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January 26th, 2010
06:13 pm
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Post-FC report
Back to the grind today. One of those days:

Close support ticket #18927?> y
Reason> Voicemail is simply a fax machine beeping

Close support ticket #18928?> y
Reason> Voicemail is a different fax machine's beep

Close support ticket #18929?> y
Reason> I AM NOT A FAX MACHINE! I AM A FREE MAN!


On the other hand, my Further Confusion was fantastic. No con will ever be perfect, but this one was about as close as they come.

(The standard disclaimer to my non-furry friends: Furry conventions completely don't deserve their reputation. Don't take my word for it. Click on the link and read the experiences of a reporter who went to one undercover.)

It was a very chill con for me -- hanging out with friends all weekend, meeting a few old friends in person for the first time (most notably ceruleanst, hurrah!), and getting drawn into incredible conversation and gaming. I got enough sleep, kept my budget reasonable, and left before con crash or con crud could set in. The new hotel is ridiculously spacious, comfortable, and surrounded by great food.

Odd omission: I didn't get to dance* all weekend. Every time I started heading to a dance floor, I ran into someone I had been wanting to talk to, and let myself get pulled away again. On balance it was a really positive thing, although my inner unicorn (who looks the most forward to physical expression) is currently chewing the walls.

Also, there didn't seem to be a single panel on Otherkin/therian/furry-lifestyler topics, which surprised me. Furry has traditionally treated Otherkin like an annoying little brother -- talking smack to its friends about him at every opportunity, but basically tolerating his presence (and doing nice things for him every once in a while when it's positive nobody is looking). Considering that furry is about "animals with human characteristics" and Otherkin is (broadly!) about "humans with nonhuman characteristics," it's hard to argue that there isn't a place for 'kin under the furry umbrella! And that uneasy alliance has been the state of affairs for quite some time. My experience at previous FCs has been that those who came into the fandom from a 'kin perspective would have to go into the early-morning or shoulder-day panel ghetto to meet up at convention-sanctioned events, but there would at least be a formal place to meet up.

This year's FC had an entire spirituality track (filled with a lot of panels that seemed, from secondhand reports, like World Religion 101 lectures) -- but the closest anyone got to an Otherkin anything was a panel on traditional totemism that studiously stuck to its roots. I'm not going to get upset about this -- because I've staffed enough cons to know that the odds of this being a slap in the face are vanishingly small** -- but it's honestly bizarre, because Otherkin is the elephant in the "furry + spirituality" room, and is one of the points of having a furry-con "spirituality track" in the first place.

Sometimes when the spirituality track falls down, you can at least get leads to other 'kin in the species breakouts (the dragon panel*** in particular seems to attract a fair number of genuine dragonkin), but I attended the dragon panel for a few minutes before getting pulled away by a phone call, and it was pretty much just people comparing their characters' physical traits. (Other attendees confirmed that, beyond a token "Raise your hand if you take your character seriously" question in the middle somewhere, it steered well clear of spiritual significance.)

...

... Is it bad that I'm thinking about volunteering to lead an Otherkin spirituality panel now?**** By necessity of convention mechanics, it would be limited to the very basics -- but it would be much better than what's available now (nothing! Literally nothing! How did that happen?), and would give Otherkin/etc who are new to the convention scene at least somewhere to exchange ideas with those who take it seriously.

Would any FC regulars be interested in helping out, or could you recommend FC attendees from different segments of the Otherkin/therian/furry-lifestyler spectrum who take their spirituality seriously and might be willing to go in with me on this?

