Spicy Species asks:
I have a few acquaintances who have “therian” or “kinnie” in their Twitter bios. Their tweets seem normal, though they read like roleplay at times. I’ve tried to learn more about these terms, but I’m confused about their nuances. What’s the difference? Are they LARPing? Are they furries? Is it rude to ask? Or should I mind my business and ignore it?
Alright, Spicy Species. Let’s take it from the top:
- Otherkin (or “kinnies”) are those who identify, in some way, shape, or form, as non-human.
- In a similar vein, therians are those who specifically identify as non-human animals.
In short, though the terms contain significant points of overlap, therian is the more definitionally restrictive of the two. For example, while someone might identify both as rabbitkin and a rabbit therian, you won’t encounter computer therians roaming the Twitter wilds. Conversely, therians may reject otherkin terminology for a variety of reasons—including otherkins’ implicit embrace of more fantastical forms of identity.
Now, are they roleplaying? Are they furries? Not necessarily. Some otherkin and therians conceive of their identity as central to their spiritual beliefs, understanding themselves as non-human souls trapped within human-shaped vessels. Others, connecting more casually to their specific kintype, may lean into roleplay accordingly.
While curiosity isn’t inherently rude, otherkin and therians have long been the target of conservative Internet ire. As such, I’d recommend approaching your therian acquaintances with gentle words and an open mind. Though you may not emerge from the interaction with a full understanding of their belief system, you may find yourself armed with a few additional resources to satisfy your interest.
HYPER/TEXT is a queer advice column for the digital age: a space for subcultural dilemmas that leave offline friends scratching their heads. Should you block your best friend over lesbian discourse? What on Earth is a “kinnie?” Check in biweekly for answers to these questions and more as we explore the lives of the hyper-online!
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Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet born, raised, and based in Philadelphia. They are one of three co-lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine and one of two co-editors at Delicate Friend. Find them on Twitter @circumgender.