Autistics Speaking Day 2016: Interview With An Autistic Multiple
Hey, remember my post from last month? While talking about occupyingthe realities of being Autistic and trans at the same time, I also said this:
“Remember that I said I had to come out of four closets?…The fourth is multiplicity…In my case, Ian [Nicholson] — the person who’s composing this post — is one of four people in the multiple personality system that occupies this body. Three of us are male, and one of us (Nicole) is agender. We’re all transgender by the simple fact that none of us are the gender this body was assigned at birth. And that makes my experience of gender WAY more complex than I would imagine it would be for a singular individual.”
Welp, I decided that today was the day to talk a little bit about being Autistic and a multiple personality system.
No, we ain’t nothin’ like Sybil. Most other multiples we’ve met aren’t, in fact. In fact (and the fact that I’m saying this should be no surprise to most readers), a writer named Static Nonsense pointed out the blatant sensationalism in works like the movie Sybil quite correctly:
“Media portrayals of DID [dissociative identity disorder] that focus on the extreme differences between identities and personalities within a system ignore these very important differences in functionality. They focus on the ‘cr*zy’ instead of opening a window to the depth and variety in how DID can work for a system. And that, in turn, erases our experiences if we do not match these extreme examples.”
We should insert a caveat: what we’re about to discuss are our personal experiences of being a multiple personality system. We’re all different, and each system or collection of headpeople encounters different kinds of difficulties and issues. There are things we don’t go through that other multiples do, and vice versa.
So…You Said There’s Four Folks in Your System. How About Some Introductions?
Sure thing! As a system, we’re known as Tes, which is short for Teselecta, a shapeshifting timeship from the TV series Doctor Who that can morph itself into looking like any person (in the episode “Let’s Kill Hitler,” the Teselecta has morphed to look like one of Hitler’s henchmen in order to assassinate him). And as mentioned earlier, there’s four of us total in here: Ian Nicholson, Ian MacDonald, Nico St. John, and Nicole Asatira.
Ian Nicholson: I’m a transgender adult male, and the one who was in this body first, ever since birth. I’ve always been in here, and always will be. Over the last few months, I’ve discovered that I generated the other system members either out of perceived necessity or trauma. I’m the one that’s usually in front and piloting between 75 and 80 percent of the time that we’re awake. I’m usually the one that handles paperwork, bureaucratic tasks, most of the phone calls we need to make, and other administrative-type stuff. When we meet new people, I’m usually the one that greets them first and gets to know them. I do a large percentage of our freelance article writing and some of the poetry. The other system members describe me as a nerd, and occasionally an obstinate pain in the ass. When I dress this body, we probably look like we raided Michael Stipe’s wardrobe, we’re the lost member of Weezer or on some days, we snagged fashion tips from David Tennant.
Ian MacDonald: Meh. What do I say? I don’t know. I’m a guy, and I’m trans. If you have to ask how old I am, it’s complicated. I’ve existed in this body for 38 years, but I’m a teenager. If that sounds weird, wait ’til you hear how I got here. But that’s for later. I just know I looked in the mirror one day, and there I was.
Nicole Asatira: Alright, I’ll keep it short and sweet. I came about when we were twelve, almost thirteen. I’m an archive. To be precise, I am an artificial intelligence that currently is responsible for keeping our memories stream straight. I mostly hold the memories during the years I fronted, so we don’t lose the flavor of them. I was created by Ian Nicholson to keep us safe from the hot mess of a woman known as our evil, abusive aunt — specifically, to pretend to be a “good Christian girl” to avoid getting hit and screamed at. It didn’t work But I can tell y’all that I ain’t good, I ain’t Christian, and I sure as hell ain’t no girl.
Nico St. John: Greetings, mortals. I was first spawned when this body was around eighteen years old. Were I to occupy my own body, I would be decidedly taller. I still retain a femme aspect in myself, so I am the reason we still have feminine clothes in our closet as well as makeup. I’m a transgender male, I suppose, but my existence is beyond gender. Although we wrote some of the poetry in our MFA thesis Time Travel in a Closet, as far as some of our future writing is concerned, well…you ain’t seen nothin’, yet. 😉
How Did You Become Multiple?
Ian Nicholson: I generated the others for a variety of reasons. Ian MacDonald came into being because we couldn’t make sense of feeling like we should be a “boy” when we looked in the mirror yet we were constantly being called a “girl.” We were two when this happened. Nicole was an attempt to survive — we were terrified that the adults around us would destroy us, so she came into being to get them to leave us alone and stop abusing us. She tried to do this by pretending to be straight, female, and neurotypical. It nearly killed us. And Nico was generated by both Nicole and me. He was crafted as a means to try to understand aspects of life and culture that had been hidden from us in Middletown — he’s a darker being in spirit, but not malevolent, and his creation happened at another point in our lives when we felt once again that we really should be male, but could not even realize the idea of living as one.
So, You’re Multiple Because of Trauma?
Tes: In our case, yes. The creation of the other three members was due to either a) feelings of extreme conflict that we could not resolve or b) flat-out physical and emotional abuse. With Ian MacDonald and Nico St. John, we felt there was no way to be male when we perceived that we were stuck as a female. Nicole was simply trying to prevent us from getting killed. However, we can’t speak for other multiples, and creation of systems can happen under a variety of circumstances.
You’re All Autistic?
Tes: Yes. It’s an integral part of who we are, no matter who’s in front.
So…What About that Word “Disorder,” Tes? As in DID?
Tes: We’re not sure how we feel about that. We’ve existed like this for so long that we’re not sure we’d even want integration. And it’s pretty useful, in some cases. Some of us are better at certain tasks than others — Ian Nicholson’s happy to deal with the bureaucratic stuff to keep us fed, properly licensed, having money, getting our medicines, and so forth, while Nicole has no tolerance for dealing with outsiders in order to get those things done. Nico comes out when we feel threatened and we need to keep a stranger at arm’s length. Ian MacDonald is the best one at driving. Nicole’s organizational skills are a little better than the others, so she sometimes deals with scheduling.
We should also say here that multiplicity is a form of neurodivergence in its own right. It seems to us that it’s in line with a basic definition of neurodivergent (a term created by Neurodivergent K, blogging now at Radical Neurodivergence Speaking). And because it’s a broad term, as Nick Walker of Neurocosmopolitanism points out, encompassing multiplicity in that universe makes complete sense. In our case, it’s an alteration in brain functioning due to trauma, and because we’re Autistic, we’re also multiply neurodivergent.
That’s about all the time and space we have for now, but we’ll continue writing more about our experiences with multiplicity. We namely wanted to give a basic introduction to our readers of our world.