Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

September 29, 2012

Q&A with Polyamory producer Natalia Garcia

Natalia Garcia, executive director/producer of the Polyamory: Married and Dating series, is trying to put together her best possible pitch to the Showtime network for them to renew it for a second season. Toward this end, she's seeking to interview poly families and less formal poly groups to be part of the show if it is renewed, or at least for background. The families we saw in the first season may also be back.

Garcia tells what she needs, given Showtime's frankly commercial requirements, in my previous post and in emails going around poly lists. Much discussion is ensuing.

Natalia Garcia (second from right) with the San Diego quad from Season 1.

Here's some online Q&A that I just did with her.


Polyamory in the News: Congratulations for pulling off the series as well as you did. It was a pretty damn amazing thing to watch, all issues aside. What we all want to know is, will Showtime renew for a second season? When do they decide?

Garcia: First, I have to tell you how much I love your website, you're a good writer! And thank you for your support. I'm very proud of the show and what we accomplished. We are discussing what next season would look like — IF we get a next season. Sho is curious about other forms of poly and wants to see what's out there. Whether we come back with the same families or add new ones or new families only, we don't know. My hope is to continue the Polyamory conversation into the mainstream for another season. And to be clear, it's not so much a casting call as it is research and development.

I hear that most first-season shows don't get renewed....

That tends to be the case for scripted shows mostly, or in docu-reality [like our show] if the show didn't do well. Our show did really well — especially in social media. But Showtime knows their brand and they have been very successful at it, so I trust they know what they're doing. And IF we don't come back, we have to applaud Showtime for completely embracing this show when every other network in town loved the idea but were too afraid to touch it. Showtime is a trailblazer network, I take my hat off to them.

Any chance they'll go for hour-long episodes this time instead of 30 minutes? I heard frustrations from the families on the show that the episodes were too short to go into the depth they would have liked.

Yes, I would love to do an hour show as well — that was the original pitch. Everything is being discussed, we will have to see what other families come forward and what Showtime will decide.

What sort of feedback has the network given you about the series?

Sho loves the series. They were fascinated. They are big fans.

How well did it do for them?

It did very well for their 11 pm time slot and for it being a new series with barely any promotion, aside from their own network promos. We were all pleased with its performance.

How did you locate the families? Frankly, they're the very picture of the "impossible" requirements that TV shows have been asking that Loving More, for instance, or the Poly Media Association, provide for them: Long-term poly families who are *also* young, *and also* have kids, *and* all live together, *and* are all totally out to everyone in their lives, *and* are all slim, trim, and beautiful with camera presence — and for crying out loud, in this case they were willing to get naked and make love on national television?! For their parents and everyone to see? We always said "that's impossible." How did you *find* them?

I found the families with tons of research and outreach. Deborah, of the Southern California meetup, was instrumental in getting me accepted by the SoCal poly community. What's fascinating to me is this notion in the poly community that there are no beautiful people. It's strange. Also, everyone needs to understand Showtime has a very specific demographic which skews younger. The way MTV would never make a show about seniors — it's not their audience. All other criticisms, I feel are personal projections.

Okay, diversity. A lot of people in the poly community have criticized the show for putting on only young white California people, rather than a more normal mix of ages, bodies, and races. Are you looking to broaden the picture for a second season?

I looked far and wide, across the country for all colors of poly folks, and these were the families that were willing to come forward. So absolutely, I would love to have more diversity.

A lot of people watching have became deeply attached to the stories of the first season's two families. If there's a second season, will they be back?

I hope so. We are all one big family now, it would be sad not to do this with them again.

What's been the best part of this whole experience for you?

The best part was hanging out with the families. I was constantly learning how to be a better communicator because of them.

And the worst?

When the show finally aired, I had some "post-partum" depression about my "baby" being born. It was a challenging time for me.

I would like to add some parameters of the families I'm looking for: 25 to 50, camera friendly, and open to letting us into the bedroom. All male, all female, V's — all poly formations are welcome. They should have or try to watch the series to understand what would be expected of them. Also, if people could send a picture when they inquire, that helps me keep track of everyone — and there's a lot people to keep track of! Please email me at natstertv@yahoo.com.



September 25, 2012

Casting call for possible 2nd season of Showtime's Polyamory

As regular readers know, I feel that Showtime's Polyamory: Married & Dating reality series was a big step forward for introducing the concepts and ideals of poly to the wider world, and for humanizing us to the public. I think other issues with the show were secondary; realistically we could hardly have asked for more. In particular, we lucked out with the show's producer/director Natalia Garcia, who believes in the series and its message passionately.

Natalia Garcia (front, center) with the San Diego quad during the first season.

So, I've offered to post her call for poly families who'd like to be interviewed to appear in a possible second season. (Showtime has made no decision about renewing the series yet.)

She writes:

Hello community,

This is Natalia, creator/director of Showtime's Polyamory: Married & Dating. Thank you all for your amazing support with the show, it means the world to me.

I'm reaching out in hopes of speaking with poly families interested in possibly sharing their story with me. I'm looking for polyamorous families that are charismatic, healthy, active; can be unmarried but practicing poly (don't all have to live together); bisexuality is welcome in both male and female partners; and are open to sharing all aspects of their love lives. Families in Canada are welcome as well.

As I think you have seen, I am a person of integrity and my intent is to portray polyamorists as loving, mature adults who are capable of carrying on multiple loving relationships in a world that has programmed us for monogamy. I've had so many people reach out to me, mono people struggling in their relationships telling me the show changed their lives for the better. Despite what Dr. Drew said [on a daytime TV show as noted here], I believe 100% that Polyamory is a sustainable way of living — and I would like to continue the pro-Polyamory conversation in the mainstream.

