Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

November 15, 2019

Friday Polynews Roundup – further research reports, Bella Thorne, supposed pro tips, and more


I'm going to try something new. Every Friday, I'll publish here a weekly summary of poly-in-the-news items that didn't make my regular posts.

There's so much poly in the media these days that I've been skipping too many items. Or I'll save up a batch on one topic, intending to do a giant one-topic roundup, and the task grows so big I never get a Round Tuit.

So every week I'll post a Friday Polynews Roundup of whatever else caught my interest, perhaps with briefer descriptions and quotes than usual.

I'll still do single posts for important items as they happen, and occasional collections on one topic like before. But I'll no longer be limited by that format.

We start off with items since the beginning of November.

Research was announced on what makes an open relationship successful, and it got a fair amount of media attention. The Independent newspaper in the UK, for instance, summed it up in The key to a successful relationship according to research (Nov. 1, 2019). "Mutual consent, communication and comfort are key to the success of a non-monogamous relationship, according to psychologists at the University of Rochester," the paper reported. "The trio of behaviours has been dubbed the Triple-C Model."

The happiest people were at the two opposite ends of the poly-mono spectrum: mono people in truly monogamous relationships, and open folks in truly informed, consensual CNM. In between were various shades of misery.

See the University of Rochester's press release (Oct. 29) and the original research report: Delineating the Boundaries between Nonmonogamy and Infidelity: Bringing Consent Back Into Definitions of Consensual Nonmonogamy With Latent Profile Analysis (authors Forrest Hangen, Dev Crasta & Ronald D. Rogge; online Nov. 4; paywalled except for the abstract.)

The researchers made a graphic summarizing their results. It also got a lot of media play. The conclusions are at bottom; dark blue there means relationships functioned worst; light blue, best.

A Facebook commenter with about 15 years of poly life offered a more practical and specific list for success.

Other research news: New study helps illuminate experiences of jealousy within consensually non-monogamous relationships, reported PsyPost (Nov. 2). Quoting the researchers,

Consensually non-monogamous people report dealing with jealousy by negotiating boundaries with their partner(s) and by cultivating compersion.... We investigated how jealousy is experienced within consensually non-monogamous and monogamous relationships, and we took it a step further by looking at how negotiating consent impacts feelings of jealousy across these groups.

The study itself was published in August as Jealousy, Consent, and Compersion Within Monogamous and Consensually Non-Monogamous Romantic Relationships (authors Justin K. Mogilski, Simon D. Reeve, Sylis C. A. Nicolas, Sarah H. Donaldson, Virginia E. Mitchell, & Lisa L. M. Welling; Archives of Sexual Behavior, August 2019 issue; paywalled except for the abstract.)

● And there was my Wednesday post about a survey of polyfamilies' experiences with the medical profession around pregnancy and childbirth.

● In Society19, a spending magazine for college women ("the ultimate guide for fashion, beauty, dating advice, and dorm decor"), we got Is Being In A Polyamorous Relationship The New In? (approx. Nov. 8). It's a nice bundle of things for newbies to consider.

We ask the questions that will have you asking if this is the sort of relationship you want for yourself. Polyamory may be on the rise, but that's because people have that choice now to make freely. So by the end of the article, see if it is a choice you are wanting to make.

● In Atlanta's gay Q Magazine, Singer Tom Goss opens up on polyamory, domestic violence (Nov. 7).

On the new album “Territories,” Goss opens up about his relationships with both his husband and his boyfriend, and he lays bare some hard queer truths from his real-life struggles in many areas, including pieces about polyamory and domestic violence.

● The statistic is often sited that 20% of Americans report having been in a consensually non-mono relationship at some point in their lives. That's misleading, says the Catholic News Agency: Despite the hype, non-monogamy is far from common, researcher says (Nov. 6). It's about an article by Charles Fain Lehman for the Institute for Family Studies. He instead cites an "i-Fidelity" YouGov survey done for the Wheatley Institute of Brigham Young University that got a result of 12%, not 20%.

Actually, though, he gets his main point backward. He says that because the survey with the much-quoted 20% was only of single people, it missed the more stable, monogamous population of marrieds. In reality, the singles-only sampling should mean the total of Americans who have ever been in CNM is higher, not lower, than the reported 20%. That's because all married people were single before they married. So the survey caught people earlier in their lives than the population average. The now-marrieds have had additional time, on average, to try consensual non-monogamy.

And we can certainly tell you that scads of couples who were mono when they married later show up exploring the swinger, open, and poly worlds.

Also, a different study using different sampling methods in Canada (culturally similar to the US) independently found that about 20% of Canadians have been in CNM at some time in their lives, and that 4% of their current relationships are open.

● In Cosmopolitan: Bella Thorne Says Smoking Marijuana and Having a Polyamorous Relationship Will Change Your Life (Nov. 14). I can attest that the title is true. Bella Thorne is an actress/ singer/ director. "Also on [her] agenda: staying friends with your exes." The celebrity press is full of this story right now.

● From Insider: The one mistake monogamous couples make when considering polyamory, according to a sex researcher (Nov. 14). And what's that?

"Having an open marriage, polyamory, or swinging really should be coming from a sense of deep security and stability, like 'I feel good with my partner. I can do this,' not necessarily from a fragile state," [Amy] Moors [of Chapman University] told Insider.

See you in seven days, if not sooner.



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November 13, 2019

Small study of poly pregnancy and childbirth experiences gets continent-wide attention

A sign of the times for us:

Canadian researchers got surprisingly wide news attention for their study of polyfamilies' experiences with the medical world during pregnancy and childbirth. The researchers wrote, "Our aim was to identify barriers to prenatal, antenatal and postnatal care for polyamorous families and to share results and strategies with health-care providers in the hope of overcoming them."

Let's start with the press release from the journal that published the paper, the prestigious Canadian Medical Association Journal (October 15, 2019):

Polyamorous families face stigma during pregnancy and birth

Polyamorous families experience marginalization during pregnancy and birth, but with open, nonjudgmental attitudes from health care providers and changes to hospital policies, this can be reduced, found new research in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

...Few studies exist on the experiences of polyamorous families in health care, and it appears there are none on experiences during pregnancy and birth.

"[G]iven the high proportion of polyamorous individuals who are of child-bearing age and the substantial potential for stigma, it is important to investigate polyamorous individuals' experiences with reproductive care providers to better inform practice," writes Dr. Elizabeth Darling, a study author and assistant dean, midwifery, and an associate professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, with coauthors.

Several themes emerged in this qualitative study of 24 participants, including 11 women who gave birth within the last 5 years and 13 partners.

Key points:

     – Participants deliberately planned families, choosing health care providers who they thought would be less discriminatory because of relationship status.

     – More partners means more support, although some partners were not able to fully share this support because of discomfort in disclosing polyamorous relationships.

     – People in polyamorous relationships often chose to disclose their status when it was medically relevant, and they received both positive and negative reactions from health care providers.

     – Navigating the health system presented challenges, including administrative barriers, in which forms did not have enough space for additional partners, or newborn identification bracelets that could be issued for only two parents
To improve health care experiences for polyamorous families, the study participants suggested health care providers should acknowledge the partners' presence and roles, be open and nonjudgmental, adapt administrative forms and procedures, and advocate for patients and their families.

"Our findings align with recent reports that individuals engaging in consensual nonmonogamy face stigma with respect to accessing health care," write the authors. "Our results also suggest that polyamorous individuals face concerns similar to those of other gender and sexual minorities regarding administrative barriers and challenges with disclosure to health care providers."

