[Kerry] Plurality: Before and After

We didn’t always know that we were plural. We first suspected there might be something behind the differences in our behaviour when we were about 11, but we ended up shelving it as people were rather dismissive of it, even though it made perfect sense to us. It wasn’t a very sophisticated understanding of ourselves, but it was more logical, at least from our point of view, than the idea that we were simply a highly contradictory and inconsistent individual. 

There were a lot of indicators, but we didn’t know what to make of them. Everything we had heard about multiplicity was negative, and we, like most other people who have been exposed to media stereotypes, thought that you had to completely lose your memory when two system members switched between each other, and that most ‘personalities’ were outsized caricatures. This meant that we weren’t certain what we were supposed to make of certain types of behaviour we exhibited, both within our own thoughts and when interacting with other people: strong internal disagreements about particular interests; feeling more comfortable when using voices; always being in ‘character’ when by ourselves or interacting with our closest biological family member (and feeling more comfortable in character than as ‘”my” real self’); others noticing that we had rather dramatic ‘mood swings’ that made us seem like different people. Since we didn’t know we were plural, we didn’t have division of labour and we had people who were less skilled in certain areas managing tasks they probably shouldn’t have. 

Yes, individuals can contradict themselves, but this was more profound than that. I personally contradict myself in little ways all the time, and I experience emotions such as ambivalence, but that’s different from my having a disagreement with Hess, Darwin or Richard. There was also a high degree of internal consistency within each mental state that we noticed. It was also interesting going back and looking at our old Livejournal entries from 2004-2006: there were about four or five different writing styles, each reappearing at certain times. Some of it looked like me, some like Hess or Yavari or Richard or Carmen. (Noël and James weren’t here then; they joined us in 2008 and 2011 respectively.) 

We started realising, in the fullest sense, that there was a strong possibility that we could be composed of separate conscious entities at the end of 2005 and throughout 2006. We had come across another plural system in one of the autistic communities that we belonged to on Livejournal, and they had linked to Astraea’s Web, one of the most popular go-to pages about healthy multiplicity/plurality. We realised that plurality didn’t need to be inherently disordered, and that we didn’t have to have memory losses or stereotyped system members in order to be valid – and that there was an explanation for our behaviour that made sense. At the end of 2006, we finally realised that we weren’t able to maintain the illusion that we were a single consistent individual any more, and decided to finally come out to ourselves as plural, and to tell the people we trusted the most with the information. There were many people whom we told about our plurality who weren’t surprised by the revelation: they’d noticed that we’d acted rather differently from one another, but in a consistently different way, not simply erratic behaviour. Things seemed to make sense: the internal disagreements, the consistency between each ‘state’, the strong identifications with people and events that matched our subconscious perceptions of our individual selves. We set ourselves the task of working out who we were, and organising our system so that we were able to co-operate and live a healthy, fulfilling life together.  

Now, things are rather different. We’ve been openly plural to our closest friends – and many places online – for nearly seven years. We generally co-operate and share responsibilities based on individuals’ skills, passions and interests. It’s much easier to delegate tasks. We’re aware of who we are, and can live with it without feeling horrible. We’re now able to convincingly ‘pass’ as being nonplural around most people, because we’re aware of our differences and can sand them off when interacting with people who don’t know about us. It’s actually more of an automated process that we started creating after we worked out we were different people, but I think that’s the best way of wording it. (It does present a drain on our energy; we can keep it up for a little while, but we will eventually grow frustrated with it and want to retreat so we can just act like ourselves again. It’s similar to doing the faux-NT thing.) But when we’re at home or in other spaces where we can interact with people as we are, the differences are more apparent. 

We’re proud to be who we are, and we’re glad that we’ve come as far as we have. We wouldn’t be where we are without each other, and we’d not change our plurality for the world. 

[Kerry] Language as the medium of thought.

Some autistic people have talked about communication ‘underneath’ words. I think of it as being ‘interverbal’, being between words and underneath them, rather than being driven by words. They don’t specifically see words as the natural medium of thought, but imperfect explanatory devices to describe a concept that exists in their minds. At least that’s what I glean from it; my interpretation of it might be flawed, as my own experience is quite different. (If you tend to have that sort of thought pattern, correct me if you’d like?) 

I personally do think in language. Words are very important to me, and I can be sensitive to how they’re being used. That’s not to say that I prowl about policing how people talk, except if they’re saying things that are blatantly offensive (racial slurs, deliberately misgendering people, overt misogyny, etc). I used to be a prescriptivist, but I’ve moved away from that over the past four years. I will, though, have a strong reaction to it, even if I can keep from letting the other person know that that strong reaction exists. Your language is how I read what you’re trying to communicate. I’m not saying that I can’t read interverbal or nonverbal communication, but the language you use is the clearest signal for me. Richard is similar to me, but he’s better at recognising subverbal meanings than I am. (This makes him a lot more tactful than I am, because he can detect underlying meanings that I can’t always pick up on.) 

Noël, however, doesn’t, and tends to conceptualise his thoughts as a series of patterns, images and textures, which he later translates into language. He can usually pick up on those cues that I can’t, since his way of interpreting things involves picking up on patterns and senses that he has, rather than noticing the explicit words that someone uses. I may just take people’s words at face value, while he doesn’t. There are images and patterns and signals that he finds, and the words are a frame for those ideas that he has in his head, rather than the means of thought themselves. When he communicates with me within our headscape, he tends to send conceptual ‘bundles’ of communication, with intermittent verbal messages. This is in contrast to me, because I tend to just send words his way if I’m not trying to get a large amount of information to him all at once – in which case, I send out an information packet. 

James is somewhere in between, as are Darwin and Hess. They don’t have the same verbally dominated thinking style that people like Richard and me have, but they are still more verbal than Noël is. Darwin tends to use a lot of images and patterns and symbols. Hess is a combination of words and images. Hess and I tend to use words when communicating with one another, but he changes his communication style when dealing with other people like Darwin, Noël and James, whose thought patterns are less dominated by words than either Richard’s or mine are. 

So, yeah, we have a wide variety of ways that we deal with thought patterns, but then again, that’s what plurality means, doesn’t it? It’s interesting to see how our being differentiable relates to our being autistic and what that entails when it comes to our thought processes. 

[Kerry] What’s been going on.

Sorry for the lack of updates; we’ve been rather busy as of late, primarily with work, looking for housemates and other various things. And we are at a lovely gathering of autistic people! I’ll probably not go into detail, as we’re not out plural here, and I’d rather not go into long convoluted explanations about Who We Really Are whilst we’re here. Not that uncloseting is completely out of the question, but it’s…a lack of desire to want to have our identities dominate the discourse when this is about autistic unity. It’s not out of shame for who we are; we haven’t really been ashamed of it in a while. We are just not at the point in our lives where we feel comfortable telling people about who we are unless we feel as though we’re absolutely safe, or at least reasonably safe. 

We know there are other systems who are more forthcoming than we are, but I think that everyone has their levels of comfort. Even in spaces devoted to neurodiversity, there are different levels of understanding when it comes to experiences outside the particular type of neurodiversity that a community belongs to. (And even within a community — for instance, look at the tension between autistic people with different functioning label, or people with Asperger’s labels versus people with ‘High-Functioning’ Autism labels.’) Someday we’ll be more able to have confidence about being openly, well, us, but that day isn’t today. Not yet. Would we like to be more open? Absolutely. But I don’t feel as though the atmosphere makes it that easy yet. 

