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



September 26, 2022

NYC judge says polyfamilies are families. New polyactivist organization. A kid's polyparenting question goes viral, and more.


●  Polyfamily legal rights continue to develop on various scattered fronts, often when real-world situations land in court. The latest: "A New York trial court judge concludes that polyamorous relationships are entitled to the sort of legal protection given to two-person relationships."

The situation: New York City, long afflicted by unaffordable housing, has "rent stabilization" laws that cover many buildings. Rent stabilization protects not just the leaseholder from large rent hikes but also their family if the leaseholder dies. In this case the leaseholder who died was a member of a married gay couple living apart. A man who had long been living in the unit with him claimed to be part of the family and that he should be covered by the dead man's rent stabilization.

But the legal spouse, hostile to the claimant, swore in an affidavit that he and the deceased were "life partners" and for their 25 years "we held ourselves out as a couple, an exclusive couple." In other words, no polyfamily?

So the case is messy. New York Civil Court Judge Karen May Bacdayan granted and denied various motions in a ruling September 23rd and ordered another court session for October 4th.

But in that ruling, she explained at length that the case could not be turned down simply because the claimed family had three adults rather than two, nor because two of them disliked each other. And, perhaps also looking to future cases, she set out detailed arguments for recognition of polyfamily rights in general.

I'm no lawyer, so I'll flip you to this article by Eugene Volokh (at the Volokh Conspiracy, a blogsite of 29 lawyers hosted by the libertarian magazine Reason; Sept. 24).


...The decision is yesterday's West 49th St., LLC v. O'Neill, decided by New York Civil Court Judge Karen May Bacdayan. After Anderson [the leaseholder] died, O'Neill [his live-in partner] would have had the right to renew the lease if he were "a non-traditional family member," but Anderson was married to Robert Romano. The apartment-building company therefore argued that O'Neill was just a roommate, but the court concluded that there needed to be a hearing about whether Anderson, Romano, and O'Neill were actually in a polyamorous relationship.

[Quoting the judge:] 

Before gay marriage was legalized in any state, Braschi v Stahl Assocs. Co. (N.Y. 1989) was decided. The New York State Court of Appeals became the first American appellate court to recognize that a non-traditional, two-person, same-sex, committed, family-like relationship is entitled to legal recognition, and that the nontraditional family member is entitled to receive noneviction protections. ... 

...Braschi is widely regarded as a catalyst for the legal challenges and changes that ensued. ... However, Braschi and its progeny and Obergefell limit their holdings to two-person relationships. The [current] case presents the distinct and complex issue of significant multi-person relationships.


New York State legislation after Braschi spelled out various criteria that would make a nontraditional household a legal family, but it assumed two adults. Further quoting the judge, 


Do all nontraditional relationships have to comprise or include only two primary persons? ...What was "normal" or "nontraditional" in 1989 is not a barometer for what is normal or nontraditional now. Indeed, the definition of "family" has morphed considerably since 1989. Specifically, many articles have been written about multi-person relationships in recent years, revealing a preference that for some has long been known. ...


In support of that the judge describes some of these articles, and she reviews recent cases and local legislation that expand the definition of "nontraditional family" to include polyfamilies and other bonded households of more than two adults. She points to media coverage of polyamory as a rising thing with legal needs, the easing of Utah's anti-polygamy laws, and the Harvard Law School magazine's glowing coverage of the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition (PLAC). (And there was that big Harvard Law Review analysis that came out last March, Three’s Company, Too: The Emergence of Polyamorous Partnership Ordinances.) The judge again:


This begs the question: Should a person who would not meet the requirements for succession to a rent stabilized apartment after Braschi was decided in 1989, now, 33 years later, be evicted when they may qualify, as was the concluded in Braschi, under a more inclusive interpretation of a family?

...The existence of a triad should not automatically dismiss [O'Neill]'s claim to noneviction protections. If [O'Neill] could potentially qualify in his own right, it should not be a dispositive factor that another person who does not live in the subject could also qualify if only they lived in the apartment….

The court recognizes the difficulty and potential implications of not interpreting the Braschi court's interpretation of the word "family" as drawing a bright line which must end at what is now considered a traditional dyadic relationship. (The internet is rife with articles bemoaning the estate planning and child custody complications that arise from these new relational constructs.) ...


Volokh concludes,


I should note that in "Same-Sex Marriage and Slippery Slopes" (2005), I argued that slippage from recognizing same-sex relationships to recognizing polyamorous relationships was unlikely, and I still tentatively think so; and this particular decision is, after all, the decision of just one judge at a relatively low-level court, who is expressly criticizing in part the decisions of the New York high court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Still, I thought the opinion was worth noting.


Here's the judge's whole ruling on September 23rd including her discussion.

Correction: My original version of this post implied that the case has been decided. In fact, it continues October 4.

Update September 28: Now there's an article in New York's Gay City News: NYC housing court judge expands rental family protection beyond couples (Sept. 27).


By Arthur S. Leonard

A New York City Housing Court judge ruled on September 23 that it was possible for two different men to be members of a deceased gay tenant’s family at the same time. Rejecting a landlord’s motion to evict the man who had been living in the apartment with the decedent, Judge Karen May Bacdayan decided that Markyus O’Neill should have the opportunity to prove that he was a family member of Scott Anderson, despite the landlord’s evidence that Robert Romano swore that he was Anderson’s life partner, even though they lived in separate apartments. ...



●  Almost that same day, the UK's mainstream Independent published Most of the world doesn’t practise monogamy – so when will UK law recognise polyamory instead? (Sept. 22).

