A Brief History of Plural People, From 1811 to 1980 and 1980 to Today
September 4, 2020 10:48 PM   Subscribe

After giving a talk at a Plural Positivity World Conference on the history of plural community, LB Lee (Previously) wrote up the entire thing in a series of Dreamwidth posts along with references:
Part 1: 1811 - 1980ish
Part 2: The Memory Wars
Part 3: Usenet and Its Spin-Offs and Soulbonders
Part 4: LJ, The Genic Slapfight, and THE END!
They also gave a 90-minute talk on the 1989 - Present period in July at PPWC.
posted by Going To Maine (10 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
This is lovely, thank you. I appreciate these people's bravery and honesty in explaining their lives and themselves to the world.
posted by Braeburn at 12:23 AM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think LB Lee is doing interesting work creatively. It's interesting to see this kind of sweeping overview with an emphasis on the history of plural groups. Overall I support their drive and appreciate that they are taking the audience through their own - I guess their own experience of delving into the written record of multiplicity from some of the books and movies to the online record.

I don't think my critique is that significant overall for the casual viewer who is just like, shocked to learn all these different perspectives were out there. But for anyone who is trying to get a deeper understanding or maybe self-identifies as plural I would recommend keeping a good dash of salt with some of this. Long comment ahead

My memories of the groups that are covered in this talk don't jive with this talk that well, which I guess is inevitable in this kind of reductive approach.

I've been trying to sit with my response a bit. I had to kind of back away at the 3/4 mark because my response was so rooted in my own experience and I haven't kept up, so to speak, and I didn't want to let my opinions be formed after hearing how the groups I did have experience with were treated in this talk.

Just to expand on that, we (I) had work published in two of the 'zines mentioned and participated in a few groups not mentioned as well as Dark Personalities. Since I personally have the strongest memories of Dark Personalities, I'll just walk through that a little bit so that people can get a sense of the kind of caution I'd like to recommend in approaching this overview.

Dark Personalities definitely was an ableist cage match quite often and if I were to run for school trustee I would be glad the Topica archives aren't available anymore.

But .

It wasn't a community in opposition just to online "splat" communities (support groups that often were policing triggers, etc.) but to extremely destructive modes of treatment. A lot of multiples had run into therapies designed to work hard towards integration, or worse and sometimes more common, especially if if you were living in non-urban areas in the mid to late 90s, religiously focused therapies.

These are people, both collective and individual, that were not just told that they had to integrate to be healthy. They were people who were deeply struggling with their personal experiences around evil. Not just having experienced, in a lot (but not all) cases of having been abused as children, but having been abused as children and then told that they were the evil ones. The atmosphere wasn't just steeped in SRA/the Satanic Panic, which I will not debate here.

It was that these multiples, who grew up in the 50/60/70s/maaybe early 80s if you were a baby in the group, had been abused and then told they were evil for being sexually impure or whatever, or had been abused by priests or other members of a religious community. But then in therapy they had been told they had literal demons that were literally condemning them to hell if they didn't exorcise them which was an extremely destructive mode of therapy.

There was an entire slew of books, including one by M. Scott Peck, where therapists described their exorcisms of their clients. And I guess if you're Gen Y or whatever, that just looks stupid to you. When LB Lee was like "don't let the medical community define you!" that's great but...consider conversion therapy for a gay teen in 1989, and that's where the vast, Oprah-driven, headline news, convention-holding, actual psych ward lockdown Girl, Interrupted shit was driving at the time.

That treatment modality, that you need to turn all your experience over to the therapist and have them basically sort through your various "alters" (hate this word) in order to find the True Self and then get rid of the bad ones, because maybe they were actual demonic possession and integrate the good ones had caused a lot of people to give up on therapy. Finding alternatives was really, really hard for people.

And by "people" I mean both whole systems and individuals within systems.

And then if multiples were online looking for -- I would say kinship, like just plain "people like me," including advice and support but really just that question of "are there people like me out in the world living their lives???? Or do I need to lock myself in jail so I don't become Billy Mulligan?" -- that was a real question, because there simply were not alternative viewpoints to find. I mean, I was in an offline support group where voicing the view that maybe you could live without integrating first, like you could go and get a job and a house and a garden was...inexpressable.

