Margaret Cho on her poly life
On the CBS afternoon show "The Talk," actress/ comedian/ LGBT advocate Margaret Cho comes out poly but calls it an open marriage. (Asks Billy: "Is 'open' the PC way to say you are poly?)
Here 'tis. (3:25) (June 13, 2011).
This is rather a change from some years ago, when Cho called her marriage "very conventional and conservative, I think. I mean we're such weird people that people just can't imagine that we would have a conventional marriage. But, yeah, we are very conventional."
In another recent interview she says,
Being partnered is very important to me. But, being in a polyamorous relationship is just more honest for me. It’s more respectful to my nature.
Update, August 2012. From an interview with Margaret Cho at AfterElton.com:
AE: Margaret, you’ve always had the gays on your side since early in your career. Do you have other groups that follow you that might surprise us?
MC: Well, it’s very racially mixed and, also, I think gender and sexuality and all of these things make up different approaches that people have like people who are polyamorous. That’s something that I think is a really important topic and is an important part of the arena. That sort of includes my sexuality because in the LGBT the B is often silent and that’s what I am so that’s something that I find that I can separate it in my mind that it is thought of as more polyamorous.
Update, August 2013. Article at HuffPost Gay Voices: Margaret Cho Opens Up About Her Open Marriage, Outing John Travolta:
Comedienne Margaret Cho has been in an open marriage for 10 years, and it's working for her.
"I'm married to a man but I'm bisexual so I like both," Cho told the ladies of "The Real" this week about her decade-long marriage to artist Al Ridenour. "We got together because ... we both have this [idea], 'I just don't want to have sex with the same person my whole life. That's just gross.'"
She went on to explain how the partnership works, revealing that her other is with other women and that she doesn't get jealous. While she doesn't usually come home to find other women, she said she has been in the house while he was off with someone else.
"We have a really big house," she said. "It's kind of like if we wanna have that, it's like, 'You can stay on your side or I'll stay on my side.' When I see her, I'll make her dinner. ... Oh yeah. I've definitely been in the house."
The "Real" hosts also broached a popular topic: Why during a stand-up stop in Australia in April did Cho make comments that outed John Travolata as gay?
"Well, 'cause I'm gay," she responded. "I'm bisexual. I always feel like I can sort of say whatever about anybody else. ... I say what I feel and what I do. I just can't decide. I just want to have sex with everybody."
Back in 2011, in a blog for HuffPost Gay Voices, Cho explained why she identifies as "queer." She said she has had sex with a variety of people -- male, female and some in-between genders -- outside of marriage. She chooses "queer" because "it's the most fitting description, short and concise, and really to-the-point," even if people might not understand. She did, however, note that "bisexual" fits as well.
• And more: HuffPost interview with Michaelangelo Signorile: Margaret Cho Interview Discusses Monogamy, Bisexuality, Open Relationships (Aug. 14, 2013).
• And on the Arsenio Hall show for October 1, 2013, she discusses her and her husband's open arrangement for a few minutes (starts at 3:52) and declares "monogamy is gross."
• And in an unusually interesting interview with the Portland Oregon LGBT magazine PQ Monthly (Oct. 17, 2013):
PQ: ...As someone who’s been out for many years as being both bi and poly, how do you find the visibility of your lifestyles has changed over the last decade?
MC: ...Bisexuality and queerness in general for women is a little less shocking to people nowadays — a lot of very famous women have come out as bisexual, and I think it’s because it’s somehow safer for women to be bi than for men. Polyamory is still very hard for folks to understand. I get a lot of practical questions — like, “Where does the sex come in? What do you do when your partner is having sex?” To me, that’s a more prurient curiosity, and it hasn’t gone away.
...PQ: So much queer political work right now has to do with marriage equality. How do you see marriage equality and polyamory interacting?
MC: I think marriage equality is fundamentally about becoming politically equal with heterosexuals — it’s less about the actuality of how we have relationships, and more about how we’re viewed by the government and whether we have equal rights. Polyamory is more about a personal quest in relationship, and that could be heterosexual, homosexual, or both. Marriage equality is a civil rights crusade, and polyamory is a personal revolution. It’s different, but similar.
PQ: Switching gears — you’re performing in Portland soon!...
MC: In terms of openness, it’s a lot more polyamorous and queer a city than most other places I’ve seen. There’s a lot more specificity, too — people enjoying particular pleasures and really going for them.
...PQ: What’s distinctive about your “Mother” tour?
MC: This show is really about the ways we parent in the gay community. Now that I’ve reached the awesome age of being the “Grand Dame” of my friends, I’m referred to as a mother figure by so many gay people! It’s also about my own mother, but centrally it’s about being in that mothering position.…
...PQ: I understand that you’re a former Sunday School teacher and that you still identify as Christian. Can you talk a bit about your relationship with Jesus?
MC: I think Jesus is a very good teacher. Really, he’s such a power bottom! Jesus was all about taking other people’s pain and absorbing it, and making himself stronger because of it — absorbing all the negativity from your persecutors and taking it on for someone else. He is not at all about guilt. A lot of Christianity has been distorted by anti-gay stuff that doesn’t even exist in the Bible at all. I think of Christ, at face value, is very much a power bottom. That’s a really good thing to be!
PQ: On the subject of taking in pain and transforming it, you’re quite the tattoo enthusiast.
MC: I’m over 70 percent covered in tattoos. There is a lot of transformative feeling in tattooing — it’s quite tribal and sacred to get your skin opened. It feels very ritualistic.
PQ: How has that transformed your relationship with pain?
MC: I think you learn that the more that something hurts, the more gratifying it is. That’s something that’s repeated in all manner of places — psychological and emotional transformations. Even BDSM! The way that people go into “sub space,” and discover that the more intense the pain is, the more intense the endorphin high they receive from it is. It’s also in the transformation to becoming an adult — the more painful that the metamorphosis is, the greater the change will be.
Update December 21, 2014: Margaret Cho and Al Ridenour are ending their 11-year open marriage.
Update December 27, 2014: And she says she's about to become "the representative for alternative sexuality, polyamory, sex toys" on TLC's new late-night chat show All About Sex.