The Alterhuman Media Project

The Kids Are Alright: Solving The Terminology Problem With Responsible Communication

The neo generation of otherkin-identifying people - the so called "tumblrkin" - often call out the older folks for gatekeeping. 

They feel like older 'kin are imposing arbitrary standards on who gets to call themselves otherkin based on who appears respectable - elitism, essentially. Are they right to say that? Probably not, but honestly? I can see where they get the idea from.

It's the language, mostly. "You're not" is worse than "you are". "You are" is worse than "are you?". And which phrasing do you use? If it's one of the first two, then I'd suggest you might want to work on your communication skills. Hear me out.

Being able to communicate effectively is a life skill - you probably already agree with me on that. But part of effective communication is doing so in a way where people actually want to listen to you. If I came onto one of your posts and straight up told you you weren't otherkin, you probably wouldn't be exceptionally happy. So what makes you think a teenager, of all people, is gonna be any more receptive to that?

The same people who clam up and get defensive at "actually that's not otherkin" are usually so willing (eager, even!) to talk to you if you just... ask.

"What does being otherkin mean to you? What otherkin feelings do you have?  Why did you settle on that rather than heartedness/copinglink/whatever?"

Seriously, it's not hard to think of alternative ways of phrasing your concerns. But it makes a world of a difference! A question invites an answer, a statement finishes the conversation before it's even begun.

An obvious issue arises with this: questions come after-the-fact, generally. You're prompted by a post talking about 'kinning' with yet another anime character to say, "hey, that doesn't sound quite like otherkin to me".  But what you want is for the misconceptions not to happen in the first place.

Fortunately I've learned something else from observation: all it takes for "tumblrkin" to understand how words are used is to see them being used correctly.
I've seen, with my own two internet eyes, people come to the conclusion that they're experiencing, say, a copinglink rather than a kintype just by listening to other alterhumans talk about their identities.

This is effort. It means going out your way to write about your experiences and put them somewhere visible. And what do you even talk about when you've been 'kin for 10 years and your alterhumanity has just become background noise to your life? You will find something. If there's passion enough to want to defend your community from misrepresentation then surely you can direct that passion inwards to yourself. The old adage of 'be the change you want to see in the world' has never been so true.

all it takes to understand how words are 
used is to see them being used correctly
Look. I know that you're probably jaded, because you've suffered through like, a decade of trolls and nonsense. And I get the fact that you have difficulty sounding nice any more, because you're so damn tired explaining the same thing over and over again. But if you can't find it in you to give these young people that little bit of basic respect, then maybe the solution is to not talk to them at all. Because dictating a person's own identity to them? That actually reinforces the defensive behavior you're taking issue with. Shocker.

These kids are not your enemies. They're not malicious saboteurs trying to take your community away from you. They're growing, developing young people who are trying to find themselves. They are irresponsible, overly zealous, quick to jump to conclusions, binary thinkers - because that's how kids are. And that's just fine.

But what about you? If you're an adult and a community veteran, then you don't have so much of an excuse. So be responsible. Have the good faith to assume that if someone is saying something that seems wrong, it's because they're misinformed rather than malicious. Stop treating the ignorance and headstrongness that comes with being that age like it's a crime. Don't let 'maturity' factor into your decision to treat them with basic common decency. Don't talk to them like you know more about what they're feeling than they do.

And if you want future baby tumblrkin's first exposure to the community to be a good one? Make it that way. Match their enthusiasm with your own. Being alterhuman is a beautifully unique experience and expressing that will help the community's image more than yelling at children on the internet ever will. And yes, it's much less effort to be blunt than it is to have to consider your tone - it's less effort still to not say anything at all! But I trust you. You know deep down how to be responsible to your community in the way it deserves.

So act like it. For their sake, and for your own.

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