If you are interested in speaking with me, I would love to hear from you. Please email me at natstertv@yahoo.com. Thanks again, much love to everyone, I look forward to speaking with some of you!



September 22, 2012

Major news article: "Polyamory: Three’s (or four’s, or five’s) company"

The Globe and Mail (Canada)

The Showtime reality show Polyamory brings unconventional choices into the spotlight.

Canada's largest national newspaper (circulation 1 million, often called Canada's newspaper of record) is out this morning with a serious, very lengthy, factual report on the polyamory movement in North America.

Polyamory: Three’s (or four’s, or five’s) company

By Jeff Fraser

When the new Canadian census figures were released this week, there was a lot of talk about the rise in single-person households, as well as same-sex pairings and unmarried couples with children. But another variety of domestic arrangement continues to fly below the radar of demographics: those that involve more than two adult romantic partners.

While statistics are hard to come by, the lifestyle – which many of its practitioners call polyamory – does not go totally unnoticed, for better or worse.

A three-way civic union between a man and two women sparked outrage in Brazil in August.... U.S. conservatives such as Rick Santorum and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia have included multiple marriage as one of the inevitable moral perversions that would follow legalizing gay marriage.... 

But a sunnier vision was aired this summer on the U.S. Showtime cable station’s series Polyamory: Married and Dating, which Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak called “trashy, profound, and the best reality show on TV.”

...The Showtime series marks a step toward the mainstream for polyamory – and a new spin to the debate over whether a family comprises exactly one man and one woman.

The show’s creator and executive producer is Natalia Garcia from Montreal. “I made this show for monogamous, mainstream people who are in traditional relationships, who don’t know they have an option, who feel like they’re stuck – or they’re cheating secretly or they’re about to break up,” she says. “Why is it that we can only marry one person if we love multiple people? Who decided that?”

For the uninitiated, polyamory (also known as ethical non-monogamy) is the current incarnation of a subculture whose roots extend from 19th-century utopian communes to 1960s “free love,” 1970s “swinging” lifestyles and open marriages and 1990s fetish communities. In contrast to swinging, however, polyamory emphasizes transparency and emotional commitment to all romantic and sexual partners, and partners in a “poly” family may cohabit or raise children.

The practice has been elaborated by a growing library of self-help books with titles such as Opening Up and The Ethical Slut and endorsed by public figures such as sex columnist Dan Savage and actress Tilda Swinton.

The reporter dug up a fair amount of research on the nature of today's poly community:

...Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist who runs Sheff Consulting Group in Atlanta, has studied polyamorous families extensively since the mid-1990s.

She has found that women share sexual power more equally with men in polyamorous relationships than in polygamous ones – partly because women are generally more selective of sexual partners, and tend to find new ones more easily, which gives them leverage.

Earlier this year, an Internet survey of 1,100 polyamorists conducted by Melissa Mitchell at Simon Fraser University – the largest academic survey of polyamorists to date – found that majority of poly individuals (64 per cent) have two partners, with 61 per cent of the women identifying their two closest partners as both men and 86 per cent of men identifying their two closest partners as both women.

The majority of the women in the sample identified as bisexual (68 per cent), while bisexual men are less frequent (39 per cent) and exclusive homosexuals are rare (3.9 per cent for women and 2.9 per cent for men).

The study found that on average, polyamorists spend more time with and feel more committed to their primary partners than their secondary partners, though they may find secondary partners better satisfy their sexual needs. Seventy per cent of the sample live with their closest partner and 47 per cent are married to him/her. The average relationship length was nine years for closest partners and 2.5 years for second-closest partners.

The researchers note that because the survey is self-selected, it doesn’t provide a representative sample, but Dr. Sheff says the SFU results line up with those of other studies, such as the 71 focus interviews she conducted with Midwestern and Californian polyamorists from 1996 to 2009.

The article is careful to draw the distinction, sometimes missed by the careless, between polyamory and simply dating around:

Dr. Sheff says that despite the pronounced importance of gender equality to polyamorists, it’s not unusual for men to be drawn to it because they believe that it will lead to easy sex or sex with multiple women.

But philanderers and pickup artists have a difficult time meeting the emotional demands of a polyamorous lifestyle and are eventually turned off – or ostracized – by the community.

“Ongoing poly relationships can be enough of a challenge, and require so much communication, that there is often less sex than talking,” Dr. Sheff said. “If the men come in thinking, ‘This is going to be a big free-for-all,’ and they’re not willing to put in the effort to maintaining the relationship part of it, they get a bad reputation.”

And the writer, correctly, is careful to describe how it's not all a bed of roses:

Polyamory: Married and Dating makes it clear that the advantages of open relationships come at a price: While the members of the cast have a lot of sex, they spend much more time deconstructing their emotions and debating each other’s rights and responsibilities.

What seem like common marital hiccups – for example, when Jen Gold gets angry that her husband, Tahl Gruer, has invited his ex to a party – spawn deep, emotional arguments.

Ms. Garcia, the producer, says she never wanted to give the impression that polyamorous families are perfect. “Truthfully, poly doesn't work for everyone, the way monogamy doesn't work for everyone,” she says. "To claim that polyamorous families don't argue and everything is perfect would be a lie."

On polyamorist websites such as Modern Poly and Poly in the Media [YAY!! But too bad he screwed up our name; it's Polyamory in the News. Update: the writer has corrected it in the online version.], reactions have been mixed – some fear that the show is exploitative and oversexualized, while others are just happy to have representation on TV.

...Kamala Devi, one of the show’s protagonists, is the first to admit that her “pod,” which includes husband Michael McClure and married couple Jen and Tahl, as well as a periphery of other lovers, is atypical for poly families. “I’m not representative of what polyamory looks like. I’ve been doing it for 15 years, I have a lot of lovers, and my life is devoted to it,” she says.