[Kerry] Perseveration, Plurality and Social Interaction

Like many other people on the autistic spectrum, we perseverate, or focus intensely on a particular topic or set of topics. This can manifest in several ways: reading several articles about the topic of interest, listening to talks and reading articles by someone (if the area of interest is a public figure) constantly, listening to a song constantly (in fact, our iTunes is set to loop a single track by default), or drawing something over and over again. 

Sometimes we have guilt over perseveration, since we would get snapped at if we talked about them too much growing up. Over the past eight years, we’ve tried to become more comfortable with the idea of being perseverative autistics, but it’s not been easy, since old habits—and old messages—die hard. We’ve noticed that people who weren’t exposed to constant interventions are often more comfortable going on and on about their interest sets in a way that we aren’t, particularly. Even if we’re alone and trying to enjoy a perseverative interest, there’s a big wave of guilt, as though people are going to osmotically work out that we’re perseverating and Being Weird™ and need to Stop It Right Now. Yes, that’s irrational, I know, but it’s still an issue. 

Individuals within the system can have perseverations separate from ones that the whole system can have at once, or have zero interest in whatever someone else is stuck on at the moment. For instance, Hess and I both have a particular focus on some aspects of connected speech in spoken English, but James, Darwin and Richard aren’t interested and won’t join the conversation if Hess and I talk about it. Conversely, James and I were stuck on typography—well, are, since it’s a constant interest that rarely abates, and we’ll go on about it—and Darwin and Noël didn’t participate in those conversations. Some of us tend to be more taken by perseverations than others, too; Hess, Yavari and I perseverate more intensely and repetitively than Richard or Noël do. 

We often discuss our perseverations amongst each other, rather than monologuing to outside people about it. That’s not to say that we never monologue about a special interest, but it has to be within the context of a pre-existing conversation. It’s one of the reasons why our plurality is something that we consider beneficial, as it allows us to have a safe space to hold conversations that might bore other people to tears. We do have some friends outside the system with similar perseverations—albeit with some different nuances—but apart from those people, we try and not drive people bonkers with the Special Interests Du Jour, especially if they’re obscure or really only of interest to us and similarly focussed people. Before we realised we were plural, we used to talk about these interests to people around us, particularly family members and friends, and they just got really tired of it quickly. I mean, we felt really bad about it, but there wasn’t any way to express it to anyone who was actually interested, and our system didn’t really have communication until our late teens (before that, we acted differently to one another, but we didn’t communicate as such). 

This is one of the reasons why James believes that our plurality—well, in the form it presents now, even though there’s always been variability in our behaviour—arose as a means of dealing with being autistic and isolated (as well as other stresses and traumas), but I don’t know if I fully agree with him. It’s a hypothesis, though, and we’re allowed to disagree. 

[Kerry & James] EUP Updates

We’ve actually been pretty prolific on our main site over the past few months: Kerry, James and Darwin worked on the Who Are We? introduction to our collective; Em, Kerry and Hess collaborated on Rules of Engagement, a guide to interacting with plural systems for newbies; Kerry wrote Parallel Dreams, an article about commonalities between members of plural systems; Kerry wrote Are Plurals ‘Oppressed’?; and Darwin wrote Questioning ‘Types of Alters’, an article that questions pigeonholing all members of plural systems into stereotypical roles. 

[Kerry] Plurality and The Experts™

It’s wearying reading ~the literature~ on plurality. The way they describe system members gets to you after a while: Parts. Alters. Alternate personalities. Personas. Fragments. Anything but ‘people’. Anything other than the possibility that plural systems may very well be composed of several people, in the Cartesian ‘cogito, ergo sum’ sense. 

I am not a ‘personality’. I am not an ‘ego state’. I certainly have a personality distinct from others’ in this system. But I am not ‘a personality’. Nobody is putting on a mask of me, only to casually discard it when they’re bored of it. Nobody retreats ‘into me’. I’m just…me. And in the same way, Hess is just Hess. Darwin’s just Darwin. James is just James. And so on. It’s frustrating to see this model, sanctioned by The Experts™, touted as the only one, even when it’s not your actual experience. 

But they’re never going to listen to you because you’re ‘crazy’ anyway. That’s just your weird, fucked-up brain talking. How dare you actually assert your personhood and individual identity? 

Maybe I’m sensitive because we’ve spent our entire earthly existence receiving messages that we are somehow ‘not really people’. Racism. Ableism. Homophobia. Transphobia. Classism. Misogyny before we transitioned. It messes about with your self-image, even when you know deep down that your existence is as valuable as anyone else’s is. And speaking up for who you are, regardless of what it is, is being uppity. It’s challenging something that people consider self-evident. I’m not, of course, conflating plurality with more obvious oppressive situations. I am, however, criticising the idea that if you belong to a ‘target’ identity, whatever you say is invalid, because your experiences aren’t being filtered through ‘experts’, who are invariably outside your community. It’s like those nonautistic ‘autism experts’. Rich and middle-class social workers who are out of touch with the people they work with. I’m not trying to bash allies, but there’s a difference between an ally who actually listens to you and an Expert™ that tries to impose their narrative on you. 

I’m not even claiming that our plurality can be absolutely, 100% empirically proved. I am saying, though, that identity is complex and it’s silly to just dismiss stuff out of hand because it doesn’t match your experience or doesn’t fit into your ‘pathologise everything that doesn’t fit into our idealised norms’ mentality. (I’m going to add a disclaimer that I’m not claiming that DID/MPD don’t exist. I am, though, saying that they’re not the only ways in which plurality can exist.) 

It’s frustrating, because these ‘experts’ don’t know our lived experience. They don’t listen to our lived experience. It’s just CURE PATHOLOGY CURE PATHOLOGY CURE PATHOLOGY over and over and over again, and the constant hammering on about how there is One True Good Brain. 

And when you’ve got a ‘bad brain’, it’s hard to fight against it. You’re never sure if you’re going to be listened to. After all, your view is ‘less valid’ because you’ve got a ‘bad brain’, right? 

Our plurality is part of what helps us to function. We don’t know whether we arose to assist in dealing with the world or not, but regardless of our origins, our separateness is beneficial. We are, however, more than simply a ‘coping mechanism’; we’re people. More importantly, the relationships we have with each other are important. To try and ‘integrate’ us, to act as though we’re all parts of the same mythical individual, to be eliminated for the sake of an imagined idea of normality, is to crush something that simply doesn’t deserve to be crushed. 

I know I’ll never convince your run-of-the-mill troll posing as a ‘sceptic’ that atypical identities are valid, or the outsider Experts™, but this blog is not for those people

[Kerry] Book Review: ‘Got Parts?’

We’ve been reading Got Parts?, which is a guide written for trauma-based DID/MPD systems to learn how to manage their lives while dealing with the fact that they are plural and must recover from trauma. It’s written by a DID system who’s credited as ‘ATW’, based on their own experiences as a DID system that needed to develop a better operating system in order to go through life in a healthier way. It uses language like ‘parts’ and ‘alters’, which we personally avoid in favour of ‘people’ and ‘system members’, but it’s written from the medical-model perspective, so this usage is fairly standard. 

