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

October 20, 2008

Five speeches from Poly Pride Weekend

More of the great people who spoke at Poly Pride Weekend in New York earlier this month have put their talks online. Here are excerpts. Click each title to get the whole thing.

1. Tristan Taormino's Poly Pride Rally Keynote Address, delivered from the stage in Central Park:

Marriage as we know it is changing. Conservatives would say it’s under attack; under fire. I say it’s under construction.

...People ask me a lot, “What did you learn from the people you interviewed for Opening Up? What do they all have in common? What makes open relationships work?” There are some common principles. Honesty. Self awareness. Trust. Communication. Boundaries. Commitment.

And this may be what is scariest of all to our enemies: we practice what they preach. We have values.... We need to reclaim the word values. We need to rip it out of the hands of pundits and bigots and stand up to defend our polyamorous values.

Our society is poised to change dramatically in the next decade. Like other minorities before us, polyamorous people need to come out when it’s safe to do so and educate our loved ones, our neighbors, our doctors and others around us about our lives. We need to tell our stories. I’ve had the privilege to hear the stories of hundreds of people in non-monogamous relationships. Like Leslie from Minnesota whose two husbands supported her through chemotherapy after she was diagnosed with cancer. Or Cat in Oklahoma, who lost custody of her children for being polyamorous. Or a poly circle of four in the Pacific Northwest who have owned a house and raised their kids together for over fifteen years. We must speak our truths....

We are at the forefront of those who will redefine love, commitment, and family in this century.

2. Jenny Block: "I Have Learned That It's Worth It":

You represent a community that has welcomed me in and supported me in a way I could have never expected or imagined.... You see, I never set out to be a spokesperson or poster child for polyamory. I'm a writer and what I write about is my life. And so when I was asked to write a book about the fact that I was in an open marriage, I was thrilled. And then, I was terrified.

...How can you ever be ready for the wrath of some people, the pity of others, and the surprising amount of love and community that comes as well?... The scathing comments [were] the biggest shock of all, of course. The first ones on the web called me a whore, implored my husband to leave me, damned me to hell, and caused my cheeks to catch fire, my nerves to clench, and my stomach to heave. But then the comments of support came rolling in....

And that has been the thrill of the last four months, for nowhere else could have I experienced the power of a skill we have come in many ways to take for granted.

...Those reactions brought out, I think, the best in me. Their comments — no matter how harsh or unkind or unfair — make me calmer and stronger and smarter. And they honed the skills that I had been working on in my marriage. In turn, I brought those skills back to bear on my marriage and my relationship with my current girlfriend Jemma. Being with her has taught me once and for all that love isn’t a limited commodity. That being poly is about honoring one’s sexuality not exploiting it. And that just because you feel like you’re alone in the world, alone in your views about love and sex and life and relationships, doesn’t mean that you really are.

All of this has made me acutely aware of how much the people who came before me in this fight have done. How much all of you have done just by living your lives without compromise. How tirelessly those who have long been fighting the good fight have inspired all of us to communicate honestly in all of our relationships, with intimates, friends, or family. How they have taught us how to communicate with the rest of the world so that there might be more acceptance and less hate as we move forward.

3. Anita Wagner: "The Mainstreaming of Polyamory":

Today we are witnessing the mainstreaming of polyamory. We’ve come a long way from the early days of polyamory and its roots in the free love movement. For many years polyamory stayed on the fringe of society, with some of its more radical denizens taking pride in keeping it there. Some were clearly resistant to the idea that polyamory as a model for relationships is a concept to be shared with people living traditional lives....

For a time polyamory stayed well below mainstream radar. As time passed and as the divorce rate held high and steady, legitimate mainstream media interest began to shine an ever-brighter light on polyamory and asked the question, “Is polyamory a legitimate alternative to traditional monogamy?”

...Via online resources, people in monogamous relationships found out that there is an alternative.... Along the way, dedicated organizations like the Institute for 21st Century Relationships have devoted their energies to teaching workshops at professional conferences attended by sex researchers and marriage and family therapists to increase awareness of the legitimacy of this alternative to traditional monogamy. Professionals are beginning to understand that open relationships can and do work for many people and are learning how to counsel their clients more appropriately and competently....