“There are lots of different ways of doing poly – not everyone’s married, and not everyone’s living together. I look at my life as an example of the extreme, as opposed to a real representation of what poly looks like in America.”

More research, on race and class:

In other senses, however, the cast of Polyamory is typical of poly culture. According to a growing body of research, the community is dominated by white professionals and college students. Ninety per cent of the respondents to Ms. Mitchell’s study identified as Caucasian, and 94.5 per cent had some college education.

Of Dr. Sheff’s interview subjects, 89 per cent were white, 74 per cent were in professional jobs and 67 per cent had at least a bachelor’s degree.

A 2011 literature survey by Dr. Sheff and Corie Hammers, which compiled racial and class data on polyamorists and related groups from 36 independent studies, confirmed that sexual minorities are heavily weighted toward upper-middle-class whites.

It makes sense, Dr. Sheff says: People who face poverty or racism often cannot afford to take the risks associated with defying social norms, which could lead to losing their jobs, homes or kids. Legal protection is particularly scarce for polys, which is less of a problem for those with the financial resources to hire lawyers.

Yet the authors of poly self-help literature tend to characterize it as a choice that depends primarily on conviction, hard work and personal courage rather than social status and financial security.

“It’s easy to cast as a personal choice if that’s all it seems to you, devoid of social and political context,” Dr. Sheff says. “But some people can’t ignore that context.”

And it ends on a very positive note:

Sheff says more public role models, like those provided by Polyamory: Married and Dating, may help to destigmatize polyamory and make it less risky.

Kamala Devi – a Latina woman of Jewish descent, and the only person of colour on the cast – says that many of the reactions to the show have expressed gratitude and relief. “I get letters from people in the Midwest who've been doing this for years in secret,” she says, “and they're like 'Finally, somebody out there is reassuring me that me and my husband and his girlfriends that we're not freaks.’”

She says she knows the feeling. “I spent most of my life stumbling around, trying to figure things out, because I didn't have any clear role models to show me how polyamory was done. If there was a show like this around when I came out, I would have saved myself a lot of headache, a lot of heartache.”

Read the whole article (online Sept. 21; print edition Sept. 22, 2012, page F6), and join the comments.

The writer, Jeff Fraser, is a master's student at the Ryerson University School of Journalism.


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September 21, 2012

"Surrounded by Love: Our
Alternative Family"

Rethinking Everything: Sex

We've seen a spate of stories by longterm polyfamilies lately. Here's one from Nikki Starcat Shields, in the online magazine Kind Over Matter:

The Many Ways of Love

So, here's the thing: I have two love partners. One is my husband of 21 years, Matthew. We have two teenage kids. My other partner is Brent, and we own an online business together. We've been together six years. Matt also has another love partner, a delightful woman named Ocean. We all live together, except for Ocean, who has her own home about an hour's drive from us. We're polyamorous, and it works for us.

...Our daily life is much like that of any family. The kids are used to having multiple adults around, and it really comes in handy when getting them to their soccer practices, social gatherings, and other events. For the most part, our friends and extended families are used to our unusual setup and take it in stride. People in the local community, like the other soccer Moms, seem to assume that Matt and I are divorced but still friendly, and that Brent is the stepdad. No one really freaks out about it.

That's not to say that the path leading to where we are now was easy. Far from it....

Nikki Starcat Shields is a writer, Mom, blogger, Reiki healer, and licensed priestess... [and] author of the forthcoming book Starcat's Corner: Essays on Pagan Living.

Read the whole article (Sept. 13, 2012).

That article is a short version of a 4,500-word story she wrote that filled eight pages of the magazine Rethinking Everything last January. It goes into a lot more detail about the rough parts. Excerpts:

Surrounded by Love: Our Alternative Family

We’re relaxing at home on a Friday night, listening to jazz and figuring out the plan for the rest of the weekend. “Okay, I’m taking Tristan to the soccer tournament on Sunday, right?” Brent asks. “Then we can meet you at the potluck afterwards.”...

“Honey, what time will you be back from the festival on Sunday?” I call out. From the other room we hear, “Oh, probably three-thirty. We’re playing in the morning.”

“Can you grab the casserole before you go over to Mom’s?”

“What’s up at Mom’s?” Matt asks, coming into the kitchen. He never pays attention to the schedule until he needs to, usually the day before....

Matt is my husband of twenty years and the father of our two children... the at-home parent for 11 years, unschooling the kids and keeping house while I worked outside the home. Now he’s the primary breadwinner.

Brent is my love partner of five years. He lives with us, and he and I have started a business together called Feline Dreamers....

There’s a whole community of folks out there with more than one long-term love interest. It even has a name — polyamory, or poly for short....

So how did I get here? It started in college. When my husband and I met, we were both in committed relationships with other people. Seeing those relationships disintegrate rather messily is what helped us found our partnership based on truth. We were done with the lying that we witnessed and participated in during that crazy year. This led us to admit that we still had other attractions, and eventually evolved to an intimate relationship with another married couple, whom I’ll call Lou and Carol. The relationship with Lou and Carol was close for several years, although we never lived with them. The four of us started out doing a lot of spiritual work together, and that expanded gradually into love and intimacy. No one outside of the four of us knew the full nature of that relationship; we simply included Lou and Carol in our lives as our closest friends. Matt and I eventually moved three hours away, to build our home on family land, so we saw them less often, but remained close for years.

