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



April 29, 2021

Third Massachusetts locale approves multi-domestic partnerships


Arlington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston adjoining Cambridge and Somerville, has just joined those two cities in offering legal recognition to domestic partnerships of three or more people.

Arlington had no domestic partnership provision at all. Last night (April 28, 2021) its Representative Town Meeting voted to enact one — and also voted to amend it by adding the language "two or more" people, thanks to heads-up work by local poly activists.

The amendment with the key wording, from the sponsor's powerpoint video presented last night at Arlington Town Meeting. The amendment also included removing Section 10 from the proposed bylaw because that section's language paralleled domestic-partnered families to married families. Some feared that this wording might give the state attorney general grounds for finding a conflict with the state's anti-bigamy laws.

The "two or more" amendment, offered by local polyfamily member Amos Meeks, passed Town Meeting by a lopsided vote of 192-37. The entire bylaw as amended then passed 221-11.  

Because this is a new town bylaw, it does not yet go into effect. The town has 30 days to submit it for approval to state Attorney General Maura Healy, who then has 90 days to vet it for any conflict with state law. No problem is expected. (Somerville and Cambridge did not have to go through this procedure because they are cities, not towns, and passed city ordinances, not bylaws.)

Here is the full bylaw as passed. Here is Meeks's full "two or more" amendment

Congrats, folks! Who's next?

Update: Three days later there has been practically no media attention to this event. That's also what happened after Cambridge passed its ordinance in March, and totally unlike what happened when Somerville set the precedent last June; that event made headlines nationwide and even overseas. I guess that's normalization.

The two exceptions I find are in the local Patch.com, which had this brief mention, and in the Arlington Advocate, which ran a longer story: Town Meeting approves domestic partnership for relationships with more than two people (April 30, by way of WickedLocal.com). Here's most of it. As always, the boldfacing is mine:


By Jesse Collings

In what could be a watershed moment for multi-person relationships, Arlington became the first town in Massachusetts [Somerville and Cambridge are cities] to approve domestic partnerships of more than two people when Town Meeting approved an amendment to a warrant article Wednesday, April 28. 

The motion states the town will recognize domestic partnerships containing two or more people, which is more inclusive of people in polyamorous relationships or other non-traditional family situations. The town recognition helps people in those relationships achieve the same kind of civil rights permitted to married couples, including visitation rights at health care facilities and access to children's school records. 

Somerville and Cambridge are the only communities in Massachusetts recognizing domestic partnerships between more than two people. However, those were proposed through city ordinances, which can only be removed if appealed by private residents. Because Arlington is a town, the motion approved at Town Meeting is subject to review and approval from the state  Attorney General's office, and without any town having approved this type of motion before, Arlington will be in unprecedented legal ground when the AG reviews it. 

Originally, the article proposed at Town Meeting was to solely recognize domestic partnerships of two people. Town Meeting member Amos Meeks proposed the amendment extending the definition of recognized domestic partnerships to people who are in polyamorous relationships. Meeks said he worked with Town Meeting member Guillermo Hamlin and the Rainbow Commission, who helped put together the original article, as well as the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, an organization promoting the rights of people in polyamorous relationships. 

Meeks, who said he lives together with his two life partners, said the formal recognition would help him and anyone else in a similar relationship achieve certain civic rights, such as getting onto the insurance plans of their partners. 

"I wanted to get dental insurance through one of my partners' employers, but they required proof of a domestic partnership. Registering a domestic partnership that would not exclude a member of my family only became an option when Somerville passed their domestic partnership ordinance this past year, and I'm excited to be able to register our domestic partnership with Arlington once the bylaw goes into effect," Meeks said. 

Meeks said that childcare can also be a legal challenge for people in polyamorous relationships, and further legitimacy of their domestic partnership can make that process easier.

"I can't speak directly to anyone else's experiences, but I think legal barriers around childcare and parenting are a challenge for many people. By providing some legal recognition of the family relationship for domestic partnerships with children and by providing rights that make co-parenting kids and interacting with schools easier I think that bylaws like this one are a big step towards helping families with children," Meeks said.

...Meeks said that future measures, such as introducing protections for people in polyamorous relationships in the workplace and in child custody situations, are important improvements to be made. However, the approval at Town Meeting and the potential approval from the AG is a big step forward. 

"We are a family by any reasonable sense of the word, but not in the eyes of the town or the state. I think a really important part of laws like this is just recognition and external validation," Meeks said. "(When the amendment was approved) I felt welcomed and accepted by my neighbors. I felt proud to be part of this community, and I felt extremely grateful for the support of my fellow Town Meeting Members, especially those who helped craft the article and those who spoke up in favor of it."



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●  In other legal news... The ten-year-old Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association has put out a Canada-wide call for polyam people and households to declare themselves as such for Canada's national Census Day, May 11. Personal census information (such as this) is kept private.


The CPAA Encourages Polyamorous Individuals to Participate in Canadian Census Day (May 11)


April 22, 2021 –  Statistics Canada conducts the census every five years. This study is essential for maintaining an equitable distribution of electoral boundaries, estimates the demand for services (and allocation of government funding), and provides information about the population and housing characteristics within geographic areas. This supports planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of government at all levels.

Why should Polyamorous Individuals Complete the Census?


We strongly encourage all polyamorous individuals residing in Canada to complete the census. We view this year’s census as an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of advocacy for the needs of polyamorous individuals and families in Canada. Data pertaining to multi-adult households, multi-parent families, and the prevalence of non-nuclear family structures is important for regional districts in terms of future planning for housing capacity, schools, and essential infrastructure.


