Heir to the ‘Type: Identity as Inheritance
Identity based in system culture and understanding of identities from outside
In alterhuman communities, identity is usually discussed as something that one discovers on their own. Alterhuman community is something one finds. These experiences are not well-known in wider culture so gaining connection to other people with similar experiences is usually a large change in one’s life. Plurality can change this for some because system members may be considered alterhuman as soon as they arrive, either because the system as a whole identifies as alterhuman or because they are recognized by others as having a certain identity. Extranthrope, fictive, and similar identities are typically considered separate from the identities of other people in similar ways to being otherkin or fictionkin. Discussions about these identities may come with the assumption that someone defines their experiences by relating or comparing to animals or culture on Earth. Having an identity parallel to otherkinity and fictionkinity be defined solely by culture inside of a system is not an experience we’ve seen discussed in detail before.
As a gateway system with a created headspace, the rules of our innerworld are heavily affected by the places people come from. The first rules were taken from the first species to arrive here from another world. The dragons in our system are essentially spirits who create a body for themselves starting from the “egg” someone builds for them. A piece of core soul (either a single piece or multiple merged together) is surrounded by protective material from the environment that the soul attaches itself to until it matures enough to animate the egg. That piece of soul from the parent(s) contains their personal body map(s) for the child to use as a blueprint for building their own body. Fundamentally, this means that the idea of a self is passed down instead of a physical body.
In the world that the dragons came from, this process was only done when the egg was first being created. The rest of waiting for the child to “hatch” was in taking care of the outer material and drawing out the soul through nurturing telepathic connection. Once the piece of soul is separated into another individual, it is no longer directly influenced by the core identity of others. In a system, this doesn’t apply. We aren’t physically separated so we can influence each other at any time. The interpretation of how these dragons reproduce made it into a rule that applies to all parent-child bonds instead of only descendants of the same soul. The sharing of species identity between a parent and child became part of the system culture and a vital part of how we relate to one another.
To an outsider, the way we make small communities based on species would look random without knowing about our families. Children are considered a member of the same species as their parents, even as adults. Their personal identities are mixed between their original species and what they’ve been raised as because growing in close proximity to someone of another species led to the parent’s body map blending into theirs. Unlike imprinting, this doesn’t happen from the child’s personal understanding of what the species is. It happens from duplicating the parent’s own identity as a form of blending that gains permanence through the reinforcement of a familial bond. The body map of the child is changed directly after they have already formed a sense of self. The behavioral traits of the species are adopted voluntarily before becoming natural. These behaviors include the noises and body language of the species that raised them. One might also find body modifications that enhance the ability to participate in those ways of communicating. These modifications are sometimes considered a more fundamental part of someone’s species than their original species. Children may also adopt the species of a parent entirely, making them appear as that species with some modifications that relate to their original species.
Inheritance and Fictives
This process has interesting implications for the children of people who have entered the system because of our life on Earth. Since this kind of inheritance developed within the system, the rules for identity that depends on external factors are unclear. Identity inheritance coming from duplicating someone else’s sense of self does mean that it is possible to gain a part of identity that isn’t species. For fictives, a set of personality traits and relations to their canon is the first identity they have when they enter the system. Even though they are capable of moving away from their canon, their first identity is their core identity in the same way that other system members use species as a way of describing how much their identity overlaps or blends with other people. It’s the “package” of prior identity that was given its own place in the system before being added onto with new experiences. That package becomes analogous to the species blueprint that has already been defined as inheritable.
Heirs of fictional identities are usually thought of as adopting an archetype. It’s a set of implications about the child’s self-image and relations to others. In this system, some people consider inherited fictional identities less “objective” than inherited species identities. That identity’s meaning depends on cultural roles and commonly accepted behaviors more than a body map. How it feels to be that character is based on that person’s current social environment, since the heir doesn’t share the same environment that their parent came from. The parent’s canon is adopted by the child as their own, although through a different hindsight point of view. Children who inherit a character-specific identity may communicate differently, associate themselves with others from that world, or alter their presentation to appear more like the ways people present themselves in their parent’s canon. These changes are similar, if not the same, as the ones that heirs of different species take on. It’s possible that adopting a fictional identity isn’t any less objective than adopting a species, especially in a world where this rule of inheritance was created based on spirits with no set appearance. Some species are seemingly adopted as archetypes in the same way because not all system members have a specific body map to be inherited. Those species are defined by their common traits and the role those traits fill when put together. Considering this, the main difference between these two kinds of identities may be whether our understanding of it came from inside or outside our system.