And then Matt fell in love again, with a single female friend of ours, whom I’ll call Maria. This rocked the boat – Lou and Carol became very jealous and didn’t want him to create a relationship with her. To Matt and I, loving multiple people was about freedom and openness, but they felt that what we had was exclusive and should be guarded closely. After a year or so of painful attempts at compromise and reconciliation with Lou and Carol, the relationship we had with them broke up. It was soulwrenching. There were times when I was ready to throw in the towel, to conclude that polyamory wasn’t worth all the heartbreak and emotional damage. Over time, though, I healed and moved on....


The relationship that developed between Brent and I was very intense, and took up a lot of my attention. In our previous relationships, Matt and I had treated our marriage as our primary relationship, with our other partnerships as secondary to what we shared between the two of us. The love I felt for Brent as a soulmate caused me to want to include him more fully in our lives, and this meant I was changing the rules. I tried to balance where I put my energy, but there never seemed to be enough to go around, especially during those early months. I was Matt’s only partner at that point, and he became very demanding of my time. He and my closest friends, seeing the passion and excitement Brent and I felt for each other, felt like they were missing all the fun — even when we were all hanging out together, which mystified me. I was sad that they couldn’t seem to share our joy.

We had some very rough times. Matt felt betrayed, and so did I. Brent wanted me all to himself — at first he seemed to think he could somehow win me away from Matt, and it took him a while to become comfortable with the daily realities of a poly lifestyle. The kids were witness to our discussions, fights, tears, and recriminations. Over a period of months, we tried again and again to compromise on various details of our changing relationships.

We were sailing in uncharted territory here. Matt desired rules and guidelines. Brent wanted me to be free to do whatever felt right to me in the moment. I was willing to compromise, but by this time it seemed like every choice I made was the wrong one. We would work through one problem, things would go along fine for a while, and then something else would come up.

For Matt, some painful and deep-held issues within himself were brought to light. Coming from a family that was very patriarchal, he had known for years that he didn’t want to be a controlling husband and father and had been creating a new model. Yet the anger that came up for him during this time led him to try and control me. He could see himself falling back on the behavior he had witnessed in his father, who had let his anger hold sway over his family....

Eventually, step by painful step, we worked through the crisis.... I feel sometimes like it was my sheer stubborn belief in love that got me through, and gave us all the impetus to keep trying. Ziggy Marley came out with a song in 2006 that the three of us could easily agree on, and it became sort of a personal anthem: “Love is My Religion.” It may sound corny, but it was really love that got us through those difficult times.


These days, things are much more stable for my family. Brent moved in with us a couple of years ago. Though we need to expand our living space, and there is tension between Brent and the now-teenaged Tristan, we are a pretty typical happy family. The kids have grown up with us in our various incarnations of polyamory, so it’s a part of the fabric of their lives. Matt’s love partner enjoys having her own space, so he sees her two or three times a week and that works out well. They’ve been together three years now, and we’re all very fond of her. She is such a sweetheart — she adores the food Brent and I make for her, and it’s always a delight when she comes for a visit. No one really asks, but I can see it in their eyes. Or maybe I’m just projecting my own curiosity, the way I’d feel in their place.


...It takes a lot of dedicated practice to release those old patterns, to discover a new way of experiencing life and love. Even if you are polyamorous, or feel inclined in that direction, in practice you will probably be challenged in ways you don’t expect. Matt often paraphrases from one of the books he read about polyamorous relationships, Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits by Deborah M. Anapol, which states that if you’re not willing to process your issues externally, then polyamory is probably not for you. What the author is referring to is the hours of (often intense) discussions necessary to make a complex web of relationships work for everyone involved. Ideally, decisions are made by group consensus, and any boundaries are set up with respect to the needs of all the people involved. Open communication is essential.

Over the years, we’ve found that it’s important to honor the emotions that come up (like jealousy, anger, and sorrow) yet to not let them limit you or others. Each person needs time to work through his or her own feelings, but it’s not productive to use them to blame or control others. This can be tricky, as we’ve all been taught in this culture to rely on others to satisfy our needs. But I think that as we all strive to become more conscious individuals, we develop stronger and healthier relationships with one another, and that ripples outward to our other relationships, with friends and extended family.


One of the most interesting things about this whole experience is that most of the other folks Matt and I have been involved with over the years haven’t been self-identified as poly. None of us really set out with the intention to have multiple partners. But we, and they, have followed the path of love, and this is where we find ourselves today....

Read the whole article (Jan. 2012). You get a 22MB pdf file of the entire magazine; scroll to the table of contents and click the title.


September 17, 2012

San Diego Polys on the Ricki Lake Show

A month ago the quad family from Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating went to Culver Studios to get filmed for the Fox network's Ricki Lake Show on daytime TV (group photo). The show aired today, but the only clips I find on the episode's webpage are of other guests, including a swinger couple that came on just after them and commented on them (saying that swinging is about "falling in like" compared to polys "falling in love").

At any rate, Michael and Kamala got a moment in this brief promo:

The episode's webpage says,

...First, we venture into the world of polyamory, defined as "the practice, desire or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. You'll meet Kamala and Michael, who say a polyamorous lifestyle works for them... and Elizabeth, who says polyamory ruined her marriage.

Kamala and Michael's Rules for Polyamory

1. Do no harm

2. Only have relationships who enhance the lives of everyone involved

3. Safe sex

4. Honesty According to Michael, the most important of all the rules.

Could you ever engage in a polyamorous relationship? Let's talk in the comments.

Guess that's it. Did anyone see the show? (I have a day job.)


September 16, 2012

"A polyamorous quad welcomes their first child"

Offbeat Mama

      Connor and family. Left to right: Ian, Micah (the author), Aimee, Michelle.

For its "birth week," the online magazine Offbeat Mama ("Parenting against the grain") presents an article by a friend of mine who co-organizes the Transcending Boundaries conference, held in Massachusetts every fall to bridge across queer, alt-gender, and alt-relationship identities.

