What is plurality?
Simply put, plurality is the state of having more than one person in a body. The entire group of entities sharing a body is usually called a system, though other words are used by some (like us!). You may have heard of plurality before if you've heard of "multiple personalities", but it's important to note that this term is very outdated and shouldn't be used if you don't want to offend plural folks. You wouldn't call yourself a personality instead of a person, and many plural people feel the same way.
Plurality is more than “work me, home me.” Members of a system are felt to be at least somewhat separate from each other, whereas "work you" is still you. Furthermore, system members are not within each others' control and can act independently. Plural experiences range from being completely separate people sharing a body to being different ages or parts of a central self, sharing a body with spiritual entities, having many fragmentory selves that combine in different ways to create new people, hearing voices inside that are able to influence or control one's behavior, and a variety of other experiences. Every system is different. Regardless of these differences, all systems are more than one person in some way. No one member of a system is the "real" one, and systems are not roleplaying or imagining their own existence.
Some systems are disordered, typically due to trauma. The disordered forms of plurality are Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD-1). To have DID, a system must have amnesia for the recent or distant past and must be experiencing distress in addition to being plural. OSDD-1 is like DID, but without amnesia and/or discrete system members. It's worth noting that not all systems are disordered and that plurality is not inherently a problem. For some, it can be a very positive aspect of their lives that helps them function better.
You may have heard the word "alters" used to describe the members of DID and OSDD systems, but that term is not used by systems that don't fit the medical model. Even textbook-disordered systems don't always refer to themselves as alters. Different systems will prefer different words- ask them what they prefer to be called, and default to "system members" if you're not sure. We personally call ourselves peeps most of the time.
Plural people are not murderers or out to get you, contrary to what media would have you believe. Hollywood does get things wrong, and it's portrayed plurality extremely inaccurately in most cases. If you want a good example in media of what plurality can be like, "Inside Out" is generally praised by the plural community for being remarkably similar to their experiences if one substitutes people for emotions.
I talk to you all the time. Why didn't I notice this?
We’re extremely good at hiding our existence. People either have a similar experience or think we're nuts, and we've been hurt by the latter group of people more than once. Repeated harassment has led us to feel that staying hidden in most situations is the best option for us. If you're seeing this website, congratulations- we're trusting you to respect us and react with kindness.
Don't blame yourself for not noticing; most people don't look at someone and think that they're more than one person. That's not the societal norm, and many people aren't aware that it's a possibility at all. It's more typical to come up with other explanations for out-of-character behavior, especially when we make an effort to provide alternative explanations for safety reasons.
Are you insane or just trying to be special?
We currently do not have a diagnosis related to plurality (DID, OSDD, UDD), but we've been to various psychiatrists and therapists over the years and have been repeatedly told we are not experiencing psychosis or other issues that could cause us to perceive reality in a distorted fashion. We are aware of what we are doing at any given time and are able to make decisions for ourselves. Beyond that, it depends on your definition of insanity. If having atypical subjective experiences counts as being crazy, then we're downright nuts and there's no way we can persuade you otherwise. The same goes for dissociation, anxiety, memory issues, and so on. If you want to call us crazy, go ahead. At this point, we don't really care whether other people think we're off our rocker. Other people are going to judge us no matter what we do, so we might as well be ourselves and let other people think what they will.
As for the question of trying to be special: being plural isn't something we chose, and our existence doesn't depend on you or anyone else believing in it. In the past, we've tried to suppress our plurality to be "normal," but it did far more harm than good. Nothing worked and we're done trying to erase our own existence to please others. We're still here after all that effort and all these years, and we're not going away any time soon. If someone wants to judge us for existing the way we do, then so be it.
People are different, and everyone has the right to have their own opinions. It's not our job to dictate what you believe. That being said, it's generally rude and potentially harmful to tell someone they don't exist or aren't real. Please don't be the next person to claim they know our brain better than we do.
Are you planning to fuse/integrate into one person?
If it happens, then it happens, but we don't intend to seek out fusion at this time.
How should I interact with you?
Almost the same as anyone else; we're not especially different from other people aside from not being alone in our head.
