Speaking in generalities here, because it’s more concise. ‘Kin are a diverse bunch, so obviously different individuals hold different beliefs, and this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive treatise on the topic. I can only speak from my personal experience and from my interactions with individuals I trust within the community.
That being said…
what otherkin is:
-The belief that one is, in some way (usually in a spiritual sense) some species other than human. “Therian” (therianthropy) tends to pertain to extant species, while “otherkin” is often used as a catch-all for those who may identify as extant species or species represented in various lore (i.e. dragons, elves, etc.). There is sometimes infighting between therians and otherkin, whom they may view as “too far out” due to the presumed nonexistence of such creatures. Some therians reject the ‘kin label. I tend to use ‘kin as an umbrella term encompassing therians, otherkin, fickin, and so on.
what otherkin is not:
-A religion or cult. Otherkin may be Christians, Pagans, agnostics, atheists, or just about any other religious (or areligious) group you can think of. There are no ‘kin “authorities.”
-A belief in literal, physical shapeshifting.
-Psychosis. This one requires delicate wording, but it comes down to the ability to function in this world, regardless of whether or not one believes in other worlds. Every ‘kin I’ve known is fully aware that biologically speaking, they are human.
Can they function, i.e. discern “real world” fact from fantasy? Do they think there is a literal world inside their television? Do they think they can fly? These are (extreme) examples of psychosis vs. the holding of unconventional beliefs. ‘Kin may have mental illnesses, of course, but being ‘kin does not indicate one is psychotic. I have only met one psychotic ‘kin in my fifteen or so years of interacting with the community, and plenty of non-‘kin people also suffer psychosis.
-A belief in totem or other teacher-being. Some ‘kin believe in totems, others do not. Those who do believe may or may not identify as the same species as their totem.
-A gender identity. ‘Kinness is unrelated to gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria.
-A slippery slope to “transethnicity,” which isn’t even a real thing.
-Oppressed. Yes, ‘kin frequently get razzed, trolled, made fun of, etc. This is not oppression. To the best of my knowledge, no ‘kin has been fired, physically assaulted, evicted, refused medical attention, or otherwise been persecuted because of their belief. People often react poorly to those things they perceive as “weird,” but speaking openly about any unconventional belief is likely to draw scrutiny. While this might be unpleasant, especially when discussing topics that pertain to our sense of identity, it’s a risk of voicing a minority opinion or belief.
-A call for alternative pronouns. Most people demanding to be referred to with individualized pronouns like “catself,” etc. are trolls. See also “Special Snowflake Syndrome” below.
-An excuse to act like an asshole. Every now and then you’ll run across someone who uses their ‘kinness to excuse shitty behavior. Shitty behavior is shitty behavior, regardless of the reason. Most ‘kin don’t do this. Some do, but these people, if they weren’t ‘kin, would find some other way to rationalize being a jerk. That’s a behavioral issue (or in some cases, a personality disorder) and not a ‘kin issue.
what otherkin may or may not be:
-A coping mechanism. There’s a divide here that can get heated from time to time. On one hand you’ve got those who do not literally believe that their soul is whatever species, if they even believe in a soul at all, and embrace ‘kinness as a method of coping with trauma or mental illness. Totally legitimate. (Although I would consider such folks more “animal-hearted” than kin, per se.) On the other, there are those who believe in ‘kinness as a spiritual descriptor no different than the belief of, say, reincarnation or other hypotheses regarding the nature and “life cycle” of the soul. Also totally legitimate.
-There may or may not be a belief in “astral” shapeshifting, or “m-shifts,” mental shifts where the beast within becomes more prominent. Many ‘kin isolate when they sense an oncoming m-shift, because of the social unacceptance of acting outside of a relatively narrow range of behaviors. Examples of m-shifts can include a desire to walk with a digitigrade stance, eat one food and refuse another, and so on. M-shifts are not exclusive to ‘kin- “sub space” and other alterations of consciousness could arguably be considered a mental shift. Shamanic practitioners also have experience with these altered states.
-There may or may not be a sense of “phantom limbs,” which may or may not be related to m-shifts. This is the sense that one has wings, a tail, horns, etc. when the structures do not physically exist.
-Dysphoric. Some ‘kin feel dysphoric; others do not.
-“Special snowflake syndrome.” Trust me, most of us don’t want to be “different.” It’s far easier to not be “different.”
Still, there are some folks who, in attempting to assert their identity, go a bit overboard. This is common with people who have finally found a label that applies to them. Older ‘kin, who last more than a few years identifying as such, tend to have little time for the troublemakers. They’re usually easy to spot. There’s an accompanying self-entitlement that these types usually ooze: they tend to claim to be inanimate objects, “godmod” (“I’m not just a dragon- I’m the king of ALL dragons! From the Pleides!” and so on.) Special snowflakes definitely exist, but they tend to alienate others due to their crushing hubris.
-A belief in other worlds. There are ‘kin who identify as fictional characters, which usually entails some belief in alternate universes, but this minority of the community is frequently ostracized by the majority. My experiences with fickin have been mostly pleasant and any problems encountered have been unrelated to their beliefs. Most of them are not so egotistical to believe that they are the “one true Sephiroth” (or whomever) and therefore, there isn’t really any reason to have a quibble with them.
Spiritual beliefs, almost by nature, deal in the intangible. While the initial reaction of people outside the community is one of incredulity, consider any number of other religious/spiritual beliefs- many of which sound irrational when boiled down. Virgin births, reincarnation, resurrection, the survival of the soul after physical death are, to me, no more or less ridiculous than the belief that the form of a soul can take various shapes.
Again, I cannot speak for the entire community but if anyone’s got any questions or anything to add, feel free.