Fuck the /ˈsɪstəm/

closeup of a transgender pride flag waving on the blue sky, moved by the wind, with the sun in the background

*consults notepad*

This is going to be another one of ‘those’ posts. You know, one where I might be seen as attacking people within a trauma community for pointing out the fact that they are harming marginalised groups by their use of language. So I think any time that I write these kinds of things I would like to start off with the forewarning that having trauma does not make one untouchable, it doesn’t mean your mistakes or wrongdoings cannot be pointed out, nor does it mean you have the inability to learn how to be a better ally to marginalised communities.

Let’s go team! What serious topic are we going to be talking about today? Similar to the race-claiming discussion, I suppose we could call the topic we’ll be exploring ‘trans-claiming’? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it but unfortunately I don’t have the funding to hire a creative team or editor so let’s make do with that. Oh, and another thing to point out, some of these things I have already addressed in a video sitting in my upload queue on YouTube. This piece however, will be a more elaborated version of my thoughts surrounding the topic.

A few days ago I saw a comment on a friend’s YouTube video in which a commenter was expressing frustration that my friend was calling another person that has DID by their legal name. Further context for this is that this person they were referring to is the host of a system but had been using a different name prior to fusion with another alter, except one of the pre fused alters used to go by their legal name. This new host does not use that name, but the system still uses that legal name when out in public presenting as the whole human being that they are.

To be honest, that paragraph was a clusterfuck to read for me too and I’m totally aware not everyone reading this is well read on internet OSDDID terminology, so let’s break down some of these things before diving into the whole ‘trans claiming’ issue.

A system basically just refers to someone who has other specified dissociative disorder or dissociative identity disorder (shortened to OSDDID within this article); The term ‘system’ is used to encompass all the parts, or alters, that make up that one individual. A host is typically the alter that presents to the world the most, and more often than not, prior to diagnosis they are not aware of childhood trauma that occurred. Fusion is a point when two or more alters, you guessed it, fuse together, typically to become a more stabilised part. Alters can have different names and sometimes upon fusion they may decide to change that name for any number of reasons; for example, if the host fuses with another alter and continues remain the host, a more stabilised version so to speak, they might feel more comfortable using another name. Lost again? So am I, but fear not, I come bearing an example.

Our legal name is Ezra. Our old host also identified with this name. When Ezra fused with another alter, Marcey, this more stabilised version of our host now calls themself Moxie. So Moxie is our host, but on paper our name is Ezra. My name as the whole person that I am, inclusive of all the alters that make up me, is Ezra. So this is where we start the article. Is calling Moxie ‘Ezra’ deadnaming?

No. Okay that’s the article, thanks…

Deadnaming is a term coined by the transgender community, with it’s usage in online spaces first appearing from 2012 onwards. The term can be used as both a noun and a verb, with the latter ‘to deadname’ referring to calling a transgender person by a name they no longer identify with. More often than not this is the name they were assigned at birth. While calling a trans person by their deadname can be intentional or unintentional, being on the receiving end is still distressing and invalidating to one’s gender identity and can often cause dysphoria in transgender individuals. A change of name in many cases is one of the first steps towards socially affirming one’s gender, and to be denied any of the aspects of this affirmation process is not only harmful on a micro scale, but the denial of identity has a large impact on those in the transgender community on a macro scale as well.

While I am indeed Australian, I wish to pull statistics from the United States due to it being the hub of the world and quite frankly it is far easier to access statistical data. According to The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health conducted in 2021; from the pool of 35 000 youth aged 13-24 across the United States, 20% of transgender participants attempted suicide that year alone, and a further 52% considered it [1]. Within the same report it also states “Transgender and nonbinary youth who were able to change their name and/or gender marker on legal documents, such as driver’s licenses and birth certificates, reported lower rates of attempting suicide”[2]. Now, as to the total amount that were victims to fatal violence causing death, by pulling data from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) almost 50% of the names listed fall within the same age bracket of 13-24, with the youngest being 16 [3]. Be mindful as well that these numbers are likely lower than the actual amount as far too often the stories of missing trans people, particular Black and Latina transwomen, go unreported or misreported [4].

On a small scale it may just be a name to you, but on a macro level, the erasure and vitriol of the mere existence of the trans identity causes death both by our own hands and others’.

It starts with the name, it ends with the shovel.

