[bold]From Otherkin to Transethnicity: Your Field Guide to the Weird World of Tumblr Identity Politics[/bold]
Like a lot of teenagers and 20-somethings, "Eric Draven" used to keep a Tumblr. The microblogging platform has a strong community aspect, and it's easy to find people who like the same things — or are undergoing the same struggles — as you. There aren't many people undergoing the exact same struggles as Draven (a pseudonym taken from goth classic The Crow), though: unlike most teenagers and 20-somethings, Draven isn't, he claims, human. He might present as human, yes, but really he's a "fictive and otherkin who, in previous lives, has been a Deku Scrub and a dark elf." He's also "transethnic(Japanese) and andrognous [sic]."
What does this mean? An otherkin is a being born into the wrong body. Not just with the wrong parts, but as the wrong species: people who identify as otherkin believe that they are a wolves, or elves, or really any kind of being, born into a human body. (Furries, who focus on anthropomorphic animals and are known for dressing up, aren't the same thing as otherkin, many of whom don't dress up or change their appearances at all.) A fictive is like an otherkin where the true, internal identity is a fictional character — deku scrubs are tiny creatures from The Legend of Zelda series of video games. Transethnicity is this same phenomenon applied to ethnicity.
Draven, in other words, is a Japanese wood creature from The Legend of Zelda who was born into the body of a regular white kid. The community of people who identify as otherkin is more than 30 years old (the term itself dates to 1990), but over the last decade or so, it's undergone an interesting shift, one that's put it in the spotlight and made it one of the most controversial communities on a number of online social networks — not just Tumblr, but Live Journal and the message board TV Tropes. Where the first generation of otherkin, birthed in the post-60s hippies-read-Lord of the Rings rise of nerd-dom (not coincidentally, the same psychic space that birthed phone phreaking and, in turn, computer hacking), seemed to align along the crystal-healing-Elfquest-comics axis of outsider subcultures — less about a biological or psychological identification than a kind of mystical or poetic connection — this new set of otherkin (or those claiming to be otherkin) has grafted the academic language of identity politics and social justice activism onto their experiences. In doing so, they've transformed what Nick Mamatas' 2001 Village Voice story, "Elven Like Me," saw as a kind of new-age Burning Man-style subculture into a semi-politicized identity group. (For more on the early history of otherkin here's a fascinating, extensively documented and footnoted "Otherkin Timeline".)
Being otherkin, to this group, isn't just about resisting technology or being in touch with nature (though these, and other fantasy and new age elements, still form a large part of otherkin culture) — it's about being marginalized, ignored, laughed at, and oppressed. It's like being transgender. And as this otherkin group has transformed its language and its focus, so too has its scope widened. Otherkin identities can encompass fictional characters. Or nonliving, inanimate objects. Or even multiple identities — some fictional, some animal, all of them occupying a single body. Out of this widening comes new words: cisspecies. Transethnicity. Transablism. Transfat.