Get past the clickbait headline, and it's a powerful piece that deserved a better headline writer. It also highlights a new polyactivist organization.


More and more Brits are exploring polyamory and ethical non-monogamy, but it remains unrepresented in the mainstream and unrecognised in law. Matthew Neale meets those fighting to change that.

‘If women can legitimately have multiple-partnership relationships
as well, the patriarchy wants nothing to do with that
under any circumstances.’ (iStock)






















By Matthew Neale

I get asked a lot of questions about being polyamorous. ... But to answer the most popular enquiry: yes, I do sometimes get a little jealous.

Not of my partners, I should clarify. Or indeed any of their partners, all of whom are out here living their best lives.... What I envy instead are the legal protections and social recognition that is yet to be afforded to set-ups like mine. Or many other domestic scenarios that don’t resemble a 1950s family photograph. Those felt barely realistic back then, and feel even more cruelly anachronistic today.

Nonetheless, to see polyamory or ethical non-monogamy (ENM) as new, shiny relationship models is, for the most part, to view global history back to front. ...

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

Giulia Smith, founder of the newly formed UK Polyamory Association (UKPA), believes that polyamorous and ENM communities are sorely lacking in representation, and wants to provide support and advocacy for those people who face discrimination or stigma for their way of life.

‘The real challenge is to build a world where polyamory
is accepted by everyone.’ (iStock)




















“Basically, polyamory isn’t recognised by the law in the UK,” Smith tells me from their living room in Bristol. “A common issue is harassment: polyamorous people can often experience verbal abuse, be accused of immoral or unethical behaviour, or be excluded by their family or workplace.” That can have a ripple effect across all areas of life, including social isolation. It means people can be discouraged from being open about their relationships, which in turn limits polyamorous visibility in society. “The fear of coming out is huge,” Smith adds.

How do we change that stigma? As well as advocating for people currently facing discrimination, Smith also hopes to provide – as part of the UKPA – training and education within key institutions to create a better, more inclusive future. That could include health clinics, domestic abuse shelters and – most crucially – schools, where sex education doesn’t currently acknowledge polyamory. It’s a project that necessitates fighting battles on multiple fronts, though there are urgent priorities.

“We think there are two key policies that need amending,” they say. “The first is family law. Marriage, I think, is a very long way away, in terms of being able to have more than one spouse. The first step is more likely to be civil partnership. But before that, [we need] inclusion in the Equality Act. That would then automatically raise the perception of employment law, property law, healthcare legislation, harassment. It wouldn’t necessarily mean the legislation in those areas would change straight away, but it would be the first step.”

Dr Elisabeth Sheff, an author and expert in polyamory in the US, agrees. “Those two [policies] are the most important,” she tells me over the phone from upstate New York. “Family law would not only cover custody of children, but also sharing of benefits and things like that. In the UK, that’s not as big of a deal, but in the US, where we have enormous gaps in our healthcare insurance, being able to cover multiple spouses under insurance makes an enormous difference to some people.”

...It seems all the stranger when you consider that strict monogamy accounts for only about 17 per cent of human cultures. Of course, that’s not to say that the remaining 83 per cent come under the banner of ethical non-monogamy; far from it. Laws do exist in the world regarding multiple partners – polygamy was decriminalised in Utah in 2020, primarily with regard to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons – but the common denominator is patriarchal households where men take multiple wives. These kinds of communities have historically been rife with various forms of abuse.

What makes conservative lawmakers uncomfortable, it seems, is when agency – particularly, but not exclusively, sexual agency – is no longer the exclusive preserve of men. Or as Sheff puts it: “If women can legitimately have multiple-partnership relationships as well, the patriarchy wants nothing to do with that under any circumstances.”...

...While lifestyles involving multiple partners may be nothing new, however, there is a growing sense that some of these changes may reflect an adaptation to pressures faced by younger generations today. Or, to quote a viral tweet from last year, “ ‘Why is everyone poly these days?’  Motherf***er, it takes seven people to be able to buy a house”.

...But people aren’t just choosing to be polyamorous out of dire necessity. It’s also worth remembering that, despite misconceptions to the contrary, the term “partner” in ENM circles doesn’t merely equate to sexual partners. ... For most, I would suggest, it’s more about building something bigger – forging a chosen family (or “logical family”) based on the people you want to share your life with, however much or little of it that may be, and not just the people who arrive in your life by circumstance or birth. In short, it’s about community. ...

It’s the kind of community that people used to more commonly find in church, or with their neighbours, or the one person they chose to provide all the sex, intimacy and companionship they would need for the rest of their lives. Some of those institutions still hold strong, though many are being questioned or left behind. “But we’re left with that hunger,” Sheff tells me. “For connection, [or] a larger sense of wanting to know who’s close to us. To have a bigger network than just the people we’re having sex with is a deeply human desire, and that is largely unmet in many societies, even by religion.” ...



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

Leaving law behind, 

●  More Poly and Christian. An ex-fundamentalist found a welcoming new home in the often poly-friendly United Church of Christ, which stands on the side of love: I'm polyamorous, and I'm also Christian. Both parts of my identity are important to me (Insider.com, Sept. 21). She's the same Jennifer Martin who wrote the "poly dream home" story, also on Insider (Aug. 30), that headlined my post before last.


When I grew up, I was raised in a strict Pentecostal, conservative household where the only acceptable form of relationship was marriage between one man and one woman. Even divorce was considered fairly taboo; homosexuality and sex before marriage were definitely off the table.

