Community History and Trends

For those of you who’ve been in the community for a while, what trends and cycles have you noticed?

A friend and I were talking about the ‘kin community as essentially having “generations” (feel free to substitute “eras”, “stages”, “phases”, or whatever other phrase works for you), with different characteristics/defining traits. Of course, the therian and otherkin communities have someone divergent timelines, having begun at different times and through different mechanisms. Note that I’m talking primarily about the online communities below.

Therianthropy

I am more familiar with the therianthropy community’s history than with the otherkin community, having been involved in the therian community for ten years. Note that the modern, online community goes back nearly a decade further than that, so of course my perspective is limited.

The first generation is probably the alt.horror.werewolves generation, which is where most people trace the origins of the modern therianthropy community. This started in the early ’90’s. Lots of talking about lycanthropy as spirituality, feeling like a werewolf, etc. Therianthropy starts getting used as a word in the mid-90’s. But this is the developmental stage of therianthropy, and from stories heard from “greymuzzles” who were around AHWW at the time, it was a really exploratory period: experiential, fluid, creative. We can probably say this “generation”/era ended around ’97 with a lot of friction and ideological differences, and an influx of trolls and spammers (“meowers”); people split off from AHWW around this time. AHWW remained in use for a long time afterwards, but it stopped being the center/focus of the community.

Second generation is perhaps roughly ’97/’98 to ’06 or ’07 or so, maybe? This is my generation of therianthropy. Forums popping up everywhere, and the greymuzzles felt they needed to help guide the therian community because the newbies just didn’t know what it meant to be “awere” (according to a quote on Orion Sandstorrm’s Otherkin Timeline). There were more articles on terminology, and defining what it means/is to be therian/were. There was a bit of a population explosion, and tons of different mailing lists and forums and LJ communities. The community became very critical about what is legit and what is not, and there was often intense grilling of newbies or less-acceptable identity/experience claims. Lots of debates on terminology and definitions; shifting gets split into a dozen or more categories. I think some of this was a backlash/reaction to the first generation’s difficulties regarding the idea of “physical shifting” (and so p-shifting discussions were even banned in some forums, or strictly moderated), and trying to get some credibility as a community, divorcing themselves from the use of words like “were”, “lycanthrope”, or anything else that looked too much like roleplaying or fiction.

This led to a splintering off in… oh goodness, I’m not even sure, probably ’05 or so? – I wouldn’t quite call it a third generation or era, though maybe it inspired that – where a small group of people (begun mostly by Lynxspirit / Walks-Between-Worlds I think, but also heavily influenced by Akhila and Quil, and I’m not sure who else) started using the term “animal person” instead (derived from Charles de Lint’s use in his urban fantasy stories, as far as I know) and focusing on the experiential side of animality, eschewing the use of excessive terminology.

The third generation would be the current one, potentially a backlash/reaction to the rigidity and increasing judgmental approaches of the second generation. This “generation” is more experiential and even starting to have seeds of activism here and there (primarily on the Tumblr iteration of the community, which is a bizarre and fascinating beast), and fusing a bit more with the otherkin community. (In most of the second generation you rarely saw crossover between the otherkin and therian communities. I think the increasing crossover has shaped both of the current era, as the therian skepticism/logic-heavy approaches have bled over into the otherkin community, and the otherkin magic-focused/acceptance approach has bled over into the therian community.)

Otherkin

This one’s debatable and I’m not as qualified to speak on it, as I’ve been in the ‘kin community for less time than the therian community, but we can probably stick the first generation as the Silver Elves era, their elfin mailing list, people who started discussing it seriously there. It’s debatable as to whether the Silver Elves were Discordians playing a giant joke on everyone, or whether they actually identified as elves, or both – but the point is that this is where the community really started. I don’t know anything about this “generation” of ‘kin (1980 to 1990 or so) other than what’s written about the Silver Elves.

Second generation probably began with the Elfinkind Digest, use of the word “otherkind”, and an open mailing list for “elves and others of the otherkind”, starting in 1990. There was also a parallel development on a dragon fanlist where people started identifying as dragons, similar to how the therianthropy community developed through a werewolf fanlist. The elven/fae community, maybe thanks to the Elf Queen’s Daughters and Silver Elves, has talked throughout this time about bringing magic back to the world, reconnecting the world with Faerie, thinning the Veil, etc; about this being their purpose as fae/elves, and the reason that they’re in human bodies. (You still see this sometimes, but not to the same frequency, I don’t think.) Glamourbombing got coined in the late ’90’s. From what I understand, the community at the time was pretty loosely organized, idealistic, and creative.

