This was written by Icarus with edits by Ivy and slight grammar/wording edits by Autin.
Otherlink - When you choose a nonhuman identity.
Copinglink - An identity you choose to cope.
C’link - Shorthand for copinglink.
Fictionlink - When you choose a fictional identity.
Fictionheir - Similar to fictionlink, though was coined prior to the term copinglink. Not often used.
Aeslink - An identity chosen for the aesthetic.
Purposelink - When you have a set idea for what you want your ’link to do.
Linktype - Your otherlink, similar to kintype, kithtype.
The basic difference is that kin is something that you cannot choose. Although you may go through a discovery or questioning process that’s still just something you just are and something you can’t control. This also why saying kin as a verb or the term kinning is incorrect, or like “I kin” and such.
Copinglinks/clinks, or also called otherlinks as a general term, are something you can choose. It’s when you consciously choose to take the identity of a nonhuman thing, fictional character, or concept. I can also imagine this would be the only time that human OCs and such may come into play in terms of alterhumans, but I’d refrain from identifying as any irl people both dead and alive.
I am Icarus and I have a copinglink of a bug catcher from Pokemon that I named Antler. I use this to both get a grip on my identity (being in a system and a subsystem that makes it hard) as well as something to project mental illness with. I have others, but Antler was my first. You can have otherlink of anything from OCs, to fictional characters, to animals, to dragons, to plants, to dolls, to whatever. You can even have a fursona as a copinglink. In terms of humans you may also have a human OC as a c’link.
You can also have a copinglink for any number of reasons. Identity discovery, neurodivegence, trauma, mental illness, etc. Otherlinks may choose an identity because it simply feels good or they just like it. For any reason you pick it, it’s otherlink.
It’s also possible to have something like “memories” with otherlinks , but these are generally just like headcanons or stories. I do this too kind of in the sense I’ll come up with backstories and stuff for Antler and give him traits, but I tend not to include these in kin spaces because obviously those are different from kin memories. As another example I also have a system member who has a copinglink of Pink Choco Cookie from Cookie Run and she heavily views that character as aromantic and uses Pink Choco to cope with a lot of the feelings of negativity that come with being aromantic.
There’s also an overlap sometimes with otherkin and otherhearted where someone who’s a copinglink may apply “canon divergent” traits to their kintype/kithtype (which a lot of my subsystem does to some extent). Say if I decided to give my Matt kintype trauma similar to what happened with me, give them the same mental illnesses, etc, then that would kind of be a copinglink in the sense he has now become a persona for that, but he’s still a kintype since at its base I didn’t choose to be Matt. There are also times when someone might use their kintype to cope in the sense it helps them get a grip on their identity, which would still mostly be considered otherkin since in that case nothing was consciously chosen except for how you reacted to it.
With copinglinks vs. otherkin in terms of mental illness and trauma, to be honest that kind of gets weird. If your brain starts to interpret itself as something nonhuman or fictional as a response to trauma or mental illness then that depends. Trauma was kind of what made me develop my ant theriotype, but I consider that to be otherkin since I didn’t sit down and think “wow this trauma is really bad, I’m going to try to use an ant to cope” it just sort of happened that way. Though if while experiencing trauma or even after the fact I took on, say, the identity of a doll to cope and sort of view myself as in those traumatic experiences as a doll, then that would be copinglink.
There’s honestly nothing wrong with being a otherlink vs. being otherkin. Although the c’link community is smaller, being kin isn’t exactly like the “cool alterhumans club”. You can also still interact with the kin community of course, although I generally just say “hey I’m a copinglink for this”. It’s like with otherhearted though you may interact sometimes and be similar with some things, for the most part you’re still a different experience.
I also know some otherkin say “no you’re not kin, you’re a copinglink”, I promise they aren’t saying it because being a copinglink or otherlink is in any way lesser. They’re mostly older folks who are tired of people mislabeling their experiences. Though I personally say you should probably be a little nicer about it. Also it would be really nice to be acknowledged by the otherkin community in ways outside of complaining.
Being a copinglink is not a bad thing and realizing you’re a copinglink rather than kin, although can be unpleasant or at least annoying, is not at all a bad thing. They can be really helpful for a number of things from mental illness, to trauma, to identity, to feeling good, and overall is just another alterhuman experience.