A polyamorous quad welcomes their first child

This is not a "normal" birth story. Which makes sense, since my family is not a normal family. Please note the lack of quotes that second time — it's with good reason....

On April 2, 2011 our little Munchkin came into this world, caught in the loving hands of two of his parents while a third held his mother. We were surrounded by a top-quality, professional staff made up of midwives, nurses, and our doula. His entry into this world went exactly as we wanted, with minimal intervention, surrounded by love and full of hope for the future.

...Aimee's due date was Friday, March 30. We'd all been anxiously waiting for the big day seemingly forever. For most of the previous three weeks, every little exclamation from Aimee was met with the same question, "Are you OK?" from one or all of her partners. How she didn't kill any of us is testimony to her prodigious patience.

Friday began like any other day in our household.... At the midwife appointment Aimee was [dilated] between one and two centimeters, so all of the practice her uterus had been up to was doing something. The nurse cautioned that things could stay like this for a few more days, or she could suddenly open up and give birth in a few hours. With that in mind we went home. Around 8:25 pm, Aimee gave out an exclamation that was not as little as before. Then another. She was painfully cramping along with the Braxton-Hicks contractions. This was something new.

...Like a good geek girl, Aimee got a little app for her iPhone that created a log of her contractions. Push a button to start the timer, push it again to stop, and it created a handy dandy log of your use. She fired it up and started using it to get good data.

...If this was early labor, we knew it could be a long process, or even stop. Ian and Mich went to bed, determined to rest in case it was the last good night's sleep they'd have in awhile. Aimee was too uncomfortable to really sleep, so she and I bunked down on our sectional, watched movies, and settled in for a long night.

Friday night was a very long night.

...At this point (around 7am Saturday morning), Aimee had been awake for almost twenty-four hours, and in labor for eleven of them. I point this out because my admiration for her just went up, which is saying something, as the rest of the story will show....

By the time we made it to our [hospital] room, we were all hungry, since breakfast had been four hours before and none of us had eaten much. Excitement does that to the appetite. I had just tweeted to the world that we were safely ensconced....

...Here is where Barbara really demonstrated why every pregnant woman should have a doula. She gave expert advice on positioning, encouraging Aimee to shift positions frequently to prevent fatigue. She had, of all things, a piece of shelf liner (the rubbery mesh kind that keeps things from sliding around), that she used to hold up Aimee's belly. Taking the weight off of her, for even a few minutes at a time, was an invaluable relief. And I cannot underestimate how important her presence was for Ian, Michy and I....

Read on! (Sept. 10, 2012).

That was 17 months ago. Last I saw Connor he was thriving, vigorous and adorable.

Micah says they're planning more.

He also writes,

I've been very pleased with the reception on Offbeat Mama. I've been encouraged to write more about our family for them, and I am planning to do so.

Now that Connor is 17 months, the one thing I can say is that he is a pretty normal toddler. He has his own little personality quirks, like all kids do. He loves motorized vehicles, the bigger and louder the better. He's starting to show strong preferences regarding food and clothing. And he absolutely loves sports. And Yo GabaGaba. But overall, he's growing and developing exactly as he should be. Which would come as no surprise to anyone reading your blog. Poly families aren't that different from mono ones. We just have a couple extra sets of hands.


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September 14, 2012

"Non-monogamy and nerdiness in BC Poly Camp"


The Vancouver edition of Xtra, "Canada's Gay & Lesbian News," reports on PolyCamp Vancouver Island, the smaller (and over-18-only) of the annual rural outings for the Victoria-Vancouver poly community.

Wish I was there.

Non-monogamy and nerdiness in BC Poly Camp

POLYAMORY / Why are these poly people drawn to sci-fi?

By Niko Bell

“Comic book heroes have origin stories,” Esha says. “So what is your origin story? What is” — she looks up and smiles — “your radioactive spider?”

At Poly Camp, on the windy northern tip of Salt Spring Island, talking about superheroes is normal. By “radioactive spider,” Esha means the moment when a polyamorous person realizes his or her or their own identity. She’s also revealing a curious fact about polyamorous culture: non-monogamy, fantasy and science fiction often go hand in hand. That’s what brought Esha to polyamory herself.

“Mine is science-fiction and fantasy books,” Esha continues.

Esha is sitting by the muddy-green pond in the orchard of Neptune Farm. Fourteen polyamorous people are sitting around her in the shade of the tent or the long grass, or tucked into the dragonfly-infested bulrushes.

...Esha is drawing on her legs in glaring orange highlighter as she goes on.

“Science fiction and fantasy books brought me up, largely. Maybe people want to write about alternative relationships... And if you put it in a setting that’s odd and weird, it’s non-threatening.”

An English graduate student from Victoria chips in: “That’s how Star Trek got away with dealing with a lot of topics in the sixties.”

“Give it a couple of light years removed and we’re all good,” laughs Eli, one of Esha’s boyfriends.

These poly people came from Victoria, Duncan, Vancouver and Seattle to camp for a weekend under the apple and pear trees, branches hanging heavy in the late summer. There are men and women, some still in school and some already retired, a scientist and a graphic designer. But as they talk, it becomes clear that Esha is far from the only one influenced by science fiction novels.

One poly woman from Victoria mentions sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein, who described polyamorous relationships in his novels. A chorus of warm assent bursts from the circle. No fewer than five people credit Heinlein with drawing them to polyamory....

Count me in. When I was 17, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and some of its followers inspired me into what's now called poly. Changed my life forever. Though I've always had a love-hate relationship with Heinlein. For more see my Polyamory, Robert Heinlein, and His Definitive New Biography.

...But why do poly and science fiction overlap? Why are the people at Poly Camp, regardless of age or nationality, so comfortable discussing the latest Joss Whedon series or the evolution of superhero comics?

