Queer poly advice for students
Do polys qualify as "queer"? Once an insult, queer is now proudly embraced by the whole LGBTQIAA world (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, and allies). Sometimes a P gets added to that.
The poly and queer worlds certainly overlap. In the Loving More survey of 1,010 polys taken in 2000, 667 stated their sexual preference; of these, 51% said they were bisexual. (The complete survey data are now online at the Kinsey Institute; see page 23 in the documentation.) Informal estimates have put the number of bi polys at 30% to 60% of all polys. My experience is that when you ask a roomful of people at a poly conference how many consider themselves bi, 30% or 40% raise their hands.
This compares to just 2.3% of the general population. (1.8% of men and 2.8% of women age 1844 in the U.S. gave their sexual preference as "bisexual" when surveyed for the CDC's 2002 National Survey of Family Growth; see tables 12 and 13 on pages 30 and 31 of the PDF doc.)
And to look at the equation from the other direction: a lot more queers are functionally poly, or poly-friendly, than straights are.
Nevertheless, in his always-thoughtful freaksexual blog, Pepper Mint argues that "poly is not necessarily queer". Although the two subcultures have important things in common, he gives good reasons to consider them distinct.
A few days ago at Brandeis University, it was queers who took the lead. The "Ask the Queer Resource Center!" column in a student newspaper gave the campus a good introduction to polyamory and its values:
My partner, “Taylor,” and I have been together for 7 months, and are very committed to each other. Lately, I have been interested in opening up the relationship, but I’m too embarrassed to bring it up....
Sincerely, Eager Explorer
In the queer community, this is known as Polyamory, an identity based on consensual non-monogamy. Polyamorous people believe that love can be strengthened, not weakened, by participation in multiple (carefully negotiated) emotional and/or sexual relationships. It is perfectly fine for you to want further romantic involvement with other people, because expecting to get everything you want from only one person is often unrealistic.
Yet as long as you want to stay with Taylor, open dialogue and consent is key: without honest negotiation, this is infidelity, not polyamory. Therefore, it is important to be completely honest with Taylor before further exploration.
You might start out by telling Taylor why you value this relationship. Then explain why you think that Polyamory could be a liberating endeavor for both of you. Propose the idea of remaining “primaries”: in Polyamory, these are long-term partners who remain each other’s first priorities....
No matter what, communication is crucial.
Read the whole article (Nov. 14, 2008).