Not only that, if some people -- let's call them the "nice compliant alters" -- were participating in 'zines and online communities and writing about their bunnies, had people (alters) in their systems who were saying "you know what, I am a lusty sex goddess" they would be shunned and banned for being - evil, triggering, abusers.

So Dark Personalities wasn't for like, a regular person who was tired of writing s*x, it was geared towards individuals in multiples systems who were genuinely struggling with the question of who were they and whether they themselves were evil.

(If you want to take an approach where everyone in a wounded child, these were the children with fire in their bellies who identified where the power was in an abusive relationship -- with the abuser -- and developed identities that gave themselves power. I will note that I put this parenthetical paragraph in for normal people who need that perspective to humanize people who identify this way, not for the people who do identify that way who don't need me to explain it.)

On the surface, some of it does look silly. Every few weeks a new person would join the list and declare that they were the One True Lucifer, and then Lucifer/Lucivar/Morningstar/Old Jack in some other multiple system would kind of say like "Ohhhhhh you think YOU'RE the Devil, well, let's do this," and then they would have an intellectual/increasingly emotional - yes - cage match - and usually it would end in someone admitting that they had decided they were Lucifer because that was the most powerful image they had in the church where someone had their hand down their pants molesting them in front of a picture of Jesus.

And then everyone would, in fact, let them know that you can be Lucifer in your system, get your shit together and go get a job, which was the ableist part of it. And then there would be 1345782548 cage matches about that, and terminology, and theology, and pagan perspectives and some seductive dating attempts on the side.

Because...those people, the "angry ones" for lack of a better word, were working through that energy together. And then, inevitably, Fight Club style (I do not love Fight Club but it remains iconic for a reason), it became an ourobos eating its tail and eventually the head caught up with the tail and it died. People in my head may have contributed.

Anyways - hearing that reduced to "an ablist cage match" was interesting this morning. So if you are plural or deeply engaged, I would please hesitate a long time before letting this particular talk frame your thinking about the history of plural self-expression, even though it really is a lot of curatorial work.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:04 AM on September 5, 2020 [24 favorites]

I had to come back in to note that not everyone who identifies as a source of demonic/pagan or just plain alternative power is or was a child who experienced abuse.

I think one of the issues in having multiple present perspective on other multiples is that it's hard to do that without taking a position for or against what Things Actually Mean, even if it's subtle. That's why the terminology wars are so often a feature, because there's a lack of communal understanding of what it is to be human...because of being outliers in the human experience in some, not always critical, ways.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:16 AM on September 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have never heard of this before, googling doesn't deliver much (just things about grammar), and the texts links are rather inside baseball. Is there a primer on the subject anywhere?
posted by svenni at 8:24 AM on September 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

This Vice article isn't terrible as a quick overview, I think.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:32 AM on September 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

Thank-you so much for the extra context and experience warriorqueen.
posted by Braeburn at 8:36 AM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, the best emotional understanding to cross my desk lately of the particular community I'm talking about, Dark Personalities -- because the problem with being multiple as I find every time I try to write about it seriously is that my experience actually runs in 35 directions at once, sometimes parallel, sometimes not, which makes narrative construction difficult -- is probably Tamara Muir's Harrow the Ninth.

That sentence is a mess, but hey.

Muir definitely nails the rewriting of the self to avoid emotional compromise but also, I think accidentally but if not it has a certain brilliance to it, nails the exhausting "people who don't really seem to have an actual interesting enemy keep turning on each other to keep their monster-fighting skills intact, which may or may not help with actual monsters who may or may not arrive soon" dynamic that characterized Dark Personalities.

That is a deeply inside baseball post, sorry non-multiples.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:53 AM on September 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Damn, Tamsyn, sorry, autocorrect.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:59 AM on September 5, 2020

Yeah, I read for a while into it before I realized it wasn’t about plural marriage.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:53 AM on September 5, 2020

Thank you so much for your comments, warriorqueen! They are an extremely informative complement/counterpoint to the LB Lee essays.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:05 PM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

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