Irenes' Pronouns FAQ

Why do you keep saying “we” and “us”?

Because there are several of us. Yes, we’re in one body. No, we aren’t a married couple sharing an account or something; there is only one human involved.

No, we didn’t intend to include you when we said “we”, and if you were offended by something you thought we were saying about you, we apologize; we usually try to say “we personally” to avoid that misconception.

We’d encourage you not to think about this in medicalized terms, as we are quite happy this way and do not consider it a disorder, but you can look up dissociative identity disorder if you really want to. We’re proud of who and what we are, and we are very much opposed to any form of stigma against mental illness and other unusual brain things. We choose to be visible as part of showing that pride and promoting understanding.

Aren’t you worried what people will think?

We’ve been through a lot of life-things that have taught us that it’s better to have people who find who we are upsetting, out of our life as quickly as possible.

We could hide plurality for a while, but that would involve so much pretending to be something we’re not that we’d get very little out of the interaction. We also can’t hide being trans or autistic in most contexts, and people react similarly to those, so even if we wanted to be secretive, it would make very little difference.

It’s also surprisingly difficult and emotionally draining to try to switch back and forth between “we” and “I” depending on the context. So if you came here from some random IRC channel that we were only in for five minutes, yes we could probably have concealed our nature for your benefit, but we didn’t choose to do that.

Why should I believe you?

You don’t have to. We’ve heard every possible form of “that’s very interesting, goodbye forever”, and if you’re going to say something like that we’d appreciate your doing so immediately and before we’ve invested any time into caring about you.

How many of you are there?

At least fifteen. We come and go a bit, on a timescale of months and years.
Should I use “you” or “y’all” when talking to you?

We suggest “you”, which is already number-agnostic in English. Some people have chosen to use “y’all”, which flatters us.

Who am I talking to right now?

In our particular topology, we share enough memory that it very likely doesn’t matter unless you’re someone we’re close to. You’re generally talking to two or three of us at a time, and we don’t expect anyone out-of-system to be able to tell us apart, though it’s flattering when romantic partners can.

We may occasionally need a moment to load the memories of who you are or what you’re talking about, and if we interact with you closely we’ll talk about other practical matters, but for the most part please don’t worry about it.

Is it okay to ask questions?

Please do, if they’re coming from a perspective of wanting to understand the mind and the brain and the many fascinating things they do. We actually really enjoy talking about that stuff, although we can imagine that it may get old someday.

If your question is some form of asking us to prove we’re real, or a veiled request for us to stop disrupting your world view by existing, please keep it to yourself, or just openly tell us to leave.

Does your employer know about this?

Yes. We're a SWE at Google, working on advertising privacy. We are extremely public about plurality within the company. Our teammates have been amazingly supportive of our efforts towards visibility and destigmatization.