A heartening thing about the book is that ATW define ‘re-integration’ as co-operation between system members, rather than trying to combine everyone into a ‘single personality’, which is something I appreciate. While some trauma-based systems do benefit from integration in the ‘combine everybody’ sense, most systems don’t actually integrate, and setting up a mutualistic system is a more realistic goal to work towards. (I have expressed my personal opposition to ‘integration evangelism’ in the past, and won’t belabour the point here.) 

This book is intensely practical, which is something I appreciate. It’s not focussed on the therapeutic process as much as it is working on basic life skills and system co-operation. The book begins with chapters on getting to know one another and establishing relationships with system members through visually mapping out the system; having system members write about themselves, their individual histories and their skills; how to present to therapists; and creating an environment of mutual respect. The author& also suggest that systems hold daily house meetings in order to discuss and delegate tasks; that they use planners to organise daily-life tasks; and that they find ways to co-operate to work towards the common goal of a fuller, more co-operative life, rather than constantly working at cross purposes. While our own system has developed better co-operation techniques over the years, some of the advice would still work quite well for us, such as holding more frequent meetings and using day planners to delegate tasks and organise our lives. 

I have a few quibbles, but they’re relatively minor: in a preface written by the Sidran Institute, the authors write that ‘parts’ and ‘alters’ are manifestations of the same person, rather than being individual people themselves. Our views on personhood are based on self-perception and identity, so we don’t necessarily agree with this for our own system. There are systems that do see themselves as being facets of a central identity; however, none of us feels comfortable using that model for ourselves. Also, there’s a section about sexuality that describes BDSM as being unhealthy, which I disagree with — kink can be responsibly done, in my opinion. 

(For the record: we ourselves aren’t fully sure of our origins. We have gone through trauma—primarily emotional and psychological abuse—but there’s no way to go back and pinpoint exactly what happened to make us plural. If we separated because we were traumatised, that doesn’t invalidate our identities, in my opinion; origins may explain how we go about some things, but origins are not destiny.)

[Kerry] Objectivism, Body Mapping and Irrational Hatred

For about a year, there has been a spate of trolling targeted at trans/genderqueer people, plurals, otherkin and other communities on Tumblr. I noticed that a lot of the attackers were libertarians (or libertarian-leaning conservatives), judging by the profiles they’d filled out on Tumblr. For a while, I was befuddled by the correlation between libertarianism and rampant hatred for people whose minds didn’t have a one-to-one mapping with their bodies. It seemed quite contradictory to the idea that people are free to exist as they are, without others’ coercion. I’d seen that sort of bigotry before coming from libertarians, but it was isolated cases, rather than organised attempts to attack particular groups of people. I don’t think that this is a problem that exists amongst all libertarians; for instance, left-libertarians tend not to hold these sorts of views. I am, of course, against most forms of libertarianism as a philosophical principle and as a foundation of government, but I’m not out to tar all libertarians with the same brush. Most of the problems I’ve noticed are from right-libertarians, ‘voluntaryists‘ and objectivists

I suspect that some of these people draw their hostility towards these groups because of a particular set of philosophical tenets—that is, Randian objectivism—that discounts the importance of subjective perception.

There also tends to be a lot of black-and-white thinking that comes along with it. I was reading an entry on John Scalzi’s blog, where he criticises objectivism and Atlas Shrugged, and one of the commenters, Bruce Baugh, gave an anecdote of objectivists disbelieving in ring species because they represented an intermediate between one species and the next. For an objectivist, ‘species’ would be a binary, immutable category, with no in-between states. (He also mentioned a particular disdain for quantum mechanics.) If Baugh’s anecdote is true, this exemplifies some of the thinking I’ve seen amongst objectivists. Ambiguity doesn’t exist! Apparently. Even though it does. Things are what they are, with no variation between them. This accounts for their utter rejection of transgender identities, for instance. You’re born with what you have, and you cannot transcend or question it. It also accounts for their inability to understand plurality. Personhood is defined by the body, and regardless of how your perception may work, you cannot truly be plural. Of course, I think that’s utter tripe, and the psychological community itself is moving away from these simplistic ways of thinking. But that’s what objectivists believe, and that’s where the nastiness is coming from

This explains why Thomas Szasz claimed that trans people were delusional, even though he disbelieved in mental illness, and was a libertarian. This also explains why the Tumblr trolls were essentially doing the same thing. With that sort of worldview, we’re all black boxes. Nothing subjective can truly exist, and if someone does mention that they have an identity that has strong subjective roots, they are immediately shot down and told that their self-perception is absolutely wrong, and that they should ‘stop pretending’. 

The thing is, though, no-one is claiming that subjective identities can be empirically proved in the same way that gravity can. But we, as a society, do recognise that subjective phenomena can be quite influential, for better or for worse. Emotions are deeply subjective, but they certainly have a factor in how we conduct ourselves and how our societies develop. A plural system who perceives themselves as being several individual consciousnesses generated by the same brain isn’t the same thing as, say, a creation ‘scientist’. Creationists are categorically denying scientific fact, and their fairy tales should be kept out of science classrooms. If someone were to claim that they were literally a cabbage, then you might have a problem, but there’s a massive distinction between ‘I perceive myself in a particular way subjectively’ and ‘I am a cabbage.’ Objectivists fallaciously conflate ‘this is my self-perception’ with ‘I AM REALLY A CABBAGE DON’T YOU KNOW.’ I’m not against empiricism. But I am against false appeals to ‘science’ to deny people their identity and their voice. 

You know, even Richard Dawkins, the reductionist’s reductionist, doesn’t go this far. In a TED talk he gave in 2005, about ‘our queer universe’, Dawkins discusses how our perception of the world is just a model of it, and that our senses create a version of the world that’s quite different to how other animals see it. I don’t always agree with Dawkins, but in this case, I think he makes quite a bit of sense. 

I am an atheist. I am a materialist. But I am not an objectivist. My beliefs in empiricism and my disbelief in spiritual phenomena do not preclude my acceptance of subjective phenomena as being valid. 

Objectivism ignores the complexity of human thought, and reduces it to a set of facilely constructed axioms. Reality is messy, complex and can’t be cut down into twee slogans for disaffected nerds. Can it be quantified? Yes, for the most part. But that doesn’t mean it’s not complex, or that variance doesn’t exist. 

[Kerry] Neurodiversity Is Not ‘Anti-Psych’

I normally like the entries on RationalWiki, especially the ones about conservative ideologues and anti-science cranks. However, their article about ‘mental illness denial‘ gave me pause, because they implied that the ‘difference model’ of mental variance was in direct opposition to treatment. 

As a neurodiversity advocate, I don’t think that’s the case. 

I’m not against psychiatry, nor is anyone else here. We may advocate for neurodiversity, but that doesn’t come with automatic opposition to the mental health system in and of itself. If a condition is causing someone distress, then they should seek help for it, whether it be through talk therapy, medication or genuinely supportive, non-abusive inpatient treatment. There are some other plural activists, like the Astraea system, who do promote anti-psychiatry more actively; we’re not among that lot, and think that psychiatry can be used effectively, as long as there’s respect for the patient. It shouldn’t be used to enforce arbitrary ideas of whose identities are and are not valid, like what was done to gay people before homosexuality was removed from the DSM. You can criticise some aspects of psychiatry without advocating for people like Thomas Szasz and the ‘Church’ of Scientology. 

