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

March 18, 2008

"Wedded to Variety"

Chicago Sun-Times

Prompted by the Tilda Swinton news, one of Chicago's two daily papers (the more sensationalist one) has a good article in today's issue explaining polyamory:

BY PAIGE WISER | March 18, 2008

When Tilda Swinton won the best supporting actress Oscar for "Michael Clayton," there wasn't too much talk about what designer she was wearing.

But people were curious about her date.... Both men know about each other. And both are OK with it.

You might call the arrangement "awfully messy." Or you might call it by its proper name: polyamory. That's the practice of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

...It's not a higher love, says Cunning Minx, an Oak Park polyamorist who hosts a weekly podcast at http://polyweekly.libsyn.com/. Poly people get jealous just like everyone else. "It's not more evolved, it's just a little more complicated," she says. "People do this because it's an orientation. For some, it's a lifestyle choice."

Like most polyamorists, Minx uses a pseudonym because there's no legally protected status. In the poly community, especially in Chicago, people try to keep things quiet.

"You can be fired for it, and your kids can be taken away," Minx says. "We have a saying: In a divorce hearing, the first person to call the other person 'poly' gets the kids."

..."Chicago is probably the least well-organized of the major cities in terms of having an active and well-organized polyamory community," [activist Anita] Wagner says. "This doesn't mean that poly people don't exist, though."

There's a PolyChi Yahoo! group with more than 1,000 members, who meet once or twice a month. Sidekicks on Montrose, and the Center on Halsted, are common poly gathering places. "The Fox Valley area is very active for meet-ups and potlucks," Minx says.

She was initiated into the lifestyle when she fell in love with a polyamorist, Gray Dancer, who was engaged and later married. Without any rules to follow, the threesome sometimes had a hard time working things out. Her podcast started out as a way to ask questions and find others like her.

"The amount of communication and calendar shuffling involved can be daunting," Minx says.

...A few other famous "responsible non-monogamists":

– Diego Rivera tolerated wife Frida Kahlo's relationships with other men and women (including Leon Trotsky).

– Amelia Earhart had a prenuptial agreement that "I shall not hold you to any midaevil [sic] code of faithfulness." [Read her letter, in the Purdue University archives, to her future husband George Putnam.]

– Billionaire Warren Buffett was happily married to his wife until she died in 2004. He also had a long-term relationship with mistress Astrid Menks. They sent out Christmas cards signed, "Warren, Susie and Astrid."

– After Jada Pinkett Smith was interviewed by Britain's Daily Mail, polyamorists rallied behind her marriage. "In our marriage vows, we didn't say 'forsaking all others,'" said Smith in the interview. "The vow that we made was that you will never hear that I did something after the fact.

...Don't be shocked until you examine your own history, Minx says. "Think back. Was there ever an 'aunt' or an 'uncle' who visited your grandparents all the time? Or a couple they spent a lot of time with, or a 'good friend of the family?' "

Welcome to the club.

Read the whole article.

The article is fairly superficial, and there's a backstory to this. The writer sought, and got, a lot of help in trying to find more local people to talk to. No one would. Writes Anita Wagner, about the shortage of willing interviewees:

Here's an example of the situation as it stands today. A couple of we community organizers have been working with a journalist from the Chicago Sun-Times who has a green light from her editor for an article on polyamory. She's seeking a married poly couple in the Chicago area willing to be interviewed.... Despite having put out more than one call/invitation on the 1,000+ member Chicago poly list, all we've gotten back are crickets chirping.

Wagner has more to say about this "chicken-and-egg problem" on her Practical Polyamory blog.

Local organizer David Rodemaker (a doctoral student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and an intern at the GLBT Center on Halsted mentioned in the article) posted elsewhere about the reasons why Chicago people stayed hidden. Copied with his permission:

I made a point of bringing [this reluctance] up in my "Many Loves" seminar this weekend at the Center on Halsted. There was some interesting discussion around the issue.

1– That it was the Sun-Times as opposed to the Tribune (an unfortunate but real factor in some people's minds).

2– That it was asking for a "poly couple," which was sort of missing the point for a number of the people there — and which provoked reactions from the bemused to the annoyed.

3– That the person wasn't looking very hard, given the Many Loves seminars at the Center on Halsted, plus a recent brown-bag discussion on Polyamory at UIC; it's not like it's *that* hard to actually find somebody who could at least act as a local gatekeeper. Add in three somewhat active polyamory groups/listservs in the area, and it became even more of a "head scratcher" for some people.

4– And yes, the stated issue of fear of being outed. This is less of an issue for some people and more for others — but all of the above issues really seemed to make people wonder how positive or sensitive the article/interviewer would actually be.

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Anonymous Allie said...

I just got home from the Frida Kahlo exhibit in Philadelphia and while you're in the shop they have the A&E Biography showing. It says that she "tolerated" Rivera's affairs--same word that's used in the article to describe Rivera's feelings for her affairs.

That's so annoying and frustrating.

March 18, 2008 4:12 PM  

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