Labels are important to people. To some, labels and properly defining those labels is the purpose of these communities (a goal that feels incredibly redundant and useless, personally, since this was supposed to be about experiences of being Not Human and Not From Here in one form or another). To many others, labels are a pain and easily misused or misconstrued.
The thing is, there have always been multiple variations on just about any term you can think of in these spaces. Otherkind came first. The initial usage of “Otherkin” may have been a typo. Othersouled has been used in various places and has fallen in and out of use, and some readers may be aware of the term “Otherborn” as some people’s answer to the bastardization of terms ending in -kin.
I remember when older iterations of FromFiction used the term “otakukin”. Nobody is likely to use that word anymore, and we have other things like Fictionkin, Mediakin, and my personal favorite in Modern Mythkin (referring to the age of the myths themselves, mind you.)
The thing is, all of these labels are shorthand. Even what we choose to call ourselves is a vague approximation of traits, ideas, experiences, and concepts that best convey to others and–more importantly, perhaps–ourselves what it is we’re going through. “Dragon” is a collection of these traits, as is “wolf” or “elf” or even a specific character like “Cloud” or “Hange”. Anyone who uses a label or shorthand descriptor is using it to convey an idea in as few words as possible.
I like the term “Otherkind”. I like the term “Modern Mythkin”. They’re both accurate descriptors of what I am, by technicality, but those two are more for the benefit of others. When given the option and the choice, “nonhuman” is the easiest, simplest go-to because it covers the most ground of everything. But there’s reasoning behind that, and a much deeper experience and explanation that just can’t be expressed in one or two words.
Leaving something as just a label is ineffective and leads to stereotyping and miscommunication a lot of the time. There are a million and one ways for “identifying nonphysically and involuntarily as something other than human or of this world” to manifest. The definition says nothing about specific identity, their origins, experiences, how the person who feels this way has integrated this part of themselves into their lives, how much it affects them… the list goes on. My experience as “dragon” will not be a good baseline for everyone else who feels that descriptor best fits them. Same goes for my experience as “Cloud”.
Sometimes, people prefer the words they’ve come up with on their own to describe a certain set of feelings, ideas, concepts, etc. in favor of opting for a more common, colloquial term. From what I’ve seen, this is frowned upon, but I feel that’s ridiculous in a lot of ways. First off, these communities have always been fragmented and barely cohesive under a single header of any sorts. Secondly, look at the still-ongoing confusion between “otherhearted” and “synpath”. Thirdly, what matters is definition and specifics of experience.
What I call a soulbond may be a gross misuse of the term due to it being used different ways in different places! Some people may consider it a form of spirit companionship and insist that a soulbond is a specific type of connection akin to a soulmate or twinflame. Many people who fit the definition of Otherkin choose not to use the word for any number of reasons. Some people might argue that “incarnated [insert species here]” would be a better term for any of us who fit the definition of mythological Otherkind, Theriomythic, Mythkin, etc. from a spiritual perspective.
I’ve especially thought about this in regard to plurality/multiplicity and system dynamics as of late. Spiritual and soulbond-based systems seem scarce enough these days, and gateway systems seem to have all but vanished. Not to mention everyone we’ve talked to has had such varied experiences in what their preference of terms used are, even if they may fit the “technical” definition of another thing.
Some soulbonds are okay with being called “headmates” or “fictives”. Others aren’t, and some are outright insulted by the idea. A few years ago the term “collective” was suggested in place of “system” for groups who hosted gateways or were soulbond-based. Some systems of any origin don’t even have hosts, or might prefer to be referred to by a different title.
And the honest truth is none of these things are new. None of these ideas are without precedent in these spaces. Even with the argument of words having meaning and that meaning being important, when we’re talking about personal experience and ontological phenomena (especially of a spiritual bent) the resonance of the words people choose to use should be taken into account as well.