--
* I also did not trip on anything all weekend (despite my huge feet and the new hotel). Which was actually a nice change of pace from my clumsiness the last few cons.
** The way this works is that the Programming division wrangles volunteers -- both of the "Programming wants you to do a panel this year" sort and the "Hey Programming, will you put on my panel?" sort -- and slots in as many panels as they have rooms and moderators for. At most cons, this means making hard choices about who to exclude and who to counter-program against the popular events. But considering that there wasn't a single panel on Thursday and only two? (if memory serves) on Monday, FC Programming this year was starved, and I'd bet you good money that a volunteer for an Otherkin panel would have been hailed as a liberator welcomed.
*** The regular dragon panel, oh-so-conveniently cross-scheduled against the Masquerade. Not the adult dragon panel later that night, which has played to a packed room for years and is basically the moderators slideshowing a collection of dragon porn pictures. Not that there's anything wrong with that (or with my attendance last year to see what all the fuss was about).
**** This is purely rhetorical. Those who wish the opportunity to actually answer my question might consider the following, largely equivalent formulation: "Is Baxil insane to be considering this?"

Current Location: ~spiral
Current Mood: pleasedalright
Current Music: Asia, "After The War"
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From:krinndnz
Date:January 27th, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
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I wouldn't call that consideration "bad" so much as "holy blap you could be signing yourself up for a lot of work." But I'm overly sensitive to that, and I bet you have even more relevant experience than I realize.
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From:baxil
Date:January 27th, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
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The workload's not that bad. I figure a day or two of research/prep to get all my notes straight, and then a total at-con time commitment of maybe two hours (per panel - if I somehow get roped into more panels, of course that increases ...) Having staffed cons in the past, i.e. working virtually the whole time I'm on site, this should be fairly trivial.

What's holding me back is mostly the fact of sitting in front of a roomful of strangers talking about spiritual stuff. Con panel attendees are pretty much self-selected to be respectful, so that's not a worry, but it's still more public speaking than I've done, and on a topic close to my heart, where what I say in real-time could be a strong first impression for a bunch of folks.
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From:krinndnz
Date:January 27th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
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Well that's simple, all you need to do is be awesome! :D


More seriously, right, I should've remembered your track record, that you have a pretty good idea of the work involved. So no, I don't think it'd be a bad idea - just one to get into carefully. Public speaking "only" takes practice, and there's a pretty big body of lore about how to get into it.
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From:siege
Date:January 27th, 2010 03:44 am (UTC)
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We need to get me to a convention you attend. And have a room party to substitute for missing tracks.
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From:baxil
Date:January 27th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
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I'm totally down with that.

I really wish I had more schedule and financial flexibility. :(
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From:arkofeden
Date:January 27th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)
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> Is it bad that I'm thinking
No. You thinking of this makes me glowy and warm inside, but I'm kind of biased toward you as a rep for Otherkin. :B

But I've never been to a fur con and likely wouldn't be able to make one in the near future, and I really hesitate to urge you into the breach when I couldn't be there to give you some backup. I also have no idea what goes into planning panels and am not too sure how I could be useful...but if this were to ever happen and I was able to make it, man, point me at a target and I'll go at it.

Not that this helps any, but the idea makes me glad. <3

--Dragon^AOE.
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From:baxil
Date:January 27th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
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(Our respective icons would have been a little more amusing in the opposite order. ;-))

You're Southern California, yes? They just announced Antheria is starting up this year in LA, and Califur running again in Irvine. They'll be much smaller events than FC and more heavily regional, so they won't necessarily draw any significant Otherkin crowd.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. The idea hasn't gone away yet, so I'll see where it leads.
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From:eredien
Date:January 27th, 2010 06:31 am (UTC)
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I would be happy to help, though I may be of limited use over here on the wrong coast. I'm trying to figure out if I should volunteer for a similar thing at AC this year if we are still over here. I also found a lack of Otherkin stuff at AC (or just "let's all compare scale colors!" which got old about 9 year ago now), but was too hosed after the drive to really appreciate AC last year like I wanted to.

I had no idea you'd not met cerulean yet!

*hug*
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From:baxil
Date:January 28th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
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It is marginalized at AC (which I expect), or absent? Not to have any decent 'kin panels at either of the Big Two would make this more worrying than I thought.

... Hmmm. Might be time for us dragons to lead the charge again.

