(This is a response to this post on Tumblr. I tried using Tumblr.app to post this and had my entire message disappeared into the ether. So, I’m using WordPress for better message durability.)
I’m outlining a short book of advice for people who are otherkin. I’m writing the first draft of a chapter on harassment for being otherkin, and how to deal with it.
Otherkin and therian folks, how big or small of a problem has harassment been for you? What do you do to deal with harassment? If you’ve got good strategies, I’ll credit you in the book.
I’ve experienced this both in person and online. I’ll describe these separately, because my experiences in each diverge so greatly.
In person, I’ve not experienced much overt harassment, so much as low-grade pressure and shaming for holding beliefs that are not within a popular mindset. This came primarily from my family (of Catholic and Mormon descent) and home society (primarily South Floridian Latino culture) while I was growing up, and extreme pressure was placed on me to conform without compromise and suppress any personal deviance from these strictures. This severely curtailed my abilities to express and explore my identity until I was 18, when I finally obtained more personal freedom.
This is a specific kind of pressure that adamantly demands you conform to being a person that you are not. My best advice when dealing with this is to remain true to yourself, maintain a reasoned sort of stubbornness, and to remind to yourself often that there are others like you. Even larger communities do exist (I live with a group of dragons, for example).
Online, I’ve experienced harassment a bit more directly. This comes in two flavors: from individuals, and from those who feel empowered to represent themselves as a group.
When individuals contact me with messages that are terse or distasteful, the prevailing majority of the time I find it due to confusion. When the other party expresses a legitimate desire to understand my position (for example, not understanding how I express phantom limbs) and are relatively polite about it, I’ll try to help them understand (in this example, by sharing references to body image theory and earlier posts I’ve made describing how this works for me*).
If, on the other hand, the person’s message is drowned out by noise, such as aggression or overt trolling, then I will outright block the individual. I usually feel remorse when I do this, because I just lost someone’s perspective, but I can and do find better conversation elsewhere.
People representing themselves as part of a group, however, are trickier. I find in these cases that I am often not dealing with the individuals, so much as their particular agenda when they choose to fly a banner to do their dirty work. For example, back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Something Awful and Portal of Evil made sport of publicly harassing otherkin and therians, posting personal details and instigatory, hateful diatribes about individuals whom described themselves in intimate detail or ran popular websites at the time. These would be chased by group representatives posting spam and additional hateful messages to the sites selected, and occasionally, denial of service as well.
I was on Tysha’s Dragon Forum when SA attacked it. I am also good friends with several survivors of this particular shade of poo slinging. In these cases, technical damage control and professional counsel is the way to go. A quick disable of new account registration, null route of bad traffic, and quiet vigilance while you talk with legal counsel can go a surprisingly long way.
I think that in all cases, empathy and vigilance are the best courses of action. After all, you are in a situation where you feel attacked, and desire to know (1) why and (2) how to make the best of the situation. Whether it’s well-meaning family who want their version of what’s best, to a random person who doesn’t understand how you express a phantom tail whom genuinely wants to understand how that works, to a popular hate group on Reddit having just posted damning messages about you and to your private fora, keep a cool head. Act with exactly as much compassion as the situation demands, and take each step with both eyes open.
But, most importantly, do not let the risk of harassment force you to compromise on yourself. This will require taking risks, but there is nothing stopping you from learning how to protect yourself and being prepared.
* Rather elaborately, as it turns out. I’m reminded that I should spend more time describing this.