On Earth, species inheritance as an alterhuman experience is usually considered either imprinting or part of genetics. Imprinting may be similar to some psychological fictotype origins, but the word itself is not generally used to describe fictotypes. Genetics as an origin doesn’t apply outside of species. Inheritance as we define it doesn’t fit neatly into either of these categories, but has similarities to both. Imprinting happens when a child has experiences with something at an early stage in development to the point where they recognize it as being related to them and copy behaviors based on their understanding of what they’ve imprinted on. Our inheritance only happens when the child is old enough to purposefully decide on blending their identity with that of their parent. Besides that, this is most likely the closest comparison. We don’t exactly have genetics in our headspace due to forms having malleability but it isn’t a far off comparison to our “blueprints” or core identity. Translating our concept of inheritance into terms from Earth’s alterhuman communities isn’t difficult because the general ideas already exist. Describing the inheritance of character-specific identities, however, doesn’t have the same precedent in either world.
Species has always been considered inheritable in our world because it’s the way we’ve always lived. Children adopting the species of their family into their identity was a repeated and observable pattern. Welcoming a child into a family and welcoming them into a species were often paired as that change in identity became expected. Adoptions of fictotypes, however, are more difficult to observe. A child’s behavior and self-presentation being influenced by a parent isn’t unexpected. Fictotypes often need the context of source media in order to be recognizable. Visible traits from fictotypes “fade” faster across generations compared to species because of how many other factors influence the traits associated with the fictotype. The traits that are still visible are treated as unrelated quirks instead of being viewed as related to the character. Whether or not the child identifies as that character or with that media source often falls down to whether they choose to view themselves through that lens. Without cultural expectations, inherited species identity essentially works the same way.
We find it useful to describe inheritance as an experience separate from other alterhuman experiences because of how often it straddles the line between different terms while being consistent to our own headspace’s rules. Adoption, as an agreement between both parties, is a choice on both sides. Identity inheritance is a natural byproduct and a choice made by the child at the same time. It can be described similarly to the general idea of inheriting property. Even though the property is in the child’s name and others are legally required to acknowledge that, what the child does with it is up to their own choice. The child could consider it a family home and pass it down to their own children, save their belongings there without making it their main address, give it away and visit it occasionally, choose to live there and call it home despite it not feeling connected to family, or dissociate it with themself completely. Outside of our system, those choices might be called extranthopic, otherkin, otherhearted, otherlinking* or simply not identifying with it at all. In our system, this is all called being an heir because the experience is about how it’s required to be respected as the right of a child.
Inheritance as we define it is an experience in culture more than it is an experience of identity, and our views on fictional identities are evidence to that. Fundamental identity in general can be influenced by one’s actions and how one chooses to identify, but we as a group choose to focus on how identity affects our interactions with each other more than how it affects how we feel individually. Our understanding of fiction-based identities comes from external sources and inevitably also included some of the shame associated with choosing to be publicly seen as a fictive or fictotype. This led to the belief that children of fictives don’t have the same right to inherit their parent’s identity even though the process is functionally the same. Without effort to identify similarities and differences between identities in different groups, describing how identities are affected by connection to multiple cultures can be difficult. This can apply as much to bringing concepts into a system as it does to explaining system culture to other people. In the end, someone’s personal identity is up to them to define regardless of what is well-known in their culture.
* “Otherlinking” is the word used instead of “copinglinking” to clarify that this is a description of linking in general. Linking as a coping mechanism has its own parallel in inheritance as a form of reparenting.
“My Nonhumanity Is a Choice, but I Didn't Choose It: Nonhuman Tulpas' Unique Experiences” panel by the Yolcatzin System
This post on archetypes by mordecai/vagabondsun
Therianthropy Theories (2013)