For, by, and about people with multiplicity, dissociation, and amnesia

Sexuality & Multiplicity

Most queer (bisexual, gay, lesbian, pansexual, queer, asexual, poly and so on) people are not multiple.

Many people with multiplicity do not identify as queer, and have only parts with a straight, cis-gender orientation.

For some people, it’s their gender identity that cues them about their multiplicity – see Gender, Dissociation, and Multiplicity. For other people, their introduction to their own multiplicity is through trying to make sense of their sexual orientation.

Sometimes people are exploring identity, trying to find something that feels like a good fit, and every label they find feels like it’s not quite right, or not right all the time. That may be because the labels just don’t fit or because they’ve been used as insults, because they are used by people we don’t wish to be compared to, or because they leave out something important about themselves. It may be they are too broad or feel too unspecific. Sometimes people reject or give up on labels, but still wonder why there’s a lingering sense of not understanding something about themselves that’s waving for attention.

Sometimes the issue is that people have been told they have to be one thing or the other – straight or gay, for example. It can help a lot to realise that many people identify as bisexual  or pansexual because they find they are attracted to more than gender. This does’t mean you are multiple or that anything is wrong. When David Bowie was coming out, he once mentioned that being mistaken as straight felt weird, and being mistaken as gay started to make him feel like a closeted straight man. He identified as bi. You can learn about bi here: What bisexuality is, and 9 things it isn’t.

Another challenge can be fluidity. Many people experience their sexual orientation as ‘fixed’, that is, unchanging. Even if they deeply wish to change, or are subjected to therapies and efforts to change, deep down it stays the same. So a lot of the gay rights movement has developed around this awareness that most people simply can’t change their orientation and shouldn’t be made to. Some people find however, that their orientation is ‘fluid’ and that their attraction can change over the years, or even day to day. This can make people uncomfortable, and may lead to diagnoses such as Borderline Personality Disorder or DID. In reality, fluid identity in itself is not sufficient for any diagnosis, and many people embrace their fluidity and live with it – being fluid may be something they can’t change.

However, for some of us, things still just don’t quite fit. Sometimes it’s because multiplicity is part of the mix and no matter what labels you choose, there’s a part who doesn’t fit in or feel comfortable. If there’s experiences of multiplicity present, it may be that parts have orientations that are different to each other.

For example, Sarah’s system has a number of orientations across different parts

  • Straight, cis (that means not trans) woman who’s pretty shy
  • Agender nonromantic asexual
  • Bisexual male who likes cross dressing and finds it amusing that he can do that in work situations without being harassed because our body is female
  • Bisexual nonbinary who’s out and does a lot of advocacy work
  • Lesbian
  • Child who doesn’t particularly think of themselves in terms of gender identity or presentation, aside what’s good to wear for climbing trees, and who certainly isn’t attracted to anyone of any gender

Because Sarah navigates public life as a group, they identify as bisexual and non-binary/genderqueer as these are the most inclusive terms – or simply as queer which is less of a mouthful!

It can be a relief to look at your experiences through the framework of multiplicity when it fits. For some people, they can hear, feel, or sense other parts and their conflicting feelings. So for example, out on a date they may feel disturbed by a child parts feelings of distress, boredom, or revulsion. A person with a gay male part and asexual female part may feel very home in the local gay club, and very out of place at the same time, or may switch between them feeling great one moment and desperate to leave the next, or have strange, strong, hard to name internal conflicts about getting there in the first place.

If people are threatened or ashamed of diverse sexuality, this can be a reason they deny multiplicity and reject other parts. It can be strange and difficult to process that we are sharing a mind and body with a part who experiences the world so differently – it can also be wonderful! But it’s extra hard if we believe it’s wrong to be queer or disgusting to be straight. Parts can also have huge power struggles over who gets to be out and known, who’s identity is the public one, and who gets to choose partners or lifestyle.

Being able to make your inner world safe and respectful can be hard if you haven’t had many of those experiences yourself. Diversity can be celebrated rather than just a cause for fighting. People with multiplicity, families, cities and nations have at times been amazing examples of valuing diversity and supporting each other. It can be done and many of us are doing it.

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