Kerry Dawkins, 2009

A common criticism of plural systems (and others, like otherkin and others from related subcultures and some trans people) is that they identify the way they do because they’re ‘just looking for attention’ or ‘wanting to be special’. I don’t think that having an atypical identity and in and of itself is ‘wanting to be special’. For example, let’s say that the Lolcats System contains Harry Potter and an elf. A lot of people would automatically say that the Lolcats have gone off the deep end by having these people there, or that they’re trying to be special by having a popular fictional character present, as well as a non-human. Three years ago, I would have said the same thing. I’m fairly sceptical, by nature. I mean, after all, isn’t it a lot more impressive to be Harry Potter than being just anybody?

I don’t think that all ‘weird’ identities are wish-fulfilment or ‘wanting to be special’, and even if they were, what’s the matter with indulging yourself? If it isn’t harming anyone and you can still muddle through with the rest of us, I really can’t judge you for it. If ‘thinking that you’re Harry Potter’ actually helps to explain the way you are, and helps you to function, then it may actually be a good thing. I think that the question of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ should be based on harm to the individual and those around them, not what their identity is. Now, if Darth Vader is in a system and wants to establish the Galactic Empire on Earth, there’s a problem. But if he’s just participating in things at front like anyone else, and does whatever he does away from front, there’s really not. (Depending on what he’s doing to people away from front, of course.)

To put it bluntly, it is really none of my business, and it shouldn’t be anyone else’s, either, as long as you can work things out and live your life.

I think it’s perfectly possible to have a ‘grip’ on external reality while also honouring your own subjectivity.

You don’t have to believe that ‘you are your body’ in order to be sane, and I’m tired of the idea that being different from it subjectively in any way makes you automatically insane. I really don’t think that it does.I think that identity is a flexible, ‘messy’ thing, and can’t be reduced to ‘an internal projection of my physical representation’ if it’s not. I think that there is some allowance for it in religion (like the idea that the soul is a separate entity from the body that houses it), but that there’s not nearly enough allowance for it.I think that selfhood, in and of itself, is complex and fascinating, and I honestly like it that way. I just…cannot understand how some people think they can oversimplify who other people are. ‘You were born with this set of genitalia, so you HAVE TO BE THIS!’ ‘You were born with this colour skin, so you HAVE TO BE THIS!’ ‘You only have one brain, so HOW CAN YOU BE MORE THAN ONE PERSON!??!?!’

However–I think there’s a massive difference between saying ‘subjectively, I believe I am X (or have a strong affinity to this character/history/background), but I realise that at front, people will not see X’ and ‘when I front, the body becomes less human/I gain all my powers/something else not physically possible in this world’. That doesn’t mean that system members can’t have different abilities from one another, but…a human body cannot become ‘less human’ if a non-human fronts. Harry Potter in a system isn’t going to be able to bring his wizarding abilities to front. It’s just impossible, according to current scientific knowledge, and people can’t seem to get that. Now, if Harry Potter simply said that within his system, he was Harry Potter, without any claims of having his magical abilities away from front, that would be fine. It would just be a subjective identification that meant something to him and others who would understand.

I think the only ‘attention-seekers’ and ‘people wanting to be special’ are those who claim to have certain powers away from front and try to use them to impress people, or make claims that are scientifically untenable in order to gain followers. If hypothetical Harry Potter wanted to found some sort of weird cult with him as the leader, based on his claims, now that would be a problem. (And really, people can found cults without fictive identities.) Just being Harry Potter in itself isn’t the problem.