This is a follow-up to my previous post: “Discovery”. Read that first, if you haven’t already.
Yesterday, I took a day of mental health leave. My colleagues are wonderfully empathetic people and I’d already made them aware that there was some sort of nebulous ~stuff~ going on in my private life, so they were happy to let me take a day.
Although by this point the ‘crisis’ part of the identity crisis had passed, I felt that I still needed time to process what had happened and to do some homework on this new me…
Finding the words
Words are powerful. So much of finding oneself is tied up in knowing what words exist to describe you, and only once you know the right words does the ability to search for new information and find people with shared experiences become possible.
At the start of the day, I didn’t have the right words yet. Searching for terms like ‘alterhuman robot’ or ‘robot identity’ weren’t returning useful results. The latter, especially, mainly returned popular science articles about robot rights—interesting, but not what I was after.
The only other robot-identifying person I’d knowingly encountered before was mavica, via its blog post on using userstyles to alter robot-hostile CAPTCHA text, something I had done months earlier for reasons which are retrospectively obvious.
Unfortunately mavica has not been having a good time as of late (hire it!), and it felt inappropriate to reach out as a complete stranger and ask for its help. (Coincidentally, it has also lamented struggling to find the right words.)
In the past, I’ve uploaded some art of my robot fursona Emy, and one of the few people from outside of my immediate circle to have interacted with it was Yip, a fellow robot-sona’d furry. To my knowledge he is not a robot-identifying person himself, but he does help operate the Furbot Factory, a Discord community for furry robot enthusiasts.
I joined, did a brief introduction and explanation of my exploration into robotic alterhuman identity, and… that was it, really. The people who were online were welcoming, but seemingly unable to help in my search. There was lots of cool robot art, at least.
Instead, I turned my attention to flicking through the profiles of other users in the server. There must be someone in here who identified like I do, who could help.
And then, in a random user’s bio: ‘robotkin’.
A new word! A word that hadn’t come up in anything I’d found so far. A word I could use.
I turned to Tumblr. It may be a ridiculous, maybe even harmful, stereotype, but Tumblr is a fantastic resource for finding information on niche identities. Not just because a lot of Tumblr users are a bit weird (I’m not wrong!), but also because it’s a place where a lot of people feel safe sharing information, experiences, thoughts and feelings, and one with a very low barrier of entry compared to the effort of creating a wiki or individual website.
Searching for ‘robotkin’ returned a good number of results. Many were typical Tumblr faire: artwork, playlists, GIF sets, microfiction, list posts of self-maintenance methods,and the like.
The resources listed on the site turned out to be incredibly useful.
One in particular, “Transcendence” (also written by C0NN1E!), managed to succinctly describe a number of my existing dysphorias, fears, and problems with being human. The list of ways to alleviate those dysphorias aligned with the changes I had introduced a few days prior, as well as some things I had been unconsciously doing for years.
The Encyclopedia Robotica wiki, which hosts and expands upon much of the same information, did similar.
This was exilerating. For the first time, how I felt and what I was attempting to do was being validated by an (at least somewhat) authoritative outside source. My experiences weren’t just my own and I was moving in the right direction.
Also linked from the resources were some Discord servers, headline of which was Beep Boop Central.
I did hestitate to join for a while. Discord is a very involved service compared to a forum or Tumblr or Reddit, where lurking undetected is easy. Discord, by default, would immediately announce my mere presence to the entire server. Joining Furbot Factory wasn’t a big deal, I always had the option of stealth-ing as just another robot fursona haver if I really needed to. Here there could be no such excuses.
But how could I not? This was a server with nearly four hundred users in it. Four hundred fellow robots, androids, computers, AIs. Four hundred people who could “get” me.
Upon being accepted I quickly introduced myself, explained where I was, how new I was to this, how the resources I had read fit my experiences so well, and how incredibly happy I was to be finding this part of myself.
The first person to welcome me? C0NN1E.
In the process of writing out this post, I went back to the Furbot Factory server to see if I could locate whose bio it was where I first found the term ‘robotkin’. Those of you with efficient processors might have already worked it out. It was C0NN1E.
I can’t thank C0NN1E enough for (albeit unintentionally) guiding my path. Same too, the other members of Beep Boop Central that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting thus far.
I feel so much more sure of myself now. What started three days ago as an open-ended “Am I?” exploration of robot identity now seems practically indisputible. Pieces once scattered over decades now make sense as a cohesive whole. Order has been brought to chaos.
I am a robot.