I have occasionally described myself as an alien.
And lately I have spent a significant amount of time on Tumblr (where all genders, orientations, and other forms of identity are accepted and defended, and furthermore, there are new and unusual identities gaining recognition all the time).
So I’m sure some people are wondering what my opinions are on the phenomenon of “otherkin.”
That question encompasses several questions, which I’ll try to answer one by one.
1. How do you define the term “otherkin”?
As I understand it, otherkin are people who experience a feeling of being something other than a human, trapped in a human body.
2. Is it real?
Of course. It’s a feeling, so, if people feel it, then by definition it is real.
3. Is it just a feeling? Or is it really what people say it is?
If you mean being a literal reincarnation of some animal, a literal descendant of some alien, or a soul that some supernatural power literally placed in the wrong body… then, in my opinion, no.
However, I don’t find those ideas any more unlikely than the claims of mainstream religion.
To people who earnestly believe them, I extend the same respect and tolerance that I extend to religious people, as long as they aren’t using it as an excuse to hurt others.
You don’t have to share people’s beliefs to respect their feelings.
4. Is it comparable to being transgender? (In other words, is it the same type of feeling, and of the same strength?)
Without having had both those experiences, I can’t give a confident answer to that.
I’m not telepathic. I can’t know for certain what another person feels, or how strongly.
I can only make guesses based on people’s words and actions.
From observation of words and actions, I’m pretty sure there is a wide variation among individuals, both transgender and otherkin, in terms of how strongly they identify as such.
In both groups there appear to be some who identify with the group consistently and strongly throughout life, and others who identify temporarily and less strongly while they are growing up and trying to figure out their own identities.
Is the consistent-and-strong identification more common among transgender people than among otherkin? Yes, from what I can tell.
The recorded history of the transgender movement gives lots of evidence of transgender identity being felt very strongly, often to the point of undergoing major surgery, and risking one’s job, relationships and even survival for the sake of expressing one’s identity.
There’s less recorded evidence of otherkin going to such extremes.
However, to be completely open-minded and scientific, I have to consider the possibility that this is because otherkin are less common overall, or because they have not had communities that recognized the existence of their identity until the last few years.
And otherkin (or possible otherkin) are not completely absent from recorded history: there is, for example, the 1987 case of the Leopard Man of Skye.
Also, even if the experience of being otherkin is generally much less strong and enduring than the experience of being transgender, that doesn’t mean it is undeserving of any respect at all.
5. Should we demand respect and recognition for otherkin, in the same way we demand it for transgender and gay people? Or would that harm the social justice movement overall by causing people to take it less seriously?
I can see both sides of that. On the one hand, I would find it very hard to argue that any group does not deserve respect and acceptance. But on the other hand, I’m not sure society as a whole is ready to accept otherkin.
And, if otherkin associate themselves with the transgender movement by using some of the same terminology and rhetoric, it’s possible that could cause setbacks for society’s willingness to take transgender people seriously.
Society is starting to accept gay rights, transgender rights, women’s rights, and racial equality. That’s a great thing, and it would be terrible to lose that progress by pushing demands for more acceptance on society faster than it can adapt.
I’m not saying that people *shouldn’t* be ready to accept all non-harmful forms of self-expression at once. I’m saying that, in reality, they aren’t… and, however unfair it may be, the success of all the various human-rights movements depends on society being ready to accept them.
So maybe we need to wait a while, in the same way that we’re not going to start fighting for the right to polyamorous marriage while we’re still struggling to get gay marriage accepted.
But, even if that’s the case, it’s not a question of whether otherkin deserve acceptance; it’s a question of whether it’s feasible at this point in time. I’m all for accepting everyone who expresses their identity without hurting other people with it.
6. Do you identify as otherkin?
I can see how people could get that idea, since my first published book was literally titled “Born on the Wrong Planet.” But no.
As a teenager, maybe even as a college student, I might have identified as otherkin, if I had known about that community. I have even actively described myself as feeling like an alien trapped in a human body.
But that feeling isn’t prevalent enough in my life for me to consider it part of my identity.
(Especially since I’ve managed to surround myself with friends and loved ones who are as alien as me. It’s easier to feel that I fit in on Earth, if I carefully pick the elements of Earth that I get to spend time with.)