The authors state that substantial work needs to be done to remove marginalization experienced by these families in the health care system.

"[R]educing providers' implicit biases toward sexual minority groups, and patients in consensually nonmonogamous relationships in particular, is vital to addressing health disparities," writes Dr. Sharon Flicker, Department of Psychology, California State University, Sacramento, California, in a related commentary.

"Health care providers have an opportunity to mitigate this stress by providing inclusive environments and sensitive health care."

The research paper itself (online October 15). Here are its title and abstract:

The Polyamorous Childbearing and Birth Experiences Study (POLYBABES): a qualitative study of the health care experiences of polyamorous families during pregnancy and birth

BACKGROUND: As many as 1 in 5 adults practise some type of consensual nonmonogamy such as polyamory; many are married, have children, or both. Polyamorous families face unique challenges when accessing care during pregnancy and birth, and qualitative descriptive studies are needed to understand their experiences and inform health care providers’ practice.
METHODS: Participants, who self-identified as polyamorous, had given birth in the last 5 years and received at least some prenatal care, were recruited through convenience sampling on social media. Any of the birthing individual’s partners were also invited to participate. All participants completed a short demographic questionnaire and participated in a semistructured interview. Interview transcripts were coded using Braun and Clarke’s iterative thematic analysis.
RESULTS: A total of 24 participants, 11 who had given birth and 13 partners, were interviewed. Of those who had given birth, 5 received midwifery care only, 4 received obstetric care exclusively and 2 received shared care. Polyamorous families described sharing many common experiences during pregnancy and birth that were affected by their polyamorous identity. Although participants reported both positive and negative experiences with health care providers, when accessing health care all had experienced some form of marginalization that was related to their polyamorous status. One particular challenge for families was with respect to disclosure of polyamorous identity in hospital environments. Participants offered suggestions for improving the health care of polyamorous families during pregnancy and birth, including creating nonjudgmental spaces, accommodating difference through minimizing administrative barriers and allying with patients by providing patient-led care.
INTERPRETATION: Polyamorous families face marginalization when accessing pregnancy and birth care. Care experiences for polyamorous families can be improved by nonjudgmental, open attitudes of health care providers, and modifications to hospital policies to support multiparent families.

Okay, a small interview study of 24 self-selected participants, about experiences in a fringe population, right?


● The same day, Canada's nationwide CTV News aired this report:

From CTV's webpage for the story:

Polyamorous families face discrimination from health care providers during pregnancy: study

...This unconventional family is part of what researchers say is a growing trend of polyamorous relationships, where several consenting adults engage in romantic relationships, sometimes living together. And sometimes, like the Spence family, even sharing a home and raising children together.

“We have three parents that can take care of our kids as opposed to just two,” Taryn told CTV News. ...

But Canadian researchers at McMaster University who studied 24 of these “alternative families” say they aren’t always accepted by the medical system when they decide to have a baby. ...

...“Sometimes there is a repeated need to disclose family arrangements and that can be challenging for people to have to constantly explain their relationship to strangers,” [Elizabeth Darling] said.

A midwife could take on the responsibility of explaining the family status to all the health care providers involved in the pregnancy or birth.

“Participants [of the study] said having that advocacy was very much appreciated,” said Darling.

Doctors could also explain the medical relevancy of their questions. ...

“When selecting a provider, the families would often approach their first visit as an opportunity to interview the doctor,” she said. “They might ask direct questions or make assessments about the space, such as look for symbols that would suggest it’s an LGBTQ2-friendly space. They would also assess the kind of language the care provider uses in their initial interaction.”

● Right behind was CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster: Polyamorous families face stigma in pregnancy care, researchers say (Oct. 15):

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Polyamorous families face stigma during pregnancy and birth because of attitudes and policies in health care that are built around monogamy, researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton say.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study Tuesday based on interviews with 24 polyamorous Canadians — 11 who had given birth in the previous five years and 13 partners — recruited through ads posted on social media groups.

The researchers with McMaster University's midwifery program say their inquiry was motivated in part by some team members' personal involvement in the polyamory community and a shared interest in inclusive health care.

Co-authors Erika Arseneau and Samantha Landry say their findings suggest that while participants reported both positive and negative health-care experiences, all faced some form of marginalization rooted in "mono-normativity," the assumption that romantic relationships are limited to two partners.

"There's a lot of people that are engaging in polyamory and a lot of them are having children, contrary to popular belief, and their experience is very similar to monogamous families in a lot of ways," said Arseneau.

"In other ways, it's enhanced by the fact that they have multiple relationships and multiple support people in their lives."

...According to a study of more than 2,000 Canadians published in the Journal of Sex Research last April, four per cent of Canadians who are romantically attached reported being in an open relationship, and 20 per cent said they had previously engaged in the practice.

In 2016, the executive director of the Calgary-based Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family used social media to ask polyamorous Canadians to take part in an online survey. Of the 500 people who responded, more than 40 per cent said there were children living in their homes full- or part-time.

...Due to fears of discrimination, many participants opted not to disclose their polyamorous status unless it was medically relevant, said Landry.

Those who revealed they were polyamorous encountered an assortment of interpersonal and administrative challenges.

For example, some health-care providers would refer to a third partner as an "uncle" or "aunt" rather than their preferred title as a parent, said Landry.

...Arseneau noted that intake forms often only provide spaces for two parents, which can restrict a partner's access to the delivery room and involvement in medical decisions.

...Arseneau said she hopes the study helps health-care providers educate themselves about polyamory so they can acknowledge and accommodate the full spectrum of family structures.

"If you're creating a respectful, inclusive and accessible space for conversations to take place, whether it's about health care or social ideas, then that allows more room for difference and acceptance," said Landry.

● Canada's Global News network also ran the story the same day: Canadians unlikely to reveal polyamorous relationship during pregnancy: study (Oct. 15)

Oliver Rossi / Getty

...Polyamory is typically characterized by engaging in multiple intimate relationships with the consent of all parties involved.

Statistics on the prevalence of polyamory are hard to come by, but there are numbers to suggest that non-monogamous relationships may be on the rise in Canada.

According to a study of more than 2,000 Canadians published in the Journal of Sex Research last April, four per cent of Canadians who are romantically attached reported being in an open relationship, and 20 per cent said they had previously engaged in the practice.

In 2016, the executive director of the Calgary-based Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family used social media to ask polyamorous Canadians to take part in an online survey. Of the 500 people who responded, more than 40 per cent said there were children living in their homes full- or part-time.

It appears the law is slowly catching up to this evolution of Canadian families. Last year, a court in Newfoundland and Labrador recognized three unmarried adults as the legal parents of a child born within their “polyamorous” family. ...

● Three days ago the researchers themselves published an article about their work on The Conversation ("Fact-based articles straight from academic experts to you"). News media worldwide often pick up The Conversation's articles under its free Creative Commons license. More romantic partners means more support, say polyamorous couples (Nov. 10)

...We found that those in polyamorous relationships benefit from each other but not from the system. Many of our interviewees expressed the view that having more partners garners more support.

They told us that although navigating multiple relationships can be difficult, it can also offer greater financial and logistical support when it comes to raising a family. One participant said:

“There’s extra one-on-one. When the 13-year-old middle child is sad and sick and whatever and just wants Momma, and the three-year-old just wants Dad… great, there’s still another adult to take care of those other kids.”

Our research participants also expressed difficulty navigating formal and informal social systems — including the health-care system — as we live in a world that tends to privilege monogamy.