The problem with much of modern psychiatry isn’t its existence, as much as it is the abuses that exist within it, and the deficit model being applied universally, whether a condition causes individual suffering or not. We don’t suffer from being plural, so why do we need treatment for it? We don’t inherently suffer from being autistic, so why should we have it ‘cured’? We’d like accommodations, but that’s quite different to being cured. We would like our anxiety and depression to be got rid of, since they have direct negative impacts on our success. But our existing in and of itself? Something quite different, I’d say. 

If a condition does have a detrimental effect on your life (and not just because you’re not ‘omg, NORMAL™’) and you’d like help with it, you should be able to get that. If someone is out there harming people, then yes, that person should be stopped. The idea behind neurodiversity, though, is that simple existence isn’t harmful in and of itself. Non-abusive psychiatry and neurodiversity can coexist without denying that there are conditions that cause people suffering, or claiming that any neurological variation is inherently pathological. 

Getting Serious About Plurality [Kerry]

The problem that we’ve seen with anti-plural hostility is the dismissal of any identity that varies from a particular norm, without any explanation other than ‘I think it’s BS, so your experience can’t be valid.’ There just isn’t any serious discussion happening, because people believe that it’s outside the realm of seriousness. It doesn’t help that some environments, such as Tumblr, turn discussions of identity into a sideshow, rather than actually teasing out the important issues underneath some of the bluster that appears on people’s dashboards. 

Asking questions about identity, though, is hard. It requires people to question their preconceived ideas about selfhood, personhood and what it means to be ‘mentally healthy’. Since Western culture doesn’t currently have a mainstream framework for mental variance that doesn’t use the medical model, and positivism prevails in most of the social sciences, including psychology, more philosophical explanations aren’t brought in as much as they were in the past. Neurodiversity is gaining more traction in popular discourse, but it will take a bit longer before that mindset displaces the current set of ideas. 

There are people who will say ‘It’s crazy! Because it’s not “normal”, something’s wrong with you.’ That those of us who are non-DID plural systems can’t have valid experiences because one model of cognition tends to be rather hostile to the idea of variance being just that—variance. Some conditions do require treatment, but variance in and of itself shouldn’t be the reason why treatment should be mandated. Unfortunately, a lot of people conflate ‘variance’ and ‘disorder’. It’s thoughtless traditionalism for its own sake, as opposed to a thoughtful stance that considers all aspects of identity. 

As usual, I’ll add the disclaimer that I don’t think that DID isn’t a thing, but that plurality itself need not always be explained with that paradigm. It’s a bit like gender variance—there are ‘classic’ trans people, who have binary gender identities and want to physically change their bodies to match their identities, and there are other gender-variant people, who may or may not identify themselves as being on the gender binary, and may or may not want to change their bodies. 

On the other hand, we’ve seen people come round just by knowing others who have had different experiences to them, and are willing to listen to them (that’s the important bit), even if they may not be completely knowledgeable at first. 

We don’t know conclusively how we came to be separate people: some of us think that we emerged naturally; others think that our plurality may have occurred as a response to stress. Regardless, though, we like who we are, and don’t want to lose our identities to gain the social acceptance of people who aren’t willing to listen in the first place

[Noël] Curebies and Integration Evangelists

I have noticed disturbing similarities between nonautistic people who are hellbent on finding a cure for autism, and nonplurals who evangelise integration as the universal treatment for all plurality, whether it falls under the classic definition of MPD/DID or not.

Both of them, I feel, seem deeply uncomfortable with the idea of neurological variation being something other than a dangerous pathology. When defending their pro-cure stance, they will invariably cite “their brother who smears faeces” or “their dysfunctional cousin whose ‘personalities’ have destroyed her life.” It is always the most extreme cases, nearly calculated to elicit disgust in the general population, that these people use in order to invalidate the idea that all neurological variance should be eliminated.

Empowerment is never an option; it is always cure. Because being neurotypical is the only acceptable state. There are no exceptions. I could draw further comparisons, to the anti-LGBT religious fundamentalists who advocate reparative therapy for queer people. Only straight sexuality and cisgender identity are acceptable. No deviation is permitted. You must be assimilated. They, too, trot out the worst examples of LGBT people in order to invalidate the entire movement.

This makes me feel deeply uncomfortable as a member of a plural system on the autistic spectrum, whose individual behaviour appears autistic. It does not seem like a considered evaluation of neurological difference; it feels like a visceral reaction to the idea that someone does vary from them, and that there is a challenge to the way in which they perceive personhood. Since humans are considered social animals, the idea that there is a subset of humans that does not derive the same experience from social interaction, and has different reactions to other environmental stimuli, makes them incredibly uncomfortable. What, then, does it mean to be human, if there is this group of people that “are human in a different way”? Plurality, too, challenges their notions of what the self means—if many selves within one brain can exist, is it possible that I, too, could be many? That I may have to share my thoughts, that the notion of privacy or identity could be more complicated than what it initially was on the surface?

The singular obsession with cure and healing also reminds me far too much of the eugenicist policies favoured in the United States and in Western Europe in the early twentieth century. Psychiatrists and academics relished drawing up hierarchical diagnostic schemas and creating Great Chains of Being, and consigning anyone who was considered “substandard” to abusive, soul-destroying institutions. The rise of Autism Speaks (and its predecessor, Cure Autism Now) in the past decade is simply repeating the sordid history of the suppression of disabled communities, and words cannot describe how much I loathe Autism Speaks and organisations that are philosophically akin to it.

It feels deeply adversarial. Us against them, combat neurodiversity, combat difference.

Combat me, combat Kerry, combat Hess, combat the majority of our closest friends. Crush the lives and ambitions of real, living, breathing people, because there is something that they perceive is challenging. Threatening.

My goal is to encourage people to accept complexity in identity, and to realise that variance, in and of itself, is not to simply be eliminated.

[Kerry] Plurality and Scepticism

Philosophically, I’m a sceptic. I don’t believe in God (of any sort); I tend to believe in naturalistic explanations for both psychological and spiritual phenomena, and I critically evaluate people’s claims, especially if they can’t be empirically tested.

You may wonder, then, why we identify as plural, and why I have a strong attachment to my individual identity, even though I don’t have a visible physical manifestation.

I tend to have a philosophy of ‘materialist dualism’, in which nonspiritual philosophy is combined with the idea that there can be a distinction between someone’s external presentation and internal self-perception. I believe that the perception of that distinction occurs in the brain, at least for us. I don’t see there being a contradiction at all between being our identifying as separate people, and having many sceptics in the system, like Em, Yavari and me.

No, you can’t directly test our personhood in the same way that you can measure REM sleep or other brain phenomena that are less complicated. I think that the reason why the personhood of members of plural systems isn’t always recognised because we have differing operational definitions of personhood. People who don’t conceptualise identities as existing outside the body may see personhood as embodiment—and those people also tend to have gender-essentialist views as well, in which trans people are not ever ‘really’ the gender they identify as, or aren’t so until they’ve had The Surgery™. That philosophy leads to rigid definitions of selfhood, identity, gender and other cognitive constructs that are simple for some people, and complex for others. Those of us who have more fluid conceptualisations of identity allow for these differences, and can recognise that a mind-body problem may exist for many people.

