6 years of dragons in the Alt+H Discord server
In the interest of digital preservation, and in the spirit of some older alterhuman auto ethnographies, Aster and I have been compiling some of the conversations surrounding specific topics that have occurred in the Alt+H discord server over its history. 6 years is a long ass time for an alterhuman community to exist, especially these days. So we’ve gathered enough personal experiences and insights there that I think we can draw some broad patterns across everything.
This one’s about dragons.
(A note on privacy: I’ve anonymized usernames and trimmed down the quotes to keep as little as I could get away with, explicitly removing or altering identifying information like other alterhuman identities and such unless it was directly relevant to the point. A lot of these people straight up aren’t in the server any more, so permission became enough of an issue that I decided to abandon it for just using my judgement, and proceeded in much the same way a professional sociologist doing field work would. In conversations with multiple participants (who aren’t me or Aster) I’ve given them color names. Names aren’t retained by the same people across conversations.)
On dragons as a discrete community
Many of the dragons in the server (myself included) have considered themselves ‘draconic’ as opposed to or alongside ‘dragonkin’. Many also expressed this in a way that alluded to the history of the draconic community as an entity with a unique culture.
I have much more in common with dragons who call themselves draconic than ones who call themselves dragonkin
i guess my dragon kintype could fall under theriomythic but. i like draconic as a descriptor for it a lot more honestly
That is also why you have some dragons/draconics and unicorns who also don't consider themselves otherkin due to both also having their own separate community origins from either the otherkin or therian community. So there are some who have or didn't have any interaction to the otherkin community and don't consider themselves otherkin.
This person was talking about using draconic specifically to distinguish themselves from ‘kinnies’ at the point where they hadn’t quite budded off from the main otherkin space yet, so separation between those was still very unclear:
a lot of people don't seem to use "draconic" or "draconity" either
so i use both
...and the decline of that community
vagabondsun (蒜) 16/08/2017
do you know off the top of your head when/how the otherkin community stopped being like, a separate thing from therians and draconics and whatnot
or rather, when they actually started to mingle and interact
not when they started to interact, nor when draconics got absorbed, but they all blended to the degree they are now where otherkin is a commonly an umbrella like. A few years ago? 3, 4?
vagabondsun (蒜) 16/08/2017
wow that recent huh
I was surprised to learn just how recent the assimilation of the communities actually was, but the general consensus was that by 2016, the draconic community was pretty much dead. I wrote my essay on it in 2018, and I didn’t really commit to saying that it was fully gone (I described the essay as a pre-post-mortem). Maybe that was wishful thinking.
Quoi Haunting | ?👻 01/01/2017
It's like Draconic. Draconic is dead and that community is gone and a lot of people don't even know it existed. Idk how separate it was in general but I imagine that there was a culture there that was unique, and now gone.
Even if draconics could fall under "otherkin" and likely participated in those spaces as well
It also seemed like people noticed less people identifying as dragons in general in the wake of this. It was still an incredibly common species identity to have, but nothing compared to how it was pre-tumblr.
vagabondsun (蒜) 01/01/2017
i also feel like there are.... less dragon-identifying people in general these days? anecdotal, but i can't remember the last time i saw a new 'hi im dragonkin' in the otherkin tag
Quoi Haunting | ?👻 01/01/2017
[…] I think I do see them
less if I compare to memory of forums and older community.
has anyone wondered why there are so many dragons as there are? [...]
Quoi Haunting | ?👻 29/03/2017
Im not sure how many dragons there are compared to other sorts of kin, so I wouldn't be able to say much. :o Are there really that many? [...]
[…] i know at least 10+ years ago, they were one of the most popular kintypes […]
vagabondsun (蒜) 29/03/2017
[…] you're right in that there are/were an abundance of dragons around
(i say it like that bc i feel like we're way less common than we used to be)
yeah, I was wondering that, I wasn't certain about now since I don't really look much but it definitely was a thing then
Other people considered this a loss as much as I did:
Quoi Haunting | ?👻 01/01/2017
the more we get absorbed, the more we kinda… lose ourselves.
Notably, people brought up elves alongside this as a group in a similar situation a number of times.
