The Dragonheart Collective's Primer To Plurality
So you want to know what plurality is.
Thats pretty simple- plurality is the state of being ‘more than one’ in a body. There, essay done, we can all go home.
Jokes aside, this is a thing that trips people up a lot despite being quite simple of a definition.
We would like to note that this isn't an exhaustive look at plurality. This is a quick little FAQ that is meant to be supplemented with further research should you like to know more. The best and most concise external FAQ we have found is this one here [LINK].
What causes plurality?
Science is not sure what causes plurality exactly, much less non-disordered plurality. There are theories, but many have strong criticisms and none of them can be ethically proven. Trauma is a very common narrative- particularly in those who are disordered. It is also fair to say a headmate may be intentionally created, as tulpamancers have reported, but there are also those who believe in other causes for their existence- such as inherent neurodiversity or spiritual causes. Some systems also have mixed origins, and others may not know nor care why they are the way they are.
Plurality? What about DID?
DID is a form of being 'more than one' that is disorderly. There are several kinds of these, such as P-DID (ICD only), OSDD, and UDD. They each have very specific requirements for diagnosis, and one can experience being 'more than one' without meeting the criteria for any of them. Critically- experiencing clinically significant distress or dysfunction is required for all of them. Those who are plural who are not disfunctional or distressed do not have a dissociative disorder. This is a good thing that prevents the pathologizing of 'odd' experiences.
DID is the most well-known type of plurality and the one that has the most research and clinical records, but it is NOT the only type, despite what some people may tell you.
What is it like being plural?
What is it like being only one person in a body? Can you answer that very well? The plural experience is quite varied, and one system’s experience can be wildly different from another’s. The only thing binding us all together is being many in one. There are things that are common, such as switching control of the body or having memory or perspective weirdness when you aren’t ‘at the wheel’, or being able to communicate mentally, but these aren't guaranteed either. Many people will also describe similar experiences in different ways because they have different frameworks they are using.
Some systems are more indistinct and the those in them are blurry, and others are very separate. Some systems have a lot of dysfunction, others have very little or none. Some systems consider themselves all seperate people, others consider themselves all states of the same person.
What does switching feel like?
We wrote a thing for this [HERE].
So I think I might be plural?
We have a document for this! Refer to this page [HERE].
What is ‘The Plural Community’?
The Plural Community is everyone who identifies as plural. Not everyone who has 'more than one' experiences claims the label plural, for various reasons. Notably, many people who have dissociative disorders with 'more than one' experiences do not identify as plural. The plural label is a bit political in the same way ‘neurodiverse’ and ‘mad pride’ or even 'queer' is and using it is a conscious step away from pathologized terms to describe a trait that is not inherently disorderly. Its a neutral and inclusive way of stating how we are different and a radical way of asserting our identities.
Great, So I want to write a plural character...
We have a guide just for you! [LINK] TLDR- Research and then research some more, read things by plurals, and consider a sensitivity reader or several.
What should I as a singlet do to support the systems in my life?
Believe people about their experiences and ask people how they want to be treated. That is the single most important things you can do. Avoid just assuming there is a specific way to treat every single system and avoid passing judgements on who is 'allowed' to be plural. Its not for you to decide and is ultimately unhelpful.
Some common terms:
We have a glossary [HERE]!
In order to be plural you must have experienced severe repeated trauma, usually sexual abuse, before a specific cutoff age.
Tulpamancers indicate otherwise, having intentionally created headmates without trauma well into adulthood, and many people self-report being plural before they experienced trauma. There are strong theories that frequent adverse childhood experiences is what may lead to specific kinds of plurality, but they are not definitively proven theories, and it would be unethical to do so. Science doesn't know anything for sure about how someone becomes plural.
Plurals are dangerous and most systems have violent alters.
No, this is a movie thing. Plurals are much more likely to experience abuse than to abuse others. Some systems have aggressive headmates, but some singlets are also violent. Should all singlets be considered dangerous to others by this metric?
Plurals are never aware that they are plural, or when they are, they have full memory blanks when others are in control of the body.
Both the ICD and DSM have diagnoses that mention that the system may not have amnesia, so even by strict-medical standards this is wrong. They may not have the language to know what is going on or may repress it, but many plurals learn they are plural before a therapist discovers their plurality and tells them.
Integration is required to be healthy and every system is capable of becoming singlet again.
No and no. Full Integration/Final Fusion/Unification is one method to help lead a functioning life, but it is not the only way and many systems are not capable of fully integrating and staying that way, much less that this state is one that will cause less stress than being plural.
DID/OSDD is the only valid kind of plurality, everyone else is faking!
Not only does the DSM and ICD that this thinking worships flat out disagree in multiple ways, but using these manuals, and to that extent an industry that abuses and ignores the voices of the neurodiverse quite often, as the end-all-be-all of experience isn't a good look. This sort of thinking has grown more and more common in certain corners of the internet, and it is still wrong. Respectability politics historically do not solve problems.
Alters/Headmates are never seperate people, and are just dissociated bits of emotion.
Some headmates are indeed their own separate people if they wish to claim the term. Even stereotypical 'fragments' have the potential to become full people. Treating someone as Not A Person by default is mathematically more possible harm than treating an entity that might not be a person as a person.
If you treat an entity that may or may not be a person like a person, at worst you look silly and at best you affirm their personhood and treat them with respect when so many people do not. If you treat an entity that may or may not be a person NOT like a person, then at best you have guessed correctly, and at worse you are contributing to their dehumanization- causing real psychological harm.
There are a lot of questions that are really rude to ask a plural person, either because they are very invasive or come off as dehumanizing. Never fear, we will answer them for you.
“Who is the real one?/Are you the ‘real one’?”
Every member of the system is 'the real one'. Every headmate is real. If you mean The Original, many systems do not have one, or may not have one anymore. We don't.
“How did you get your alters under control?”
By being a functioning person and talking to each other. Its not about control, its about being aware of each other and our separate wants, needs, and troubles and then functioning like any other group of people.
“How do you have sex/mastrubate/go to the bathroom/take a shower?”
Like anyone else. We have functionally no privacy from each other as we all must suffer the indignity of the same flesh, thus it is normal to share tasks that are considered private for us, though someone might stop paying attention to the front if they don't want to experience it. Other systems may have other -highly personal- ways to go about this and may have different feelings surrounding their cohabitation.
“Are you dangerous?”
Only as dangerous as anyone else.
“Do you want to be one person?”
No, and trying to be one person sucked ass. We are never lonely this way and we can help each other as a team. Do you want to fuse with your friend or your sibling permanently? Some plurals might, and its a highly personal question to ask for many, but we are much much better off this way.
"Do you want to be split into seperate bodies?"
Absolutely not. We function best plural and are never lonely. Being a singlet cannot compare to the intimacy and teamwork we share. We would likely not be able to function if we were granted permanent separate bodies. Again, many plural folks might, but we don't.
“Do you have a paper diagnosis?”
Someone's medical information is not your business. Diagnosis status is highly personal(and highly expensive to obtain) and it can strongly effect your life in negative ways to pursue it even if you qualify for it. Diagnosis is not the end all be all of anything. It can be helpful to receive care or accomodations should you need it, but its not something every system needs or wants.
“Can you prove you’re plural?”
Can you prove you’re singlet?