Identity Web / The Closet (by fuzzyjayling)

What is an identity? I define it as a moniker, a signifier for some kind of personal presence. Not the person themselves, but a token of themselves that others use to remember them and think of them.

Given the body mask, it is inevitable that a closet phenomenon is going to arise, unless you& are able to be out to everyone at all times. In that scenario, you will have at least two identities (the mask and the plural group) plus any group members’ identities to maintain.

That doesn’t sound so terrible until you start considering shared resources. Your mask identity probably has some pictures you’d like to share with friends of group members, but that mask identity is probably tied to a legal identity, and which may also be tied to professional contacts and family, and so forth. It works the other way around, too. Group members might want to share things the other direction (“look, I made this art,” the body mask says). It’s also possible that those people themselves wish to be in a singlet closet in their interactions, acting singlet in their interactions. (In which case they also obtain two identities: a plural group member one, and a singlet one.)

The plural closet is not a whole lot different than other closets in that you are pretending to be something you’re not in order to pass certain social strictures. In the case of plurality, it is just much larger and more complicated, more a whole maze than a single closet. And there can be a lot to lose by breaking it.

So how does one do this? How do you manage an identity web?

A sufficiently complex (to be useful) identity web is realistically made up of several smaller identity webs. These are centred around more nebulous zones of identity, such as “professional life”, “personal mask life”, “plural life”, and so on.

It is important to remember, too, that there is a spider at the centre of every web. It’s good to know which identity(ies) “know everything” about their zone, and how they are connected to everything else. For example, for the “plural life”, this might be a plural group account on Dreamwidth. And that’s the place you have to be extra careful with links (both to and from). A link from a professional zone to the plural zone might be catastrophic, if not immediately, then eventually when it’s cached by the internet and fully searchable. Depending on what company you keep and where, a link from the plural zone to the professional zone might also be a bad thing. It’s really just something you have to assess as you go.

You can also build “neutral zones”, for example, a DeviantArt account with a name not connected to any of the other identity zones. Each of these zones can then (mostly) safely link to this shared area. The exception to this is that Google has a feature that lets you see who has linked to a particular page; so you might e.g. want to limit the number of publicly available pages that link to your neutral zones. It’s a risk you have to decide for yourselves.

This brings up another point where you have to be careful: dual-posting. If you take a picture and want to post it to your professional zone, but you also want to post it to your plural zone, this may simply not be possible unless it’s private in both places. Otherwise, it can find its way from one to the other by way of searching or someone happening to notice it. (This is a much bigger issue for people whose professional lives are also creative endeavours.)

Finally, you may find yourself caught in your own web, boggling at the number of identities, their non-connectedness, and the mess you&’ve made of it. It happens. In that case, you can carefully collapse webs/zones. For example, you might’ve ended up with multiple plural group identities; you could combine these by linking them to each other or making a third account and bringing everyone over to it. There is also, of course, “coming out”, that biggest of web breakers. Just keep in mind, it’s a lot harder to go back the other way.