"Polyamory is an increasingly common
relationship choice. (Shutterstock)"
...The polyamorous families we interviewed expressed a great deal of deliberateness in their decision-making, specifically around family planning.

They put substantial efforts into communication around whether children were desired within relationships, when to have children, who in the relationships would be biological parents and what parenting roles individuals would have.

Although this was not always the case, many of our interviewees also reported difficulty disclosing their polyamorous status due to fear of judgment. This was true for disclosure to family, friends, colleagues and, in the case of pregnancy and birth, to their care providers.

...“They asked who is allowed to make appointments for your child, and I said me, my husband and my girlfriend. And I had to give her name and her number. And they asked me several times, are you sure? What’s her relationship to the child? I’m like, well, I guess she’s technically his mother. And they’re like, well, we’ll just put down his aunt because we can’t put down multiple mothers when you already have a father, apparently.”

...Our participants expressed facing barriers such as lack of physical space for additional partners, lack of inclusion in medical decision making and facing judgement with disclosures. ...

● In the United States, Health Day published a story that got picked up by US News & World Report: When Baby Makes Four (Oct. 15)

By Amy Norton

When people in non-monogamous relationships decide to have a baby, they may find that hospitals are not ready to handle their childbirth needs, a new study suggests.

The study is among the first to look into the health care experiences of people in "polyamorous" relationships.

...While polyamory might be fairly common, there are many misperceptions about it, according to Flicker, who wrote an editorial published with the study.

Some see it as an aberrant behavior. However, Flicker said, "there is nothing inherently pathological about these relationships."

Another misperception is that polyamorous relationships are strictly casual — in the vein of "swinging," said Elizabeth Darling, the senior researcher on the study.

But, in fact, many people build "stable family units" where there are simply more than two adults taking care of the kids, explained Darling, an associate professor at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. ...

● And in Popular Science, or at least its website: Stigma against polyamory could put families’ health at risk (Oct. 21). "Nevertheless, research shows polyam families offer serious benefits to their kids."

...For Landry, a big takeaway from the new research is that a lot of people are in relationships outside of what healthcare workers might consider “traditional.” To keep parents and kids as healthy as possible, doctors and nurses should make sure they stay informed. Of course, this study is still one of the earliest to even discuss the topic of CNM parenthood, so more data and study are needed.

“Understand that people are happy and see huge benefits from having multiple relationships,” she says. "It's not just something that 'those other people' do. Most people probably know someone who is polyamorous, whether they are aware of it or not."

And more, including MSN, Medical Health News, Foreign Affairs New Zealand, and MedIndia.

People these days are really interested in us.


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November 11, 2019

"For these families a love triangle is not an obstacle. Polyamorous parents chart their own course."

"Gord Tanner, centre, is flanked by Jacki Yovanoff, to his left, and Michelle DesRosiers, to his
right, along with children, from far left, Alexandria, Zach, Gwen, Griffin, Easton and Aiden,
in Waterloo [Ontario].  (Peter Lee / Waterloo Region Record)"

In the continuing normalization of polyamory, the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper, published a long feature story on some very out polyfamilies, with pictures including the one above.

For these families a love triangle is not an obstacle. Polyamorous parents chart their own course

By Tara Deschamps

When Michelle DesRosiers’ [third from tight, above] kids watch films featuring love triangles, they don’t find themselves rooting for the lead to make a choice between suitors.

“They’re always like, ‘Why does she have to choose? Why do they like to choose? They don’t have to,’ ” DesRosiers, a Kitchener-based consultant, says of 11-year-old Aiden and 9-year-old Easton.

“They’re armed with the knowledge that relationships can be whatever you want them to be.”

It’s a lesson they learned from DesRosiers, who years ago gravitated towards polyamory – having a relationship or connection with more than one person – after she and her then-husband dabbled with non-monogamy.

Since her divorce, DesRosiers has charted a modern family of sorts by juggling parenting her two kids with maintaining four “connections,” a word the self-proclaimed “relationship anarchist” prefers to describe partners.

DesRosiers is convinced arrangements like hers are becoming more common across Canada because she has seen a younger generation edge more towards open or non-monogamous relationships.

...A 2016 survey from the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, which surveyed 596 people online ... revealed that 40 per cent of respondents identifying as polyamorists said there were children living in their homes full or part-time.

“The reality is that this is a new and emerging form of family and yet it is off Statistics Canada radar,“ John-Paul Boyd, a Calgary-based lawyer who ran the now-defunct institute, said. “...I am getting an increasing number of people in poly relationships asking questions about the law or seeking referrals.”

...Kids, many often believe, complicate such a lifestyle, but DesRosiers has found a way to make it work, even though her family took her polyamory hard at first. (Her mom, she said, “didn’t get it,” but eventually came around and is now very proud.)

...[Said DesRosiers], “What I was worried about a bit is how are they going to approach it in a school or system, where they’re making friends who don’t have those relationship types or structures? Are they going to get made fun of? Are they going to come across a lot of discrimination?” she said.

“That was kind of put to rest...Honestly, kids don’t care. The school knows. Other parents in the area know. They may say stuff behind our backs, but we haven’t experienced the challenges I thought we were probably going to.”

Even at home the situation evolved naturally. Connections will pitch in if she finds herself in a jam like she did recently when she threw her shoulder out but had promised to take her kids camping. Her connection stepped in and took the kids.

“We have had a non-traditional household for 10 years. This is all they’ve ever known...They don’t think anything of it.”


Jacki Yovanoff, a Waterloo-based sexuality and relationship educator, adopted polyamory 10 years ago, when her marriage ended.

Yovanoff has three connections, including a “partner” in Wisconsin and someone in Toronto she calls a “comet” because “our orbits don’t cross as often.”

She also has a “nesting” or “domestic” partner, Gord Tanner, who she lives with.

...Yovanoff’s kids learned about her adopting polyamory “organically.” There was no momentous sitdown with the kids to explain their new normal, she recalled.

Yovanoff has been open about raising her kids in a polyamorous household, so she’s become a lightning rod for people seeking advice about introducing their own families to the arrangement.

She’s quick to tell people there’s no one arrangement-fits-all approach. ...


Millennials, who are challenging, criticizing and questioning traditional values, have hastened the pace of [polyamory's] growth and changes, as have the acceptance of and increase in divorce, [Boyd] said.

And with those changes Boyd has noticed an important societal shift: the feeling of “othering” – triggered largely by those who are not involved in it – that surrounds polyamory is slowly but surely disappearing. ...

“I don’t know that this is a brave new wave of the future, but it is something I expect to be increasingly commonplace,” Boyd said.

The whole article (October 18, 2019). It's paywalled there, but it also ran in the Waterloo Region Record where you can read it for free. It was one of the Star's "best reads" picks of the week.

Coming next, more normalization: Researchers make news with a study of polyfamilies' experiences with pregnancy and birth. "Our aim was to identify barriers to prenatal, antenatal and postnatal care for polyamorous families and to share results and strategies with health-care providers in the hope of overcoming them."


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October 28, 2019

Flamingly out and proud, Nico Tortorella and Bethany Meyers carry the flag on ABC's Nightline and Good Morning America

Yesterday (Sunday October 27), CBS News's 24/7 streaming channel CBSN aired a one-hour documentary on stigmas and problems that polyfolks, and other people doing consensual nonmonogamy, often face in confronting the wider world.

Meanwhile over at ABC News, "Nightline" aired an 8½-minute piece last Thursday about two people who are wildly out and on a mission to support those who can't be — whether about gender diversity, bisexuality, or polyamory. Actor Nico Tortorella and their partner Bethany Meyers are probably the world's most public exemplars right now for that constellation.