"Jennifer Martin speaking at Wild Goose,
a progressive Christian festival."

...Despite that, I would often develop crushes in middle school and high school, and I'd often have them on multiple people at the same time; and not just on boys, either.

When I met my husband, Daniel, I thought I could finally put all of that to rest. We met when we were both 18 and got married when we were 20. ... We had two children by the time I was 25. However, by this time, I was starting to fall away from the theology and politics of my childhood. I found myself agreeing with more and more progressive ideologies every day and felt out of place at church and with my conservative friends and family.

We moved from Cleveland, Tennessee to Richmond, Virginia for a fresh start and I started going to a United Church of Christ. The denomination changed my life: They're known for their progressive policies. They were the first to allow LGBTQ clergy to be ordained and the first to marry LGBTQ couples in general. It felt like home to me, like this was the type of Christianity I had always longed for.

At the same time I was going to a new denomination, I was discovering things about myself, including the fact that my ability to develop attraction to multiple people simultaneously had stuck around into adulthood. After a lot of discussion, research, and therapy, my husband and I opened our relationship, and now we live in a home with my partners and our two kids. I'm happily and openly bisexual and polyamorous, and I couldn't imagine my life any other way.

...Well-meaning people ask why I'm still a Christian when I could be agnostic, or atheist, or something else. My answer is that I still believe in God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I go to church every week, I pray, I read the Bible, and I still believe in Christlike values, like caring for the poor or fighting oppression. 

In fact, I think my faith is stronger and more radical than ever. I really like Christianity, even with its many, many flaws, and I identify strongly with it. I'm happy to be able to raise my children with a form of Christianity that isn't about who's going to hell — which I don't believe in — and teaches love as the most important commandment. ...


This piece is upsetting traditionalists. It's reported with disapproval at ChurchLeaders.com: My Christian Faith and Polyamory Don’t Conflict, Writer Insists (Sept. 22).


●  Traditional polygamy has deep indigenous roots in Africa, and it continues to be accepted in some African countries and cultures. African news media discuss it fairly often. Nowadays, Western egalitarian polyamory also enters the discussion as an alternative. For instance, in Kenya's Saturday Standard: Pulling and fooling on polyamory (Sept. 24) 


...Admittedly, polyamory is more popular in the more liberal countries like America where research shows that more than 20 per cent of Americans have participated in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship at some point in their lives, than perhaps in African countries like Kenya, but like other popular cultures, this is gradually changing.

iStockphoto
It is founded on the belief that love is not finite and that connecting deeply with others should not be restricted to a single partner with whom we can explore emotionally and physically intimate relationships.

In many [sic] polyamorous relationships, each partner is aware of the other ones, and they may also have relationships with each other. In such situations, polyamorous relationships can either be hierarchical where one relationship takes priority over others, or they can be equal.

 For a polyamory relationship to work,
there must be clear communication among the
partners and their consent. (iStockphoto)
In a hierarchical structure, a person will often have primary and secondary partners. Primary partners can be those to whom they are married, live with or have children, while secondary partners may not be as intertwined in their lives (perhaps, as the primary partner) but they still will be fully committed to each other.

“I never imagined that I would be (in a relationship) like this,” says Bakari.

The 32-year-old, born and bred in Bamburi, Mombasa, is a caretaker of a beach house not far from his home....



An "Am I The Asshole?" query posted on Reddit prompted a flood of responses and an article in Newsweek: Teen Backed For Telling Polyamorous Parents' Third She's Not Her Second Mom (Sept. 23)


A teen is being supported for refusing to apologize after snapping at her polyamorous parents' partner for trying to discipline her.

The teen, u/AITA_polyparents, shared her story to the popular Reddit forum r/AmITheA**hole, earning 12,000 upvotes and 1,800 comments in six hours for her post, "[Am I the A**hole] for refusing to apologize to my parents' poly partner?"

The original poster (OP) says that her parents came out as polyamorous four years ago, and both have been dating "Maddison" for the last three years. Maddison moved in to their house two years ago, and though the OP describes her as "overall an okay-ish person," she objects to Maddison's attempts to be the "cool mom."

"My parents relationship with Maddison is very serious, both of my families know her and while not everyone accepts her as a ''real'' part of their marriage, they're okay with her too. For me, she's more like a roommate my parents love rather that a parent figure or someone I have to listen (My dad's is okay with her trying to discipline me, but my mom is not)."

Maddison's attempt at parenting OP caused trouble recently when OP and her boyfriend were hanging out in the kitchen, chatting and watching videos. When Maddison came home and saw the OP and her boyfriend, she "began to act very weird," and started watching them while pretending to be on her smartphone.

OP's boyfriend was uncomfortable having an audience, and took his leave. Once they were alone, Maddison told OP that it was unacceptable to be alone with a boy as a 16-year-old, and she shouldn't do it again.

"I was honestly shocked, my parents know my boyfriend pretty well and more than that, they know me, and I would never betray their trust by doing something I'm not allowed yet just because I was alone," she wrote.

While Maddison tried to continue explaining, the OP cut her off to tell her that she wasn't her parent, and had no right to try to raise her. When Maddison said she was only trying to help, OP said she could talk to her "REAL parents," and they could raise any issue with her.

"Just because she was dating them both didn't make her mommy two," u/AITA_polyparents recalled telling Maddison.

The following day, OP's dad confronted her. Maddison had talked to both of OP's parents that evening, and while OP's mom agreed that Maddison had overstepped, OP's dad agreed with Maddison, and told her he wanted to know when OP was alone with her boyfriend. ...