Also, *hug*.
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From:eredien
Date:January 28th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)
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There was a wolf spirituality panel that I didn't go to so I had no idea what it was like. I asked about it and the con organizers mentioned that what gets put on the schedule is often what is proposed, so...if no one proposes a spirituality/otherkin panel it often doesn't get on schedule.
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From:dragonzuela
Date:January 27th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
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I'll still be in California a year from now, so I'd help out with a panel if you wanted.
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From:baxil
Date:January 28th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
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Cool! Ideally there would be a broad variety of species and approaches among the panelists (I have the feeling that if I assemble an Otherkin panel just from my interested friends, it'll come across as unbalanced), but your help would be nice.
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From:dragonzuela
Date:January 28th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
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Sure we're different species! I'm an herbivorous dragon. >.>

If you find some non-dragons for panelists, I am perfectly happy to just send ideas along and/or give moral support.

ryshili is an otherwordly panther therian who was there. I had met him at Mythicalia, and he went to a couple of the spirituality panels and I remember him being more pissed than I was about griffins supposedly not being fit to be totems.
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From:dancinglights
Date:January 27th, 2010 08:35 pm (UTC)
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Also, there didn't seem to be a single panel on Otherkin/therian/furry-lifestyler topics, which surprised me. Furry has traditionally treated Otherkin like an annoying little brother -- talking smack to its friends about him at every opportunity, but basically tolerating his presence (and doing nice things for him every once in a while when it's positive nobody is looking).

I find this amusing and interesting given my experience attending Otherkin-related gatherings, where Furry is traditionally treated the same way (despite the same crossover, and awareness thereof).

Edited at 2010-01-27 08:35 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:January 27th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
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Really, two sides of the same coin! If I can stereotype for a second, furry sees kin as "those weirdos who get obsessed with their make-believe selves," and 'kin sees furry as "those feebs who tiptoe up to genuine identity questions and then use them for escapism and porn". Since both believe themselves to have the high ground in their own approach ("they're deluded!" "they're unserious!"), the mutual disdain is probably inevitable.

The main difference is that furry is a much bigger niche; 'kin go to furry cons but furries don't go to Otherkin gathers.

Also, your icon is perfect for this.
[User Picture]
From:dancinglights
Date:January 28th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)

this is also my cooking icon

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There have been a non-zero number of furries at the gathers I've attended, though you're right, the events are small enough that it's hard to tell what a good statistical percentage that is.

I've also discovered a rather adorable and super friendly group of furries in the local Burner community, which makes me happy.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 27th, 2010 09:58 pm (UTC)
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there wasnt any because i didnt staff this year. I have typically ran the entire spirituality tracks at FC on my lonesome. I didnt even get to go to FC cause i'm in Colorado now, living with Malxe..
[User Picture]
From:alynna
Date:January 27th, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
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oops i wasn't logged in. i posted that.
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From:baxil
Date:January 28th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
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Sorry I didn't get to see you, then! But it sounds like Colorado's treating you well - and there is a Denver furry con, so at least you'll have something local.

I don't have the time or focus to volunteer to run an entire track, but I'll do what I can to keep things better in your absence.
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From:zefirodragon
Date:January 28th, 2010 12:08 am (UTC)
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Sometimes when the spirituality track falls down, you can at least get leads to other 'kin in the species breakouts (the dragon panel*** in particular seems to attract a fair number of genuine dragonkin), but I attended the dragon panel for a few minutes before getting pulled away by a phone call, and it was pretty much just people comparing their characters' physical traits. (Other attendees confirmed that, beyond a token "Raise your hand if you take your character seriously" question in the middle somewhere, it steered well clear of spiritual significance.)

I guess that would have been me. My "Can I steer this in an interesting direction or is this panel damned to rp-stats-comparison" test question. The reaction to it which made me leave. Those others, who have attended, and spoken to you, they didn't want to speak more seriously? I had the impression the majority in the room actively took part in this kind of light-hearted entertainment game. As I was the new guy, from another continent even, I took it as "that seems to be the way it works here".