“Poly people are nerds,” Scott Campbell answers simply.

Campbell is as far out of the closet as a poly person can be. He’s been in a polyamorous relationship for 15 years, and he and his partner have been mentioned in the Seattle Times and Newsweek, and are the inspiration for the web series “Family.” Campbell notices that the poly community collects an odd number of software engineers and fantasy fiction fans. The Society for Creative Anachronism is full of poly relationships, he says. Fantasy and sci-fi conventions have polyamory panel discussions.

And sure enough, look around Poly Camp and the nerd culture is unmistakable. Two of the camp organizers — one naked and one clothed — play Magic: The Gathering while their mutual girlfriend lazes in the shade and keeps score. Josh and Scott admire another man’s intricate homemade chainmail kilt. Another sings songs from Dr Horrible, accompanying himself on the mandolin....

...Following Esha, everyone tells a radioactive spider story. A husband and wife with a crush on a mutual friend. Falling for a college roommate’s girlfriend. Waking up the morning after and making breakfast for three. The circle nods and smiles and laughs knowingly, conspiratorially, as if they share the best hobby on earth.

A 1976 study by psychologist Jacquelyn Knapp found that polyamorous people do indeed have character traits in common. They tend to be individualistic, academic, nonconformist and stimulated by complexity. They like endless communication. They enjoy picking over every subject in dizzying detail. Polyamorous people are the nerds of love.

Sitting by the pond, the poly circle is trying to describe what poly people are like. “Alternative.” “Critical.” “We love discussion.” “We don’t take things for granted.” “We like grey areas.”

Most of all, they want to reject the old and commonplace and look for the new and uncharted. They try not to mind what other people think. They feel just a little bit superior. They see themselves as the ultimate outsiders — boldly going where no relationship has gone before.

Read the complete article (Sept. 12, 2012).

One big beef: I don't know how people use the English language out there in western Canada, grump grump, but those are not nerds, they're geeks! Come on people! "Nerds" are socially inept loners unable to connect. "Geeks" club together according to intricate brainy passions that may have no practical use (see Magic: The Gathering). And, ahem, a key geek trait is intense concern with proper classifications! Where was that woman's editor?!


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September 13, 2012

Kamala Devi: "How a Reality Show Altered My Reality"

Still no word on whether the Showtime cable network will do a second season of Polyamory: Married and Dating. The first season's seven episodes ended three weeks ago. Cold fact: most new shows are not renewed. According to the Neilsen ratings, the final episode had 209,000 viewers. I don't know if that number is good or bad for a late-night, paid-premium cable show.

Meanwhile, Kamala Devi of the quad family in the show has posted "Top Ten Ways the Polyamory Series Changed my Life". It's her most revealing account of the experience.

If the series had a leader figure, it was Kamala (second from right above). Among other things she discusses how the family of four was shaken, changed, and bound together anew by the experience of displaying everything before the cameras — intimate relationships, lovemaking, strengths, weak places, and personal flaws they did not quite know they had. A few excerpts:

How a Reality Show Altered My Reality: Top Ten Ways the Polyamory Series Changed my Life!

...Unlike in most reality TV, I was happy to learn that our docu-series was not set up, scripted, or edited radically out of context. Ultimately, however, this half-hour show can only capture a mere snapshot of the complexity of our love lives with 13 minutes per family, per week.

...#8. Average people are hearing about Polyamory, and getting a sense of what it means.... You can imagine my relief when the show finally hit the air and people started talking, blogging and tweeting about it. It’s fun to watch Polyamory go from only being conversed about at sci-fi conferences and renaissance fairs to becoming all the buzz during corporate coffee breaks.

#7. Friends, family and even strangers feel entitled to express their advice on what I should do. Of course, when I put myself in the public eye, I expected a certain degree of controversy, but I didn’t expect Showtime could magically turned Polyamory into an armchair spectators sport. Admittedly, if I weren’t personally involved in this project, I probably would not reserve my humble opinion as a poly activist either.... It’s surprising how personally attached and deeply pained people are by what happens on the show.

I’m working hard to have compassion for those who seem to have no idea how the media works. They seem to take every word as gospel; as if whatever was captured on camera must be “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” And that there is no space behind the scenes, or off camera, where we might self reflect, change our minds, or learn from what was just said....

#6. I am forever bonded with my lovers.... Having cameras in our home (and especially in our bedrooms) became a powerful spiritual practice that allowed us to better observe the ego. When a handful of lovers agree to join us in this conscious experiment, the result was alchemy that inextricably bonded everyone involved. Through the process we all learned to be better communicators, we broadened our perspectives and sometimes even saw our issues from outside ourselves. (I recommend everybody try this: the next time you get into an argument... set a camera up, press record, then post it on youtube to see what you learn about yourself ;)

Letting the camera crew witness our lovemaking added yet another level of vulnerability as well as personal growth. It was a truly powerful practice to help dissolve insecurity, body issues and sex shame. One of the most frequent critiques of the show is “you make polyamory seem as if it’s all about sex!” Admittedly, I value sex, a lot, and as a sex educator I likely have more of it than the average poly person. By design, this show is late-night, adult-programing, so it might focus on us making out for a disproportionate percentage of our 13 minutes, but where else does the American public get to watch real people who love each other make love without guilt, or shame?

...I remember that several years ago, I made a pact with the universe: I promised to tell the truth, not just to the IRS or my lovers, but to anybody who was seeking it. I have since been practicing total transparency. I believe it was because of this commitment not to lie, withhold, or deceive anyone, that my director Natalia Garcia found us [and] consequently sold the project to BermanBraun and Showtime.