The fact that operational definitions for personhood may vary across schools of thought doesn’t mean that being plural is inherently pathological. It means that some people tend to view identity in a rather simplified way that doesn’t account for the variations in self-perception that people actually experience. This occurs in behavioural science sometimes; there are some schools of thoughts that see people as complex, and there are others that simplify us into black boxes that are solely defined by our behaviours, and there are still others who believe that we are primarily driven by our biological urges. In general, though, the most effective psychological, sociological and anthropological approaches are those that look at people holistically, rather than turning them into DNA strands or black boxes.

Materialist dualism is a holistic philosophical approach to the mind-body problem: it recognises the difference between subjective and objective truth, does not make claims about the objective world that can’t be verified scientifically, and recognises the identity and personhood of those whose identities don’t have a one-to-one correspondence with their exterior physical manifestations. I know that my individual identity is subjective, and that when I move through the world and interact with people who don’t know we’re plural, they’ll see something different, and I’m fully aware of that. But at the same time, I have a strong sense of who I am, and that’s where my motivations, worldviews, likes and dislikes come from. It’s not a classic ‘delusion’ or ‘pathology’; as I said, I’m aware of its subjectivity, and our plurality doesn’t make us dysfunctional. Rather, we’re able to support each other emotionally and lead a halfway decent life, so no, it’s not dysfunctional. It’s a variation from the norm, but we view it as a positive adaptation that’s served us well, for the most part.

[Noël] About “Google Minus.”

I have seen many people discuss their concerns with Google+ (which Kerry calls “Google Minus”), and I share those concerns.

The most troubling policy that Google+ has is its “real” (presumably legal) names policy. Other people have mentioned its significance to transgender people whose names may or may not correspond with their identification, and still others have mentioned the significance of pseudonyms and handles to many long-time Internet users whose online presences are better defined by those handles than they would be by the names that appear on their driving licences, birth certificates, or passports. There are many people who prefer not to go by their legal or given names (they are not always the same thing—there is a distinction with us, for instance), and they should not be penalised for it. I believe that the insistence on Very Real Names is cultural: Westerners have the idea that people’s names are largely fixed throughout life, and cannot be changed according to things that affect them over their lives; and it is also emblematic of Silicon Valley culture, in which entrepreneurs and SEO experts use social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to personally “brand” themselves. For them, social networking is an extension of “branding,” and the expectation is that users of social networking sites will also wish to engage in such personal branding, even though the sites’ ostensible purpose is to connect others to friends, colleagues, and family. For those of us who are not part of that culture, social networking sites can be quite restrictive for those of us who prefer different forms of online socialisation. For my part, I am fonder of social blogging platforms like Dreamwidth and Livejournal, because of the emphasis on intentional community and less on “branding.”

How does this affect me? As a member of a plural system, I would technically not be allowed to sign up as “Noël Dawkins,” even though I prefer to use my own name online, rather than presenting as the “front identity.” I would probably not be banned, as my name looks like a name, rather than an actual pseudonym, but it would technically be against their strict community guidelines. I suppose that I could simply sign up under the front identity (disclosure: we have already done so), but there is a difference between social networking under that guise, and social networking as myself. One is a social interface layer; the other is me, even if it is processed through a social networking site, which necessarily restricts the quality of social interaction in which I am allowed to engage. It is difficult to explain in clear language, but there is a cognitive difference between “presenting as singlet” and “presenting as a discrete individual,” even in contexts in which I am, say, writing status updates. It is one thing to filter yourself through someone else’s identity; another to present as yourself. It is a bit hard, as well, to “brand” someone who, in the philosophical sense, does not exist, except as a role that you play. (Yes, I am aware that one can brand fictional characters quite effectively, but I am not speaking of fictional characters, but superficial roles.)

The only significant advantage, apart from the ability to filter information to selected groups of contacts, that Google+ has over Facebook is that it allows members to choose a gender other than “male” or “female,” which Facebook has steadfastly refused to accommodate even after multiple requests to do so. Its nonbinary identity is labelled as “other,” which is not optimal, but it is better than what is there, and is equivalent to Dreamwidth’s gender offerings. It is, as far as I know, the first major social networking site that offers a nonbinary option. The only other site I can think of that does this is Flickr, but its purpose is specifically for sharing photos, art, and video, rather than social networking for its own sake.

[Kerry] Normality and ‘Deviance’

(crossposted from personal Tumblr account)

A lot of destructive philosophies that marginalise certain oppressed categories of people begin with the idea that people considered ‘deviant’ are not inherently different, but are altered ‘normal’ people. The way to deal with deviance under this philosophy is to restore ‘normality’ to these people, and cast deviance as either a pathology or sinful choice.

Let’s use plurality as one of our examples. The current medical paradigm for multiplicity implies that all plurality comes from an original person splitting because of extreme emotional trauma, and breaking off into several different sentient entities, often referred to as ‘alters’ and ‘personalities’. Only the ‘original’ person (commonly called the ‘host’ or ‘core’) is considered a ‘real person’. Another strain of thought, more popular in the 90s, asserts that splitting cannot occur, and that any perception of splitting is a delusion generated by the patient and doctors invested in the ‘multiple personality fad’. Both of these schools of thought operate on the idea that there is always an original ‘normal’ person who underwent a form of mental pathology; neither affirm the individual personhoods of plural systems, and neither challenge the ‘one body, one mind’ Western construction of personality. This isn’t to say that no multiplicity is trauma-based, but that the assumption that ALL plurality is trauma-based is fallacious. Also, both of the pre-existing paradigms imply that even within the accepted trauma-split paradigm, people who split cannot actually be people.

Things have changed for the better over the past few years, though, with many therapists willing to work within the plural paradigm without attempting to ‘normalise’ (that is, integrate) trauma-based plural systems.

For LGBT people, it’s a similar situation. Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals are fallen heterosexuals, fallen into a life of sin. Trans people are cast as diseased or sinful members of their coercively assigned sex. Transphobia extends beyond the fundamentalist paradigm—there are many ostensibly ‘progressive’ feminists who hold similarly transphobic ideas, with the same implication that trans people are ‘altered members of their coercively assigned sex’.The idea that LGBT people could be born queer is anathema to these people, because it destroys their worldview. How could people sin simply by existing? How could a corporeally-based feminism work when women can be born with any genital configuration? Instead of accepting the challenges, people retreat and claim that anyone who doesn’t fit their paradigm doesn’t exist, by definition.

A twist on this theme occurs amongst pro-cure ‘autism parents’—a lot of their rhetoric around their children involves mawkish stories about how their supposedly normal child was TAKEN BY AUTISM!!!11. Their entire life is about longing for typical children, and having a typical life, and making their autistic kids feel like shit. (Because, you know, even if some autistic people can’t speak, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand! Or have feelings! Sigh.) Our system is on the autistic spectrum. When we lived with the biofamily, we were constantly guilted for being autistic. Some of us, especially Hess, developed a lot of weird neuroses around the way our brain worked that we were only able to counter in adulthood.