There might be an argument for a third generation starting in the late ’90’s with various otherkin gathers (Walking the Thresholds, Kinvention North, etc). Apparently there was a particular kind of community connected with those gathers. But I never went to any of them, and didn’t get involved in the ‘kin community proper until a few years ago (before that I was mostly involved in the therian community), so I can’t speak to this.

There also seems to have been a population explosion in the ‘kin community between 2000 and 2003 or so… including some discussions of issues with newbies and people who are fluffy, etc. Which may suggest a generational marker here. There is also a sudden burst of forums, mailing lists, and communities, possibly due to increased availability in technology.

Honestly, I don’t know the growth stages and eras of the otherkin community very well; the above are gleaned from stories heard from people who were there, and from reading Orion Sandstorrm’s history of the otherkin and therian communities. I know the therian community much better, since I joined it in 2002. So I don’t know what middle stages, if any, would be.

Thus I don’t know when the “current generation” of otherkin began, or how many there were before that – but it seems to me that in the past few years of the otherkin community there’s been a sharp increase in skepticism, criticism of others, rigorous questioning of how people came to their conclusions – whereas when I first poked my nose in the otherkin community five or six years ago, I was put off by the lack of critical thinking and the prevalence of apocalyptic thinking (“Veil fall”) and magical thinking in general (“astral battles” all over the place, elven princess syndrome, etc, etc; though you still see that nowadays, just not to the degree of five or six years ago). Now it’s looking a lot like the therian community towards the middle-to-end of its second generation for its avoidance of discussing experiences or how being “other” affects a person.

Another friend pointed out that the timelines above seem to reflect the identity progression of individuals, such as in the Otherkin Identity Model, and suggested that community tones and standards are set by the most influential members (often the ones that have been there the longest).

So… do you agree or disagree? Do you have different dividing lines, or other/more observances on the characteristics of various eras in the communities? I’m really more interested in generational traits here; Orion wrote up a pretty detailed history of the otherkin and therian communities that is fairly clinical, but it doesn’t really discuss the mood, characteristics, and values of various periods, which is what I’m curious about here.

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4 Responses to Community History and Trends

  1. Akhila says:

    I really wish there was more experiential stuff from the 3rd generation therians actually; it’s a lot activism-focused (we’ve discussed this already in the past). And some people do talk about their actual experiences too, but not as much. In fact I feel it’s fairly similar to the 2nd generation therians in how most of the talk is about theories, and only a minority discuss experiential matters. It’s just that back then the theories were about origins/causes of therianthropy and a lot of terminology (ie. self-focused), when nowadays it’s about visibility and acceptance in society (ie. facing the outter, wider world).

    Thank you for reposting this in any case. 🙂

  2. Jenn says:

    It seemed to me that quite a bit of reaching out was done by First and Second Generation otherkin around the late 90s and early 2000’s. From what I’ve heard they were networked pretty well online via newsgroups before then, but things really blossomed once the internet became more easily navigated.
    A friend and I were discussing things in ’98 or so and that was the first time I heard ‘otherkin’. I looked into it and went, ‘Meh, it’s all Elves and Dragons and a few Angels, and that’s not me at all’ and decided to handle things on my own, which was difficult. In 2000 I ended up hanging out with a group of First and Second Generation ‘kin and realised things were a lot more diverse than they seemed. There was a lot of discussion going on then and it helped me to make sense of things.
    I valued speaking with people in-person, but found online groups off-putting. They were overcrowded (around 2000-03; the population boom you noted) and as time went by more and more newcomers seemed to just want to be handed the answers or told what was ‘right’. There was a surge in trolls and reports of astral fighting… a mix of sincerity and people who would claim what they wanted online, and need never back it up… if such a thing were even possible. I watched friends who were very active trying to help and guide the newer generations eventually get burnt out trying to deal with all of it.
    As an east-coast-er, I might put a marker around 2006, when Kin North was no longer happening and WTT became gradually less open, and some smaller gathers also closed up as well. I considered it a significant loss for the community. I’ve not been very active since, despite still being otherkin.

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