This is a huge part of the reason why transgender people with OSDDID have an issue with our terminology being co-opted by cisgender people to fit their alters’ identities. By equating calling an alter as the whole person’s name or by another alter’s name to deadnaming a transgender individual, it trivialises our existence and simplifies transness to be names and dysphoria bound. Even though alters do indeed exist, and some have different presentations to the body itself, this does not mean that language that is applicable to individuals as a whole, applies to them. And while the terms “male” and “female” are umbrella terms themselves and are applicable to alters, these should be done sans prefix, depending on the gender the person was assigned at birth, along with the gender the whole individual identifies as at current. I was assigned female at birth, however, I identify as non-binary. Even though there are parts that still see themselves as female, they recognise that as one person we, I, am nonbinary. There are a small handful of parts that see themselves as being trans-male or trans-masc, and while one could argue I am dictating what is right and wrong based on my own experience, they are entitled to those identities while simultaneously knowing that as a whole we, I, am nonbinary. Now my reasoning behind this is that transness is an umbrella, and as someone that was assigned female at birth and identified as male prior to coming out a second time as nonbinary, this is a lived experience that I have. For a cis-woman to have an alter that identifies as a ‘trans’male when as a whole, the woman is cis, it is not indicative of a lived experience. This alter is a male in the sense of ‘male’ being a explicative term whereby his male-ness, his existence, is due to what the individual required at a time of trauma or extreme stress. Prefixes should not be required in this case, unless of course the individual is transgender OR on a path of questioning their gender, both of which are inclusive of those forced to present as cisgender due to safety reasons.

Applying ‘cis’ or ‘trans’ to male and female alters is unnecessary for a number of reasons. Firstly, it furthers the narrative that alters are their own separate people, that the bodies they see themselves in internally, if they have a vivid inner world, are equivalent to those in the world around them. This opens the door for trans spaces to be invaded on the basis of “well my alter is trans” when you yourself are not. There is nothing wrong with being an ally, but you do not get to insert yourself into our safe spaces just because you have a mental health disorder. To flip the coin to why applying the term ‘cis’ could be harmful other than further perpetuating the idea that alters are their own separate people, by saying you have a ‘cis’ female alter if you are a cis male you are again trivialising a minority group, in this case one that is constantly subject to violence on a day to day basis. This example in particular, furthers misunderstanding of transness as a whole, mimicking the rhetoric that trans women are just men with a mental disorder.

And that, that is probably the biggest issue I have with all of this. By allowing alters to use the labels and identities of those whom are transgender, it depicts the transgender identity as a standalone or symptom of a mental health disorder. It equates transness to the outdated yet still used logic that being transgender is something that needs to be managed or fixed, an idea which is extremely harmful. The idea that we are defective or deranged to this day results in abuse, unjust medical procedures and murder. Although things like lobotomies are rarely and illegally performed nowadays, conversion therapy is still alive and well. For those unaware, conversion therapy was designed to “cure” sexuality and gender variances. It involves LGBT+ people being subjected to things such as corrective violence, medication, electroconvulsive therapy, ritual cleansing, food deprivation, forced nudity, and confinement, just to name a few [5]. Conversion therapy, now rebranded as ‘reparative therapy’, has only recently been abolished in countries such as Malta (2016) and Taiwan (2018) along with a small handful of other countries. An even smaller amount of these have simultaneously applied criminal bans to these unjust psychiatric practices, some even introducing protections for youths and adults that are being forced to undergo these procedures i.e. Germany (2020)[6]. With that in mind, a bill has yet to even be drafted in the United Kingdom [7], and there are no laws nor policies banning conversion therapy across twenty two states and four territories within the United States [8] .

While I understand that there is so much of a history when it comes to sanism and mental health disorders, especially for those as complex as Dissociative Identity Disorder, the two are totally separate issues. You are taking away from the history of our queer forefathers and the actions they took to get our community to where it is now. You are watering down our identities to be something that needs to be managed or stabilised. That might sound blunt and perhaps this is the section where I make things “too personal”, but it isn’t a lie to say that OSDDID is something that does need to be managed, because that is the reality of any mental health disorder. I feel like I am walking on eggshells saying things like that, but much like in the beginning of this piece, childhood trauma or having a mental health disorder doesn’t mean you can automatically speak over marginalised groups. The fact of the matter is that one is a mental health disorder that affects ones ability to interact with society and oneself, and the other is an identity in which society affects one’s ability to maintain a healthy, non-dangerous life.

This community has a difficult time talking about these issues and understanding how some terms just aren’t meant for them. You are not ‘deadnaming’ an alter unless as a whole the person is going by a new name due to being trans, in which case this article is not directed at you. If you are not trans and you are going by a new name, or a fused alter is now going by a new name, that’s all it is; a new name. Your previous name is an old name, and an old name is something anyone, even those without OSDDID, can have. Alters are not a hallpass to homophobia, transphobia, or racism; each of those include microagressions along with accidental and purposeful participation. Don’t shoot the messenger. Trauma does not absolve you of harming others, even unintentionally. I can only hope that much like the article and video made about raceclaiming, that this gains some traction too, as it needs to be recognised within our community.


[1][2] The Trevor Project, National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021
[3] Human Rights Campaign, Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2021
[4] Human Rights Campaign, Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020
[5] International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Global Overview of Conversion Therapy (pp. 4-12), 2020
[6] Stonewall UK, Which countries have already banned conversion therapy?, 2021
[7] Government Equalities Office, Banning conversion therapy, 2021
[8] Movement Advancement Project, Equality Maps: Conversion Therapy Laws, 2022

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