The problem is that so many people place a premium on belonging to a majority group, rather than expanding their definitions of identity to include people who haven’t traditionally been included. The problem facing activists working towards the acceptance of marginalised identity groups is dealing with majoritarian ideas about conformity and personhood, and creating space to allow other identities to exist within mainstream society comfortably.

[Kerry] Subjectivity.

I wrote about this two years ago, in articles entitled ‘“Weird” Identities and Being Special’ and ‘It’s All in Your Head! (and that’s okay)’. There seems to be renewed debate about non-‘standard’ personal identities, at least in the internet circles we’re spending most of our time in these days. Most of the uproar is about ‘otherkin’ identities, or ones in which people subjectively perceive themselves as being nonhuman.

Admittedly, I’m a sceptic. Not in the sense that I think that otherkin are ‘deluded’ or ‘crazy’, but that their nonhuman identities are subjective and a product of their own neurones, or something like a religious or spiritual belief. That doesn’t render the identities invalid, but I do tend to disbelieve people who claim that their bodies contain nonhuman DNA, or anything similar. There’s a line, I think, between ‘this is how I personally identify’ and ‘my body literally has dragon DNA’. Even if you do view it as totally imaginary, what’s the problem with having a subjective identity that’s different to your exterior presentation, especially if you aren’t harming anyone with it? I don’t see how these things necessarily need to be placed within a medical model, just because they make you feel personally uncomfortable.

I don’t see subjective identity as being problematic, but I do think that there’s a cultural opposition to it, especially since Western culture is quite rooted in this idea that the mind and body are wholly unitary, and when there is a discrepancy, it needs to be explained with medical language, rather than philosophical or spiritual language. I’m not a spiritual person, so I don’t invoke that language to refer to my own identity within the system, but I do discuss philosophical subjectivity. Recognising subjective identity as an acceptable thing requires reinterpreting brain, mind and body, and viewing self-images that diverge from the physical body takes a significant effort to conceptualise, especially when you’ve been brought up to believe that it’s either idle imagination in children, ‘phases’ in teenagers, or madness in adults. If you’re a writer, actor or artist, you may have fewer problems with it, but if your career or general mindset is divorced from subjectivity as an important element in your life, it’s going to be a bit more difficult.

I think that a lot of these identities are formed through subconscious (or conscious, in some people’s cases) affinities that develop in the brain over time, and become part of someone’s self-representation inside their own heads. I think that’s how my individual identity was formed, and that doesn’t make me any less real: obviously, I can think; I have separate emotions and reactions to my headmates; and I perceive my headmates as ‘non-me entities’. I know that our separateness isn’t directly scientifically observable, but I consider matters of selfhood to be beyond medicalisation, in most cases. I think that modern society has shunted off too much to medicine, in the same sense that premodern societies attributed social differences to ‘Satan’ or ‘demons’.

Also, I think that there’s this…cultural impulse, at least amongst some people, to seek out the oddest-seeming people about and mock them (or ‘diagnose’ them over the internet) because of their own insecurities. It doesn’t make you look ‘normal’ to obsessively focus on others’ beliefs and practices; rather, it just makes you look irritatingly obsessed with what others are doing, and unwilling to mind your own business.

[Kerry] Outdated notions and incivility.

Yes, I’m talking about good brains and bad brains again. It’s been a perseveration for the past few weeks, thanks to some of the jerky, clueless behaviour I’ve been seeing both on the internet and off.

This entry is in response to a few people who have been waging all-out war against trans people, plurals and others whose identities don’t quite match up with their bodies. They’re known trolls (or just hardcore conservatives), but even so, they’re repeating a lot of standard transphobic and anti-plural tropes that should be addressed, no matter where they come from.

The guy who seems to be the loudest voice in this debate was, at one point, actively going around and telling trans people and plurals that their experiences are ‘delusional’, and they’re sick and need help to make them ‘normal’ (that is, singlets or members of their assigned gender). This person flat-out ungendered at least two trans people to their faces, and told many people that they didn’t exist.

Delusion? You have got to be joking. If someone recognises that a phenomenon is subjective, it’s not a delusion. If you’re saying ‘it’s in my head’, then how the hell is it a delusion if you’re able to point to it and recognise it as a subjective phenomenon that can’t be tested objectively, but has some reality to you, anyway? Delusional is saying ‘hello, my body is LITERALLY, PHYSICALLY, a fucking cabbage’, not ‘we perceive ourselves as being separate people because that’s how our brain fucking works’, or ‘my gender identity is male because that’s how my brain works’. Before you throw psychiatric terms around, you should at least know how to use them.

I’ll admit that both transgender identities and multiplicity are in the DSM-IV. However, the consensus amongst psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists is that the ‘treatment’ for GID isn’t reparative therapy to force trans people back into an ‘assigned gender’ role; it’s affirmation of those people’s identities. Even recent psychological literature doesn’t deliberately use incorrect pronouns and gender designations—the only people who do that are either totally ignorant of how gender identity works, or are blatant bigots, like this guy. Forcing people to present as a gender other than their own is generally unsuccessful and unhealthy for the person you’re trying to ungender. If you seriously think that reparative therapy is going to fix those poor, sick, deluded trans people, fuck you; you’re wrong, and you have no business even attempting to try and talk about how it’s a psychiatric problem when you don’t even understand the current protocol or Standards of Care for dealing with transgender identities. Not that the WPATH guidelines are spectacularly awesome; they currently are really not effective for nonbinary people, and are more difficult to implement in more conservative areas in which endocrinologists will be less likely to co-operate with trans people seeking hormone regimens, but they’re better than ‘shove those freaks back into the closet and treat them as their birth gender’, which is what these people are suggesting should happen. Again, reparative therapy DOES. NOT. WORK.

Where multiplicity’s concerned, it’s complicated; there are some therapists who still think that all multiplicity needs to be stamped out, and that everyone should integrate, but there’s an increasing number of therapists who think that it’s more effective for multiple groups to co-operate and work together, rather than forcing themselves to combine into a meta-host. The latter position is the one our therapist takes, herself, and it’s the position that many others take. Integration Evangelism is like reparative therapy, in a sense: it doesn’t work for everyone, and it isn’t ideal for everyone. Some systems do feel that integration is the appropriate path for them; others don’t. In our case, it would be, well, not a good idea, especially considering that we’re pretty discrete individuals, and each of us is a complete person, and it wouldn’t make any sense to smash us all together. Psychological care isn’t just about making people ‘be normal’; it’s about helping people to work with what they have. We were dealt a certain pack of cards with this brain, and we’re working with it. We’ve gone through about twenty years of this ‘must act normal’ bullshit; it’s over. Pretending to be normal gained us no friends; it gained us no self-respect; and it gained us little understanding of how our brain actually fucking works. Now, I’d say we’re pretty functional, and we have a lot of things going for us—but all of that came after we dropped this ridiculous idea of forcing ourselves to fit into people’s narrow little mould of what ‘normal’ is, and embracing ourselves for who you are.

It’s not a cut-and-dried situation of ‘the psych establishment needs to cure you’, especially when even the psych establishment itself is less hell-bent on ‘curing’ us ‘freaks’ as you are.

