a plethora of individuals who have been documented to have reported this experience for decades suggests it is a real experience. Lying on the internet is one thing, creating a satire account to further your own opinions on a group of people is another…but these things do not persist for entire lifetimes. That “toastkin” Tumblr account is a Tumblr thing only, and will be active for at most…three years? But these otherkin who have reported these feelings to their family members since youth, these otherkin who have confided in therapists about it, these otherkin who still experience it after having identified the way they do for decades are not simply making it up for ‘shits and giggles.’ It is not a joke to them. It is a real part of their real life that they deal with. And yes, these people exist. Looking for young otherkin on Tumblr will only ever find you young otherkin on Tumblr. Only looking for Tumblrkin (or fake otherkin accounts created by trolls) will only ever find you Tumblrkin. Otherkin exist off of Tumblr, though because I have stated before that these identities are irrelevant socially and not legally serious, many otherkin stay away from mentioning their identities on social media because they have virtually no reason to. Those who do tend to stray away from Tumblr for obvious reasons, especially those who have been in the communities longer and are older.

In regards to the identity without the experience of dysphoria, again, there cannot exactly be proof to begin with. These identities can be akin to an opinion of one’s self, a feeling, and yet again, self-perception. These things do not require “proof.” If you feel ugly, you feel ugly but you may not be aware of the psychological and cultural reasons as to why as soon as you feel ugly. If you look in the mirror and think “Eww, I am ugly” you are likely not thinking “How unfortunate is it that due to human biology we are hardwired to find symmetrical faces appealing, and mine is slightly lopsided. I am ugly!” If you perceive yourself to be a funny person, you do not necessarily need proof. Of course some people may disagree with you, just as many people disagree with the logic behind an otherkin identity, but you may still think of yourself as funny nonetheless…just as otherkin will proceed to be otherkin despite people disagreeing with the logic behind it.

 

Overall, when it comes to otherkinity, keep your knee-jerk reactions private. Otherkin know they are not literally  not human. In the definition of otherkin itself (“Identifying as nonhuman being on a metaphysical, integral level for reasons other than delusion”) it clarifies this. In fact, many otherkin reject the idea that otherkin identify as nonhuman, but that they have a nonhuman identity within their human one. They do not reject humanity. In any case, there is no need for a “otherkin rights” movement, there are no petitions to add a different species to legal documents, there are no species pronouns anyone is asking you to learn, they are not asking to get away with socially unacceptable behaviors, they are not even asking you to acknowledge otherkinity, and there is no otherkin pride parade. There is nothing, because it is unimportant, insignificant, and irrelevant to you. Acting like it is a big deal is what makes it a big deal.

 

Being otherkin essentially does not matter. Your gender does.

 

A related musing can be read here.

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