Redditors took the teen's side.

"[Not the A**hole], your parents decided to be polyamorous, you didn't decide to be polyparented," u/Strange-Tip-1897 wrote in the top-rated comment with 24,500 upvotes.

"Not to mention what I call the 'step parent rule:' -- If they're not old enough to have given birth to you, they're not old enough to be a parental figure," u/arachnobravia added. "Maddison was 11 when OP was born, she has no right to be anything other than an older sister figure. OP, please explain this to your father."

"You should tell your mom that your dad said that to you. You don't need to give a heads up that you're hanging out with your boyfriend in the living room. You can tell that she's in her 20s from the way she acts, she doesn't have any understanding that you're not age 3," u/plscallmeRain wrote. ...


Reality check for poly parents: Structurally, a triad has three times the chance for parenting disagreements than a couple. That's because a triad has three axes for possible disagreement, while in a couple there's only one. And a quad has six.

There's a reason for "communicate, communicate, communicate." In advance. Out of the kids' hearing.


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

Meanwhile, shit gets real. (Updated.)

Why have I been ending most posts to this polyamory news site with the Ukraine war? With links like this?

Because I've seen many progressive movements become irrelevant and die out by failing to scan the wider world correctly and understand their position in it strategically.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Increasingly influential people call us a threat to society — because by living successfully outside their worldview, we expose its incompleteness. Our freedom to choose our relationship structures, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives, to access facts, and to speak of what they know.

The Russian family-cartoon series Masyanya
turned dissident. Watch. The cartoonist has fled.
 
Such a society is only possible where people have power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to guarantee the rights of all.

People, communities, and societies who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal rights that enable them to do so safely, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to choose their lives — by intimidation, repressive laws, inflammatory falsehoods and public incitement, or, eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, this site has received more pagereads from Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in Eastern Europe.

For now, you can donate to Ukraine relief through this list of organizations vetted by the Washington Post, or many others. We're giving to a big one, Razom, and to a little one, Pizza for Ukraine in Kharkiv, a project of an old friend of my wife.

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

But that is only the start. For those of us born since World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetimes.

The coming times are going to require hard things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we find ourselves born into. We do get to choose how we respond to it. Buck up and be ready.

Need a little help bucking up? Play this. Another version. More? Just some guys in Kharkiv (our Pizza for Ukraine town) helping to hold onto a free and open society, a shrinking thing in the world. The tossed grenade seems to have saved them. Maybe your granddad did this across a trench from Hitler's troops — for you, and for us,  because a world fascist movement was successfully defeated that time, opening the way for the rest of the 2oth century. Although the outcome didn't look good for a couple of years there.

Remember, these people say they're doing it for us too. They are correct.  The global struggle between a free, open future and a fearful revival of the dark past that's shaping up, including in our own country, is still in its early stages. The situation is going to get worse before it gets better. The outcome is again uncertain, and it will determine the 21st century and the handling of all its other problems.

We'll have a better idea after the election. Whatever else you do, vote.

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

PS: Ukraine should not be idealized as the paragon of an open democratic society. For instance, see If Ukraine Wants To Stand for Liberty and Democracy, It Should Rethink Some of Its Wartime Policies. And the country had quite a history of being run by corrupt oligarchs — until the Maidan Uprising of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and Zelensky's overwhelming election in 2019 as the anti-corruption candidate. So they're working on that.

Now, writes US war correspondent George Packer in The Atlantic (Sept. 7),   


Here was a country with a tragic history that had at last begun to build, with great effort, a better society. What made Ukraine different from any other country I had ever seen—certainly from my own—was its spirit of constant self-improvement, which included frank self-criticism. For example, there’s no cult of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine—a number of Ukrainians told me that he had made mistakes, that they’d vote against him after the war was won. Maxim Prykupenko, a hospital director in Lviv, called Ukraine “a free country aspiring to be better all the time.” The Russians, he added, “are destroying a beautiful country for no logical reason to do it. Maybe they are destroying us just because we have a better life.”


They have a word there, with a deep history, for the horizontal, self-organized mutual get-it-done that grows from community social trust: hromada. Learn that word. It's getting them through. We polyfolks often dream of creating that sort of community spirit in miniature, in our polycules and networks. Occasionally we succeed.

Social attitudes in Ukraine are generally traditional, but not bitterly so like often in the US; the ideal of modern European civil society is widely treasured, and social progressivism has room to thrive. Some 37,000 women volunteers reportedly make up 22% of the armed forces, including 5,000 women currently fighting on the front lines, some as artillery gunners, tankers, snipers, and machine gunners. LGBT folx in the armed forces openly wear symbols of LGBT pride on their uniforms. Writes kos in the big lefty news site Daily Kos (July 29),


I find [this] particularly salient given American conservative hostility toward women serving in our military. People like Ted Cruz praising the supposed manliness of the Russian army, while claiming ours is weak because of “woke culture.” Ukraine puts that bullshit to bed, not just with the women serving in its ranks, but with gay soldiers very publicly sewing unicorn patches on their uniforms to denote their pride.


He retweets a meme from a military blogger on the plight of the abused gay Russian draftee:



To hell with any conservatives who impugn anyone’s service as somehow less effective or honorable than white straight men. 


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September 20, 2022

The cast of "Polyamory: Married and Dating" today. Your folks see Ask Amy taking a poly question about them. The closeted, and more.


