A Newbie's Guide to Plural Comms

By Jack of the Wayfarers


These are things that I wish people would have told me when I was first dipping my toes into the plural communities. It's mostly addressed to any newbies hanging around. Take away from it what you will. Please note it is not a personal attack on you, your system, your belief system, your pets, or your relationships.  

Hi, newbie!

So, you are, or think you might be, plural in some way. You discover that other people share this experience. It's exciting, isn't it? Feeling like you're not alone, or insane, is a very powerful thing. But as you find your way around these communities, try to keep some things in mind. If you're anything like us, they'll serve you well.

1. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt. You know what, make that a salt lick's worth of salt.

People in any community dealing largely with subjective experiences have a tendency to state their opinions as gospel. It's not -- at least, not for anyone except them. This doesn't mean you should deny people's experiences; just recognize that they're not universal. You may want to mentally add '...in our system' or '...for us personally' to anything that sounds as if it's stating absolute truth.

2. There are no leaders and no rules to follow.

The plural community is like the gay community. Sure, it may have trends and popular figures, but it does not have leaders or rules (except for the universal 'rules' of common sense and courtesy [and even those aren't followed half the time]). It does not have people who can 'kick you out'. It does not have anyone -- ANYONE -- who has some sort of mandate to tell you how to be plural.

Sometimes people will wander in, look around, and say "gosh, everyone's so different from us, maybe we're not plural after all". That's a little like a young gay person wandering into a leather club and deciding that because they're wearing jeans and a t-shirt instead of chaps they're actually straight.

By the way, all you old timers, it would be awesome you can make some effort to welcome people who don't do things exactly the way you do -- and actually welcome them, not break out the leather vests and say they better dress themselves properly, pronto. Which leads me to...

3. Not everyone will be, or has to be, alike.

Plurality is a vast spectrum of experience. There are many system set-ups out there, and very few of them will reflect your particular experience. This is perfectly normal and okay and fine. Really.

Some people want to limit their social circle to people who are more similar to them than not. This is also fine. But you should be aware that such social circles often narrow further and further until everyone has to adhere to an exacting specification that might not have fit them in the beginning -- and everyone outside that specification is branded "less plural" or "less sane". More than one system has been fucked over by realizing that suddenly they're outside the specifications of their social circle. Recognizing differences seems a better idea than forcing yourself into a mold that won't fit.

4. Maintain your standards.

People can be...unpleasant. People can be total batshit douchebags and manipulative assholes, in fact. Being plural does not immunize anyone to this. When you're making friends with other systems -- when you're maintaining any relationships with them -- don't hold them to lower standards because they're plural.

Yes, there are different standards of interaction when you're dealing with multiple people sharing a body. Different, not lower. Never feel like you can't call someone on being a creep or an asshole just because they're in a plural system.

5. You are the final authority on your plurality.

At the end of the day, no one can take your experiences away from you. No one is handing out plural membership cards and cutting them up if you stray from the club guidelines. No one but you can tell you what your experiences are, and what they mean to you.

Remember that -- treasure it, even. No one can peer inside you and tell you the geography of your existence. It belongs to you; it's your own country. You make its laws, you set its borders, and you decide what flies and what gets thrown right out. You can always walk away from the communities; your plurality will not get left behind.

If you take nothing away from this but that, I've done my job here.