People are increasingly identifying as animals or non-human, with the internet opening-up the borders of acceptance for self-perception.
The Otherkin Community is an online organisation of people who believe their consciousness or soul is not human, despite the fact they inhabit a human body;
Otherkin members identify as animals or creatures from mythology, including dragons and vampires.
University of Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science graduate Pedro Feijó said in his report Doctors Herding Cats, an increase in the number of people identifying as Otherkin had been caused by the internet.
“With the internet becoming more accessible – i.e. not being used mostly by white, middle-class students – the Otherkin community further multiplied and diversified racially, sexually, and nationality-wise,” he said.
“The first decade of this century witnessed the first non-English websites by and for Otherkin, websites organised by people of colour and a tremendous diversification in terms of assumed sexual and gender preferences and identities.
“This was even more obviously the case from 2011 onwards, when the Otherkin community massively migrated to the blog hosting site Tumblr,” he said.
Otherkin member Shannon Litzow said she identified as being a large domestic cat.
“I have identified as non-human for about 15 years,” she said. “I found out I was Otherkin through Google searches, trying to find similar people who thought the same things I did,” she said.
“I became comforted but also a little scared of what others might think. In the end I was comforted to know I wasn’t alone.”
Ms Litzow said Otherkin did not choose to identify as non-human.
“Who on earth would choose to be something that can be ridiculed,” she said.
Otherkin member Elise Zadow said she identified as a wolf and discovered she was Otherkin through Buddhism.
“I’ve been Otherkin for as long as I can remember. I’ve never fit in with other people,” she said.
“I always felt a kind of kindred relation to wolves, but it wasn’t until my early 20s when I was beginning to practise Buddhism that I had a dream that lead to the discovery.
“Being that in Buddhism, I believe in reincarnation, it isn’t such a far stretch to believe I was a wolf in a past life.”
Ms Zadow said the Otherkin and Transgender communities seemed similar, but should not be compared.
“The two should not be related as they are not the same thing,” she said. “People cannot change themselves to become animals, and it is not the same as being born with a male or female brain but the wrong gender body.”
She said Otherkin were normal people who identified as human. She said she would like to see Otherkin become more accepted.
“I would like for there to be more acceptance of this sort of thing in the general community, for everyone to realise that we’re still just normal people,” she said.