●  The cast of that Showtime series — where are they now? The Showtime reality series Polyamory: Married and Dating ran for two seasons in the summers of 2012 and 2013. It was groundbreaking at the time, introducing the word and the concept to a wider public than ever before. But it was quite controversial in the polyamory community for a number of reasons, including some poor models of what poly is or should be. Producer/director Natalia Garcia defended the show passionately to the community, and there was no doubting her sincerity and sympathy, though some of the situations and characters were indeed pretty flawed. After all, it was a reality show.

The San Diego quad with producer/director Natalia Garcia (center)

Although the series ended nine years ago, it's had a much bigger afterlife in reruns and streaming than in its original release. Evidence for this: I posted nearly episode-by-episode recaps and commentaries (Season 1Season 2), and my "where are they now?" posted later in 2013 has had far more reads in the years since then than it did at the time. In fact that post holds the this site's all-time record at 67,800 reads and growing. It was even the second most-read post in this last year, nine years into its own afterlife.

Here it is 2022, and The Cinemaholic has just published Where is the cast of Polyamory now?, by Kumari Shreya (Sept. 9).

The tl;dr: Some of the show's people and groups are still together, more are broken up or reformed, all the cast seem to be doing somewhere from okay to quite well in their lives, though the piece is not in-depth and I suspect the writer may have put a favorable gloss on some things.

Interested? Here you go.


●  Elsewhere in mass media, "Ask Amy" just gave a sensible answer to a common poly situation as the holidays approach: ‘We have chosen to be polyamorous ... mom hasn’t taken it well’ (Sept. 20). Amy's site says her column "is carried in over 150 newspapers and read by an estimated 22 million readers daily."


DEAR AMY: I’m almost 50. I’ve been with my husband for 20 years.

We are stable and very much in love. We have chosen to be polyamorous for the past five years.

We didn’t tell my parents (and definitely not the in-laws!), but one Thanksgiving just before the pandemic I was going to have my partner of one year with me (“Steve”), and so I told my parents.

Mom hasn’t taken it well. ... The pandemic solved the “holiday dilemma” for a couple of years, but that won’t fly this year.

Mom refuses to accept Steve.

I refuse to leave him alone on a major holiday.

I’ve invited them to our home for Thanksgiving this year (where I get to decide who sits at the table), but what about Christmas? That’s Mom’s favorite holiday and she loves to decorate and host. I don’t really do any of that.

How do I handle this? We’re not making out in front of her (we don’t even hold hands or flirt). We’re just existing, but she refuses to have him in her home. ...

I want to spend the holidays with my mom. She may not have many of them left, but I don’t want to leave someone I love alone on the holiday. ...

-- Two Directions

Amy Dickinson

DEAR TWO DIRECTIONS: The good thing about Christmas is that it really envelops a season, with at least two good opportunities to gather: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Many families split things down the middle during the holidays, and so if you want to be with your mom for Christmas dinner, then go there and enjoy yourself. “Steve” can either hang with your husband during the event, and -- my preference -- go to the movies.

If your husband chooses to hang behind with Steve and your mother doesn’t like it, that is a consequence of all of the choices all of you are making.... You can tell her, “My husband would have come, but we didn’t want to leave Steve alone on Christmas.”


The interesting thing here is the history. Amy has come around to taking poly questions seriously in recent years, after being contemptuous or dismissive in times past. I'm sure your private letters to her explaining yourselves helped. 


●  A deeply felt account from a closeted polyfamily: Being a queer pastor isn’t for the faint of heart. "A first-person essay on bisexuality, polyamory, and acceptance. By Anonymous." He's a minister in the Methodists, a mainstream denomination that is splitting apart. (Pittsburgh City Paper, Sept. 7)


It is an awkward position to be in when you are queer, poly, a pastor, and serving a super conservative church.

I’d love to introduce myself to you fully. I’d love to tell you my name and those of the amazing Western Pennsylvania churches I serve. I’d love to introduce you to both my wife and my girlfriend. Unfortunately, due to the current state of the United Methodist Church, I cannot reveal my identity. If I did, I would lose my credentials, my income, and my life’s mission to serve God and the people in my community.

Jared Wickerham / Pittsburgh City Paper

None of the people in my congregations know that I am bisexual and polyamorous. They have loved me and my wife so well, and it’s disheartening to know that if they were aware I practice non-monogamy and want to pursue a same-sex relationship, my parishioners would likely reject me as their pastor and ask for a revocation of my credentials.

If you’re unfamiliar with the United Methodist Church, you may not know that a denominational split is happening. The church has been divided for quite some time, and the division comes from differing beliefs about the LGBTQ and polyamorous community.

There is some hope: A group of progressive pastors and laity like myself wish to include progressive members in the entire life of the church, with a desire to celebrate same-sex marriages and ordain LGBTQ clergy. But there is another group that wishes to do the exact opposite, and they’re not holding back in their discrimination. ...

My parishioners say they love me, but is it love when I cannot be open about who I truly am? How can I effectively lead as a pastor when I have to keep part of myself hidden?

...I can post pictures of my wife on social media, but my girlfriend must endure the heartache of not being able to post photos of us because my church folks could find out. Thankfully, she understands my situation, but my wife and I dream about having my girlfriend and her son move in with us. My wife also dreams of having partners other than me but knows that we cannot fully live this out without facing judgment from the church. Unfortunately, for the time being, it is nothing more than a dream.

If parishioners were to drop by the house unexpectedly, our lifestyle would be exposed, and we would lose the ability to do ministry. That suppression is heartbreaking not just for me, but for both partners. ...