The current census options do not allow for the inclusion of polyamory or data about multi-partner relationships, families, or other forms of open relationships. In order to advocate our need for inclusion, we need to demonstrate our numbers. Our hope is that in areas with a high concentration of polyamorous individuals and families (such as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal), the responses we suggest below will be statistically significant enough to warrant polyamory-inclusivity by Statistics Canada studies in the future.

As more data is gathered about the numbers of polyamorous individuals within Canada, we at the CPAA will be better resourced with data that demonstrates the importance of our legal advocacy work, including working towards legal and cultural changes that permit multiple parents to be listed on birth & adoption certificates, and that allow for polyamorous partners to be legally recognized as family, common-law, and next-of-kin, without contracts of marriage. 


The census asks for basic information about your age, your relationships with the people you live with, your sex assigned at birth, your gender, what languages you speak, and a few other pieces of biographical data. If you receive the long form census (1 in 5 households receive this) you will be asked for additional information regarding disabilities, employment, and education. All identifying information is kept private, and you do not need to use your legal name to answer (a nickname, for example, is fine).


In both the short and long forms of the census, one resident is asked to complete the census on behalf of all occupants. You will be asked to list the occupants of your home and then describe their relationship to you. We are recommending that all polyamorous individuals who cohabit with any partner (regardless of whether they are married, common law, etc.) choose "Other Relationship" and write in specifics from the following, as appropriate:
Polyamorous Partner
Polyamorous Spouse
Polyamorous Metamour
Polyamorous Co-parent
Polyamorous Family Member


For more detailed information, see the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association website: http://polyadvocacy.ca/polyamourous-2021-census-participation/



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Media in a flurry after Willow Smith powers through a half-hour polyamory discussion on Red Table Talk



Major media this morning are again taking notice of  Willow Smith, 20-year-old daughter of celebrity actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, after her superb advocacy for polyamory on Jada's Red Table Talk, a Facebook Watch show with 10.6 million followers. The episode, Is Polyamory for You?, runs 34 minutes with a number of guests (April 28; Season 4 Episode 4).

Watch the show below. The first minute gives a good sense of it.


Willow is on with her mom (left above) and her initially skeptical grandmother. Guests later joining in are Gabrielle Smith (center), a poly writer you've seen here several times and her married boyfriend Alex; Gabriella Alexa Noel, a poly newbie who has pulled herself together after a strict religious upbringing; CNM relationship coach Effy Blue; and Michelle, who says she is working "to normalize polyamory in the Asian community."

Willow closes the show with this:


I just feel so excited and seen because I've been studying polyamory for a really long time, and I just want to show there's so much here to be mined, and to be uncovered.


 


On this week's episode of "Red Table Talk," Willow Smith – daughter of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith – opened up about being polyamorous.

"It's about being able to have the freedom to create a relationship for yourself," she said on the show, to the confusion of her grandmother Adrienne Banfield-Norris.

"With polyamory, I think the main foundation is the freedom to be able to create a relationship style that works for you and not just stepping into monogamy because that's what everyone around you says is the right thing to do, " Willow Smith said. "I was like, how can I structure the way that I approach relationships with that in mind?" 

With the help of a diverse group of polyamorous guests, "Red Table Talk" broke down myths and stigma associated with non-monogamy. We talked to experts to further drill down what it's all about. ...


USA Today goes on to present a basic Poly 101, including the points that honesty and trust are paramount, that it's not all about sex, and a sidebar "Kitchen-table polyamory and more terms explained."




...The 20-year-old daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith chose Wednesday's episode of the Facebook Watch show "Red Table Talk," which she cohosts with her mom and maternal grandmother Adrienne "Gammy" Banfield Norris, to [highlight] that she is polyamorous, defined as being involved in more than one romantic relationship at the same time.

Pinkett Smith asked her daughter how she arrived at knowing that fact.... "So, I was like, how can I structure the way that I approach relationships with that in mind?," the younger Smith said. "Also, doing research into polyamory, the main reasons why monogamous relationships -- or why marriage, why divorces happen -- is infidelity."

Her mother -- who made headlines last year with the revelation of an "entanglement" -- understood.

"When you were like, 'Hey, this is my get down', I was like, 'I totally get it,'" Pinkett Smith said. "Wanting to set up your life in a way that you can have what it is that you want, I think anything goes as long as the intentions are clear. You know what I mean?"

Smith's grandmother said, "For somebody like me, it feels like it's really all just centered around sex," though she admitted to having considered it herself. ...

But, for Smith, it's apparently less about the sex and more about the freedom.

"In my friend group, I'm the only polyamorous person, and I have the least sex out of all of my friends," she said.





...This comes nearly two years after the "Transparent Soul" singer first expressed her interest in having multiple partners in a relationship. In June 2019, she discussed polyamorous relationships and her love for "men and women equally" in an episode of the Facebook Watch talk show.

...The 20-year-old said in her research into polyamory she found that one of the main reasons why monogamous relationships -- or marriage -- often fail and result in divorce is infidelity.

...As for how Pinkett Smith reacted to her daughter's revelation, she said "there's a lot of beauty that sits outside of the conventional boxes."

...Pinkett Smith -- who has been married to husband Will Smith since 1997 -- said she thinks most people are monogamous because they "feel like they have no other choice" and the idea that monogamy is the only choice is "deeply antiquated and no longer works."

...In the end, Pinkett Smith said she just wants her daughter to be with someone who loves her the way she deserves to be loved. ...


●  Yahoo Life: Willow Smith says she's polyamorous. Here's why the 20-year-old's admission is so important. It concludes with five solid paragraphs from poly theorist and educator Ruby Bouie Johnson.


Will and Jada themselves have had some sort of uneasy open relationship for many years, which has long been a source of gossip for the celebrity press.