I’m pretty much convinced that people who talk like this are less concerned about getting anyone ‘help’ as much as they are completely unable to accept that people’s brains may work differently to theirs, and that it’s okay. Maybe it’s insecurity. Maybe it’s just plain meanspiritedness that they’ve picked up from being around communities in which you get brownie points for being a prat. Either way, it’s an unhealthy and divisive way to view and treat others. No matter what you believe, there is absolutely zero fucking excuse for people to go out of their way to harass people just because they happen to be different, especially if their difference causes them to experience marginalisation and discrimination in society.

Why am I wasting my time writing about these people? Well, it’s not directed straight at them; I’d rather not get into an internet flamewar over whether I ‘actually exist’ or not; it’s about the principle of the matter. I’m just one of those people who feels the need to say something when this kind of thing happens.

And for all the plural and trans people out there: you’re worth it. These jerks are out of touch with, well, everything. They don’t know you, or your situation, and it’s not their place to tell you what you should do.

[Kerry] ‘Glamourising’ Multiplicity/DID

(This is an expanded version of a post I made on Tumblr earlier today.)

Now, Plures.org is more focussed on daily life and positive self-advocacy than ranting; people generally reserve that for Tumblr and journalling sites, but this had to be crossposted, so.

I don’t think that nondisordered multiples are trying to glamourise DID. Most of them, actually, make the distinction between medical-model DID and the multiplicity that they experience, and recognise that those multiples who do deal with DID or trauma-based symptoms have an entirely different concept of how it is to be multiple/plural. And to be honest, we have experienced a lot of DID-like symptoms before we discovered healthy multiplicity, and how to co-operate as a group and function in life. Before, the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, and there was zero communication. This doesn’t make us more or less legitimate than other nondisordered systems, or DID-based systems. This is just our experience, and you can take it or leave it.

The idea that multiple minds in one body is inherently ‘ill’ or ‘disordered’ is more of a Western cultural trope than it is a scientific reality. It’s similar to claiming that trans people are all sick because their body doesn’t match the way they conceptualise themselves. I’m a person; I’m not just a named emotion, and I’m definitely not just someone’s imaginary friend. I have my own unique responses to things and have my own ideas and so forth, but I’m a bit tired of defending my own personhood; I’m mostly wanting to deal with the idea that ‘all multiplicity is disordered!!!!1’—the idea that only ONE type of brain is valid is pretty fucking ableist itself. It’s like saying all autistics need to be cured and that all trans people need to be forced into therapy to act in a way associated with their assigned sex. The idea that there is, in fact, a ‘normal’ brain, and that everyone must be like that archetypical ‘normal’ is inherently ableist and privileged, and is culturally bound.

Yes, we have an easier go of it than systems that have more struggles when it comes to fronting and co-operation, but that co-operation took time, and I think that’s the case for a lot of groups, even ones who didn’t originate via trauma. Yeah, having zero communication for twenty years is totally fucking glamorous and special. I’m sorry, my mere existence doesn’t invalidate others’ suffering; I’m just here. I don’t exist for any particular purpose, and I’m incredibly fucking insulted that some people think that my existence, in and of itself, is enough to invalidate others’. This is similar to the stuff that the ‘Women Born Transsexual’ say about genderqueer and other nonbinary people: how dare we violate the confines of the gender binary when we are suffering from severe gender dysphoria? So much for diversity of opinion and identity, huh? If you’re not normal, you’re either sick, or really normal and just trying to get attention; there is no real room for being different and healthy.

That’s the true ableism here, not nondisordered multiplicity. The idea that only ONE kind of brain is acceptable, and that we should all think in a predefined way in order to be socially acceptable, is what leads to ableism towards people who are mentally different, whether those differences cause suffering or not. The fact that people feel that they can sit and dictate who exists and who doesn’t, and declaring everyone who doesn’t fit into their mould of ‘what plurality is supposed to be’ to either be in denial or making light of a ~*TERRIBLE ILLNESS*~ is pretty fucking problematic and exposes their own privileged mindset on how brains are supposed to work. Now, I don’t think it’s particularly fantastic for people to glamourise disordered forms of multiplicity, or stuff like cancer, but all multiplicity isn’t inherently ‘bad’. The fact that you want to declare someone else’s neural configuration either pathological or fake, regardless of how they experience themselves, is pretty revealing of your own bigotry and privilege, or at least your buying into the idea that there is only one right way to exist. I’m fairly allergic to One-True-Wayism, and this is what these people’s behaviour towards nondisordered multiples looks like.

We’re okay just as we are, thanks; we don’t need your ‘concern’, and we’re pretty fucking sure we exist. That’s not up for debate, and comments that try to engage us in debate over our existence will be, as the disclaimer reads on the ‘about’ page, either deleted or fisked.

Sorry for the snarkasm and swearing; it’s not the normal tone I use on plures.org articles,  but some of the complete and utter tripe that I’ve come across from supposedly well-meaning nonplurals and NTs has to be addressed.

[kerry] change and closets

So, we just recently moved house, which is always stressful. While we have more physical privacy, we’ll be going from a plural-, autistic- and trans-friendly setup to one in which nobody knows about any of it. While we had to move, I don’t share Noël’s optimism about it 100%.

Especially since we tend to be quite conspicuously ‘different’ in private. And none of us was even under the delusion that we’d actually find something where we could disclose ANYTHING. Part of that is our own fear; part of that is us not wanting to be too demanding. We honestly don’t have the courage to disclose our headstuff except online. But I wonder how much longer we’ll be able to keep up the pretence. We have enough passing privilege to not have to disclose being trans. That’s not as much of a big deal as the autistic/plural stuff.

Maybe it’s just our weird reactions to change–a lot of autistics react to change in different ways to NTs–after big life changes, initial reactions tend to be negative for some of us, including me. We can be adaptable people but it takes tonnes of effort and work. We’ll adjust and not compromise ourselves too much; it’s just a matter of coming up with good solutions.

[Kerry] Good Brain, Bad Brain

There seems to be this deep-set misconception that brains can’t possibly be wired to have more than one person/conscious entity using them without there being an underlying problem, either with the way the system’s brain functions, or as a response to traumatic experiences.  Or if you’re autistic, you’re BROKEN and need to be CURED of the TERRIBLE DISEASE from which you SUFFER! The dichotomy is between ‘sick’ and ‘healthy’. I think that this is an incredibly oversimplified way to view identity and how it can form. Seriously, brains don’t all come in one way, and just because yours doesn’t work in a predefined ‘right’ way doesn’t mean that you can’t function, or don’t exist. If you’re not neurotypical, your brain is ‘bad’. You need a ‘cure’ for existing.

According to that paradigm, we’ll never be ‘healthy’, and never have been—after all, we’re autistic and plural. Clearly, we need to be ‘fixed’ because our brain is ‘broken’ and needs to be NT and nonplural in order to be real, valid people with the right to self-determination. There’s no way to rewire our brain to fit that mould, so people like us just get written off as having bad brains. We’re weird. We’re abnormal. We’re an unwanted deviation from what we’re ‘supposed’ to be, so it needs to be stamped out for our own fucking good, or something.