I’ve been asked several times why I remain a pastor in a system that would seemingly reject who I am. The reality is... being a pastor is a calling. I know this is what I have been made to do.

Because of that call, I remain in the Methodist church with the hope that by joining other progressive pastors, we can change our policy and fully include all believers into their community. ...

I’d love nothing more than to have my house full with my wife, her partners, my girlfriend, and possibly a boyfriend if I met the right person. I would be ecstatic to come home from work and be greeted by all of them, then cook dinner and enjoy family time. I would adore the idea of having snuggles with all of them on the couch and watching a movie. I would love the chance to go out as a polycule and enjoy dinner, movies, and parks.

And I would enjoy being able to do all of those things without the stress and pressures of being judged, condemned, and harassed by the conservative faction of the church.

...I don’t think I’ll ever understand why there are people in the church so against love. ... 

However, a very out and feisty polyam presence exists in Christianity. This is especially worrying top evangelical leaders. See my Poly & Christian  a huge and diverse field.


● Last month I posted a call from Buzzfeed for stories from women, transfeminine, and nonbinary people about why they decided to become nonmonogamous. Now Buzzfeed has published the result: Monogamy Is In Its Flop Era. Women And Femmes Are Leading What’s Next. (Sept. 7).

They got hundreds of responses. I don't know if any of you readers who wrote are in it, but it's long and full of good stuff.


By Alessa Dominguez

Sara was at a salsa dance event in Durham, North Carolina, when she saw her married friend talking intimately with a man she didn’t recognize. “And then she kissed him,” she recalled.

She knew her friend’s husband was sitting across the room from her. “So I asked her about it,” she remembered.

“She explained the basics of what polyamory was and I was just completely overwhelmed,” Sara told me. ...

That night, the 32-year-old went home and told her husband about the revelation. ... The couple, who lives in Durham, went online, “did a bunch of research and…we decided that it sounded like a good fit for us.” They opened their relationship. After that, she met her girlfriend of five years, who introduced her to another partner, a man “married to me in everything except name.”

He has since moved in with them, and “both of my husbands are also in relationships with my girlfriend."

The ethos behind Sara’s relationships is becoming more common, and less stigmatized. Forms of sexual consensual nonmonogamy have been popular — or at least openly visible among gay men — for a long time. But more kinds of relationships outside the monogamous norm — from polyamory to relationship anarchy — are becoming less stigmatized in general....

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...Every time such studies come out, there’s surprise that women often identify as ethically nonmonogamous more than men. [Jessica] Fern isn’t surprised anymore. She says they’re often the ones who initiate conversations about moving away from monogamy. “It’s funny, ‘cause you would think, the way we sort of stereotype cis men, that they would bring it up ‘cause they want more sex,” she said. “And often they’re not the ones that bring it up.”

...In her own life and in her practice, Fern has witnessed how the “opening up process” of polyamory “creates this awakening of the self, where you suddenly realize, like, ‘Ooh, I’ve been compromising. I’ve been saying yes when I mean no. I didn’t even know I could say no, right? I’ve been contorting myself as a half person and now I’m a full person.’ ”...

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...“I’m an older millennial and I grew up in a time that did not engender healthy relationship roles,” said Allie, a 36-year-old from Chicago. ... She shared a story about her current partner to reflect on how she’s changed.... “Had we been monogamous,” she added, “I would have felt a lot of pressure to perform for him, be sexy and fun, put my feelings aside so that I would give him the right impression and he wouldn’t think I was lame or whiny. But instead, I just got to feel my feelings and I didn’t have to worry that my partner would find someone else. It was really freeing. Not having to be someone’s everything, or have them be your everything means you can just be yourself."

Lindsay, a 44-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, echoed that feeling. ... “Watching my husband try to figure out scheduling and planning has been amazing,” she added. “Seriously though, the improvement in communication with my husband has been one of the biggest benefits. Another great one is having more than one person to do things with. ... Also sex is amazing when you’re with people who are all super into communication.”

Nonmonogamy has not only helped people to understand themselves better in relationships, but it has also expanded the way people think about their emotional habits. ...

... Reading the passionate responses from hundreds of women, it’s clear that there’s no turning back for many of them, either.


Read the whole thing.


●  A new and long-needed handbook is just out for therapists who have, or hope to have, poly and CNM clients: The Handbook of Consensual Non-Monogamy Affirming Mental Health Practice. It's a collection "providing research-based training for mental health practitioners who work with the consensual non-monogamy community," edited by Michelle Vaughan and Theodore R. Burnes. (400-plus pages, Rowman & Littlefield, 2022).

Medical Xpress prints a press release about it from Vaughan's home institution: New handbook provides training for mental health practitioners working with consensual non-monogamy community. (Sept. 1)


Michelle Vaughan with the book

By Erica Harrah, Wright State University

...The handbook was developed for mental health providers, including social workers, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, who want to become consensual non-monogamy-affirming practitioners.

Vaughan said that the handbook is the first of its kind in that it provides research-based training on how to work with the consensual non-monogamy (CNM) community.

"...The handbook garnered the #1 spot for new releases in psychotherapy on Amazon this summer when it was released and the SOPP is currently developing a series of continuing education training courses for mental health providers based on the book," said Vaughan. ...

"We have specific chapters from experts across disciplines on training and supervision, organizations, stigma, families and children, queerness and ethics designed to meet clinicians wherever they are on their journey to be CNM-affirming." 

Vaughan said that relationship stigma is a major source of stress for those who practice consensual non-monogamy, primarily because of social messages and norms that people should and need to be monogamous, or mononormativity. Because of this stigma, laws, faith communities and health care providers typically are based in this norm, she said.