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April 27, 2021

Trend spreads: "B.C. judge orders second mother declared a third parent to child of polyamorous trio." (And, a poly kids' book)


This just in from CBC News in Canada: Judge orders second mother declared a third parent to child of polyamorous trio (April 26).


'Gap' in provincial law prevented woman from being recognized as mother, court says

By Jason Proctor

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has ordered that all three members of a polyamorous "triad" should be registered as parents of the two-and-a-half-year-old boy they are raising together as a family.

In a decision released Monday, Justice Sandra Wilkinson said a "gap" in the provincial law dealing with parentage of children prevented a woman known as Olivia from being legally recognized as the mother of the child she considers her son.

Olivia has been in a romantic relationship with Bill and Eliza since 2016, two years before Eliza gave birth to Bill's baby, Clarke. The parties have been anonymized by an order of the court.

But because Clarke was conceived through sexual intercourse, B.C.'s Family Law Act left no room on his birth certificate for anyone but a birth mother and a "presumed" biological father.

"I find that there is a gap in the [Family Law Act] with regard to children conceived through sexual intercourse who have more than two parents," Wilkinson wrote.

"The evidence indicates that the legislature did not foresee the possibility a child might be conceived through sexual intercourse and have more than two parents. Put bluntly, the legislature did not contemplate polyamorous families."

Legal system grappling with modern family

The decision is one in a series of rulings in cases that have played out in courts across Canada in recent years as the legal system grapples with the changing makeup of the modern family.

They include a 2007 decision in which the Ontario Court of Appeal found in favour of a same-sex female couple who wanted both of their names listed as mothers alongside the name of the man who helped them start a family.

And more recently, another B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that a man who donated his sperm so members of a female same-sex couple could get pregnant could have his name listed on the birth certificates of the children born to each of the women.

In that case, the ruling centred around written and verbal agreements that made it possible for more than two people to be registered as parents under the section of the law dealing with assisted reproduction.

According to Wilkinson's ruling, Olivia knew Eliza and Bill were trying to have a child when she joined their relationship.

Once Eliza got pregnant, it was accepted that Olivia would be a "full parent."

"Olivia went as far as inducing lactation so she would also be able to feed Clarke when he was born," Wilkinson wrote.

---------------
---------------

"In fact, Olivia was the first parent to feed Clarke after he was born."

If Clarke has been conceived through assisted reproduction — such as a sperm donor or surrogate parent — Olivia, Bill and Eliza might have been able to draw up an agreement to all be declared parents under a different section of the Family Law Act.

But Wilkinson said that option wasn't open to a child born through sexual intercourse.

'A lifelong immutable declaration'

Olivia's lawyer, Catherine Wong, said she was "elated" by the decision.

"It's a sign we're seeing that the law is actually catching up to the reality of polyamorous families or multi-parent families in British Columbia," Wong said.

"In that sense, it's a very important case because it recognizes the diversity of families in B.C. and that the law was not working for all families until now."
Three young parents in St. John's won a court challenge in 2018 to each be identified on their child's birth certificate. The decision is part of the precedent in the B.C. case. (Paul Daly)

In 2018, in what was believed to be a Canadian first, a court in Newfoundland and Labrador allowed three members of a polyamorous relationship to be declared parents of a baby.

"Three young parents in St. John's won a court challenge in 2018 to each be identified on their child's birth certificate. The decision is part of the precedent in the B.C. case. (Paul Daly)"

But in that situation, the relationship involved two men and one woman, and — unlike the present one involving Clarke — it wasn't known which of the men was the biological father.

B.C.'s Attorney General objected to having Olivia declared as Clarke's third legal parent, arguing that it would "open the floodgates for parentage declarations in the future."

But Wilkinson said that wasn't likely to happen.

In fact, the judge noted, many people come to court trying to avoid parental responsibilities — not embrace them.

---------------
---------------

Lawyers for the Crown also claimed there was only a nominal difference between having Olivia declared a parent or a legal guardian.

But Wilkinson said a declaration of parentage "is a lifelong immutable declaration of status."

In a statement to CBC News, Olivia, Bill and Eliza said they hoped the decision would provide "a stepping stone for other non-traditional families in similar situations."

"Prior to this decision, Olivia had no legal rights as a parent and we had become accustomed to making sacrifices as a result of not fitting into the traditionally held definition of family," they said.

"We are excited to see the law begin to catch up with the way increasing numbers of people are building families."


Detailed legal analysis of the case on a Canadian professional law site, CanLII Connects. 


● Meanwhile, the Kickstarter for the kids' book A Color Named Love, about a polyfamily child, finished successfully. The book went to the printers and, authors M. Ellery & Clara Reschke said yesterday, "We received the final sample for approval and it was good to go, and we couldn't be happier with the results! All the books were printed and will arrive to us this Friday."


Kickstarter backers will get their hardcover books in a week or two. The Kindle version is already for sale. Brief video of flipping pages. For the first printing, they seem to have printed a lot:

 
"Ugly warehouse photo just to show you
what is coming to us this week!"

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April 23, 2021

Knockout polyam representation on the Areva Martin show. Decolonizing sex. And in the NY Times, a would-be cowgirl gets the blues.


●  Poly community builders Christopher Smith, Robyn Trask, Marina Reiko, Ruby Bouie Johnson and others did an impressive job for more than an hour on Areva Martin's influential online talkshow The Special Report ("In times of crisis, turn to people you trust").

The show has a strong following in America's Black community. Wednesday's episode is titled "Married, Dating and Polygamy," but it's heavily about polyamory. Areva introduces it with, "Is this a fad, or a movement that will permanently change the definition of families?"