I was skeptical of Hollywood at first, but I now see reality TV as the epitome of vulnerability and have come to understand why anthropologist Margaret Mead reviewed the first documentary style TV show “as new and as significant as the invention of the drama or the novel — a new way in which people can learn to look at life.”

...It was hard to step off my soap box and work through my own jealousy, judgments and possessiveness on camera. This work has evolved me from a teacher to a role model who has to walk her talk. Now I have taken it upon myself to let the community see me fuck up so that they can learn from my mistakes. ;)

...The process of living on camera has been the deepest personal growth course, like grad school for me and my lovers.... And I’ve taken copious notes! To help other lovers not have to repeat our mistakes, my pod and I are creating a community manifesto....

Those are just bits. Read the whole article (Sept. 11, 2012).

Incidentally: if you missed any or all of the series, most cable subscribers can sign up for Showtime briefly and watch it via Showtime on Demand — but only through November 6th, then it vanishes.

Or, I hear you can go to www.sho.com, sign up for a risk-free trial period of Showtime Anytime, and watch all 7 episodes on your computer.

P.S.: Kamala has posted her response letter to fan mail and other inquiries (Sept. 15, 2012).


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September 10, 2012

Favorable notice in small-town Oregon

Ashland (OR) Daily Tidings

I just got back from Loving More's annual polyamory retreat at Easton Mountain in upstate New York. This is the smaller and more intimate of Loving More's two annual East Coast events, the other being the Poly Living conference every February in Philadelphia. About 30 of us, nearly half newbies, explored poly topics and intimate community (including hot-tub poaching and sauna baking) in the woodsy wilds while a howling storm passed through, complete with tornado warning.

And then I get home to find our little conclave mentioned, favorably, in a small-town newspaper 3,000 miles away:

Couples dating others

Ashland polyamory practitioners break silence about their open relationships.

By Janet Eastman

You might not meet a more straightforward couple than Stefani Skidmore and Jeff Altemus. She checks with him first before she dates another man and he asks her directly if he can have sex with another woman.

The unmarried couple, who live together in Ashland, say being happy for your partner's bliss is an outcome of practicing polyamory, a hybrid word that joins the Greek word "poly" — meaning "many" — with the Latin word "amor" or "love." It describes a nonmonogamous, committed relationship that involves more than two people.

(I wish reporters would stop using "committed" in a way that implies that poly relationships are all primary-secondary. Many are, but for many others commitment to honesty, transparency, and the terms of an agreement is enough.)

Although quiet in Ashland and most other communities, polyamory is now in the news. A Brazilian trio was recently granted civil union status. Some practitioners gathered over the past weekend in New York for the 26th Annual Polyamory National Retreat....

...Since the word "polyamory" was created in the 1990s, other terms have popped up to explain open-marriage situations: A trio is called a "triad," a foursome a "quad." There are "primary" and "secondary" partners to describe hierarchy, "poly fidelity" means being faithful to the group and "compersion" is feeling empathetic happiness for a partner instead of jealousy.

The ultimate betrayal in polyamory is lying, practitioners say.

"If a partner has permission to sleep with someone else and there is still secrecy, that hurt is at a deeper level," says Skidmore, a Southern Oregon University student who is working toward a master's degree in clinical psychology. "If someone has all of this freedom and still has the need to do something hurtful, that's a bigger issue than sexual freedom."

...People in the poly community believe that nonexclusivity in sexual and family relations improves their psychological wellbeing, says Echo E. Fields, an associate professor in SOU's sociology department.

"They argue that monogamy is inconsistent with humans' needs for free expression of personal identity," says Fields. "They aspire to relationships in which all members have equal power. They hope that by developing insight into each member's sexual and psychological needs and honestly communicating them, members can overcome jealousy and possessiveness."

...In Ashland, people look for partners by posting on dating websites. One 30-something Ashland couple, who are married and have a child, say their lifestyle is misunderstood and is more closeted than the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They asked that their names not be published.

"People think it's weird and wonder, 'How can you possibly do that?' " she says.

When neighbors or co-workers see one of them being romantic with another person in public, "people immediately jump to the conclusion that we're not being forthright," says the husband, adding that they have lost friends by explaining it. "It's sad that something that doesn't involve them at all ends a friendship."

He says they spent a lot of time first talking about polyamory before they acted on it....

...Skidmore says it's "freeing" to be more transparent about her private life.

"All the poly people I know have a need to be authentic and honest about what is going on in their life. When I communicate about what I need, even when it's terrifying, I am being honest."

Read the whole article (Sept. 10, 2012). Little things like this are gradually building us a future of understanding and acceptance.



September 2, 2012

A Brazil triad's poly paperwork explodes worldwide

A few days ago came news from Brazil about a poly triad who obtained a certificate noting civil union, from a sympathetic city clerk in the city of Tupã, state of São Paulo. It may have been the first such certificate issued outside the Netherlands. It's unclear what legal status it will give the three, if any; courts will have to rule.

Right: Tupã City Hall.

It's certainly not true that "Brazil just legalized group marriage" as some are hyperventilating. The otherwise standard "certificate of stable union" that the triad obtained from city hall is for people who are not married, and it seems to be more a statement of sworn-to facts than a granting of privileges. The triad declare they have lived together for three years and that they pool finances.

They received the paper several months ago with no fuss at the time. This week the news suddenly exploded not just across Brazil but (courtesy of the BBC) all over planet Earth.

A Chinese news animation from Taiwan about evolving poly marriage, prompted by the Brazil story. Watch here.

It's remarkable that this quiet event in an out-of-the-way town in the South American interior should prompt such global attention. The three themselves aren't looking for publicity. They're not talking to the press, and they've asked through a friend that we not spread their names and picture.

Clearly, the world has become primed to pay attention to the concept of polyamorous families. As I've said before, what we are doing really turns heads. I can't imagine such intense interest happening 20 years ago.