Today the picture is brighter than ever. The mainstreaming of polyamory is well under way, and as community organizers and advocates it is our duty to be prepared to continue to effectively participate in the ongoing public dialogue about alternatives to monogamy in a way that debunks misconceptions and helps mainstreamers understand that they do indeed have options as to how they arrange their intimate relationships....

We are proud of who we are, proud of our poly families, and proud to share the truth about legitimate options in intimate relationships. Let us commit ourselves to facilitating the growth of mainstream polyamory.... The poly mantra is said to be “Communicate, Communicate, Communicate”, and this is wise advice as to the way we conduct our relationships. Similarly, my poly advocacy mantra is “Facilitate, Facilitate, Facilitate!” I invite you to join me in pride in who we are and as we work together to let everyone know they have options by facilitating the mainstreaming of polyamory.

4. Leanna Wolfe: "On Kittens and the Very Invented Culture of Polyamory":

...Deciding to set your lover free into the wide world of polyamory also has its consequences — consequences so overwhelming that the vast majority of Americans simply say “no.” In that biologically humans are a pair-bonding species, short-term monogamy can feel like the high road and the right road. And certainly romantic-love brain chemistry conforms to this template and approach.... Poly people view this phase of romantic love with a wide-angle lens. They know that the sensations caused by their dopamine highs won’t last and that at best such a love will convert to the attachment phase, which is more relaxed, being supported by the brain chemicals vasopressin and oxytocin.... Once in the attachment phase poly people comfortably invite in new attractions and new loves.

Mainstream Americans put NRE [New-Relationship Energy, or love-struckness] on a pedestal and thus consider polyamory to be supremely foolhardy. It’s been noted by anthropological observers that American society’s attitudes towards romantic love are very adolescent. As lovers Americans behave like teenagers. We take our crushes seriously and we measure our self worth by being able to demand the fidelity of our partners and the health of our relationships by the intensity of passion we’re able to co-generate.

...Over the last five years I’ve conducted research (including a doctoral dissertation) to better understand the components of compersion.... What might give a couple in an open-polyamorous relationship the sense of non-possessiveness that would cause them to embrace their partner’s extra-relationship exploration?... Those who were highly enculturated in the world of polyamory (reading books, joining e-lists and attending conferences) were most likely to contend that compersion was possible.

...[I] consider that polyamory is an absolutely unique cultural invention.... Like life-long monogamy, polyamory goes completely against our biological wiring. It took me a long time to realize this. As a scientist with a poly agenda, I was forever using biological examples to argue that polyamory was natural. What I failed to note was that the culture of polyamory is a true blue human invention — a cultural construction.

...As for why polyamory is a very weird cultural construction, it’s because poly people seek to tell the truth — not just to their trusted friends but to their longtime partners, their sizzling new lovers, subscribers to their internet blogs and livejournals, as well as pretty much everyone else who will listen. They seek to tell the truth even when it hurts. We humans, being members of the biggest-brained primate species, typically withhold information when it’s not to our advantage to share. While endeavoring to be truthful is perhaps the most significant hallmark of polyamory, it’s honestly not very human....

5. And in case you missed it the first time, my own speech: "Steering the Bandwagon":

People who push for years to get a bandwagon rolling are usually unprepared for what to do when the bandwagon finally starts to move. No longer is it all about a few devoted people grunting and straining from behind to make the bandwagon’s wheels move half an inch. When the effort begins to succeed, the bandwagon starts rolling on its own, faster and faster.

And unless the people with the original vision stop just shoving the rear bumper and run up and grab the steering wheel, pretty soon the bandwagon outruns them and leaves them behind. And their elation turns to horror as they watch it careen downhill out of control, in disastrous unintended directions.... Think of what happened to the psychedelic drug movement a generation ago....

The defining aspect of polyamory, I'm convinced — the thing that sets it apart and makes it powerful and radical and transformative — is in seeing one's metamours not as rivals to be resented or even as neutral figures to be tolerated, but as, at minimum, friends and acquaintances — perhaps family even — for whom you genuinely wish good things. And beyond that, of course, there's no limit to how close you can become. This is what differentiates poly from merely having affairs. In this way it becomes a generalization of the magic of romantic love — into something much wider, and more widely applicable, than the dominant paradigm of a couple carefully walling away their particular love from anything to do with the rest of humanity.

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