Robyn and Marina (Robyn's grown daughter) start off chatting about their family lives and explaining poly basics in their friendly, disarming way. Christopher Smith then widens it through a decolonization lens to cultures worldwide through history. Ruby, the therapist who puts on the Poly Dallas Millennium conference, and therapist Zelaika Hepworth Clarke tell of their work with couples navigating non-monogamy in the current culture. Fredrik DeBoer argues for decriminalizing multiple-partner marriages.

Ruby:


Polyamory is, in my humble opinion, an act of resistance. We are decolonizing, and we are going back to our roots as a village. The collective. And the family isn't constrained by one man, one woman and we're going to have two kids; it's a lot more broad. There's a lot more opportunity for role models, for many influences. You have a stronger and a more robust history, a stronger, more robust legacy you're passing on.

When people come at me and say that this is the destruction of the family, I say actually it's the expansion of the family. Because we're no longer constrained, we're more expansive, more open, more creative in what our family structures look like.


There's growing energy in the BIPOC poly world behind that wider concept. Pay attention; you'll be hearing more.

You can watch the show here:



Sometimes it's a multigenerational thing. Mom and daughter.


















●  Regarding decolonization, Kim Tallbear has a long interview in Unsettle ("Indigenous affairs, cultural politics, & (de)colonization"): Kim Tallbear, The Polyamorist that Wants to Destroy Sex (Feb. 18). The headline is both overdone and underdone; what's meant is the Western paradigm of sex.


Interview by Montserrat Madariaga-Caro 

This is an English-language translation of a Spanish-language interview with me conducted by Montserrat Madariaga-Caro, and published in La Juguera Magazine, a cultural magazine based in Valparaíso, Chile. The interview was also produced as a podcast for Pterodáctilo. 

To destroy sexuality as it is known in the Western world is for Kim TallBear the same as revealing an aspect of colonialism that hits us in the most intimate: The imposition of monogamy and singular marriage as a way of domination over the land and its lives. This Dakota thinker affirms that her practice of polyamory does not focus on sex but on the multiple relationships that she maintains with different human and non-human people. ...

Kim TallBear is one of those octopus-people. With each tentacle she does something different. She is an academic, a theorist, a performer, and a tweeter. She wrote the book Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and False Promise of Genetic Science. She is the author of erotic non-fiction texts that she regularly reads at the Tipi Confessions show, which she co-produces. ...She has a blog called The Critical Polyamorist. Currently, she lives in Canada and teaches at the University of Alberta. TallBear is a tall, large, sexy woman who likes to wear big earrings and cowboy boots. She speaks without pause, except when she laughs. ...

Before we get into your work, can you talk a little bit about your upbringing, so the audience can know where you are from, and what is your relationship to indigeneity and colonization.









I grew up mostly in rural South Dakota, so I grew up between two Dakota reservations in the Northeast and the Southeast of the state, so right along the eastern Minnesota border. One of them is the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and that's where I grew up and I've many relatives there. But I am actually a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate on another reservation, which is up north on the same highway, and everybody is related between those two Dakota reservations, but our historic homelands are where Saint Paul and Minneapolis are today. In fact, downtown Saint Paul is where my fourth great grandfather’s village was, his name was Ta Oyate Duta.... He was a reluctant leader of the Dakota war of 1862 against settlers in Minnesota. ... ...Finally, in high school I thought: There’s not enough opportunities on the reservation, it’s too racist, there is nowhere to work. ... Then I went to the university, actually at Texas Christian University my fist two years of undergrad, just to get a thousand miles away from home. I knew nothing about Texas, I ended up loving it though ‘cause it's kind of like South Dakota but with more Spanish and better food, boots, and country music. It’s very much like home in many ways. Then I went to finish my undergrad to the East coast at the university of Massachusetts at Boston, where I did a Community Planning degree, and went to MIT for a Master in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy. Ended up working for tribal environmental organizations, for federal agencies on environmental science and technology projects, eventually did a PhD and wrote a book, Native American DNA. So, it's been a circuitous route throughout the work that I do.


Let’s talk about decolonizing sex. Last weekend a friend complained about people saying that they were polyamorous when really they were just sleeping with a lot of people. This friend said: "E-du-cate-your-sex!". You certainly have educated your sex. Can you share with us your take on being polyamorous.

Yeah, the common pushback by people in polyamorous communities is that this isn't just all about the sex. And stop using our words for your nefarious activities! [laughs]. Polyamorous people are largely very particular about what that term means, it means multiple loves. And it doesn't always means sex. I know polyamorous asexual people. ...So, I think that my experience with polyamory is that it's multiple loves... We actually seek the deep emotional engagement. Many of us are seeking longer term relationships, but in this kind of plural way. 

You talk about settler colonial sexuality, Could you explain what this is?

I use polyamory as a stepping stone to critique the imposition of compulsory monogamy and State-sanctioned one-on-one lifelong marriage by the settler colonial State. In Indigenous Studies and Indigenous communities we are always complaining about blood quantum and tribal citizenship rules, the colonial imposition of blood and racial ideology, and those kinds of exclusions, but going hand in hand with that was the imposition of monogamy and marriage, solo-marriage — not plural marriage like my ancestors had — we were non-monogamist. The colonists divided up the collective Indigenous land-base into 160-acre allotments that they gave to the head of household, which was always a man, and he could get 80 acres for his wife and 40 acres for each child. So here you have this imposition of heteronormative settler sexuality and family structure onto the land.

All of this stuff came together, so I don't understand how we can go after blood quantum and private property without going after monogamy and marriage. And so, many of us in Indigenous communities are so bought in, which leads to the next thing: that our sexuality has been made deviant. ...

Non-critical polyamorists don’t understand monogamy and nonmonogamy within a structural analysis of racism and settler colonialism.

