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Occasionally I see people claim that otherkin are “making the trans movement look bad”. They argue that otherkin gives people a reason to take trans people less seriously: because some otherkin say they have “species dysphoria” or identify as animals, that makes gender dysphoria less credible by extension.

First of all, think that claim through. Are you suggesting that there are a whole ton of people who would have loved to support trans rights, except that they discovered that some people on the Internet identify as animals? How is that even connected? It seems to me that if someone is turned off from trans rights because otherkin exist, they probably weren’t that invested in trans rights in the first place– they were just looking for an excuse. If your support for a marginalized group is contingent on no one on the Internet being ridiculous, you don’t actually support them.

And, trust me, the “if someone identified as Napoleon you wouldn’t think they should be allowed to rule France! Trans people are just delusional!” argument has been spewed by a lot of dickheads who have never heard of otherkin. Transphobes gonna transphobe, otherkin or not.

More importantly, it has long been my belief that the vast majority of not being a dick to marginalized people comes down to not being a dick, period. Don’t touch black women’s hair without permission, because you shouldn’t touch people without permission. Don’t act like it’s a tremendous act of self-sacrifice to be friends with intellectually or developmentally disabled people, because you shouldn’t act like it’s a tremendous act of self-sacrifice to be friends with your friends. Don’t use baby talk with a wheelchair user, because you shouldn’t use baby talk with a person over the age of three. It is bad that people don’t realize that these obviously douchebaggy acts are obviously douchebaggy when directed at a marginalized person, but that doesn’t make “don’t be a douchebag” any less of a useful rule.

As an advocate for the rights of trans people and neurodivergent people, I think the world would be a better place if we all collectively adopted this rule: if someone is being kinda weird, but they are not causing direct, measurable harm to anyone else, leave them alone and move on with your life.

Imagine if instead of harassing trans women on the street, people said, “well, that outfit’s rather odd, but it’s really none of my business.” Imagine if instead of discriminating against trans people in housing or the workplace, people said, “well, I can’t imagine why a man would want to be a woman, but she does good work and pays her rent on time and that’s what matters.” Imagine if no one ever wrote a long screed explaining why you are secretly a girl pretending to be a boy because of your traumatic past, your internalized homophobia, or your deep-seated desire to be Special.

Furthermore, I think we should all adopt the rule: if someone is describing an experience that is really fucking weird, your default assumption should be that they aren’t making it up.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re describing their experiences accurately, or their explanation of why they feel the way they do is worth a pound of dog shit, or that no one ever makes anything up. But start from the assumption that– however distorted– the person is doing their best to describe something that is actually happening in their lives, and that if you’re going to keep interacting with them, you should listen.

I mean, shit, if people responded to gender dysphoria with “I don’t get it, huh, brains are weird” rather than “I don’t get it, you must be faking and I am going to come up with all kinds of elaborate reasons to explain why”, transphobia would basically be solved.

Consider the costs and benefits of these rules. If otherkin is not a real thing and you leave them alone, then you weren’t a dick to someone who’s going to feel really silly in a couple of years. If otherkin is not a real thing and you listen, then you didn’t make them become defensive or feel like they couldn’t question their identity without being attacked, and maybe you helped them come to the realization that it isn’t real. If otherkin is a real thing and you don’t follow my rules, then you took someone going through a tremendously painful experience and made it worse for no reason.

Nice job breaking it, hero.

We’re not going to win by saying “transness is real, therefore you shouldn’t be cruel to us”. It’s all too easy for people to say transness isn’t real, or that certain kinds of trans people don’t count, and even if we win that we’ll have to fight the whole “don’t be cruel” battle again next time there’s something people don’t think is real. We have to stake out a firm position on “it is wrong to be cruel to people, whether their weird thing is fake or not.”