Here in the USA, from Time magazine:

‘Big Love’ in Brazil: Three-Person Civil Union Approved in Sao Paulo

A recently 'married' Brazilian trio have clearly never heard the saying two's company, three's a crowd.

By Judith Welikala

As the issue of gay marriage continues to prompt heated debate in the United States, a different type of controversial union is driving the conversation in Brazil. A Sao Paulo man has entered into a civil union — with two women.

...Nathaniel Santos Batista Junior, a jurist involved in the drafting of the official document, told Globo TV the purpose of the union was fundamentally practical: to ensure the rights of the partners should one of them pass away or separate. The Daily Telegraph reports that the three partners have been living together for the past three years in Rio de Janeiro, where they share a bank account, bills and expenses.

The union was approved by Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues, on the basis that there was no law prohibiting it from taking place. Civil unions were introduced in Brazil in 2004.... ”We are only recognizing what has always existed. We are not inventing anything,” Domingues said....

That stance has been met with fierce criticism, both from legal experts and religious communities. Regina Beatriz Tavares da Silva, president of the Commission for the Rights of the Family within the Institute of Lawyers, told the BBC the union was “absurd and totally illegal” and “something completely unacceptable which goes against Brazilian values and morals.”...

Read the whole article (Aug. 30, 2012).

The Week magazine gives a solid factual summary (Aug. 30, 2012). Excerpt:

Brazil's groundbreaking three-person civil union

...An official in the state of Sao Paulo has caused an uproar by giving her stamp of approval to a civil union between a man and a woman ... and another woman. Public Notary [which seems to be the equivalent of "city clerk" here] Claudia do Nascimento Domingues says the trio live like a family and should be treated as one, while religious groups and at least one legal expert say recognizing the three-way union is immoral and absurd. Will this unique union be allowed to stand? Here, a brief guide:

Who are these people?

...Domingues says the trio have been sharing bills and living together for three years in Rio de Janeiro, in a relationship filled with "loyalty and companionship." Domingues says she's not "inventing" a new kind of family, merely "recognizing what has always existed." A lawyer who helped draft the civil union document says the women and their man merely wanted to make it official, to protect all of their rights if they split up, and to make it easier to divide pensions, health benefits, and personal property if one or another (or another) dies.

Is this legal?

Domingues insists there is no law prohibiting it. Polygamy is illegal in Brazil, but because these three people won't enjoy all the rights of a married couple, it may not technically count as polygamy. Their civil union document, for example, doesn't bestow any new parental rights to the third person if two members of the group conceive a child. And registering a civil union merely requires establishing that the applicants share an address and a bank account, which these three have done....


Unprecedented civil union unites Brazilian trio

Brazilian public notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues set off a firestorm by granting Brazil's first civil union to a trio, an act so unprecedented that there isn't a word for it in Portuguese.

União poliafetiva is the label she created. "Polyfidelitous union" is her best guess in English.

The relationship involves three professionals in their 30s.... What Domingues did was legally register the trio as a "stable union," a civil union that extends all of the benefits of marriage, though there is debate about what rights the threesome will actually enjoy. It short, it recognizes the trio as a family entity for public legal purposes....

...The controversial civil union "is proof that there is a plurality of familiar relations, though not all deserve judicial or legal standing," Rolf Madaleno, director of the Brazilian Institute for Family Law, said in a statement. "The action carried out does not provide protections and does not confer rights."

In his opinion, the legal action in question does nothing more than reaffirm that the trio in question believes that they are a trio.

...Brazil is known for its progressive social policies and openness, as reflected in the status conferred to the trio, though... while Brazil appears to be a permissive place, it is also a country where more than 86% of the population identifies as Catholic or evangelical.
There was a similar outcry when "stable unions" between same-sex couples were allowed for the first time. The country's supreme court ruled that a gay couple in a civil union had the same rights as a married heterosexual couple, but there is debate about whether such rights can be extended to a trio.

"By registering them, I only confirmed that they recognize themselves as a family," [Domingues] said. "I don't confer rights to them. That is up to a judge to decide."...

It was no coincidence that the request landed on her desk.

The trio from Rio, having been rejected by other public notaries, found their way rural Sao Paulo state and to Domingues because she is a student of polyfidelitous relationships — ones involving more than two partners, but where there is fidelity between the members. Formerly an IT manager, Domingues now is a doctoral student at the University of Sao Paulo, studying family law.

Her dissertation, she said, is about "how you can love more than one person at the same time." Her research looks at cultures, places, sociology, anthropology, religion and the history of family and intimate relationships in Brazil.

Through mutual friends, the trio found Domingues and traveled more than 600 miles from Rio, into the interior of Sao Paulo state, to Tupa.

Domingues doesn't hesitate to call herself married, though she and her husband are bound by a "stable union" and not a civil marriage. Her husband works with her as a deputy public notary....

Other polyfidelitous groups have reached out to her seeking the same civil union status. Domingues is studying the cases of a quintet (two men and three women) and another trio (one woman and two men).

The whole article (Aug. 31, 2012).

From the Christian Post (Aug. 31, 2012):

One widely respected psychologist and evangelical Christian, Marisa Lobo, who is known for encouraging reparative therapy laws for homosexuals in Brazil, has been one of the most outspoken in expressing her outrage at the news: "Jesus, come back soon!"

Also USA Today, UPI, Public Radio International, and heaps more.

And that's just in English. Here are nearly 2,000 results in Portuguese.

At Gawker Media's daily science-fiction newsmagazine io9, whose slogan is "We come from the future," editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz thinks it's about time: "That sounds shockingly reasonable. I can't wait to live in a future world where the law acknowledges my wife and two husbands."


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