This is one of the things that non-critical polyamorists do, they just have some vague notion where they blame the church. Those polyamorists don’t understand monogamy and nonmonogamy within a structural analysis of racism and settler colonialism. It isn’t just the church, it's the state, science and the church all working together in a settler structure to impose these violent gender binaries and compulsory monogamy and marriage practices onto us. And so, my own polyamory is a way of living the life I want to live, but also critically examining on a daily basis—I guess I do auto-ethnography on myself—what people are pushing against when they are doing polyamory. I think a lot of polyamorists deep down have some of the same resistance that I have but they don't have the theoretical language....

One of the theorists that I think with is my good friend David Delgado Shorter, who teaches at UCLA, and David has one article that is just called "Sexuality" and another one called "Spirituality". He looks at both sexuality and spirituality as objects that Western thinkers have cohered into these little manageable objects and concepts. And what he says is: We are not dealing with sex or spirituality at all, what we are dealing with are sets of relations, and by making sex and spirituality things or objects, or doing a lot of categorization, one actually inhibits intimacy and inhibits good relating. So, I work with that set of theories. ...




●  On the subject of representation, Raven Leilani's 2020 debut novel Luster made at least three dozen Best Books of the Year lists and continues to sell. From the Stanford Daily (Feb. 24): 


By Carly Taylor

Every so often, we’re lucky enough to encounter a writer who clearly was born to write sentences — and for me lately, that writer is Raven Leilani. In her candid, devastatingly beautiful debut novel “Luster,” Leilani tells the story of Edie, a young Black aspiring painter barely scraping by in an entry-level publishing job, who becomes involved in the (sort of) open marriage of a middle-aged wealthy white couple, Eric and Rebecca. The sheer drama of this situation is compelling enough, and Leilani uses it brilliantly to explore the complexities of class, race and their intersection. Unforeseeable circumstances push Edie into a strange existence as she toggles between near-destitution in the inner city and Eric and Rebecca’s pristine suburban home.


Says Michelle Hart in The Oprah Magazine, “An irreverent intergenerational tale of race and class that’s blisteringly smart and fan-yourself sexy.”


●  Elsewhere, from Finland comes the "Modern Love" column in today's New York Times: My Boyfriend Has Two Girlfriends. Should I Be His Third? (April 23). My title might be, "Cowgirl Gets the Blues."


Brian Rea
By Silva Kuusniemi

I had been wandering the liquor store for some minutes when the clerk approached and asked if I needed help. I considered presenting my situation.

“Hello,” I would say. “I’m wine shopping for dinner with my boyfriend and his two partners, whom I’ll be meeting for the first time. You wouldn’t happen to stock a white wine that says, ‘I’m sorry, please like me?’ ”

...Dating someone who was already in established romantic relationships did have its perks. Having already navigated the tricky terrain of polyamory for years, Juhana was an excellent communicator and emotionally literate — a stark contrast to monoamorous men I had dated before. Also, I didn’t want to surrender time from my projects or friends, so it was a relief to have the relationship constrained to specific days of the week: Mondays and Thursdays, when Juhana’s live-in partner had regular plans.

On these days I would sometimes visit the apartment they shared, an airy flat in a woodsy suburb of Helsinki, where the windows overlooked a sea of trees. There, Juhana would cook for me. He was the type who shopped for flavored salts at specialty stores and sharpened his own knives, which he would use to mince and crush garlic into paste. ...

Though his partners weren’t there, they weren’t entirely absent, either. We ate our tofu burgers at a table between his live-in partner’s self-portraits and his second partner’s plants, which, arranged in a messy line, extended their branches at me, wilting.

Between bites, Juhana told me his partners had made fun of him for talking so much about me. “They asked if I’m planning to bring you over for dinner soon. To show you off.”

I flew past the question with a light laugh. ...

-------------------------------

...My visions of our relationship began to metamorphose from restaurant outings and casual trips to us building a home.

These visions invariably did not feature his partners, who were becoming increasingly difficult for me to ignore. They popped up in conversation. Pictures of them dominated Juhana’s phone. Sometimes one of them would call while he was with me and, after some conversation, he would lower his phone and say, “She says hello.”

I stared back at his expectant face, mute. What could I say? “Hi, I don’t know you, but I am in bed with your boyfriend. I fantasize about him leaving you. I am jealous. I wish you didn’t exist.”

Saying anything else felt disingenuous, so I said nothing. Gradually, since their well-meaning messages went unanswered, they stopped. ...

-------------------------------

...After a particularly turbulent week, as we lay emotionally spent on my futon, I asked Juhana what his partners thought about me. He hesitated.

“Well, mainly they are just happy we found one another,” he said. “But they are a little more wary now. They are afraid that maybe you are manipulative.”

I reprised all the ideas I had of myself — adventurous, open-minded, creative. It stung to have Machiavellian added to that list.

“I think I would like to meet your partners,” I said. “Maybe we could have that dinner sometime? I’ll bring the wine.”

“They prefer white,” Juhana said. ...




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April 14, 2021

Polyamory news roundup:
Compersion in the media, pre-judging
FMF throuples, "Good Trouble"
developments, and more



As polyamory becomes more widely known and understood year by year, you might think the need for basic Poly 101 explanations would wane. Not so. As more people get wind of a topic, they create a demand for more explanations of it. Both mainstream and new media are acting very aware of this.

Last month I posted my choice of the three best Poly 101's on the web to send people to. That post took off faster than anything I've put up in a while.

Now here's a specific Compersion 101 just up on YourTango, a big online relationship magazine aimed at young women: What Is Compersion? A Look At The One Thing That Not Only Makes Polyamorous Relationships Work, But Thrive (April 12).