The prompt for the "Nightline" segment — also on Good Morning America or at least its webpage — was Tortorella's new memoir, Space Between: Explorations of Love, Sex, and Fluidity, published last month. Watch here:

From the transcript (online Oct. 24, 2019):

At the 2019 GLSEN Respect Awards
...Tortorella and Meyers are a uniquely modern couple. Both are gender fluid, using “they/them” pronouns and their marriage is polyamorous -- redefining what it means to be “husband and wife.”

Their story is laid out in Tortorella’s new book “Space Between.” It’s a place, Tortorella suggests, where people who don’t consider themselves “he” or “she” can call their own.

“When Bethany and I met in 2006, I was a boy and she was a girl, whatever that means,” Tortorella said, reading from “Space Between.” “Today Bethany and I both identify as non-binary and prefer ‘they/them’ pronouns.”

...The 31-year-old has found fame portraying the hyper-masculine tattoo artist Josh on TV Land’s hit show “Younger,” Lyle Menendez in Lifetime’s “Blood Brothers” and will portray a queer character battling the zombie apocalypse in the upcoming spinoff of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

...“Nightline” joined Tortorella and Meyers at their upstate New York home, where Meyers discussed why they made the traditional and somewhat unexpected choice to get married.

“I knew that when it came to having a foundation and a family foundation, that this was the person for me to do it with,” Meyers said.

...Tortorella explained that being polyamorous didn’t mean having group sex. “It’s the ability to create space for more than one person at any given point,” they said.

“It’s love,” Meyers added. “Sometimes I get a little bit jealous but jealousy is something that I often have to practice, it’s a very normal human emotion.” ...

Their untraditional love story began as teenagers in a Chicago art school when Tortorella developed a crush. ...

At New York Fashion Week, 2018.
In 2018, [Tortorella] walked the runway at New York Fashion Week in a sheer black gown accompanied by a full beard and chest hair.

“It’s political… It's not just throwing on a dress because I'm having fun. It's to prove a point,” Tortorella said. “And I look good in a dress, so what's the problem?”

...“I have a certain privilege that other people do not have and a responsibility [and a] right to raise awareness,” they said. “That's part of my activism. Wearing a dress is activism for me.”

...Tortorella is using their voice to advocate for young people who identify as gender-queer, creating a sense of belonging for others in the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom need a sanctuary to call their own.

“Share more. Share more than you thought was okay,” Tortorella said of advice they’d give their younger self. “Just talk about how you are feeling more than you are, because then you can begin to feel differently.”


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October 27, 2019

CBS explores anti-poly stigma in one-hour documentary "Speaking Frankly: Non-monogamy"

[See post-show update at bottom (scroll down).]

This evening (Sunday October 27), a 1-hour doc about people practicing consensual non-monogamy will air on CBSN, the 24/7 digital streaming service of CBS News. Speaking Frankly: Non-monogamy will play at 8 pm, 11 pm, and 2 am ET. CBS chose this topic to lead off its new 6-part "Speaking Frankly" series.

They've already put up the 23-minute main body of the documentary and the three segments of studio discussions that follow it. You can watch the complete hour of the show's material here:

The webpage is titled Not just "one big orgy": Fighting the stigma of consensual non-monogamy (online October 24, 2019). The preview features mostly open couples and triads, as well as some of our best talking heads (including Diana Adams and Elisabeth Sheff), discussing problems poly people have in finding safety and acceptance in the wider world.

It's interesting to see here that Helen Fisher, famous researcher and author on the nature of romantic love, has finally recognized that polyamory is a real thing. She used to dismiss it as impossible due to her theories about human exclusivity. It's nice to see a social scientist change their theories to fit reality rather than blow off a reality that doesn't fit their theories.

My overall impression? The show looks to be good for us. It explains the concept well to the many people who are still, even now, discovering us for the first time. But because it centers the stigma problem, many of the polyfolks spotlighted come off as kinda defensive or even scared.

Excerpts from the transcript:

By Jessica Kegu and Jason Sinverstein

"One big orgy." [Could a clickbait lead sentence be more obvious?] That's the stereotype about the lifestyle of consensual non-monogamy — an arrangement where committed partners openly agree to have sexual relationships with other people.

But people who have practiced non-monogamy for years say it's not all wild sex — or even all that wild. It takes a lot of work, and it carries a lot of stigma. There can be serious consequences for the family life and even careers of those involved.

"Many people are trying to create families in different kinds of ways. And a lot of people see that as dangerous," Diana Adams, a Brooklyn-based lawyer who represents polyamorous families, says in the CBSN Originals documentary, "Non-monogamy."

She advises clients in non-monogamous relationships to be careful about telling their employers. She's seen some lose their jobs over it.

...Mahdy, a man who lives in Brooklyn, New York, had to end his marriage to keep his relationship together. He is part of what's called a triad or thruple — a polyamorous relationship between three people who are all actively involved with each other. But because it's illegal to be married to more than one person, only two people in his triad can be married.

Mahdy, who did not want his last name to be used, met his first partner about 14 years ago and married her in 2011. One year later, the couple met another woman, and the three formed a triad. But it could have fallen apart after the second woman ran into problems with her immigration status, he says.

Mahdy had to divorce his wife to keep their triad together.  CBS News

For her to remain in America, Mahdy and his wife divorced, and the wife married the second partner. It kept them all together — but he is still reeling from the ordeal.

"Dissolving the marriage … that was really, really difficult for me," he says. "I don't have the legal protections I had when me and my first partner were married. In fact, I don't think I've had health insurance since."


For many people in non-monogamous relationships, there's nothing strange about their arrangement. It's just romance — plus one or two other people, or more.

"People think that there's this magical thing happening all the time," says Brooke Houston of Kansas City, Kansas, who has been in a triad for more than a year. "And half the time we're just chilling. Whoever has the energy for a big orgy 24/7, let me know. Tell me your secret," she joked.

CJ George, Brooke Houston, and Brandi George.  CBS News

In 2018, Houston formed a triad with CJ and Brandi George, a couple who have been in an open marriage for four years. She has a sexual relationship with both CJ and Brandi — sometimes individually, and sometimes all together.

...Brandi said that years ago, someone wrote an anonymous letter to the school district where she works as a teacher, outing her for being in an open relationship. ... "I was terrified that I would be let go from my job or that I would have people that wouldn't accept me," she said. "My students, like, they give me oxygen, they give me life. And so to have that taken from me would have just like devastated me. So I was just very aware that that could happen and that I would have nothing. And how could I provide for my kids if I don't have a job?"

Some non-monogamous people can't be open about their situation at all. ...

...Last year, the American Psychological Association created a task force on consensual non-monogamy to promote awareness and understanding of non-traditional relationship structures.

"Finding love and/or sexual intimacy is a central part of most people's life experience," the APA website says. "However, the ability to engage in desired intimacy without social and medical stigmatization is not a liberty for all."

People who engage in or support non-monogamous relationships argue that it's simply an option that should be available for those who choose — just as monogamy should be an option. And for now, they're just asking for acceptance.

"It's never gonna be equal for us," Mahdy said. "I only ask that people don't interfere with what we have."...

● Here's a 5-minute promo about the show with host Tanya Rivero, titled The challenges of polyamory and non-monogamous relationships. The blurb with it: "The new CBSN Originals documentary 'Speaking Frankly: Non-monogamy' explores a way of life that's more common than you might think. But maintaining a non-traditional relationship carries stigma and presents some special challenges. Executive producer Adam Yamaguchi joined CBSN with more on the story."

