Monday, 15 July 2013

Identifying as another species

                                                          Respect my rights....

Lazarus' no 1 rule of human existence is that, if you can imagine someone doing it, someone is doing it.

Mrs L. consistently complains about my liking for the wilder corners of the Sky TV package. However, in her inability to appreciate such gems, she recently missed the showing of 'I think I'm an animal', [update 10/11/14: original link dead; try here] a documentary about Therians or Otherkin.

Otherkin (aka Fairth, Metahuman, and sometimes overlapping with Vampires and Furries) are those people who believe themselves to be spiritually and/or physically other than human. 

In the documentary, we met a number of Otherkin:

Ben and Kimberly are a young British married couple, and like many young married couples they are saving up to buy their own place, and enjoy socialising with their friends. But unlike most young married couples, Ben and Kimberly share their bodies with the spirit of a wolf. They are  Therianthropes a growing new sub-culture of humanity who believe they are in some way an animal. I Think I'm an Animal explores the world of human animals, and meets the people who inhabit an animal identity, revealing the truth behind this mysterious and bizarre community. 

Now, it's easy to mock, and neither I nor the documentary can be accused of exactly avoiding this pitfall. (I particularly enjoyed the caller to the Otherkin phone in show, who started off along the lines of, 'Hi, I'm Robin. I'm a red and brown German Shepherd, bisexual, and I'm having problems with my parents.') The less po-faced among you might have appreciated the additional layers of complexity added by three of the main people featured in the film who (as well as being a raccoon, a wolf and a leopard) were in a gay, polyamorous relationship (tad risky for the raccoon, perhaps?). But quite apart from not wanting to poke  with sharp sticks what generally appeared to be fairly harmless but confused individuals, the programme raised questions about identity and nature that our society is particularly ill-resourced to deal with.

For example, the identification as being Otherkin is often phrased in such a way as to avoid any obviously false factual claims. One possibility (embraced by Otherkin) is:

My psychology has developed in such a way that I have a powerful link with a certain totem animal. The link has become so strong that I effectively am that animal.

This is coupled with a typically modern pragmatic emphasis:

New otherkin shouldn't worry too much about figuring out why they're otherkin, since there are far more pressing matters - not the least of which is determining with reasonable certainty whether or not one is otherkin at all.

It's hard not to think that the Scottish Government has missed a trick here. Since we're trying to brand ourselves as a progressive, modren country, why haven't we recognized the important needs of this misunderstood community and taken steps to institute polyamorous, transpecies marriage? We'd be ahead of the curve on this one. More exactly, assuming that this phenomenon is an example of the 'queer' Q in LGBTQI, why should the entire focus of the current debate on same sex 'marriage' be focused just on the needs of the homosexual community, rather than on providing social support for queer identities such as transpeciesism? As I've argued before, if you've signed up to the LGBTQI agenda, the slippery slope isn't just a questionable factual claim, it's a moral imperative.

(By the way, posting and comment moderation will be slow over the next few weeks as I trot off to annoy other parts of the world. Please bear with me.)

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