No, it's not "the one thing" that does that. But it is a major thing. A compersive personality is the biggest difference, IMO, between people who struggle with poly and those for whom it comes easily and naturally.


Vershinin89 / Shutterstock
By Koko Taylor

Amidst a crowded dance floor, a slender blonde woman leaned over to whisper in my ear.

"You're a very attractive couple," she purred. I smiled at her — an ego boost is always nice.... The man with her gave me a high-five and kept flashing smiles my way. It could not have been any more clear....

...When we left the bar, my boyfriend asked if I'd noticed the couple.

"I think they were trying to hit on me," he said.

"No, they were hitting on me," I replied.

Then it dawned on us — they were hitting on us as a couple. That's funny, we both thought. And then he looked at me and said, "I don't want to share you with anyone."

"Neither do I," I replied. Exclusivity with one partner is where I'm comfortable in a romantic relationship.

The model for romance in our culture is so dominated by the monogamous male-female relationship that most people subscribe to it without stopping to consider the alternatives.

But not everyone is uncomfortable with sharing his or her partner.

What is compersion?

People in open relationships often feel happy or pleasure when their partner has romantic adventures with other people. This feeling is sometimes called compersion.

Compersion is a feeling of joy from others’ pleasure, specifically celebrating your partner(s)’ other relationships in a polyamorous structure. In this sense, compersion is often defined as the opposite of jealousy. The Kerista Commune, a now-defunct San Francisco-based polyamorous community, is credited with coining the term about 40 years ago.

Compersion doesn't just apply to sexual relationships, however.

According to Urban Dictionary, compersion "differs from candaulism in that compersion does not specifically refer to joy regarding the sexual activity of one's partner, but refers instead to joy at the relationship with another romantic and/or sexual partner.

...Since compersion is feeling happiness from your partner enjoying other people, the opposite would be, well... jealousy. The opposite of compersion means becoming upset, jealous or sad that your significant other is with another person, romantically or sexually.

...When Shara Smith started dating Brian Downes, he was already in a relationship with someone else, and he wanted to be careful about respecting Stephanie, his first partner.

"He wanted to take all the right steps, and that made me more attracted to him," said Shara, who described compersion as a "positive emotional reaction to a lover's other relationship... I love to watch his face light up when she calls because I know how much he cares about her."

Shara doesn't view other partners as competition. "Every relationship is unique and nobody can replace me, because they are not me."

"It's like a parent watching their children spread their wings and fly," added Anita Wagner, describing the joy she feels when someone makes her partner happy.

-------------------------------------------

...It [can] take work to feel compersive for your partner. According to psychotherapist Paula Kirsch, to cultivate compersion, "Give yourself a break and recognize fear as neither good nor bad; it is normal. Love is not scarce: adopt an abundance mindset."


The piece goes on to describe some "components necessary to experience compersion in a non-monogamous relationship":


1. Empathy...
2. Intellect...
3. Support...

As Kirsch suggests, "Focus on your personal growth. Learn something new, expand your circle of friends. Process feelings with your partner." 


With the article they posted a companion video, a 2019 Tedx Talk by Joli Hamilton:


Turns out the article is reprinted from 2008; YourTango is clearly casting around for good poly material to publish. Writers take note. From its "Write For Us" page: "Send pitches to our Editor-at-Large Andrea Zimmerman and include the word 'Pitch' in your subject line." The page don't indicate what they pay, but discuss payment after an editor shows interest in your pitch.


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OTHER RECENT ITEMS


●  Speaking of compersion, this powerful story is just up on Medium: What Becoming a Throuple Taught Us About Our Capacity to Love (April 13). 


...The three of us would go on to talk the rest of that night. While Erin didn’t come home with us that evening, she would spend her first night with us less than a week later.

The sex was so much more than that of a traditional FMF threesome. It was love making to the third power, awakening my bisexual side in more wonderful ways than I thought possible. ...

...Our time with Erin taught us more than we could’ve imagined about life and love.



●  And for those who will pre-judge any FMF triad (like that one) without knowing their actual dynamics, feminist writer Abby Moss on HuffPost UK tells you to get over your pre-judice:



We’re not two women being strung along by a man. We’re not a couple using another woman like a human sex toy. We are simply three people in a relationship.

By Abby Moss

...There’s one question that’s more problematic. “How can you be a feminist in that relationship?”

...They imagine him swaggering down the road with a woman under each arm. They imagine a non-stop orgy (one that’s flatteringly lit and airbrushed like mainstream porn). They assume the dynamic was his idea. They assume Andrea and I aren’t really into each other, that we’re both just doing it for his male approval – or that Andrea is trying to ‘steal’ him from me.

...Take the common misconception that Andrea wants to ‘steal’ Paul away from me. This assumes that a relationship (and most especially a monogamous two-person relationship) is the ultimate social success. ...
 
But not all women want [that].

Or take the assumption that Paul is somehow getting more out of our dynamic. This inherently positions Paul’s male experience as somehow more valid, and worth more, than a woman’s experience. It also plays into the scientifically disproven idea that men want sex more than women, as well as the disturbingly too common belief that bisexuality is not real.

These assumptions harm all of us because they reaffirm misogynistic biases that put male experiences, and male preferences, first. It also suggests, quite offensively, that women like me and Andrea are essentially doormats incapable of making active choices about our relationships and our lives.

...The most worrying part is that my friend is someone who already gets this stuff.... And that’s how powerful these prejudices are. They get into our heads even when we think we’ve overcome them.


For a dissection of common disfunctions that do occur in FMF groups, see this piece also by Abby Moss on the same site: Why Being The 'Unicorn' In A Threesome Isn't Always A Magical Experience (last updated March 2).