● Another video: Rivero interviews Diana Adams, founder of Diana Adams Law & Mediation and the Chosen Family Law Center. Adams gets a solid 10 minutes to stay her stuff, and damn, is she good at this! This is the best interview I've ever seen her do. (BTW, her haircut make it clear that these news videos were filmed at a different time than the main documentary.)

The video's webpage: Legal hurdles in non-monogamous relationships (online Oct 24). "Attorney Diana Adams discusses the legal hurdles that can sometimes impact those in consensually non-monogamous relationships, including issues related to child custody, immigration and health insurance." Unfortunately, I find no transcript of it.

● Rivero also sat down with Elisabeth Sheff for this segment, called "Children of Polyamorous Relationships."

"Dr. Eli Sheff, an expert on children in polyamorous families, discusses what these children report about growing up as part of a non-traditional family unit."

● Another news video by Rivero: "Dr. Amy C. Moors, the co-chair of the American Psychological Association's non-monogamy task force, discusses the state of research around non-traditional relationships and polyamorous families."

Watch for updates here after the show itself airs.


UPDATE AFTERWARD: Well, the full 1-hour version tonight consisted only of the videos above: The 23-minute in-the-field documentary I called the "preview," followed by the in-studio discussion videos, one after the other with ads between.

Impressions? I have to say I come away with a less-good, possibly even dark view of the show after watching the whole thing in one go.

I realized one difference: This time I was paying more attention to the background music. Much of it was chosen to be sad or ominous, to go with the problems people were saying they faced (fears of job discrimination, coming out to family, child custody, etc.) Was the background music supposed to evoke sympathy... or did it lend an air of problems and sadness about trouble to the whole subject of multi-relationships?

At least, I see that that's how skeptics may take it. I'll be interested in your reactions.

One thing, though: When I first posted about the show, I said it looks like a link you might send your parents. I've taken that out.


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October 23, 2019

Congresswoman Katie Hill outed for her poly triad; also accused of affair with staffer

UPDATE OCTOBER 27: Congresswomen Hill resigned today. CNN story. More.

Hill’s farewell speech to the House is worth reading. She mentions that she resigned not because of what has already come out but because of “hundreds more photos and text messages that they would release bit by bit until they broke me down to nothing”.

The forces of revenge by a bitter jealous man, cyber exploitation and sexual shaming that target our gender and a large segment of society that fears and hates powerful women have combined to push a young woman out of power and say that she doesn’t belong here. Yet a man who brags about his sexual predation, who has had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women and who has filled the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of the most fundamental right to control their own bodies, sits in the highest office of the land.

So today, as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings. Not just because of corruption, obstruction of justice or gross misconduct, but because of the deepest abuse of power, including the abuse of power over women.

Katie Hill (D-CA 25)
[This story has been updated.] Freshman congresswoman Katie Hill, Democrat of California, has been outed as having been in a poly triad relationship with her husband and another woman, and she is also accused of more recently having an affair with a male subordinate in her congressional office. She acknowledges the three-way relationship and denies having an affair with the congressional staffer, which would be a violation of a House rule adopted last February in the wake of #MeToo.

Hill is currently in a divorce case with her husband, Kenneth Heslep. The story broke when Heslop apparently gave a nude photo of her (standing and apparently brushing the other woman's hair), along with private correspondence, to RedState, a militant conservative site.

From the nonpartisan CQ Roll Call, which covers news of Congress:

Democratic Rep. Katie Hill denies relationship with congressional staffer

By Bridget Bowman

Rep. Katie Hill on Tuesday denied allegations she had an improper relationship with the man who is her legislative director. The California Democrat said in a statement that her estranged husband is attempting to humiliate her and suggested there is a “coordinated effort” to destroy her.

On Friday, conservative blog RedState published a story detailing Hill’s alleged relationships with 2018 campaign staffers. The first allegation involved a female campaign staffer who entered into a relationship with Hill and Hill’s husband. The second allegation is that Hill also had an extramarital affair with Graham Kelly, who worked for her campaign and is now her legislative director. A relationship with a current congressional staffer would be a violation of House rules.

“Allegations that I have been involved in a relationship with Mr. Kelly are absolutely false,” Hill said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “I am saddened that the deeply personal matter of my divorce has been brought into public view and the vindictive claims of my ex have now involved the lives and reputations of unrelated parties.”

...Members of Congress are barred from having a sexual relationship with their own staffers. ... A potential violation of the code of conduct could trigger an Ethics Committee investigation and a recommendation for punishment. Past violations of House rules have involved different punishments, ranging from expulsion and censure to a less severe reprimand.

Hill’s statement did not address the allegation that she and her husband were in a relationship with a female campaign staffer. Hill, who is bisexual, did reference explicit photos that RedState published in its story, saying she has notified Capitol Police.

“Intimate photos of me and another individual were published by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent,” Hill said. “I have notified Capitol Hill police who are investigating the situation and potential legal violations of those who posted and distributed the photos, and therefore will have no further comment on the digital materials. ...

“This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and people close to me is despicable and will not succeed. I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.”

Hill, who has been open about being bisexual since she ran for Congress last year, is a top target for the GOP in 2020. She won her longtime Republican seat, which is located north of Los Angeles and includes most of Simi Valley, by unseating GOP Rep. Steve Knight by 9 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates her reelection Likely Democratic.

Since coming to Congress, Hill has emerged as one of the leaders of her freshman class. ... The late House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings tapped her to serve as the panel’s vice chairwoman, a position for more junior members.

The whole article (October 22, 2019).

Update Oct. 24:

From CNN, Katie Hill admits to relationship with campaign staffer after ethics probe announced over separate alleged relationship (Oct. 23).

...In a letter to constituents released Wednesday night, Hill writes, "During the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign. I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment. For that I apologize. I wish nothing but the best for her.

...Hill goes on to say, "I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me. I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain."

Let's not assume that the two-year relationship of three was a happy one. On Wednesday RedState published new stuff it was holding. Reports Vox, in Revenge porn, biphobia, and alleged relationships with staffers: The complicated story around Rep. Katie Hill, explained (Oct. 23),

In a follow-up story, RedState published texts purportedly between the staffer and Hill’s husband, Heslep, alluding to abusive behavior in the relationship.

“It was a dark time and you treated me really poorly but I also stayed which I have to own,” one of the texts, purportedly from the staffer to Heslep, reads.

According to RedState, Heslep replied, “Don’t take full responsibility for staying with people that are abusing you. That is basically victim blaming, and none of it was your fault.”

In one text to the staffer, Heslep referred to “katies abuse,” according to RedState. And in another, the staffer referred to a hobby she enjoyed, according to the website: “She can ruin politics, take all my friends, and isolate me, but she can’t have [this].”

More news stories.



October 16, 2019

Poly & Christian -- a huge and diverse field

My last post ("Polyamory, The Next Sexual Frontier" – in Christianity Today?!) was about a prominent evangelical pastor urging his fellows, in America's leading evangelical magazine, to understand and respect their poly congregants who are in group relationships.

So we've gone from being the swamp monsters at the bottom of the gay-marriage Slippery Slope to being decent people to be heard, understood, and treated well, even if we're not properly "biblical"? That was quick.

Of course the article stood out because it was unusual. But Christianity is a vast and varied thing, even within evangelicalism. (And no, I'm not a Christian.[1] )

Here's my promised data dump of about 20 more items that I've been saving up for a "Poly and Christian" post. That's so many that I'll be brief about most of them.