About the adult panels. I didn't get those, either. The SL Adult was a full room laughing at how ridiculous everything sexual in SL is (while showcasing actual nice bdsm locations - and I guess I was not the only one actually into bdsm. at other times/places at least). The Dragon Adult, well, the internet computers with FurAffinity on them were just a couple meters away. I didn't really get whats so great about watching just porn with a room full of people? (though I didn't attend it, as it was full, so was there anything more happening there?)
[User Picture]
From:dragonzuela
Date:January 28th, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
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I was there and raised my hand for taking my dragon identity seriously. I mostly stick to the otherkin community and was new to the tone of furry conventions. I didn't speak up about otherkin stuff because I didn't understand how a conversation about past lives, spiritual symbolism, and real belief in magic could possibly mesh with the conversation that was going on. For example, if the question was "what magical abilities do you have as a dragon?" and people were giving answers about their role-playing character, I really did not want to contribute any serious feelings that I had on the subject of my spirituality.
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From:zefirodragon
Date:January 28th, 2010 08:34 am (UTC)
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You're probably right - the atmosphere couldn't have been changed.

What I meant was the feelt disconnect between the amount of persons raising their hands to my question and those who actively participated in this rpg-stats-game. Thinking of it, I was probably most annoyed by this girl-thingy and its "I make it completely obvious this is pure fiction and oh, my sister insisted on adding something, too".

As I'm not that spiritual myself I would have been happy with more discussions, talking about dragons, how we live them, or at least take the 'statistics' thing a bit more serious. I didn't get to learn new persons this way nor did I feel it was taken any seriously by anyone, though. Don't know what happens at the "real animal panels", though.
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From:baxil
Date:January 28th, 2010 09:54 am (UTC)
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I should link you over to the comments in this post - athelind has moderated the panel in previous years and it sounds like his goals for the panel have been (and, hopefully, will be) much different.
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From:thoughtsdriftby
Date:January 28th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
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Recalling Aeto having paneled years back also
From:silussa
Date:January 28th, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
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I must admit, the idea had crossed my mind after FC'09. However, as one may note, my chance of making FC'10 quickly got flushed by work, work, and did I mention work?

And I sympathize about being in front of a crowd; I tend to think of it in the style of being shoved out of a closet.

That said....if I can manage in one way or another to make FC'11, maybe we should put our heads together on this? I should know well ahead, one way or the other.

And I plan to have a talk with my bosses in the very near future about their changing ideas of how schedules and budgets for schedules work.
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From:baxil
Date:January 29th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
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I'd love your insights and assistance if you're there next year, yes!

I will send good thoughts your way in the work renegotiation. Keep in mind that the status quo has developed because they've been able to do it without consequences; you're most likely to get concessions if you have pressure to apply (whether that's enough leverage within your job to take a stand, or the willingness to leave if they can't meet you halfway).

Incidentally, I got an e-mail from someone earlier this month asking about Titania's Toys. At the time I was slacking off on e-mail. However, I'll try to remember to forward it to you tonight when I get home.
From:silussa
Date:January 30th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
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Well, I'm certainly not a dragon. :)

Given the amount of pressure they've put onto me, I suspect without any malice OR forethought, something has to give, or I will. Badly.

I'm tons behind in everything else, and not where I should be with work, even, at this point, so I make no promises as to when I'll get to that email, assuming you remembered to forward it. *wry grin*

You might want to put a list together so we can start working up.....hmm, agenda, perhaps? I don't think we want to walk into this particular subject by the seat of our pants. (although I suspect you'd have no problem with it.)
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From:alynna
Date:February 3rd, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
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I plan to attend FC11 and I would like to participate and plan a few spirituality panels. This year was untimely ript because I decided to move to Colorado basically at the same time (I was going to bring Malxe with me), but money got super tight.. ahh well
[User Picture]
From:dragonzuela
Date:January 28th, 2010 03:14 am (UTC)
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Oh, also, here's the photo of Pedobear hilarity, courtesy of taren_: http://superwailingbonus.com/passion06/image/24913/Dsc03775b
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:January 29th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
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Hee. Thanks for the link. :)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 29th, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
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The downturn in otherkin/therianthropy talk and panels at furry cons is due in part to the churn in furry subculture. It's large enough now to have begun attracting kids from more than just the fringe of society's fringe and that means less of those new people come from usual social, philosophical, or religious backgrounds. (There are fewer weekend pagans showing up, too.)