●  There's buzz in the polyam world about where last week's episode of Good Trouble is leading. Good Trouble is a hit progressive series about two young black women making a new life in L.A. (It's on Freeform, in its third season.) Poly Philia writes,


The latest episode of ‘Good Trouble’ has a very positive portrayal of polyamory! [S3 E8, aired April 7]. The main character Malika has a boyfriend named Isaac but then she meets a polyamorous man named Dyonte who has a girlfriend (who has another boyfriend). Malika admits her attraction to Dyonte to Isaac while in a therapy session together. The therapist says the following:

“Commitment shouldn’t mean suppressing your feelings or identity for fear you’re gonna lose the person you love. And, as scary as it is, not being your authentic self, not asking for what you truly need...that’s what ultimately blows up relationships.”

Powerful!


According to recapper Maggie Fremont on Vulture, the therapist


also talks to Malika about how “monogamy is a social construct” and some people believe being polyamorous is a sexual identity — some people are just “hardwired” that way and to deny that part of you is to deny your authentic self.


This is part of an ongoing storyline that continues to develop:


Malika chats it over with her friends. They’re basically like, okay, if you want to be polyamorous and that’s what you need to be happy, that’s one thing. Does Malika  think Isaac would be into it? Her friends put it bluntly: “Is it worth the risk of losing him” to find out if he’s into it....

And then we see a tearful Malika back in therapy. She says that she needs to tell Isaac that she lied when she told him she wasn’t interested in Dyonte, because she does “want to pursue a relationship with Dyonte.” But she also wants to continue dating Isaac. She wants them both. And then we see that Isaac is there sitting next to her at therapy and he looks at her in shock and perhaps a little bit of heartbreak?

It’s doubtful Good Trouble would go this deep into poly relationships and not dive all the way in, so something tells me Isaac might be willing to give it a go for Malika. ...


But, says Fremont, the next episode (E9, out April 14) left this story thread alone.


●  A review of Polysecure appeared in Greater Good magazine, written by its editor Jeremy Adam Smith: What Polyamory Can Teach Us About Secure Attachment (March 26). "A new book provides lessons for everyone about cultivating strong emotional attachments with romantic partners."

Greater Good comes from Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, which "studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society." 


●  North Carolina Public Radio broadcast a 45-minute show with Black & Poly's website editor Crystal Byrd Farmer and others: Polyamory And Love Beyond The Relationship Binary (online April 2; aired Feb. 12).


Polyamorous relationships look as different
as the people who get into them. (Canva)

Polyamorous relationships look as different as the people they involve. But they all take some learning and “unlearning” of our standard relationship structures.

Crystal Byrd Farmer
Host Anita Rao talks with Rob, a co-organizer of Triangle Polyamory Meetup, and Crystal Byrd Farmer, the website editor for Black & Poly magazine, about how they approach communication and community-building in polyamorous relationships. 

And Natalie Murray, a licensed clinical mental health counselor, joins the conversation to talk about how she counsels people exploring polyamory.



●  Polysaturation statistics. How many partners is too many? Eli Sheff, in her Psychology Today blog, goes looked for data on where various polyfolks feel they max out: Polysaturation: When Polyamorous People Have Enough Partners (Feb. 25). Turns out there's not much data, and it depends on what definition of "relationship" people think they're using, but consider this:


Referring to her 30 years of providing counseling for clients in diverse relationships [in the Berkeley, CA, area], Kathy Labriola explained that her clinical experience indicates:

The vast majority of people in open relationships do not have more than two long-term partners concurrently. I have seen a very small number of people who seem to be able to have three long-term committed relationships. However, I could count them on one hand, and they are either retired or being supported financially by a partner, so they have lots of time and energy for relationships since they are not working. I have seen many people TRY to have three serious relationships concurrently, and almost invariably one or more will collapse rather quickly (within six months to a year) because they just do not have the time, energy, or emotional availability to keep all three people marginally satisfied.

My own research indicates that Labriola’s observations hold true for many polyamorous people who sustain two long-term relationships and either do not have the time and energy for more relationships, or have only occasional flings with others. A few, however, seem to be polyvoracious (another word I just made up) in that they never reach saturation and are always interested in a new partner, regardless of how many partners they already have. Some of these folks are relationship nomads who travel to see or meet new partners and may or may not have a home-base themselves.


Well, I know some longterm more-than-threes right in my area. With all respect to Labriola, who does have a lot of knowledge of the wider community, most of the relationships thata counselor sees are going to be ones in trouble.  



●  And on the subject of statistics, what is the infidelity rate among supposedly monogamous couples? Despite many surveys over the years no one knows, points out Michael Castleman in his Psychology Today blog: What Proportion of the Coupled Population Cheats? (Feb. 15)


...Infidelity is difficult to research. Few willingly admit it. I recall a survey showing that only a tiny percentage of married folks had ever strayed. The researchers interviewed subjects in the presence of their spouses. Duh! 

...Since Kinsey’s studies in the late 1940s, credible estimates of heterosexual Americans’ lifetime infidelity have been all over the map — for men, 12 to 72 percent, for women, 7 to 54 percent.


If you're writing or speaking on the subject, as quite a few of you are, those numbers are the only honest picture you can currently give.


●  And this afternoon, Women's Health attempts to choose The 9 Best Polyamorous Dating Apps You Can Download Right Now (April 14).

I'm glad to see that one of them is #Open, what with its founders' dedication to the community and their battle to see through the Great Wall of Google, which banned their Android app from the Google Play store for nine days when an algorithm reacted to words like "threesomes" in its description, while competing apps use the terms just fine.

Okay, enough for one post! More to come.

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March 27, 2021

Major BBC article: "The rise of multi-partner relationships"


The BBC, Britain's broadcaster to the world, has put up another significant article for the growing recognition of polyamory worldwide: Ethical non-monogamy: the rise of multi-partner relationships (March 25). 