..."This handbook was created to provide a resource to folks who may not have access to training or consultation in this area and want an up-to-date, broad guide to clinical practice that integrates the voices of experts across disciplines with diverse perspectives," she said. "Given the rapid expansion of CNM literature in the social sciences, we were able to provide a resource that has greater breadth, depth, and integration of research than currently exists in similar books."



●  Food for thought, but nothing groundbreaking: 12 Ways Polyamory Has Changed Dating For Better & For Worse (Sept. 16, in Bolde, "a platform for single women to express themselves about dating & relationships.")


By Hannah Acton

...Positive ways polyamory has changed dating:

1. It recontextualizes consent.
Consent in the modern day has gained a new lease on life. It’s essential for monogamous relationships, let alone polyamorous. The stakes are higher when there are more people involved — it also means that consent becomes a bigger and more nuanced concept. ...

2. It changes the meaning of boundaries.
...When multiple people are involved in a relationship, or when relationships that were previously monogamous open up to other people, well-communicated boundaries are essential. ...

3. It’s extremely sex-positive. ...

4. We can assert our needs more clearly. ...

5. Sexual education improves. ...

6. Successful relationships are meant to look different. ...

The downsides of polyamory

7. Traditionalists are confused and angry. ...

8. Problems arise when you’re not on the same page. ...

9. There’s pressure to adapt.
Even if you believe you’re pretty comfortable in your sexuality and monogamous relationship, you might feel external peer pressure to explore....

10. People might use polyamory as an excuse for cheating. ...

11. There is pressure on the “main relationship.”...

12. There are new legal issues that our society cannot support. ...



●  I really care about accurate use of the word "polyamory," lest its meaning become so vague and watered down in popular use that we can no longer use it to explain who we are, or to find each other. But lots of media these days do a good job of defining the different nonmonogamies.

For instance, Oh!MyMag ("a women's guide to the latest trends in style, health, food, beauty, tips, and news") just put up a brief Ethical Nonmonogamy 101 that accurately distinguishes open relationships, polyamory, and relational anarchy: Everything you need to know about non-monogamy (Sept. 16). 


●  Regarding another variety, from Cosmopolitan: What Is Solo Polyamory? (Sept. 13)


Meaningful romantic connections with multiple partners *and* an independent lifestyle? Yes, it’s possible.

 Margie Rischiotto /Getty
By Tatyannah King

So correct us if we’re wrong, but we’re guessing you’re probably familiar with polyamory, a form of non-monogamy in which people maintain multiple romantic relationships at the same time. But what about solo polyamory? Essentially, solo poly is a relationship style in which people see themselves as their own primary partner and prioritize their commitment to themselves over commitments that traditionally come with a partner.

We know what you’re thinking. No commitment? No expectations? Sounds like pretty much the same thing as just being single or dating around without any exclusive titles, right? Wrong. Solo polyamory is an active choice rather than something that happens based on circumstance, and there are a number of different ways it can look in relationships.

“Solo polyamory is a form of ethical non-monogamy practiced by individuals who enjoy multiple romantic and/or sexual relationships at the same time, and who still want to maintain an independent or ‘single’ lifestyle,” says Alice Child, certified somatic sexologist and founder of Vulva Dialogues. “This could mean they don’t want to live with a partner [or partners], share finances, have one ‘primary’ partner, operate within relationship hierarchies, or experience certain relationship milestones (e.g., marriage).”

...“Solo polyamorists typically reject any sort of hierarchical structure or view themselves as their primary partner,” says Brooklyn-based sex therapist Annie Block. While most traditional romantic relationships follow a typical “relationship escalator” with a particular order of steps marking how serious the relationship is—meeting each other’s parents, moving in together, getting a dog, etc.—solo polyamorists don’t usually hold themselves or their relationships to any such timelines.
____________________________________________
Related Stories
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...If you’re interested in exploring solo polyamory, it’s a good idea to consider what your core values are and how your relationship fits into those values, if at all.

“If you really prioritize alone time, if you don’t see yourself merging finances or moving in with a partner, and if you’re not interested in the institution of marriage, then maybe solo polyamory will be a good relational framework,” says Gabrielle Alexa Noel, director of marketing and lead portal developer at #open. “Even if you are open to those things but want the freedom to configure your relationships in ways that don’t assume they will happen, solo polyamory could be for you.”

To those who aren’t familiar with solo polyamory, it might sound like “playing the field” without any intention of forming meaningful connections. However, that couldn’t be further from reality.

“Not only is there strong communication, but a lot of people who identify as solo polyamorous are forming healthy and sustainable connections with other people,” Noel says. 

...According to Block, “Practicing solo polyamory is an intentional choice and rejection of mono-normativity and traditional views on how relationships should progress” whereas being single is more coincidental. Moreover, people who practice solo polyamory can and do maintain meaningful emotional connections with partners, while being single generally wouldn’t include any such partnerships.

...Having access to a community of other solo polyamorists is key to helping people become more intentional about how and why they connect with others. ... It’s about forming meaningful connections on your own terms—which, if you ask us, seems pretty damn healthy, no?



●  And last, a reminder that polyamory is really, really not for everyone. On KIMA-TV News24 in Yakima, Washington, and other stations: Man in polyamorous relationship with wife, other man, charged with assaulting the other man (Sept. 7). There was a gun, and it was almost used.


YAKIMA, Wash. — A man in a polyamorous relationship has been charged with assault and unlawful possession of a firearm in a domestic violence incident over the weekend.