Also, the retro nature spirituality trend of the 80s and 90s is not resonating with lots of people who came of age in the aughts. Looking for your animal spirit guide is not the fad it once was.

OTH furry fans today are vaguely aware of ideas like totemism but are increasingly likely to have more atheists among them or simply people for who a literal idea of spirituality is unnecessary. It is not that fewer "take their characters seriously". The fandom is large enough now (and its conventions ingrained) to support the idea of a person taking an animal or fantasy character as their primary persona in life without the "crutch" of requiring a spiritual excuse. This is also due in part to a breakdown with wider societal values. Less young people feel a warm connection with humanity and they are no longer feeling there is anything particularly proud or valuable about perceived normality, now that the velvet glove over their social leaders and mentors has worn very thin indeed.

In a funny little way, the otherkin and therianthrope types could see themselves as having paved a bit of the path to get here. They might have needed a spiritual or religious justification to strongly support their play with identity, as an excuse to break away from the norm, but in the end their actions still put the idea out there and caused it to spread.

My advice would not be to feel something is wrong with fewer people calling it spirituality. Just recognize that this is what it's like when one's generation is assimilated by the next. Religious scholars who began studying natural science to understand the glory of God paved the way for scientists who moved beyond the need for religious motivations and realized God was not required for nature to have glory. People who believed there had to be a spiritual or supernatural reason for them to feel certain their mind was suited to be another species inevitably led to the idea being considered for its own merits and not as indication or proof of reincarnation, past lives, spiritual walk-ins, or totemic forces.

[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:January 29th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
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Hi! Thanks for the insightful response. (It would be great to have a name to associate with it; I'm happy to allow anonymous comments, but when one like this comes along I get interested in what other cool things you might have written elseweb. :))

What you're broadly describing is a shift among furry fans from nonhuman to transhuman, and absolutely there's nothing wrong with that! My closest friends within the broader furry umbrella are already a half-and-half mix of both, and the most awesome moment of my con was a private Saturday room party with four other people, none of whom do the reincarnation/past-life/totemic thing.

Your three reasons for the downturn are spot on, but I would add two caveats:

* People taking their persona seriously without the "crutch" of spirituality isn't just a function of the growing fandom. (In fact, the fact that you think so likely dates you to being born after 1983, although the context of the rest of your post backs that up too. :)) Back in the days of Usenet, when furry was less than 10% of today's size, there was a lot of acrimony between what were then called "furry fans" and "furry lifestylers", to the point where the newsgroup alt.lifestyle.furry split off from the main gathering point of alt.fan.furry, and there were verbal battles over whether convention panels, etc. should cater to lifestylers or whether they should focus on the arts and themes that drew people in as fans. The entire idea of a "spirituality" track at furry conventions is actually a holdover from these divisions; it was the compromise that was struck back in the day. Furry lifestylers basically refers/referred to the class of fans who take their identity seriously, but it was never a spiritual movement in the same way that Otherkin has been.

* That having been said, Otherkin isn't entirely a spiritual movement! I know a large number of people who self-identify as Otherkin even though there's no supernatural/spiritual component to it. The resources I write and link to, like the Draconity FAQ and many basic Otherkin guides, focus on the spiritual side because, well, that's where the people who write them are coming from -- but at heart the Otherkin statement is "I am in some essential way nonhuman"; that's not inherently a spiritual thing, and many people interpret it in transhumanist ways.

At any rate, this is all great food for thought -- and I hope you don't mind if I borrow some of these ideas for whatever panel I end up trying to wrangle!

(Current music: "To being an us for once, instead of a them ... La vie boheme.")

Edited at 2010-01-29 07:55 pm (UTC)
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