It’s difficult to engage with people who have these deep-set views of ‘good and bad’ brains, especially when it’s clear to them that your brain is ‘bad’. If they already think that the way you’re wired is wrong, they’re going to completely write off everything you say as being ‘crazy’, rather than being valid for its own reasons. Because of this, we generally don’t prefer to engage people directly about plurality, except in the context of our websites, which people can just come across themselves. I mean, what do I tell these people? ‘LOL, sorry I exist?’

This isn’t saying that mental disorders don’t exist; it’d be hypocritical. I’m not anti-psychiatry. We don’t consider the autism or plurality to be inherently disordered, but the panic stuff definitely is. This also isn’t saying that trauma-based systems don’t exist; we know several of them, and while their origins are different to ours, and while they feel that the psychiatric paradigm describes their experiences more accurately than it does ours, that doesn’t mean that their experiences are less valid or real than ours. I’m just questioning the idea that being differently wired, in and of itself, is bad.

And here we are back at privilege again. Because your brain is seen as generally being ‘okay’, you have the privilege of having your words listened to. You aren’t continually being written off. People don’t try and meddle in your lives to fix you, or to make sure that you’re absolutely capable of functioning in society. You know you aren’t going to get hit with a battery of tests year after year to prove that you’re able to manage stuff. You’re not poked and prodded. People don’t act as though they own you, your life and your experiences. Those things are a given for you, but they aren’t for those of us who are labelled or perceived as having bad brains.

Our brain isn’t ‘bad’. It isn’t ‘broken’. It is what it is, and our functionality is based on being the best people we can be, rather than shoving ourselves into an uncomfortable box or looking for an imaginary ‘cure’.

[Kerry] Passing Privilege

Today, I’m going to be talking about the P-word again.

What P-word, you might ask?

Well, there are two P-words here: passing and privilege.

My headmate MD and I wrote about nonplural privilege two years ago, in a collaborative article on our site. Some plurals, I’ve noticed, have ‘passing privilege’, similar to what a lot of queer, trans and autistic people experience. For systems where only one person socialises and participates in daily life, ‘pretending not to be plural’ isn’t the same experience that it is for systems where there are many participants. For us, our total number includes eleven of us who have been ‘full-timers’ at given points throughout our life, although there are three of us who are most active in decision-making and daily life stuff. For groups with a single main fronter, there is still the restriction of being unable to talk about in-system matters, but the perspective’s different; there’s no switching, and there isn’t the phenomenon of multiple people trying to shove themselves into the persona of one. There isn’t the phenomenon of people being unable to talk about their likes and dislikes in a way that is individually expressive.

Do we have ‘passing privilege’? To an extent, although if we have to do it too often, we end up cracking. It’s happened before. Not that we routinely start referring to ourselves in the plural in social contexts where it wouldn’t be appropriate, but certain skills go right out of the window, because the energy that could be applied to daily tasks gets spent on social masks. (The same applies to faking NT, although we do that to a lesser extent than we used to.) The nonplural mask is an automatic, functional thing; it’s a mask we immediately put on. We feel a bit dissociated from ourselves when talking in this context. We don’t have a formal ‘autopilot’ entity like other systems have—our front can’t be unoccupied; if someone is alone and leaves, someone else will get yanked out—but we do function in a sort of ‘autopiloting’ way when talking in these contexts. It’s not the same as talking as myself at all. It feels quite dissociated, as I said.

Basically, faking takes a significant number of our ‘spoons’. Ones that could be better spent, honestly. And people don’t get that.

When systems—or nonplurals, for that matter—like this act as though pretending not to be plural is an easy thing and think that we could do the same thing as well as they could, they’re wrong. They’re speaking from a position of privilege that we frankly lack. It honestly pisses me off. Well, it’s not that easy for us, is it! Why don’t you try getting smashed in with other people every single fucking day and never hearing your own fucking name or anyone knowing about you, individually, as a person and what you like or believe in.

[Kerry] Faking Neurologies.

We are kind of stressing out about faking neurologies.

‘What do you mean, “faking neurologies”, you ask?’ Well, pretending to act in a way that doesn’t match the way your brain works, especially if there’s a large difference between your natural state and the way society expects you to act. In our case, it’s pretending not to be different people, and pretending not to be autistic. Both of those masks tend to have similar effects on us—they wear us down, and use up ‘spoons’ that would be better used on other tasks.

I’m stressing out a bit, because we’re thinking of moving from where we are (broadly: tight space; other person wants to move to a large place but is being really picky about where he wants to go, and deposits are quite expensive), and this probably entails pretending to be NT and nonplural all over again, unless we happen to find someone through other people. Sometimes people trivialise how difficult it is, or how much it hurts when people ignore our identities as separate people or assume that we can do things that we can’t. And because our verbal skills don’t always extend to explaining the way our brain works in these situations, at least on a ’101-esque’ level, these people get confused and think we’re deliberately being obstructionist.

For instance, there was someone who kept singletising us, even though she’s known us as plural for over four fucking years. She knows better, but she basically stopped making an effort at trying to distinguish us for a while, and got incredibly defensive when I told her to cut it out. Now, my relationship with her is good enough that I was able to let her know about her bullshit, and she did eventually stop it, but for ages, she really trivialised what that felt like to me and my headmates. The same went for her expectations that we would be able to do things just like NTs—and here’s the thing: she’s not NT herself, but it took her a while to come to terms with it. Her behaviour was honestly a lot like the privileged ‘fake ally’ behaviour that you sometimes come across in queer communities, particularly towards transfolk. I was like—our plurality isn’t a fucking game; we can’t exactly will our identities away!

Being closeted plural and autistic is, as I said, incredibly difficult. I’m going to at least try and explain how it feels, so that it’s abundantly clear exactly how fucking hard it is.

Pretending not to be autistic is like…being constantly bound. You have to restrict everything you do and constantly monitor everything. Keep an eye on your reactions. Look up, make eye contact, don’t flap your hands, don’t talk about your special interests, pay attention to pointless Etiquette Rules (there’s a difference between ‘etiquette’ and ‘being nice/polite’ and I’ll explain it in a later entry), try and think about people a certain way, try and divine what everyone is actually meaning. Ad nauseam.

Pretending not to be plural? For us, it’s like smashing several separate-bodied people together, forcing them to all use one name that doesn’t belong to them individually, making them all use the same accent and voice and enforcing a certain standard of internal consistency on those people. Don’t use your names, don’t act different to one another, don’t talk amongst yourselves except in text files, don’t contradict each other. Talk according to the script and don’t deviate too much. Being separate people? What the fuck is that, now?

But people do not fucking get it. ‘Oh, you can just get a private room in a place that doesn’t have thin walls.’ But you’d still have to interact with people! And if you left your room, no more flapping, no more individuality, no more autistic posture. And god forbid anyone see you go into shutdown or have a meltdown! We avoided shutdown over the past few months probably because we don’t have to pretend to be NT or nonplural all the time right now. Last summer, there were periods of shutdown. The first half of 2009? Lots of shutdowns. To be fair, we haven’t melted down in over a year, but.

We’re tired of faking neurologies. Right now, we’re only doing it at the level needed to be able to blend into society without being ostracised, and with enough downtime to not have to do that 24/7, but I feel like that won’t be for much longer, and it is really making me panic and worry a LOT.