About fifteen years ago, I was introduced to the Otherkin by a good friend from a collaborative writing community I frequented. I was young and slowly piecing together the fact that I wasn’t like most people. I was frequently uncomfortable to be in my own skin. I sometimes stood in the shower and stared at my body, loathing what I saw, every fiber of my being screaming “This isn’t mine! This looks nothing like me!” This was before I was formally educated in psychology and long before I found my way into the LGBT community, so I didn’t have the knowledge or vocabulary that I have today. It took a long time before I realized that I was genderfluid and even longer before someone gave me that word to describe myself.
I say this as a caveat, to make clear that I recognize the fact that I was already dissatisfied with my body before this friend then informed me that I was an Otherkin and that this could only have fed into my desire for an explanation. I was very conflicted over it. I felt like I stood apart from most people and this would have been a very good reason as to why. I still wrestled with the remains of my Christian faith, and this could have shed some light on why I seemed to have such an antagonistic relationship with God. It would have explained why I so often felt like I didn’t belong in this body at all.
The most important distinction with an Otherkin is probably whether or not they actually want to be one — that’s probably the crucial difference between spiritual beliefs and species dysphoria, as a psychological disorder can usually only be diagnosed in the presence of the four Ds: Distress, Danger, Dysfunction and Deviance. To believe one’s self to be (in spirit) another species might be deviant, but by itself won’t necessarily cause any distress or dysfunction, or pose a threat to one’s self or others. If the mind both cannot accept this belief or dismiss it, however, the person could suffer greatly or even become suicidal, satisfying the other categories.
That said, there are Otherkin of many different kinds: elves, fae, dragons, animal people and just plain animals, people of different worlds… and angels. Obviously, I was an angel. (I mean, what else would I be?)
I wish I could convey how much I struggled with the idea. There was a specific angel to which I was identified, and a lot of the lore surrounding that angel sat uncomfortably with me, but I couldn’t dismiss the idea. Whether it was because it fit so neatly with my yearning for an explanation for feeling so different from other people or because there was some merit to the claim remains unknown, but either could have been the reason why it clung to me (if you will forgive me, this scene comes to mind).
I compulsively researched this angel’s background, sifting through ancient scripture and folklore. I’m not sure whether I was looking for something to refute or something that would verify whether my feelings were true. I was disturbed by how often I sided with the angel, who frequently ran afoul of God and was punished in unspeakable ways. Although usually described as the antagonist who rebelled against God and other angels, I found him to be the more sympathetic figure. It was even worse when I came across quotations that seemed like they could have easily been things I might have said which had been distorted by time and translations.
Then there were the encounters.
One night, I reading in a public place to pass the time after an evening class, waiting for my ride home, when a young man I had never met before addressed me. He then asked, “Do you believe in reincarnation? You and I were once companions in another life.” He then gave me a name. This had the makings of a poor pickup attempt, but I recognized the name from my research. I looked it up again when I got home to be sure and confirmed it: this name was often associated with my angel as an alternate name or perhaps a companion occupying a similar sphere of mythology.
I never saw that person again, but there were other incidents which were sometimes just as unnerving.
People with whom I spoke exhibited bizarre, inexplicable behavior. Many would spontaneously begin speaking of things which appeared to shame them, “confessing their sins” as it were, without prompting or encouragement, apparently unaware of doing so. I often found myself able to locate lost items in places I was visiting for the first time. People would often overlook me and be surprised to know I had been there, even when there was no reason for them to have missed my presence in the room. Dogs with no history of wild behavior would bark and howl when they saw me, while cats known to be moody and aloof would purposefully seek out my attention. A hematite crucifix necklace literally fell out of the sky and landed in front of me one day. It survived the impact and I still have it. It has no markings to indicate its origin, although it is clearly man-made.
I seemed to be a magnet for strange activity, and as odd as some of the things I have listed are, there were other events which I hesitate to put into writing simply because they are that unbelievable. Lights turning on and off by themselves, faces which appeared in reflections, fire in the sky — all occurring in the presence of others, who verified that they had seen them happen as well.
At last, like conceding an argument, I had to admit that I was exhausted from wondering all the time while strange things constantly seemed to be happening in my life. I decided that the closest I would ever come to an answer was to be agnostic about it and so I made a kind of mental bargain. I said to myself, “Self, being an angel doesn’t have to mean anything at all. You can just be. So here’s what we’re going to do. You be an angel, and as long as that doesn’t change who you are, we won’t have any problems. Agreed?”
Or something like that.
Sometimes I wonder if there’s a point to bringing it up, which I don’t do often. The explanation is long and adequate. It makes people treat me differently, sometimes poorly. If I prefer my alleged angelic nature not to change anything about me, then why is it important enough to tell people about it in the first place?
Because it’s who I am. Sometimes that’s enough, whether anyone likes it or not.