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].
For the sake of not derailing this page, In Defense Of Personhood [LINK- wip] is an essay that will be taking care of the argument for personhood. Setting aside your possible skepticism there, plurality is an experience that is infinitely varied.
What causes plurality?
Science is not sure what causes plurality, much less non-disordered plurality. There are theories, but many have strong criticisms and none of them can be ethically proven. Trauma is a 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, where the causes differ between members, and others may not know nor care why they are the way they are.
Plurality? What about DID?
DID is a type of plurality, as is OSDD. These are disordered types of plurality and have many more things going on than just being more than one person in there. Notably as of the DSM 5, in order for DID or OSDD to be diagnosed there must be clinically significant distress or disfunction due to the symptoms. Those who are not disfunctional or distressed do not quality for diagnosis.
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.
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.
For our own experiences about 'what its like', refer to the essays on what 'switching' feels like [LINK] and what being plural in general is like [WIP].
So what is ‘The Plural Community’?
Its all people who are more than one in one body. Thats it at its core, but the identity is a bit political in the same way ‘neurodiverse’ and ‘mad pride’ or even 'queer' is, so some people who may fit under the plural umbrella by definition may not claim the label. Many people who have DID/OSDD do not. Using Plural as a label is a conscious step away from medicalized and pathologized terms for existence. Some people do have their plurality feature as part of a disorder, this is true, but not all of us. Its a neutral 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.
Some common terms
This is by no means a glossary proper, simply some of the most common terms you may encounter.
Alter - Clinical term for someone in a plural system, usually not the host. Has connotations of disordered plurality. Often controversial to use on others in plural spaces without asking. 'Part' is a similar word.
DID - Dissociative Identity Disorder. Clinical diagnosis for disordered plurality.
DDNOS - Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Old clinical diagnosis term that was later replaced with OSDD.
Facet - A less distinct headmate. The clinical language is ‘fragment’.
Fronting - The act of controlling the body.
Headmate - Term for someone in a plural system, best default term when in doubt.
Headspace - A internal place where headmates who are not fronting reside. Not all systems have one, not all headmates in a system can access it if they do. May also be called a ‘wonderland’ or ‘inner world’.
Host - Refers to the ‘main’ fronter. May also be called the main frontrunner. Some systems do not like this term or do not have a host.
Mad Pride - A movement to destigmatize and depathologize mental illnesses and subclinical experiences that are associated with those illnesses such as voice hearing, plurality, low empathy, etc. Often associated with those who have been burned by psychiatric care in the past.
MPD - Multiple Personality Disorder. Old clinical term/diagnosis for a system. Was replaced with DID.
Neurodivergent - A brain that diverges. Includes all ‘divergencies’ in cognition and perception. Included but not limited to those with mental illnesses, neurodevelopmental disorders, subclinical traits thereof, and other brain disorders. Also a movement to destigmatize and depathologize variations in neurotypes.
OSDD - Other Specified Dissociative Disorder. Clinical diagnosis for disordered plurality that doesn't meet DID specifications either with amnesia or with distinctness of alters.
Plural - Someone who is actually more than one entity in a body.
Singlet - Someone who one person in one body.
Switching - The act of handing off control of the body to someone else.
System - The group of people inhabiting one body. May also be referred to as a 'Collective' or 'House' or other similar word. Some people have a system name to use used as a catch-all for the group.
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. There are strong theories that this 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 or alters that harm the body.
No, this is a movie thing. Plurals are much more likely to experience abuse than to abuse others. Some systems have violent headmates, but some singlets are also violent and self-harm. Should all singlets be considered dangerous to themselves or 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.
Right in the OSDD criteria one of the types of it says ‘no amnesia’, so even by dsm 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 it.
No and no. Integration 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 that this thinking worships flat out disagree in multiple ways, but using the DSM, 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 the problem.
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 is mathematically more possible harm than treating an entity that might not be a person as a person. If you treat an entity like a person that isn't a person, you just look silly at worst and at best treat someone with the respect they deserve, if you treat someone as Not a Person who IS a person, at best you make them feel bad and contribute to 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. We don't have one anymore. We are all equally real seperate people.
“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, 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 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 one even if you qualify for it. Diagnosis is not the end all be all of anything. It can be helpful to receive care should you need it and put a name to the experience for some, but not for everyone.
“Can you prove you’re plural?”
Can you prove you’re singlet?