● This was prompted by the person who posted on reddit/r/polyamory last month, "Recently came out to some fellow Christian friends and had an interaction that was fine, but a little discouraging. ... Are there any other Christian Poly people out there? What helps you? What encourages you? What is your perspective? I’m dying to know." Several folks chimed in.

● In Splinter News ("The Truth Hurts"), a progressive millennial online magazine: Even Christians Are Rethinking Monogamy (Aug. 23, 2017).

Soul Searching is our series about how the most secular generation in history is changing the face of religion.

Jim Cooke/GMG
By Jennifer C. Martin

I sat quietly in the wooden pew, discreetly toward the back. I try to attend church every week: It’s important to me to support small, progressive churches near my home in Virginia and to feed my spirituality. To my right sat my husband of nine years and our two children. To my left sat my atheist boyfriend, looking deeply uncomfortable. I looked around and thought: Even at my liberal, female-pastored parish, a part of the United Church of Christ, the first denomination to openly welcome LGBTQ members and clergy, am I the only polyamorous person here?

A few weeks prior, I had been sitting on the grass in a park with people in their twenties and early thirties at a polyamorous support group. One by one they told their stories. ... They seemed so much more worldly than me, with their fetish clubs, their devotion to the classic polyamory guidebook The Ethical Slut, their accepting families, and their open lifestyles. I looked around and wondered, Am I the only Christian here?

...But I’ve learned that I’m far from the only one. We tend to have gotten married young, felt trapped by the conservative bounds of purity culture, and wanted to explore the sexuality we never really got a chance to have. But it can be daunting to leap from the repressed Christianity we were raised with to the sexually open world of non-monogamy. ...

I found one of my first polyamorous Christian friends almost by accident. ... I’ll call her Sabrina, and she is 29 years old, like me. I’ve known her for about a decade. We grew up right outside of Chattanooga, with conservative, white, Southern values. We are both Christians raised in a Christian home. And, also like me, she married someone she’d been with from a young age.

About a year ago, I saw her secondary Facebook profile pop up in my “suggested friends” list, and out of curiosity, I clicked on the profile. It was full of photos of her and some guy in Europe. It wasn’t her husband. Desperate to connect with someone who might be like me, I messaged her and asked, “Are you polyamorous? Because I am, too.” It turns out she was, and had been for awhile....

● An important stop for anyone involved in such questions is the Incarnation Institute for Sex and Faith, founded and run by Rev. Beverly Dale, the crackerjack "Rev. Bev" — for 21 years campus minister and de facto sex educator for tens of thousands of students at the University of Pennsylvania. From the Incarnation Institute's front page:

People will love their sexual bodies and those of others as God does.

To teach an inclusive, science-friendly, sex-positive Christianity.

Sexual Diversity is a natural trait to be celebrated.
Sexual Pleasure is a sacred gift to be treasured.
Sexual Freedom is a human right to be personally discerned & morally exercised.

● By Fr. Shannon Kearns on the Queer Theology site: What I’ve Learned From My Polyamorous Friends (undated).

I am not polyamorous ... the thought makes me feel exhausted. So when Brian proposed creating some resources for polyamorous Christians my first thought was “Sure. Won’t be much help to me, but go for it.” But as I’ve been privy to the resources he’s been creating and watched the conversation happen I realized something....

The Brian in question, also on Queer Theology, has posted a collection of resources, Polyamory and Christianity:

We’re developing resources, courses, coaching, and community to support Christians who are in open or polyamorous relationships — or who are interested in exploring them.

● The up-and-coming young evangelical minister Brandan Robertson, speaker and author on the religious left who identifies as bi and queer, kicked up a huge stir in 2018 when he declared to his congregation,

"For those who are in an open or polyamorous relationship here this morning who might be squirming, because this is an uncomfortable question to hear in church sometimes — I want you to hear me loud and clear as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your relationships are holy. They are beautiful and they are welcomed and celebrated in this space."

Here's a critical article with background on Robertson and the story: Polyamory “Holy” “Beautiful” says Progressive Christian Minister (on the site of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in Washington DC, founded "for Christian orthodoxy").

● In their excellent, long-running Multiamory podcast, Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack devoted their Episode 176 to Christianity and Polyamory (June 19, 2018). They interviewed Rev. Austin Adkinson and theologian J.D. Mechelke for an hour-and-nine-minutes show. You can watch here:

Too long? Skim the transcript.

Just yesterday (Oct. 15, 2019) the Multiamory crew put up Episode 242, Queer Theology with Brian G. Murphy of QueerTheology.com. "Brian G. Murphy is an activist, educator, certified relationship coach, and was raised as an evangelical Christian. Now he practices faith-based activism and social justice work, co-founding Legalize Trans, creating QueerTheology.com in partnership with Father Shannon Kearns, and speaking at countless colleges and conferences, and even [— insert blare of trumpets here —] teaching a course on the intersection of polyamory and Christianity."

The Multiamory podcasters call themselves "a recovering evangelical, a former seminarian, and a born-and-raised atheist." Less known is their rambling, alcoholic podcast Drunk Bible Study. They're working through every word of the Bible from the beginning, line by line, doing a lubricated and irreverent exigesis. As of Episode 72 they're up to Deuteronomy 8-10.

● Patheos is a huge blogsite for all things religious and spiritual. One of its blogs is Chuck McKnight's The Hippie Heretic in the Progressive Christianity section. Among his many articles there:

     – It’s Time for the Church to Talk About Polyamory
     – Southern Baptist Preacher Affirms Polyamory (Interview with Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood)
     – Is God Polyamorous?

At the end of that last one are links to all 10 of his articles having to do with poly and Christianity.

● We can hardly skip Rev. Rachelle Brown. In Chicago's gay paper Windy City Times: MCC elder talks Cajun roots, faith and lesbian polyamorous relationship (Dec. 13, 2017). MCC is the Metropolitan Community Churches, founded in 1968 by and for gays when others would not have them.

...When [Rev. Elder Rachelle] Brown met married lesbian couple Michelle Jestes and Dama Elkins-Jestes about seven years ago, she found her soulmates in the two women. They embarked on a relationship together (which includes raising their child, Ayden) that they call "a couple of three," and currently reside in a Chicago suburb.

"As our family considered how to refer to each other, the language of polyamory is always forming, so we decided a 'couple of three' best described the closed nature of our covenant and commitments. We have all learned so much each year together. It is not simple to be out, or even engage in conversations with traditional couples. I learned recently that when I say 'family,' some assume we are blood relatives.

"Back in the early 2000s when I was coming out as a lesbian, I did not know anyone that would be considered polyamorous. It has been a journey—one that MCC allowed space for me to discover and live in. ..."

Brown was the interim moderator of the whole MCC denomination from 2016 to July 2019. Accordingly, The Advocate published a much longer, deeper profile of her and her situation: What Happens When a Pastor Goes Poly? (July 13, 2017)

MCC Elder Rachelle Brown and family

The church leadership hasn’t wavered in supporting Brown. “I’ve found incredible support in the MCC leadership,” she says. “All of the elders, everyone that I went to. ...”

But not all of her parishioners are happy to learn she’s involved in a throuple. “We lost a lot of friends,” Brown muses. “A lot of friends. The most pushback I get are from lesbians who are in a coupled or a married situation. In a couple instances, it’s either jealousy or fear. They’re either jealous because they want that for their relationship or they’re afraid that their spouse or partner will want that for their relationship.”