There are a few things you can do to make us more comfortable:
- When referring to our entire collective, call us the Owls and use plural they/them pronouns.
- When referring to specific people in our collective, use their individual names and pronouns like you would anyone else.
- Do not refer to us as plural in public unless we're around people that already know. This is a safety thing; not everyone reacts well to finding out someone is a system. Please ask us in private before telling anyone.
- Be patient if our memory is bad. We don't have the best memory and sometimes things get mixed up or lost.
- Don't expect us to take hints or pick up on sarcasm. Most of the time, we miss those cues and take things literally.
- Ask before touching us. Many of us are very particular about physical contact or have sensory problems, and problems with memory mean that we might not always remember you enough to feel okay with being touched (even if we've known you for years!). Asking first avoids problems and makes everyone more comfortable.
- We're brainweird and might have atypical reactions or ways of going about things. Be patient and let us do things our way as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. If we are doing something directly harmful to you or others, please let us know and we'll change our behavior.
Other systems have different preferences and it's best to ask them how they want to be treated. For more information on how to interact with plurals in general, please check out Plural Etiquette.
There’s a tradition in plural communities to name your group for easier referencing of you as a collective. We couldn’t agree on a name when we first got involved in these communities, but we managed to agree that the nearest pattern to us would work as a placeholder. We were next to a blanket with an owl pattern at the time. The name has stuck around and we don’t intend to change it any time soon.
Why is this site so plurality-focused? Aren't you more than that?
We're definitely more than the fact that we share a brain, but we've found that our plurality often needs considerably more explanation than other aspects of us. It's much easier to say "I like computers" and be understood than it is to say "I'm plural," especially given that not everyone has heard of plurality in the first place. It's also an aspect of our existence that can't be separated from us- like it or not, being plural affects every part of our life. We have to work together and account for each other in everything we do.
Why do you call yourselves a collective, peeps, archetypes, aspects, etc. instead of an existing term?
The short answer is that we're sick of discourse surrounding the existing terminology. It's frustrating to see people fight over who's allowed to use what words, so we decided to use our own words and opt out of the constant arguing. In addition to that, we know that what words we use and how we use them can have a significant impact on our experiences. We're far more comfortable choosing our own words and making sense of our plurality in our own ways; doing so allows us to grow as ourselves instead of trying to make ourselves fit the ideas of others.
You said you're nonhuman- what's that about?
Growing up, we never felt human. We didn't understand other people and never fit in anywhere, and most of the time we felt like we were living among aliens. We were diagnosed with autism later in life and we do believe this is a significant part of why we have this identity, but our nonhumanity goes beyond that for us.
We often experienced ourselves as being in a body far too small for us, and we can remember laying in bed many nights and trying to make sense of the feeling of being bigger than our body and stretching out from it. It felt like we would fill the room without moving an inch. Sometimes the feeling of being a different shape from our body would become less overwhelming, but it never entirely went away. On top of that, we never quite related to humanity as our own species and felt that we should have been something else, that our body didn't align with what we were inside. On a deep level, we felt we were inherently something else.
Maybe it's sensory issues and problems mapping ourselves to humanity, or a dissociative reaction to stress, or just how we happened to develop. Maybe it's something we haven't even thought of. It could just be a brain glitch. We don't know the causes for certain and many of us have our own opinions on the matter, but it doesn't matter particularly much in the end. We experience ourselves this way regardless of what causes it.
We spent years hiding this identity and trying to deny our experiences because it all sounded ridiculous. Who would ever believe us? It was hard enough to believe it ourselves. We'd never met anyone that felt similarly about themselves, so we assumed we were alone and kept it to ourselves for years. In 2016, we came across the otherkin community for the first time and found others that had similar experiences of not aligning with their body's species. Knowing we weren't alone in being internally nonhuman let us accept that aspect of ourselves and explore it, and as a result we've become much happier. We realized we didn't have to try to identify as human. As long as it helps us and we know we're in a human body, we can allow ourselves to identify as nonhuman.
We prefer the nonhuman label over "otherkin" or similar alternatives because it feels more comfortable. People are very pedantic about labels, and we'd prefer to avoid arguments about terminology that isn't well defined to begin with.