Seeing dragons as insular/elitist/arrogant
This was something I observed in my essay too. While some people attributed it to the draconic community specifically, people were talking about it among people who identified as dragonkin in the tumblr era too.
it took me a while to accept the dragon stuff too bc i always just like. wrote it off as a hearted thing/just liking them a lot, at first
esp when ppl were like "u have to be rlly sure u dont just Like Them!!! it's okay to hate dragons and be one" sdhfujk so yeah that was also rlly confusing [...]
y e s oh man lemme guess, you ran into [a certain someone’s] draconity guide early on
[...] that's the exact thing that caused me to doubt my draconity.
ughh yeah, there is a p high focus on that kinda thinking, from what i've seen. both in therian and draconic communities, it seems
god this is why i never rlly liked going to dragon only spaces or therian spaces bc you'd be seen as less legitimate or whatever
i hate that so much the draconic spaces always seemed awful about it???
it's still happens in the dragonkin community on tumblr too, it's like a little clique lmfao
I thought these conversations were weird, because many older resources defined draconity in terms of any connection at all to dragons, and were much more inclusive than would be considered ‘acceptable’ by a number of otherkin today. Looking into it, it seems this attitude was something that began to creep in around the late aughts – best I can tell, the guide mentioned in the first convo came about in 2008 (the author’s name I have redacted to protect the guilty, but if you know, you know).
I think the same can be said of the following issue:
(btw, there's a lot of Discourse in the dragonkin community about who can call themselves dragonkin, but if you're an amphithere and want to call yourself a dragon that's fine)
vagabondsun (蒜) 23/01/2018
is that. really a point of discourse in the community. is this really the most pressing issue for dragonkind right now
you'd be amazed
A couple of people believe this kind of attitude is simply a symptom of being a dragon:
yeah you know how prideful dragons are, especially of their own species and even kin groups like reptiles
vagabondsun (蒜) 11/03/2019
i feel like both [dragons and elves] are known for being up their own arses a little bit
Another instance of elves being brought up as having traits in common with the dragon community. Therians came up too. So were they percieved as insular and elitist simply because they were non-otherkin groups with their own standards? Was everyone just kind of like this, back then? I don’t think the information here allows me to draw any conclusions about that.
Ways of and reasons for identifying as a dragon (or draconic)
I don't even know where "identifies as a other-spirit that chose a human lifetime to interact with the world" fits in these
Huh I think that's a narrative I've heard of relatively often from my tangential interaction with elf and dragon folks in the 00's?
Despite this person not identifying as a dragon, they still used ‘draconic’ as a self descriptor and considered themselves a part of the draconic community:
I'm dragon-hearted, and it weaves into my spirituality [...] I feel I've grown up being shaped by [dragons], and while I don't identify as one, I see my hearted identity as a way of thanking them for shaping me and raising me [...] The deities I worship are all [dragons].
[…] Pretending to be a dragon felt more like fitting in with my family, and now I've grown out of pretending, and moreso accepting that while I am different from them, I have an innate link to them as family.
Multiple people who spent time in therian spaces back when they were more separated reported seeing (or being) dragons in therian spaces, viewing their draconity through specifically a therian lens.
back in the day dragons and gryphons were also therian but now...
hirtorically there were dragon therians, etc. the "earthly animal" linguistic split is more recent and mostly based on therian/otherkin communities running into one another and squishing together. i know a lot of people use therian to mean more animalistic but any strict dividing line will ne somewhat arbitrary
Our old host is one of the "dragon therians" from ye olden times. A large part of it stems from community. Both in the sense of "I am part of this community so this is the word I use", and "This community uses their word in a particular way that the other community does not, so this is the word I use".
Theriomythic didn't exist at the time or she might have used it. I personally like the term theriomythic, but not enough to have it as my main label […]
dragon therian you say?
i have been summoned...
but yeah as someone who is a dragon therian. i think it mostly depends on a lot of what has already been said
i also have a lot of personal attachment to the descriptor dragon therian over dragonkin
Psychological reasons / archetypal resonance
I am a dragon because I've always acted exactly how people describe dragons to act
I'm a dragon because i recognize i act like them a lot. I hoard and nest and do basically every stereotypical draconic thing
vagabondsun (蒜) 10/03/2019
a lot of my identification as a dragon is cultural and/or symbolic in a way that has been pretty ill defined
The ineffable Thing
This is an incredibly common thing stated in older draconic writings, too. Despite all the diversity in dragonkind, many of us recognize some kind of essence in each other. This Thing also expressed by many as part of the reason why draconics form a coherent category with each other rather than fitting under other communities/labels.
vagabondsun (蒜) 10/03/2019
in ye olde draconic communities there was a lot of 'idk what it is but we know we have it and we know non-dragons don't'
I know I’m a dragon because... well there is some sort of “thing” that I feel which was mentioned as being kind of vague but difficult to describe.
