[Warning: use of ableist slur]
(Note: This is a public copy of what I originally posted to a friends-only filter. I’m leaving the original post on the friends-only filter, so as not to violate the privacy of the people who already commented there. One person asked me to make a public copy so that people could share and discuss this issue more widely.)
I’ve always felt that the single most important question (the Question) about otherkin is that of mental health: “Is being otherkin a delusion?” (Or, as it has sometimes been phrased: “Are otherkin crazy?”)
It’s not really possible to find a single answer to the Question, because otherkin don’t all believe or experience the same things. To answer it satisfactorily, one would have to focus on specific aspects of the Question, and specific aspects of the people, instead of generalizing. I just wish that more people would talk about the Question, whether they find a multitude of satisfactory answers or not, and regardless of whether the answers are what they wanted to find. More often, it feels like otherkin and non-otherkin alike brush the Question aside with a short answer out of the magic eight-ball. I’ve seen less writing about the Question than I would have expected.
I’m not a psychology major, so I don’t feel capable to write about the Question. I’ve tried to write about it sometimes anyway, when it came up. In one of my attempts to write about the Question, I found myself trying to explain why the Question was important. I tried to say that the answer to the Question made a difference in whether otherkin’s experiences are valid, and whether otherkin should be treated with respect. But then I stopped and realized the implication of that statement was that only mentally “normal” people should be treated with respect. That’s not right. Everybody should be treated with respect, no matter what. Everybody needs respect in order to thrive. People with mental variations and mental illnesses should definitely be treated with respect.
How does this change the value of the Question? Why is the Question important? Or is it not important?
I was the person who ask this, because, I thought that the people here would particularly have good responses to this question.
For me… my response is to agree with the paragraph that is second from the bottom. It doesn’t make a person less worthwhile, or their experiences less worth of respect, if they are “crazy”.
“The Question” seems to point to the issue that seems to haunt people… are otherkin “real”? I think, people think the Question is important because, if otherkin are “crazy” (if it can be proved to be a “mental health disorder”), then, we are not “real”.
But, inside here, is the idea that someone’s identity only deserves respect if it is “real”. This is a version of the recent post I reblogged where people were saying, “transgender identity can be proved by SCIENCE~, so, it’s real, but otherkin haven’t been proved, so, they’re not real!” The otherkin community is still focused on whether there is a “proof” for us, except that instead of looking to science to tell us that there is something real about our experience in a medical sense, we are, as a spiritually focused community, trying to find proof by being told that there is nothing real about our experience in a medical sense (which leaves open the alternative option, spiritual, that many otherkin believe).
But, whatever way you present it, it’s the same false issue: that some experiences of identity matter because you can prove they have a base in something, and others don’t. The question of whether it means something to a person to explore their identity and their identity to be acknowledged, is not mentioned.
What is sure, is that non-human identity is an experience that is deeply felt. In transgender people, we point to areas of the brain and say, this works differently in a transgender person than a cisgender person. If that study proves false after all, the transgender person’s need and identity doesn’t disappear. The same, if someone can point to areas of an otherkin person’s brain, and say, this works differently… that does not make our need and identity disappear. (And, it also doesn’t prove that otherkin identity is not a spiritual experience also. We don’t know that spiritual experiences won’t also cause changes in the brain or be connected to them. In fact, it seems silly to think they don’t, because the brain is the part of us that processes and stores the experience and, if it didn’t change, we would probably not remember the experience.)
I think, the Question is not important, and, actually is a problematic way to look at things. Because, it focuses the issue of “whether otherkin deserve respect” or “whether otherkin identity is real” outside the person who is experiencing it. It focuses it on tests, or psychologist judgments, or any other theory. But, those theories are much less important than the feelings of the person who is experiencing it, and what they need. If I say I need a drink of water, the right reaction is not to run me through tests to see if I am hallucinating the need for water, and let me possibly die of thirst in that time. The right reaction is to trust me and give me a drink of water, and, if it turns out that I was hallucinating, let me be responsible in the unlikely case that I drink too much water, and get water poisoning. It’s not your place to say I need or don’t need water. Unless I am asking for something that hurts you more than it helps me, it’s my choice to make.
And, this is controversial to some people but, I believe it: even “crazy” people should be allowed to make our own choices, even if we are delusional, because we have a right to pursue what we feel will make us happy. It’s not like “normal” people never made a wrong, delusional, or even deadly choice. But they are still allowed to make choices. Let us make the choices we feel suits us, and let us be responsible if we are wrong.