So I look around for more on “the otherkin community.” I find a piece by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw from a few months ago. I read.
When she was 9 or 10 years old, Jessie read a book that would change her life forever: Julie of the Wolves, a story about a young girl who bonds with a wolf pack to survive in the Alaskan tundra. It precipitated Jessie’s realization that she identified as a wolf herself.
“I could certainly see a case being made that I latched on to wolves because of some difficult times in my life,” Jessie told me. “I saw family in them, I saw protection and familiarity, and I saw an escape from what I was dealing with in my life.”
Plenty of kids are obsessive, but for Jessie, her love of wolves became a lifestyle and a spiritual experience, including “phantom shifts,” or episodes where she felt the physical characteristics of being a wolf.
“I would prowl my room late at night as a wolf, usually when I was restless or agitated. This was comforting to put myself into another place. Whether this is mental or spiritual, I don’t really know. I still do a version of this to this day, and I know it’s felt like both. I’m diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety, and there are many days where putting myself in ‘wolf mind’ helps to relax me.”
Now, see, all of that is consistent with its being fantasy, and I’m all for fantasy. I was hugely into fantasy as a child, and I’ve always felt slightly sorry for kids who weren’t into it.
But actually “identifying as” another species goes beyond fantasy, and yes I think it’s risible in adults.
If you truly believe that you’re not human, people on the Internet will probably be the first to know. That’s where the term “otherkin” first sprang up in the early ’90s, in quiet little online culs-de-sac dedicated to those who believed they were dragons and elves. To someone who thinks of him- or herself as otherkin, the issue is one not of mental illness but of freedom of expression.
There’s ambiguity there. Truly believing you’re not human is not quite the same as thinking of oneself as not human – “thinking of oneself as” is the same as pretending.
But hey – it’s not harmful, it’s just first world special snowflakeism.
You don’t come to the conclusion that you’re a dragon without a certain amount of self-examination. Many otherkin are aware that some outsiders think they’re delusional. The psychiatric professionals I contacted for this story, however, were surprisingly forgiving.
Dr. Marc D. Feldman, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama and inventor of the term “Munchausen by Internet,” told me that otherkin didn’t seem like a good fit for mental health treatment.
“People in advantaged countries like to think of themselves as especially complex, colorful, and special,” he wrote in an email. “The otherkin phenomenon certainly reflects this first-world preoccupation. But it isn’t illegal, doesn’t victimize other people, and isn’t a form of mental illness (unless people become delusional about it), so I don’t see a particular need for ‘treatment.’”
Just so. As I said, I’m all for fantasy…but that doesn’t mean I can’t find some fantasies funny.