It steps off with Ian Jenkins, author of the just-published Three Dads and a Baby (see earlier post). From there it presents various other interesting and informative people — including Dossie Easton, now 77, who tells of the event that inspired her to write her seminal The Ethical Slut with Janet Hardy (first edition 1997).

It's long at 3,500 words. Save it to send to relatives who think you're a lone nut. Some bits:  


By Jessica Klein

Multi-partner relationships are on the rise, and finding their way into the mainstream. Could this new exposure change the way we look at sex and families?

(The BBC led with the new faces of gay poly domesticity: Three Dads and a Baby author Ian Jenkins (left), partners Alan and Jeremy, baby Piper, and the family woofers. Photo: Sweet Me Photography.)


...Though it’s still rare for people in polyamorous relationships to share legal parentage of their children, various forms of ‘ethical non-monogamy’ – relationships involving more than two adults who consent to the arrangement – have becoming increasingly widespread over the past decade. Multiple factors contribute to this, from the rise of multi-partner dating apps and mainstream media representation [Thank you, dear brave spokespeople] to social media and more easily accessible networks for those interested in the lifestyle. “I think a huge factor is just people's willingness to be open,” says Jenkins. “There has to be visibility.”

These cultural shifts, however, date back to free love proponents in the 1960s, who worked hard to expand our sexual boundaries from groups working all across the globe. And changes continue to happen because of people like Jenkins and his partners, whose stories help shed long-held taboos about having multiple partners.

‘This is not a new thing’: the history of non-monogamy

In 2016, a survey of nearly 9,000 single US adults showed that one in five had previously been in a consensually non-monogamous relationship. A Canadian survey came up with roughly the same numbers a year later.

...“Something else we've seen in the last decade is that Google searches for the terms ‘polyamory’ and ‘open relationships’ have increased, which demonstrates that there's more interest in this topic,” says Justin Lehmiller, social psychologist and research fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Indiana.

But people have been engaging in these types of relationships “for a really long time”, adds Lehmiller. “This is not a new thing.”

----------------------------------

...[Dossie] Easton had been talking about ethical non-monogamy for years when she and Hardy taught a BDSM workshop at a Mensa conference in 1994 in Big Sur, outside San Francisco. While the audience wasn’t scandalised by the BDSM, they were shocked that Easton and Hardy, who were lovers at the time, did the workshop right in front of Easton’s male partner. That prompted the pair to write the book, which covers how to carry on healthy non-monogamous relationships.

The Ethical Slut [now its third, expanded and updated edition] is still somewhat required reading for people interested in the lifestyle. “Every year it sells more,” says Easton.

----------------------------------

...The current near-mainstreaming of ethical non-monogamy, [Lehmiller] says, has happened because of both academic research that’s filtered into the public, through media and education centres, and more diverse depictions of these relationships on TV. These newer depictions go beyond HBO’s Big Love or TLC’s Sister Wives, which both follow Mormon families featuring one husband and multiple wives, to show a variety of poly relationships. Both Lucy Gillespie’s Unicornland, in which a newly single woman goes on dates with several different couples; and You Me Her, where both members of a couple fall for another woman together, are strong examples.

“The internet and more inclusive dating apps have also played a role in changing these attitudes,” says Lehmiller. ... [With new apps like Feeld and 3Fun] “there are more options for meeting and connecting,” says Lehmiller, “so it's not as much of an underground scene as it was in the past”.

Feeld is how Janie Frank, 25, met her two partners, Maggie Odell, 27, and Cody Coppola, 31, in 2016. ... Looking back, Frank [says that Feeld] introduced her to “this whole lifestyle that I didn’t know existed. Talking to people on the app… I began to realise there is a whole community for people who are ethically non-monogamous.” 

Today, Frank and Odell both have TikTok accounts, between which they have a few hundred-thousand followers. “We've been using them to try to talk about polyamory and bring awareness to it, and just normalise it and educate people on… what it can look like,” says Frank.

Some ethically non-monogamous people reach out to thank them for the representation. Others less familiar with the lifestyle comment to say they’re glad they learned about polyamory from Frank and Odell’s videos. “I had never heard about this before,” some say.  [Still!]

----------------------------------

Is the law catching up?

The rise in ethically non-monogamous relationships is leading to legal recognition beyond Jenkins and his partners gaining parental rights to their children. In July 2020, the Somerville, Massachusetts city council voted unanimously to recognise polyamorous domestic partnerships. The city of Cambridge, which borders Somerville, recently followed suit.

This isn’t just happening in the US. In 2018, two men and a woman in a polyamorous relationship were all recognised as the legal parents of their child in Newfoundland, Canada. The year prior, three men in a relationship in Medellin, Colombia, were legally married.

These geographically disparate moves towards normalising ethical non-monogamy may help spark a more global movement. [Claudia] Zinser, in Berlin, believes the push to online meetings and communities, spurred by Covid-19, will enhance “global networks” for those who practice ethical non-monogamy. The spread of information about non-monogamy, meanwhile, “is going to give people more options for designing the type of relationship that’s right for them”, says Lehmiller. ...


Go read the whole article. It's in the BBC's "WorkLife" section, "your global guide to getting ahead; a destination for everything that you need to be more successful." 

    –  By the way, I've bought and am reading Three Dads and a Baby. In addition to being an important step for polyamory awareness and acceptance, it's also a good fun book by a kind and decent man; you'll enjoy it.

    –  "There has to be visibility," Jenkins says above. For the story of, IMO, the key person who brought the early modern poly movement out of its anti-media shell to tell its story to the world, see footnote 2 here.  

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