On dragon sexuality
One of the most surprising patterns that emerged is just how fucking much dragons talked about fucking. I’m not including quotes in this section or even dwelling on this too much because it feels like airing a lot of people’s dirty laundry. I didn't even really want to include this section, but it was the most common topic by such a huge margin that I felt like it'd be dishonest to leave it out!
I cannot exaggerate how frequently this topic came up among dragons in our mature channel. At least one non-dragon also commented that they noticed it was an incredibly common subject among the dragons they knew compared to other species. I don’t know what that says about us. I’d love to know if other people have observed this in other communities or if this was a bizarre artefact of the early Alt+H crowd.
On what traits and experiences dragons have
Internal self image, phantom sensations, etc
Another thing that was interestingly common was how much dragons experienced difficulty in determining the nature of their forms’ wings.
Any other dragons find it hard to pin down for sure whether or not you had wings? Cause I have this problem real bad and it's getting to me today. :/
Our original found her wings a really confusing subject. Leathery? Feathers? None? (None wings with left feathers.)
So you're not alone finding it difficult.
oh god yea, I think my wings were the HARDEST thing to figure out. feathery felt right, but so did "fingers"??? it turned out, feathery.. but with 'primaries' which were like flat scales that could bend a bit like fingers.
That was extremely difficult to figure out though, took years.
Yeah. Like. I can almost pretty clearly see my body in my minds eye, but like, said body doesn't include wings, but. It's kinda confusing in a way cause while that feels right we also feel like we can fly sometime or that I have wings sometimes? I dunno.
It's taken me a Long Time to figure out my dragon wings yeah. I think I'm pretty close to the structure and colour, but not so sure about the shape
I know I only have three 'fingers' (thumb claw plus two stretched across the membrane) so I don't look as webbed as some other dragons ig
i assumed feathery for years, i had a small period where i thought "none" (but i was also thinking I couldn't be a dragon but was rather a large reptile thing) and now i'm fairly certain it is, in fact, batlike wings, but i had a feathery crest or something.
I don't know why it was so easy to figure out my tail but so hard to figure out my wings
This conversation illuminated that we seemed to have a shared idea of what a ‘normal’ size was for a dragon:
Can you say you're tiny when you are a dragon?
Are you a tiny dragon?
vagabondsun (蒜) 14/05/2017
i'm about... bus sized i think. theres some variation / element of choice but. about the size of a bus
Arguably for the average dragon that may be small.
Hard to say.
vagabondsun (蒜) 14/05/2017
yea i'd agree with that
Dragons who breathed fire expressed a specific feeling of dysphoria or phantom sensations related to that:
You know what I miss?
That comes with being a fire dragon.
It's just not the same without having that fire inside
vagabondsun (蒜) 24/11/2017
that's a thing i experience as well
And there's no warmth in my belly
Everything too hot or too cold
I get the sensation of like. Phantom heat/flames inside me sometimes when I'm having dragon shifts, it's really maddening not to be able to just breathe it out and stuff x.x
But, of course, dragons are diverse creatures and breathing fire is not universal.
Now that's a stereotype that all dragons breathe fire, and prejudice against fire-breathers as being dangerous! (joking! all said playfully)
Dragons who breathe fire are valid
[…] Dragons who don't breathe fire are valid!
vagabondsun (蒜) 27/04/2017
dragons who breathe hot steam because fire would be pretty useless underwater are valid
Dragons who don't have a breath weapon at all are valid
Dragons’ relationship to gods and divinity
A few dragons described having weird, tense, or otherwise complicated relationships with (individual, or the idea of) gods and other 'divine' creatures on the basis of their draconity. I feel like this is something I've seen expressed elsewhere, possibly on Tumblr, as well.
Dragons of our sort have mixed feelings about gods. When humans consider you a god for so long, well. Needless to say you have to do something to earn our respect, and I hold every deity to the same standards. Old ones even more, since they should have more to immediately offer. They give us a wide berth for the most part though.
angels are. weird tbh, at least the most contacted/popular ones in my experience. i've heard of other dragons having issues with them [...]
Diets, and whether or not they included humans (or other dragons)
It was interesting to note that there seemed to be this perception that lots of dragons felt wrong about eating other dragons, but that many in the server expressed having no problem with it. This could have been just an artefact of the makeup of our server!
interesting thing about that, i feel like the only dragon who doesn't remember a taboo about eating other dragons, in fact it was encouraged if it would benefit the overall survival of the species
Yeah, I know others who think the same. I spend most of my time in draconic communities […]
as a dragon i wouldn't be opposed if they were a willing sacrifice, essentially
vagabondsun (蒜) 24/08/2017
i saw someone mention the other day in here that they felt like the only dragon who didn't have a taboo against cannibalism and that surprised me because dragon cannibalism might as well be a trope i see it that much in various lores
There also seemed to be some resistance to the stereotype of eating humans (though it was unclear whether this was from the community or from popular culture). That said, many dragons said they experienced an urge to eat people that irritated them, and/or were plenty comfortable with threatening to do so. This conversation also provides some insight into the diversity of what dragons did eat.
i feel like one of the only dragons that didn't eat human/oids
I never did either. Don't worry
Our dragons stick to cows.
