“The Fall of the Therian and Otherkin Communities” (5/5/2021)
The idea that just because some or even many people desire within a given community to have a litmus test of sorts to ‘prove’ or officially ‘become’ a *personal* identity (that, of course, can have social identity aspects due to there being a community for it) does not mean that such a thing should exist. Many people desire for all kinds of things to be done or happen that ultimately are Bad Ideas ™; we need to learn from experiences and our pasts to realize what is and isn’t okay to do within a given community. The fact that someone wants to take the *idea* of an otherkin and/or therian litmus test to potentially make it a reality is unfortunately VALIDATING to the use of that test–it establishes that there must be need for this and it must be a good thing to do because obviously people want it. It creates a sort of positive feedback loop in which the existence (or near and validated existence) of this test is further validated (regardless of whether it is actually or morally problematic to have the test) by those who see the test or have to take it in order to be “initiated” into a given community label–those who ‘pass’ the test become validators of it, showing that it works, and even those who ‘fail’ the test provide further validation because they “proved” they weren’t worthy of the given label. Eventually, the mere existence of the test validates to the community members that such a test needs to exist and the members generally stop questioning whether it actually even *should* exist anymore–it’s simply accepted as something that is “needed” and for the betterment of the community (whether it actually is or not).
From a more personal perspective: my introduction into the therianthropy community was on a forum that regularly practiced “grilling” on all newbies, including myself, and it was purported as a way to both “keep out the fluffies and roleplayers” (that we didn’t want in because they weren’t serious enough about therianthropy and made us “serious, real therians” look bad) and to help out those ‘serious’ therians in their own introspection. I bought it, full force, and after my own ‘grilling’, which turned out to not be much because I so thoroughly answered the standard ‘grilling’ intro questions (I was accepted quickly as being a ‘serious therian’) and felt comfortable on that forum, I practiced the grilling, myself, in people’s introductions. Eventually, activity on the board fell as people went elsewhere to be active in the therian community–they went places where they didn’t have to be grilled or ‘prove’ themselves to a group of people.
As the activity fell there and I found other forums to go to, I came to realize that grilling wasn’t the necessity, nor so useful of a tool as I had been led to believe. I still look back on what I did there–something I genuinely thought at the time was a good thing to do–and kind of cringe at myself for being so intolerant of other people, so unaccepting, and so disrespectful. I had fallen victim to the social atmosphere of that forum and decided that because they had that ‘test’ (the grilling practice) that I should trust in them that it was actually needed and right–that it was validated–and from there I further validated it by practicing the test on others. It’s sickening how this can happen, but it’s so easy *for* it to happen, especially if moderators, especially admins, and other regulars or highly-respected members validate the practice/test. It becomes that positive feedback loop of people essentially nodding their heads in agreement and continuing on with a practice without really questioning if it’s even okay to be an actual practice there or not, with more and more people being added to those seeing it as valid as they “pass” the test and join into the forum, taking after those higher respected members and staff. And naysayers are generally quickly stamped out by a barrage of angry ‘superiors’ on the board who will insist to their last breath that this test is “good and needed”. We stop questioning it, we stop thinking for ourselves about it, and fall into what the given site/community insists should be The Way, and we ignore those who suffer because of it or gloss over them, accepting that they are simply a ‘small cost’ to this practice that is ‘better for the community’.
But then that board was lost and the community managed to grow further on other sites and forums where grilling wasn’t a thing anymore. We came to figure out ways to function in the community, or at least in certain parts of it, without the need for grilling or going on “fluffy hunts”–we found a way to exist at least more balanced and less harmfully. So grilling, overall, became a thing of the past and became more widely recognized as not a valid, let alone good or healthy, practice in the community–it became accepted as a bad practice and it, along with similar forms of litmus testing in the community, became understood as something to avoid.
We can reinstill some kind of litmus test, be it grilling or something else, to try to fight off things like kffs (“kinning for fun” people), to try to make our experiences, identities, and communities more ‘palatable’ to those who are not part of those things, but we’d only be able to do it on a small scale, like a single or few forums. And on those forums, activity will probably eventually taper off and cause a near-death to the given forum(s) because newbies–who are a big source of activity & a key aspect of the ‘lifeblood’ that would keep the forum going–would feel too unsafe going there to be active. Plus, therian and otherkin forums are already borderlining on dying out entirely, do we really want to *assist* in that by further chasing away new people with fear and discomfort? And it would all be for naught anyway as the main places kffs hang out can’t be controlled with some litmus test or whatever–they are most prevalent on social media platforms that give them large amounts of freedom and little control over them from others. And those kffs, on those platforms, are going to be the main or first people most people are going to see in relation to therianthropy and otherkin. That’s the reality of the situation, no matter how much it sucks. That’s the way the world is at this point. We can continue to keep fighting horrendously amongst our own communities here, attacking the shit out of our ‘neighbors’ because we don’t know where else to point our frustration, worry, and rage, so we redirect it at another therian and/or otherkin site, another forum, another well-known therian/’kin, and we become a damn ouroboros devouring its own tail–and it’s THAT which will be the fall of our communities, if we let it happen.
Or, we can try to work toward better solutions. Maybe our focus shouldn’t be about sort of directly fighting off people like kffs. Maybe we should focus on garnering social atmospheres that are more prominent with acceptance, respect, and empathy and trying to honestly focus on *helping* people and nurturing positive social, communal bonds with the community members, including new people, and emphasizing good education. We should not fight with fire and rage, but with compassion and humility. We should acknowledge our limitations as individuals, as forums, as sites, and as communities, and learn to work through ways we are *not* limited. We should speak with voices that aren’t filled with disdain, rage, or defeat, but instead with hope and acceptance to be able to spread words or content of our personal experiences in being other-than-human so that others can find them and realize that THEY ARE NOT ALONE. Should we not allow more of us members–those who are willing and able–to be helpers and stewards in these communities so more therians and ‘kin don’t have to feel the dreadful ache and weight of being *alone*? These communities aren’t all about just each of us as individuals, about our own selves, but they are also about others who need these resources and socializations for their own good and wellbeing, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to just sit by idly with my mouth shut while others try to take that away (whether intentionally or not). My fangs and claws are my words, not of hate or anger, but of compassion, acceptance, and humility–they are my greatest strength and I’m ready to let them sing.