● A triad family finally found an accepting Christian church in Baltimore, as described in the UK's tabloid Daily Mail: Christian THROUPLE who are raising a child together speak out to defend the relationship - insisting it is NOT a sin, despite their families and their church saying it is 'an abomination to God' (Aug. 2, 2019).

● Of course there are Christian & Poly T-shirts. This one's from Teespring. I dunno, I think it would strike most people as a plain Christian thing (the Catholic sacred heart?) even if they knew the infinity heart in a poly context. Ditto the more subdued one at the top of this page.

● There's the Bible-Believing Polyamory Facebook group, "for all Bible believing Jewish and Christian people who also believe in Polyamory as a viable moral and even biblical way of life." It currently has 275 members.

● Article by a self-identified Christian on the (big, friendly, useful) Polyamory.com forum: Poly-friendly Churches (Sept. 25, 2017). He describes several denominations to check out.

● And finally — the first glimmer of my own poly beliefs came when I was a little boy. I had a blessedly kind, loving mom who held general Christian beliefs of a non-dogmatic sort. I must have been about 5 or 6 when a neighbor, whose wife had died and gone to Heaven, remarried. My mom told me how happy she was for him. But I wondered: When they all finally meet up in Heaven, which one will be the wife and which will be left cruelly, tragically abandoned? The only answer, logical little me concluded, was that they would all love each other together, because this was in Heaven.

It was some years before I discovered that not just angels, but we poor humans, can sometimes do so right here.

Page Turner (see above) tells how she traveled with a partner to her grandfather's Catholic funeral. The priest who officiated seemed to be thinking like little-boy me, and Page wonders why the religious are scared to think the next logical thought.

A Polyamorous Heaven: Funerals Don’t Come With Trigger Warnings

By Page Turner

I’m sitting up as straight as I can on the pew while my mother sobs on my left. Skyspook is on my right, his hands folded in his lap.

We’re sitting in the front row. My grandmother sits on the other side of my mother. All 5′ 10″ of her in a gray pantsuit. My grandmother doesn’t cry. Not that I can see anyway. Skyspook later tells me that he can see it in smaller expressions on her face. ...

Clyde Robinson / CC BY
...The priest delivers a sermon about Christ and eternal life, inviting us to pray for my grandfather’s soul so that he may be reunited with all his loved ones in heaven and that we, too, may join him and all others we love in the afterlife.

All others? I wonder suddenly.

Because, you see, this is my grandmother’s second time being widowed. ... Any heaven that they’re part of will be filled with multiple loves.

The pastor knows all of this. ... In that moment, it occurs to me that the heaven the pastor describes is rather polyamorous.

And thinking back on conversations I’ve had with others — some of them very religious — few to none have had a problem with widowed folks remarrying (provided at least a short grieving period had passed). They don’t think of this eventual reunion in heaven as awkward for all involved.

Meanwhile, nonmonogamy on Earth — especially the consensual, honest kind — is regarded by those same folks as the work of Satan.

...As the pastor blesses the sacramental bread and wine, I wonder why we consider what is standard in heaven to be so far beneath us here on Earth.

Read her whole post (Oct. 23, 2017).

P.S.:  If I ever go to a big football game that'll be on TV, I'm going to write on my forehead


to troll the biblical fundies. And what's that? God's instructions for multi-marriages:

"If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights." That last bit means sex. (In the original Hebrew:  וְעֹנָתָ֖הּ (wə·‘ō·nā·ṯāh), sexual.)

If any fundie there gives me grief, I'll try to keep a straight face as I tell them "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it."


1. Nope. I'm an atheist, materialist Unitarian Universalist humanist, although with, thanks to psychedelics, a lifelong soft spot for emergent panpsychism. Sparkle Moose and I are pillars of our local UU church, literally — our names are on one of the lally columns in the basement that were installed to shore up the building. I'm on the church's governing board, and Moose is its past president.


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October 9, 2019

"Polyamory, The Next Sexual Frontier" -- in Christianity Today?!

Barcroft Media / Getty

Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham in 1956, has been called "evangelicalism's flagship magazine" (Washington Post). Its website now features a surprisingly kind and understanding article with the title and lead photo above.

My thanks to another Alan, the author of the long-running The Ordinary Extraordinary poly blog with his partner Anna, for bringing this to my attention. As he notes,

“Polyamory: The Next Sexual Frontier” is by Preston Sprinkle (biblical scholar and president of The Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender) and Branson Parler (professor of theological studies at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and director of faith formation at Fourth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids) — though the article appears to be entirely from Mr. Sprinkle’s perspective. The article is somewhat amazing.

It's paywalled, but here are excerpts:

Polyamory: The Next Sexual Frontier

These once-taboo relationships are showing up in churches across the US.

By Preston Sprinkle and Branson Parler

A pastor recently told me (Preston) about Tyler and Amanda (names changed), high-school sweethearts raised in Christian homes, living in the Bible belt. After getting married, they seemed to be living the American dream with a house, good jobs, and two kids. Then Jon, a friend of Tyler’s, began living with their family. Amanda developed a close relationship with him, but their flirtation soon developed into something more, and Jon and Amanda proposed to Tyler that they begin exploring polyamory, with Amanda adding Jon as a significant other. They also encouraged Tyler to develop a relationship with another woman he’d met at the gym. He agreed.

When Tyler and Amanda came out as polyamorous, their parents were shocked. What seemed like a fringe practice of the sexual revolution had settled into the heartland of Middle America.

Making the situation even more complex, Tyler and Amanda sought counseling from a Christian counselor who advocated polyamory. Tyler’s parents were disturbed by what their son and daughter-in-law heard there: “It’s only adultery or cheating if someone is kept in the dark. If you are open and honest, this is a God-honoring relationship. And this is good for the kids! It takes a village to raise a child, so a polyamorous relationship actually brings more support and ‘family’ into your kids’ lives, much like the extended families in the past.”

Tyler’s parents wanted to know how to respond to their children but also wanted to know how the church should respond. Should Jon be welcomed into the church as an addition to Tyler and Amanda’s family? In a world where many sexual choices and identities are accepted, polyamory is often still stigmatized, so Tyler’s parents didn’t know who to talk to or where to turn.


For many Christians, polyamory seems so extreme and rare that there’s no need to talk about it. But it is much more common than some people think, and it’s growing in popularity. ... [A survey] showed that nearly 70 percent of non-religious Americans between the ages of 24 and 35 believe that polyamory is okay, even if it’s not their cup of tea. And perhaps most shocking of all, according to sociologist Mark Regnerus in Cheap Sex, roughly 24 percent of church-going people believe that consensual polyamorous relationships are morally permissible.

Over the last several years, my (Preston’s) full-time job at The Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender has been helping leaders and pastors engage questions about sexuality and gender with theological faithfulness and courageous love. Naturally, I often get asked, “What’s the next discussion Christians need to have about these issues?” My answer is always the same: “Polyamory.”

...Unlike polygamy, polyamory does not always involve a marriage commitment, and it is much more egalitarian. Polyamory is also different from swinging or open relationships, though they do overlap. ... Sex and relationship therapist Renee Divine says, “An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexual relationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, loving relationships with multiple people.” Notice again that polyamory is not just about sex. It includes love, romance, and emotional commitment among three or more people.

Preparing a Pastoral Response:

How can pastors and leaders prepare to address questions related to polyamory? Several pastors tell us it’s becoming more common for people who identify as poly to ask about their church’s view on the matter. Will they be accepted and affirmed? The discussion is still young enough that most pastors have some time to construct a robust, compassionate, thoughtful response to the question, “Is your church inclusive of people who are poly?”

