Otherkin are a subculture who socially and spiritually identify as partially or entirely non-human. Some of them surmise that they are, either spiritually or genetically, not human; however, this claim is unsubstantiated. This is explained by some members of the otherkin community as possible through reincarnation, having a non-human soul, ancestry, or symbolic metaphor. Some scholars categorize this identity claim as "religious", because it is largely based on supernatural beliefs. Adherents more typically deny the religiosity of otherkinism, referring to it instead as simply a congenital condition, or a metaphysical state of being.
Otherkin largely identify as mythical creatures, with others identifying as creatures from fantasy or popular culture. Examples include: angels, demons, dragons, goats, elves, fairies, sprites, aliens, and cartoon characters. Many otherkin believe in the existence of a multitude of parallel universes, and their belief in the existence of supernatural or sapient non-human beings is grounded in that idea.
With regards to their online communities, otherkin largely function without formal authority structures, and mostly focus on support and information gathering, often dividing into more specific groups based on kintype. There are occasional offline gatherings, but the otherkin network is mostly an online phenomenon.
Some otherkin (such as elvenkin) state they are allergic to iron (and products of modern technology), while others (such as dragonkin) state that having no allergies is a sign of otherkin condition. Some otherkin also claim to be especially empathic and attuned to nature. Some state to be able to shapeshift mentally or astrally, meaning that they experience the sense of being in their particular form while not actually changing physically.
The therian and vampire subcultures are related to the otherkin community, and are considered part of it by most otherkin, but are culturally and historically distinct movements of their own, despite some overlap in membership.
"Otherkin" as an adjective was defined in the "Middle English Dictionary" (1981) as "a different or an additional kind of, other kinds of".
The earliest recorded use of the term "otherkin", in the context of a subculture, appeared in July 1990 and the variant "otherkind" was reported as early as April 1990. The word "otherkind" was initially coined from the word "elfinkind", to refer to non-elf others who joined the communities.
The otherkin subculture grew out of the elven online communities of the early-to-mid-1990s.
The oldest Internet resource for otherkin is the "Elfinkind Digest", a mailing list started in 1990 by a student at the University of Kentucky for "elves and interested observers". Also in the early 1990s, newsgroups such as alt.horror.werewolves and alt.fan.dragons on Usenet, which were initially created for fans of these creatures in the context of fantasy and horror literature and films, also developed followings of individuals who identified as mythological beings.
On 6 February 1995, a document titled the "Elven Nation Manifesto" was posted to Usenet, including the groups alt.pagan and alt.magick. Enough people contacted the original author of the Elven Nation post in good faith for a planned mailing list to spin off from it.
Rich Dansky (who worked on the development of "") said that after the game's release the darkfae-l listserv had "a rampaging debate... over how the folks at White Wolf had gotten so much of their existence right", adding, "Finally, one of the list members came to the obvious conclusion that we'd gotten it right because we ourselves were in fact changelings." Dansky denied being non-human.
Outside viewers may have varying opinions about people who identify as otherkin, ranging from considering them animal-human relationship pioneers, to psychologically dysfunctional. Reactions often range from disbelief to aggressive antagonism, especially online.
Otherkin have been called one of the world's most bizarre subcultures, and a religious movement (and a "quasi-religion") that "in some of its forms, largely only exists on the [Internet]". Although otherkin beliefs deviate from the definition of "religion", they share the primary interest in the paranormal. Religion scholar Joseph P. Laycock argues that the otherkin community serves existential and social functions commonly associated with religion, and regards it as an alternative "nomos" that sustains alternate ontologies.
It has also been said that they represent a widespread dissatisfaction with the modern world, and that they have taken fairy lore out of its social context.