The police report says a man called 911 on Saturday and told operators that a man named Ross Bastion had a gun and said he was going to kill him and his wife.

...He says the three of them decided to go to bed. As they were lying in bed, Bastion got up and said he wasn’t doing this anymore, then left the room.

The wife says she followed him out to the living room which is when Bastion pointed a gun at her head and that was when the man came into the living room and stepped between her and Bastion.

She says Bastion told the man, “Take one more step, and I’ll kill you”.

The man says he was able to convince Bastion to put the gun down after pleading and reasoning with him.

He says he had the wife, and her kids go into the bedroom and close the door until police arrived.

The wife told officers that Bastion was also a convicted felon.

A criminal history report showed that Bastion was a convicted felon for trafficking stolen property and possession of a controlled substance with no prescription back in 2017. ...


So, did the guy who joined the couple check for any red flags? IMO, when you start getting deeply involved with a stranger, googling is prudent and needs no apology. To skip learning how, google "background checks" and you'll see a zillion ads from companies that do basic ones for as little as $30.

PS: Also IMO, firearms are a bad idea for a house with big relationship drama. Note: Lots of houses will someday have big relationship drama.


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

Looking wider, is the tide beginning to turn?

Why, some of you ask, have I been ending most posts to this polyamory news site with the Ukraine war? Including links like this?

Because in my life, I've seen many progressive movements become irrelevant and die out by failing to scan the wider world correctly and understand their position in it strategically.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Some influential people say we're a threat to society — because by living successfully outside their worldview, we expose its incompleteness. Our freedom to choose our relationship structures, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives, to access facts, and to speak of what they know.

The Russian family-cartoon series Masyanya
turned dissident. Watch. The cartoonist has fled.
 
Such a society is only possible where people have power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to guarantee the rights of all.

People, communities, and societies that create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal rights that enable them to do so safely, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to choose their lives — by intimidation, repressive laws, inflammatory disinformation and public incitement, or, eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, this site has received more pagereads from Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in Eastern Europe.

For now, you can donate to Ukraine relief through this list of organizations vetted by the Washington Post, or many others. We're giving to a big one, Razom, and to a little one, Pizza for Ukraine in Kharkiv, a project of an old friend of my wife Sparkle Moose.

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But that is only the start. For those of us born since World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetimes.


The coming times are going to require hard things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we find ourselves born into. We do get to choose how we respond to it. Buck up and be ready.

Need a little help bucking up? Play this. Loud.

More, you want? Just some guys near Kharkiv (our Pizza for Ukraine town) helping to hold onto a free and open society, a shrinking thing in the world. The tossed grenade seems to have saved them. Maybe your granddad did this across a trench from Hitler's troops — for you, and for us,  because a world fascist movement was successfully defeated that time, opening the way for the rest of the 2oth century. Although the outcome didn't look good for a couple of years there.

Remember, these people say they're doing it for us too. They are correct.  The global struggle between a free, open future and a fearful revival of the dark past that's shaping up, including in our own country, is still in its early stages. The situation is going to get worse before it gets better. The outcome is uncertain, and it will determine the 21st century and the handling of all its other problems.

We'll have a better idea after the election. Whatever else you do, vote.

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PS: Ukraine should not be idealized as the paragon of an open democratic society. For instance, see If Ukraine Wants To Stand for Liberty and Democracy, It Should Rethink Some of Its Wartime Policies (Reason, July 19). And the country had a history of being run by corrupt oligarchs — until the Maidan Uprising of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and Zelensky's overwhelming election in 2019 as the anti-corruption candidate. So they're working on that.

Now, writes US war correspondent George Packer in The Atlantic (Sept. 7),   


Here was a country with a tragic history that had at last begun to build, with great effort, a better society. What made Ukraine different from any other country I had ever seen—certainly from my own—was its spirit of constant self-improvement, which included frank self-criticism. For example, there’s no cult of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine—a number of Ukrainians told me that he had made mistakes, that they’d vote against him after the war was won. Maxim Prykupenko, a hospital director in Lviv, called Ukraine “a free country aspiring to be better all the time.” The Russians, he added, “are destroying a beautiful country for no logical reason to do it. Maybe they are destroying us just because we have a better life.”


They have a word there, with a deep history, for the horizontal, self-organized mutual get-it-done that grows from community social trust: hromada. Learn that word. It's getting them through. We polyfolks often hope to create that community spirit in miniature, in our polycules and networks. 

Social attitudes in Ukraine are generally traditional, but not bitterly so like often in the US; the ideal of modern European civil society is widely treasured, and social progressivism has room to thrive. Some 37,000 women volunteers reportedly make up 22% of the armed forces, including 5,000 women currently fighting on the front lines, some as artillery gunners, tankers, battlefield snipers, and machine gunners. LGBT folx in the armed forces openly wear symbols of LGBT pride on their uniforms. (Whereas in Russia, it's a criminal offense even for a civilian to wear a rainbow pin.) Writes kos in the big lefty news site Daily Kos (July 29),


I find [this] particularly salient given American conservative hostility toward women serving in our military. People like Ted Cruz praising the supposed manliness of the Russian army, while claiming ours is weak because of “woke culture.” Ukraine puts that bullshit to bed, not just with the women serving in its ranks, but with gay soldiers very publicly sewing unicorn patches on their uniforms to denote their pride.


He retweets a meme from a military blogger on the plight of the abused gay Russian draftee:



To hell with any conservatives who impugn anyone’s service as somehow less effective or honorable than white straight men. 



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