How would you respond to Tyler, Amanda, and Jon? How would you counsel Tyler’s parents to respond? Tyler’s parents’ pastor advised them to first listen to their son rather than trying to preach at him, so after Tyler came out to them, they set up a time to simply connect and listen. ... When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships, affirming both grace and truth is a difficult but necessary balance for parents to maintain.

Another important pastoral step is to distinguish elements of polyamory that are in violation of God’s will from elements that are simply culturally unfamiliar to us. ... For example, the notion of kinship in polyamory is a secular echo of the way Scripture calls the church to function as a new family. In cultures that idolize individualism (but actually isolate individuals), polyamory’s focus on relationship, care, and affection can have a powerful pull. And in churches that idolize marriage and the nuclear family, polyamory’s focus on hospitality and community can be an attractive alternative. We can acknowledge that many of the elements that draw people to polyamory — deep relationships, care for others, hospitality, and community — are good things.

But Scripture does clearly connect sex, marriage, and monogamy in ways that are violated in polyamorous relationships. ...

Finally, a healthy pastoral response will involve clear, proactive teaching. ... It’s not uncommon for leaders to frantically scramble around scanning resources and shipping in speakers to address a raw situation that just flared up at their church. But instead of educating in “reaction mode,” we can construct a positive vision for what God intends. ... People are much more eager to follow a positive vision for marriage and sex than to adhere to a list of “don’ts.” ...

The whole article (online Sept. 25, 2019. It's in the print magazine's twice-a-year "Pastors" section, Fall 2019 edition.) Here's a link preserving the article's full text for research and historical purposes.

Other Alan remarks about it,

Of course there are problems, especially near the end: “When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships...” and “...need to be called to repentance for the way they have committed adultery,” etc.  But... he’s telling those he counsels to not overreact, to see how the wider world views these issues, and to maintain an open avenue of communication with the individuals within those lifestyles. ...

In the article, the authors provide solid facts concerning what polyamory is and what it isn’t, quote reputable polls (even though the results presumably don’t make the authors glad), and even get the terminology correct. They’re fully informed to the facts of what exists, maintain the humanity of the polyamorous, and counsel the faithful to keep their hearts open to the polyamorous. This is a phenomenal step toward further understanding and acceptance in the wider world. Thirty or forty years ago, when Mom and Dad actually starting listening to their homosexual son or daughter — that’s when gay rights was fully on its way, and wider acceptance was just around the corner.

As the pastor wrote, “I often get asked: what’s the next discussion Christians need to have about these issues?” My answer is always the same: ‘Polyamory.’ ” Here we go.

● The same author, Preston Sprinkle, posted a similar, longer article last year on the site of his Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender: Why Christians Need to Think about Polyamory (June 7, 2018)

...Several of my pastor friends tell me that it’s becoming more common to have people who identify as poly asking about the church’s view on the matter and if they will be accepted and affirmed. These are not abstract questions.... Put more positively, we have time to construct a truly Christian vision for monogamy, if indeed that is the only truly Christian vision.

My purpose of this blog is to put this topic on your radar, not to answer all the questions that you might have. With that in view, here are a few more questions that Christian leaders should wrestle with....

Among the nine of these he offers are:

     – If God’s love for us is plural, and our love for (a Triune) God is plural, then why can’t human love for each other be plural?

     – Since the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn plural marriages that are polygamous... could we say that monogamy is the ideal while still allowing for polyamorous relationships as less than ideal but still accepted in the church? Why, or why not?

     – If sexual expression is only permitted if it is faithful, consensual, and marital (which is what most Christians would say), then why can’t it be plural? That is, what is the moral logic that drives your view that monogamy is the only way? Is it just “God says so"? Or is there some rationale why plural love is immoral?


● On the same topic, this went out from Religion News Service a few months ago: Reinventing religion, millennials rewrite the rules of relationships (May 2, 2019):

Creative Commons

By Tara Isabella Burton

(RNS) — Those who consider themselves on a spiritual path can all get on board when Tristan Taormino invites us to enter “a sacred space where we feel safe enough to try new things, push our boundaries, flirt with edges and conquer fears …”

Even the most traditional of us might follow the popular speaker, columnist and author when she says she’s seeking a place that “has the potential to heal old wounds and generate spiritual renewal … a crucible for creativity, vulnerability, perseverance, control, catharsis and connection.”

Taormino could be discussing meditation, or prayer, chanting, even therapy. Instead, Taormino is writing about kink.

...While kink and poly are far from synonymous — there are “vanilla” triads and monogamous kinky couples — central to practitioners of both is the idea of “rewriting the script.” Heterosexual, patriarchal, monogamous culture — the narrative goes — has forced too many people into relationship styles that don’t reflect their authentic selves. Authors Dossie Eaton and Janet Hardy put it best in their 1998 handbook “The Ethical Slut,” the Ur-text of polyamory:[1] “We are paving new roads across new territory. We have no culturally approved scripts for open sexual lifestyles; we need to write our own.”

● And this just popped up from the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ — a breakaway Mormon sect (it claims 23,000 members) with relatively liberal social beliefs, based in Pennsylvania: Poly Problems (July 2, 2019). This piece defines polyamory as existing under a broad tent of "polygamy"[2] that is not restricted by gender or roles.

By Kristine, Elect Lady

...[Poly-g and poly-am] aren’t for everyone and not every person that identifies as “poly” is in a polygamous or polyamorous relationship. And that’s okay. There is a misguided idea floating around that choosing to make another person’s feelings and desires a priority in any way somehow makes that other person selfish. This is an extremely pessimistic and self-serving point of view.

One example is a couple, we’ll call Ken and Barbara. Ken and Barbara started off monogamous, and Barbara is still monogamous. Ken has discovered he is polyamorous. ... Let’s say this example couple brings this to the Lord and Ken feels the Lord saying “yes,” while Barbara is hearing “no.” What does this tell us? That God isn’t going to ask us to do anything that we’re not comfortable with. And now, together, Ken and Barbara must make a decision. ...

...The point is that self and selflessness are not exclusively dichotomous. Both can, do, and must coexist for any relationship to work. ...

...There seems to be a dangerous idea out there that one has to be fulfilled by partners, whether by one or ten or more. A relationship is created and exists by people RELATING, not filling some hole or need the other person has. If someone is not whole, they shouldn’t expect anyone or any number of “someones” to fulfill them.

It may be that this is why some in polygamous or polyamorous relationships can’t seem to understand why monogamous folk desire to be in a mutually exclusive relationship. Maybe they don’t grasp that the mono person isn’t at all on any level expecting their partner to fulfill all their needs (or any for that matter) and isn’t trying to fulfill their partner’s needs. I believe that no one should ever be expected to meet any needs of anyone. That’s not a relationship. It’s codependence and it’s toxic. ...

I've been saving up a boatload of surprisingly nuanced Christian-and-poly articles, and the pile is now so big that the boat is about to roll over. Expect a data dump soon.


1. Well, no. The origin texts of the modern polyamory movement would be Ryam Nearing's The Polyfidelity Primer (first edition 1984) and Deborah Anapol's Love Without Limits (first edition 1992). The Ethical Slut was, however, widely recommended as the go-to book for a number of years after its first edition appeared in 1997.

2. To hopefully de-confuse: The mainsteam Mormon church officially renounced its doctrine of polygamy — at least here on Earth — more than a century ago so that Utah could enter the Union. It is officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), but last year it announced that it's encouraging "Church of Jesus Christ" and "Restored Church of Jesus Christ" as alternative names, though these clearly infringe on the Church of Jesus Christ quoted here.


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