“About Changes & Growth in the Therian & ‘Kin Communities” (12/5/2013)

So I think that maybe I at some point should eventually make a writing that sort of ‘revisits’ my “Therian Community: Status Quo & Development” essay and update it with some additional related views, thoughts, and experiences I have gathered on that and related topics over the past years since I wrote that piece (2008; gosh, it’s been almost 6 years, and at the time I’d only been in the therian/’kin communities for about 3 years).

It’s not that I disagree with anything I wrote in it–I find I still feel essentially the same way about the various things mentioned in it.  However, I think it’s a piece deserving of eventually getting more, updated info added to it, particularly things like resources I mentioned in it (Project Shift–as it was only in early development then–, Werelist–was also newly rebuilt then–, and Awereness Forums–which went completely down and very recently has been officially revived in some form).  Plus I think it would give me a good place to ramble on about how my active and passive role(s) in the therian and otherkin communities have changed over these past 6 years and maybe some thoughts on my potential future ‘plans’ for however long in either or both of those communities.

That and mentioning how a lot of what I said in that writing has stayed rather true, although I personally see some of the bad parts and angry, jaded ‘older’ members less, yet I also don’t read nearly as much on therian/’kin boards anymore and I’ve found other ways to focus my thoughts, efforts, and reading about personal animality online beyond a lot of the places that were my old ‘haunts’.  And I’d like to talk about how that relates to my position as one of those therian community contributor ‘generations’ and my thoughts on seeing a ‘new generation’ of people step up or if I think there’s been too much lacking in that area.

I still see, from time to time, someone who is an ‘older’ member of the therian and/or ‘kin communities rant on about how either/both communities have changed for the worse over the years since they were most active in them.  And sure, we’re all entitled to our opinions and being able to voice them.  My issue is more so that this concept is usually expressed as an inherent problem with the community (especially ‘newer’ people in it), and not a matter of “I have personally outgrown this community” or “this community just isn’t a good fit for me anymore and I don’t like it for myself–my own personal reasons”.  It’s most often about how the dire problem is not in how one views the community and how their views have changed, but how the community is, itself, a place that has become worse and various levels of ‘terrible’ for its members in general.

But should we not try to at least take a step or two back and look at some of the positive ways the therian/’kin communities have changed?  That they’ve become more diverse (of ‘kin/therian and other, non-related, experiences and aspects), more accepting and respectful, less about identity politics, grilling, and needing to fit some pre-established standard before one is even allowed to interact on a given board/site.  Yes, those aspects are still found to whatever extent in pretty much any part of the ‘kin/therian communities, however, they’ve become less emphasized, less enforced, than they were, and the amount and ‘list’ of therian/’kin identity and experience types, and other identities and aspects, has grown broader and still gradually grows now, so far without being “too encompassing” or “too open” or “too accepting”, so to speak.  It takes frequent, regular efforts to work toward finding and trying to maintain a good sense of balance and well-roundedness for these communities, and perfection will never be an option–nor should it be treated as one, let alone one to aim for.

While the communities have grown to become less focused, less magnified, on any one kind of belief, experience, or group of ‘kin/theriotypes–that is, they have become less *specialized* and more *generalized*, per se–that can be a major drawback to those people who did or could have found (if they were active back then) a lot of use, friendship, interesting discussion, etc. in the communities for those particular specialties.  Yet there has been a mass of other people who were outright rejected, chased off, called on as being fluffy, bullshitting, or roleplaying, and/or expected to fit X,Y,Z standards in the given community before they were ‘allowed’ to really interact much, if at all, and those people are progressively being given a chance to finally interact in and make good use of the ‘kin/therian communities.

I think the ‘specialty’ focused places (‘old’, new, and otherwise) are still good to have around as sites, boards, mailing lists, journal communities/groups, etc., but they shouldn’t anymore be in the position of acting as though they are the entirety of the [“valid”] ‘kin or therian communities, or that they are the Gatekeepers to who is and is not otherkin, therian, fictionkin, etc. (and really, the communities are going progressively toward essentially not having such Gatekeepers and focusing more on educating people about what is and is not, even if more basically, under the concepts of otherkin, therianthropy, and fictionkin).  The old ‘specialty’ groups were, in essence, the foundations and entirety of the ‘kin/therian communities (online) for however long, and they should be remembered and respected for what good things they brought to those communities and the people within them, while also remembering how the communities have grown beyond those early points–gradually fixing or reducing flaws and problems, and becoming more welcoming, understanding, and accepting of a wider diversity of experiences that should have, in concept, always been included as okay and valid under the definitions and ideas of otherkin and therianthropy.

Should we really be looking back in so very much nostalgia of years and times gone by in these communities, as though those times were inherently superior, and looking down on the times since then as inferior and bad, without taking into account that the communities have had and will always have flaws and problems, good, wonderful, and bad things, and what appeals to or is useful for one person may not be for another person?  Should we try to specifically set upon high the aspects of the communities that were (and still are in some places and extents) focused on weeding out people whom the ‘accepted standard’ (within the given community or site/board) felt weren’t legitimate enough or good enough to be part of the exclusive group (or seemingly treated as exclusive)?  These aspects that have placed the value of policing people’s identities, beliefs, and experiences as being much more valuable than helping to nurture a more accepting, understanding, and diverse group of individuals and educating them about stuff in the communities in responsible, mature, kind ways.

Can we (in a general sense) in the ‘kin/therian communities not find ways to strike a lasting balance between skepticism, critiquing, and questioning, and being accepting, understanding, and open to alternative views/identities/beliefs, and between specializing groups and the broader, more general ‘kin/therian communities?  Does working toward such a balance and trying to sustain it actually mean that the communities are going downhill and running themselves into ruin?  Is it really so wrong for people in those communities to be working toward such goals of balance and broader diversity at the cost of being able to more easily identify and enforce policing against those who don’t fit a pre-established standard in one/both of the communities?

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