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On Name-Calling

“Too often, young people who go by a name other than the one assigned to them at birth are viewed as the ‘problem,’” David continued. “Going by a name that reflects your identity is never the problem. Systems that do not see and acknowledge a young person’s identity are the problem.”

“In some ways it’s fundamentally simple to respect and honor young people by using the names they choose,” Russell told Reuters Health. “But on the other hand . . . it can be technically, logistically, and administratively complicated. And, emotionally, for families, it can be difficult. And yet, it seems really clear that it can make a big difference.”

"Using transgender youths' chosen names may lower suicide risk" by Rachel Gurevich (Reuters)

Labeling people is important. Our labels are our identities and they can lighten our life, or weigh it down. Being called names in school can undermine our sense of self, it's one of the cornerstones of bullying, and it's robbery. It can transform something positive into something negative instantaneously.

As seen amongst transgender youth, with their extraordinarily high suicide attempt rate of 41%, using the name they personally identify with rather than insisting on using the name others have given them can make a significant change. "Why" is less relevant than the positive effect it has, but consider that using their chosen name denotes acceptance and acceptability. And being heard and seen. When your self-concept does not match your physical expression it can be extraordinarily difficult to feel safe and relevant in the world.

This goes for members of a plural system or group entity as well. Similar to trans folk, we often feel at odds with our physical form — sometimes gender issues, sometimes age issues, or any other reasons that you might imagine. But this identity versus form mismatch, this aching for self-expression to be "seen" in the world for who we really truly are rather than how we appear, creates a great deal of strife for us. To the tune of a 70% suicide attempt rate in similar disclosures. Nearly twice that of trans youth. It is possible that by extension the recognition and acceptance symbolized by being addressed as individuals might lighten our load. It's important to everyone on earth (inside and out) to be given the humanizing honor of having our own name and for people to validate our existence by using it.

In dehumanizing situations — prison, torture, systemic abuse, internment, case studies, etc. — people's names are replaced by other designations. Numbers. Objects. Inhuman labels. Stripping them of humanity helps guards, soldiers, and professionals continue their abuses, because they're not hurting people. They're just dealing with things. An industry that continually insists that alters are not people is actually actively using the same justification for the eradication of a group of people inside the plural system. Stripping them of names, referring to them by role or by "EP" or "ANP," it is much easier to discuss getting rid of them or devaluing their importance, or not listening to their insistence that they are people.

It's also possible that being de-humanized by being addressed as a part or an object or diminished in importance because we are not the host or original or core, being admonished and excluded from decisions because we're "emotional parts" and thus not deserving of expression — please consider that any of these issues could be contributing to our deep and lasting hatred of external life. Something that could be salvaged with a spark of acceptance in our external life by being given the grace of asking for and using our chosen name(s).

This is before even addressing other atrocities of external folk who pointedly ignore individuals in the plural system, or talk about them as if they're not present, or show favoritism to other members of the plural system, etc.

This is a simple case for reaching and reaching out to those ostracized and excluded from the conversation and from external life by using their chosen name (and chosen gender) as a show of respect and acceptance.

It's equally important not to be a bully or use playground name-calling to point them out. Giving them a neutral temporary name while they work out what they want to be called is acceptable, while negative or derogatory labels are right out. "The Angry One" implies they are always angry, and it's no wonder they appear to be "emotional parts" when they're labeled with a one-dimensional emotion. Wouldn't you get angry if your whole family started calling you "The Angry One"? Wouldn't it be saddening if your family only addressed you as "The Sad One"? Ironic?

Also consider how dehumanizing system members may contribute to derealization and depersonalization. If you truly want to help your client ground in reality, to feel a more solid sense of identity, and to reduce their collective suffering, then individual recognition, addressing everyone with their chosen names, and treating them all as people with all the respect and compassion people are due is vital.

Respect, dignity, and elevation of all. Do not play favorites. Everyone is important and valid.


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