[I] feel like consuming people I hate, but […] when I think of the cologne and hair products people usually use I think, "nevermind." I stick to just being menacing. It's good enough for my purposes.
Don't know what that stuff is like, never ate people. Scavenger here. :P
same only sheep
my dragon species don't eat humans (though we can threaten if they're not behaving nicely lol), but I prefer to stick to large mammals and fish for meals, with roast birds being nice for snacks
Yeah, threatening is nice to get them to behave, but they're to small and bones for any sort of enjoyable experience
i too ate sheep and fish (as well as plants and occasionally supplemented my diet with specific gems for multiple reasons, i think)
Having feline mannerisms, relating to cats, or initially misidentifying as cats were also incredibly common reported experiences. People, even non-dragons, seemed to agree this was something they saw talked about elsewhere or had observed in other dragons too.
Dragons, at least my kind, seem to behave in a way that's a mix of canine, feline, and dragon type ways. [...]
I've heard a lot of dragons seem to have feline mannerisms lol yeah.
literally the only reasons i didn't think "dragon" and didn't even notice i had lots of different sets of sensation was because. well. even with how much i intuitively understood as a child, kids have a pretty limited worldview and dragons aren't physical but cats are, and i assumed it had to be biological, lmao. therefore i.... thought i was a cat with wings.
Not the first time I've heard dragons being called that. ;)
well i mean it's definitely not wrong
so you got a point there :3c
I love dragons who act like kitties, I’m a very catlike dragon so it’s good content.
My system's dragon [...] is basically a huge cat [...]
I'm very distinctly reptilian, but I have a few feline tendencies [...]
As another cat/dragon combo, this is Good™
i am a cat like dragon sometimes [...]
vagabondsun (蒜) 03/12/2017
i think anecdotally a lot of us dergs describe our kinselves as having feline traits :P [...]
in my case, it's the "big apex predator" thing, mostly.
[…] wait dragonkin feel cat like?
It’s fairly common, not universal though
Yeah there seem to be a Lot of dragonkin out there who have housecatty feelings.
I've known some that feel more catlike
vagabondsun (蒜) 26/06/2018
it's a thing i've noticed a lot of dragonkin saying about themselves, yeah, myself included
Hoarding and protective instincts and behaviours
A pretty stereotypical dragon behaviour which was absolutely expressed here.
[…] especially being a Dragon (collecting and protecting things ) — I find it to be such a necessity for me to take care of people and guard/protect them lol
But even while being a Guardian Creature, I still feel a sense of mutual belonging to whomever I'm protective of / taking care of.
[…] Yeah I absolutely have that dragon guard-sense too, I’m attracted to the idea of a guardian beast or knight of a sort. It doesn’t imply ownership over me but does imply a mutual respect that someone cares for me and in return I am protective of them and their stuff (like a hoard of sorts)
[…] i’m a dragon, i have to collect stuff.
Not much more to be said than that!
Despite one of the defining traits of dragon people being their immense diversity, commonalities of experience still exist. And what those shared experiences are might surprise you! Why do so many dragons relate to cats? Why do so many have a tense relationship with divinity? I dunno man, I'm just here to report the trends. Maybe some day this will serve as a source for someone else answering that question.
Do these apply to absolutely every dragon? Obviously not. They might not even apply very broadly outside of the Alt+H server. Most everything here matches up with my personal observations of what the community used to be on tumblr and beyond, and some of this stuff only reaffirms things which have been expressed elsewhere - but there are only common traits, never ubiquitous ones. As it has always been, the only thing all dragons have in common is calling themselves dragons.
The primacy of Discord as a hub for communities raises new challenges for digital preservation, something which the alterhuman communities have historically struggled with. The privacy and the pace of conversation, while great for many things, are impediments to forming a robust community memory or giving future generations anything to learn from or relate to. Putting this together was a hell of a task - it was called "5 years of dragons" when I first started, to give you a sense of how long I've been working on it. But I hope my field notes here can help contribute to the cultural assets of what could otherwise be considered an endangered population.
(And maybe it'll inspire you to do something similar with your server, huh?)