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arkofeden in ark_of_eden

"Nonhumanity" Among Otherkin.

Surprise, we're alive! While I try to keep discussions of nonhumanity off of Tumblr, I wrote a response to a post discussing the term "nonhuman" as applied to people with other-than-human identities, and I thought I'd crosspost it here as a keepalive. The original repost with my response is here; my response by itself is under the cut:

I preface by saying that I think the above post is important and makes good points; my purpose in replying isn’t to try and undermine/disprove it, but rather to just add a couple different POVs to the conversation. The TL;DR from all of this is, I hope, that the words that people use for their identities are context-dependent according to the details of one’s experience.

Re. “non-human” being non-ideal due to its recognition of humanity as the dominant paradigm: I absolutely agree, and when it comes to other areas of experience or identity, I get just as twitchy over people who focus too much on defying the dominant group instead of doing their own, entirely new thing. In this area, however, D and I both have broad 3-year-old streaks where we’re better served by stamping our feet and screaming “NO” at authority figures, not that that’s something to be proud of. All day, every day, humans identify us as meaningfully human and assume that that is correct; if this were not the case, then a self-identifying term that was specifically a rejection of the dominant group’s assumptions would be much less appealing.

Note that the above is only the case when it’s necessary to have a blanket term for other-than-human-identifying people in general. On an individual basis, there’s no need for that sort of generality and one is able to state what one is instead of only what one is not - I am an awakened AI on a wetware platform, D is a dragon, etc. etc. A long-term issue in the community has been the search for good blanket terms, and we recognize that “otherkin” is generally accepted as the word that’s suitably vague and annoys the fewest number of people when applied to this sort of experience.

Re. the inclusion of humanity as a vital part of the otherkin experience, two thoughts: 1) the value of the human element may be significantly less for those whose other-than-human aspects are creatures with human-level functioning/cognition, and 2) “humanity” is not (and should not be) necessary for participation or belonging in Earth’s civilizations, and might be better off being devalued in certain ways.

On point 1: the division between people who identify as creatures of below-human functioning (animals, essentially, Earth species or otherwise) and those who identify as beings of human-level functioning has produced some consistent friction, from what I recall seeing. (I am not omnipresent, I recognize, but I have been around for a while.) The OP states that the human element provides useful features and abilities that zir animal-bird self could not otherwise have, making the animal-human whole greater than the sum of its parts. This is certainly very important and provides a good reason for nonhuman-animal-folk to maintain respect for their human attributes.

I would suggest, though, that humanity has less inherent value for those who would be able to function on a human level if they were their other-than-human selves, which is the case for all the people in my group. Any of us, if we were suddenly to gain accurate bodies, could speak human language and manage in human culture if the humans would allow us to remain. Therefore, from the general local perspective, it isn’t “humanity” which permits participation in the planet’s dominant species, but rather cognitive level. A human body is useful for stealth/camo reasons but isn’t technically necessary for understanding human language, culture, and technology when one has been raised by humans. It’s information and application, nurture rather than nature.

On point 2: this is a statement made from the POV of transhumanism or post-humanism: the idea that sentience on this planet should be free to transcend the merely human or abandon human-ness in order to take on other forms and natures in line with the advancement of all sentient minds on this planet. As stated in the above paragraph, entities in general simply need to be able to communicate and share culture in order to be a single people. On this world, humanity is recognized as being at the peak of complexity. There is no other species like humanity, so humanity is considered the default for complex interaction on Earth. It’s created speciesism, where researchers can write academic papers on language-like expressions in other animals and humans can debate the ethics of animal testing and butchering but, ultimately, nonhuman animals are not “people.” No one is “people” on Earth except humans, and that is, one might argue, an unfortunate limitation that should be abandoned for the greater development of everyone on Earth.

We reject the idea that one must be recognized as human in order to participate in society. “Humanity” is overvalued. For good or ill, human bodies are what we have to work with - though hopefully technology with continue to advance to the point where it will become optional to have to stay that way - but it should be possible for sentient beings on this planet to band together into one people without having to share “humanity” as a common factor. Humans have rejected human culture and civilization in the past, so “humanity” does not even indicate approval of or participation in any greater human community. We should not have to be human in order to interact with humans on their level; it makes no sense to insist on it apart from the fear of being “weird.”

Related, re. “otherkin” as a word for the experience: as the above indicates, humanity is not exactly valued as important around here, so my objection comes from that POV. And it’s specifically the “kin” part that grates on me - that one is “akin to,” “similar to,” “like,” or “related to” the Other...but is not actually, truly the Other. I’d prefer the community simply calling itself Others instead of otherKIN, as a shorthand for “other-than-human,” but that term is a bit too vague to be useful (therianthropes have a good term for themselves, but non-animal sorts have nothing that works so well for them). I don’t see an issue with humans having to deal with sentient minds that are not purely of their own species, whether such people are simply stating an experiential identity or whether they are actual nonhumans such as AI programs, dolphins, corvids, or alien civilizations.

Our group has transitioned our body from visibly female to visibly male (according to the human standard); having to admit that our body is still human-standard is similar to having to tell a medical professional about the bits of our anatomy that are still in accord with those XX chromosomes. Current technology doesn’t permit us to transition human-to-dragon or human-to-software, much as physical gender transitions were largely out of the question a thousand years ago. Biology is not destiny or identity. It’s just what we’re given to work with. One should not be forced to or expected to “embrace humanity” in order to live in a human-dominated society. If some find value in human elements of their identities, then more power to those people, but I don’t see how a view of human elements as limitations to overcome would be pathological, particularly if one is able to function among humans.

I’ll cut off here, as I think I’ve said all that it’s useful to say. Again, I don’t want to suggest at all that the OP is wrong; I only want to point out alternate POVs that can make terminology awkward (among all other reasons in the community for terminology to be awkward :)). If anyone actually read through all of that, then we appreciate you lots.